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review 2017-11-09 16:35
RIP Brian Aldiss, 1925 - 1917: "The Brightfount Diaries" by Brian Aldiss
The Brightfount Diaries. Brian Aldiss - Brian W. Aldiss

It has been a while since I read his “Trillion Year Spree”, but I would respectfully submit that Aldiss may very well have made his case for the essential nature of science fiction in making and moving on the modern world.

 

It is difficult to think of another genre so relevant, and at the same time (in its various forms) so popular and influential. I think he did much to point out the debt we owe the revolutionary authors like Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), and the hot-housing role of science-fiction short stories in incubating new (or reheated) ideas.

 

Brian Aldiss championed SF to the world outside, and occasionally gave those of us who were a little bit . . . insular . . . the ticking-off we deserved. He was part of the community in a good way, attending sf conventions, always approachable, and being the life and soul of the party but always producing books and criticism which challenged us. You could never quite predict what the next Aldiss novel would be, but you always knew there would be something to think about. He was a remarkable man. Even though he received an OBE and an honorary doctorate for "services to literature", I suspect he would have been much more successful in "critical" terms if he had jettisoned science fiction, and he would have been more successful in the sf world if he had buckled down to churn out identikit trilogies. "His work is still [in a sense] to be discovered." Yes, that's correct. It was wide, various, and deep. But those of us who discovered even a part of it are grateful to have done so. 

 

Thank you, Brian.

 

 

If you're into SF, read on.

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review 2017-11-05 10:15
Legitimate Form of Writing: "Little Misunderstandings of No Importance" by Antonio Tabucchi, Frances Frenaye (translator)
Little Misunderstandings of No Importance: Stories - Antonio Tabucchi
“Tell me, dear heart, dear chilled heart, what would you say to going to live in Lisbon? It’s surely warm there and you’d revive like a lizard under the sun. The city’s at the water’s edge and they say it’s built of marble. You see it is a country after my own heart; a landscape made up of light and stone, and water to reflect them! And so you walk slowly through this marble city, between 18th-century buildings and arcades that witnessed the days of colonial trade, sailing ships, the bustle and the foggy dawns of anchors being weighted."
 
In the short-story “Time is very strange” from the collection “Little Misunderstandings of No Importance” by Antonio Tabucchi, Frances Frenaye (translator) 
 
I am glad authors are challenging the homogenisation that is so demanded by many readers. Too much fiction does not reflect real dialogue; I know it can be harder to follow, but it is good that some writing is articulated in that way. Perhaps short-stories are best for this as readers might be able to tolerate for a shorter time than throughout a novel. However, online reviewing is effectively channelling so much writing into narrow parameters which squeeze out interesting and/or innovative approaches. I have also been pleased in recent years to see more short-story collections being physically published, even from obscure writers like Tabucchi (does anyone still read him in this and age?). Ironically short stories and episodic novels are ideal for reading the way most people use e-readers. Yet, the sense that they are an illegitimate form of writing with people saying they are waiting for the 'full' novel of the story or feeling that, as if by accident, the author has only published a 'fragment' of the 'proper' story, is too common. When you read a Tabucchi short-story we don’t have this feeling of incompleteness.
 
 
 
If you're into Lisbon, my city, read on.
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review 2017-10-31 16:20
I'm bovvered that I'm not bovvered: “Letter from Casablanca” by Antonio Tabucchi
Letter from Casablanca - Antonio Tabucchi,Janice M. Thresher

‘“Saudade,” said Maria do Carmo, “yearning. It isn’t a word, it’s a category of the spirit. Only the Portuguese are able to feel it, because they have this word in order to say they have it. A great poet said this.” And then she began to talk about Fernando Pessoa.’

 

In the short-story “The Backwards Game” taken from “Letter from Casablanca” by Antonio Tabucchi

 

The idea that some people aren't bothered about finding meaning reminds me of a saying in the book of Ecclesiastes 1 v 18: 'For in the abundance of wisdom there is an abundance of vexation, so that he that increases knowledge increases pain.' I love this book in the bible as it really does emphasize the 'what is the point?' question. Tabucchi’s fiction does not belong to the self-help book category, but it’s one hell of a help. Ultimately, what I’m getting from Tabucchi’s fiction is the fact that it gives me something I enjoy doing every day; for a moment I stop being a problem solver, and someone who’s overwhelmed by problems all day long in his day job. I have found that it is the only way to bring about an appreciation and a focus on what you have and what you do in life, rather than what you lack. That said, it's not always that easy; as a person who thinks about life and the world a lot, I will always have to work hard on the things above to avoid falling into despair.

 

 

If you're into Mundane Literature and the Meaning of Life, read on.

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review 2017-10-29 10:33
Muriel Spark-ish Tartness: "Cold Comfort Farm" by Stella Gibbons
Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons,Lynne Truss,Roz Chast
The first two-thirds of it are much funnier than the last third. Everything gets wrapped up incredibly neatly, which I suppose is the whole point, but it means there isn't a breath of air in the last pages, and you almost yearn for something to upset Flora's plans at the last minute. That said it's quite witty and clever throughout, and Stella Gibbons' sentence construction is a thing to behold: she kind of combines mid-twentieth century Muriel Spark-ish tartness with the flawless, rolling rhythm of the Victorian sentence (or something like that). I can't believe this was her first novel; it's so poised.
 
I did wonder why the novel is set 'in the near future' and why there's all the emphasis on flying and other kinds of technologies. Just to point up the primitiveness of Cold Comfort Farm?
 
I also wondered why all the emphasis on Mr. Mybug. I found his first conversation with Flora about Bramwell Bronte and his gin-swilling sisters the funniest part of the book, but it did strike me that you could remove his character completely from the book and not really make any fundamental difference to how it is constructed (apart from needing to find another husband for Rennet). I wondered was Gibbons making a certain point of contrasting the sanity and civilised values of the female author (i.e. Austen as a model for Flora to attempt to copy) with the irrationality and egotism and sex-obsessiveness of her male counterpart (Lawrence perhaps?). That's probably way over the top, but it did seem like Gibbons might have had a satirical axe to grind or perhaps somebody specific in mind in the Mybug scenes.
 
 
If you're into Mundane Literature of the Victorian kind, read on
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review 2017-09-22 04:20
Excellent theme collection
El santuario y otros cuentos - H.P. Lovecraft

Two encompassing themes to this collection: primarily, the evil of solitude, or how solitude equates with or drives one to madness; then boundaries, blurring and pushing them (of reality, knowledge, perception, life and death, even geography)

Celephaïs: Gorgeous in spite of the cold reality. From Kuranes dreams to mine... yeah, that's not disturbing at all.

From Beyond: The type of story one expects when one hears "Lovecraft". And it's freaking good.

Hypnos: *blink* Erh... OK. Like this wasn't disturbing, a final twist. I would have said it bore serious homo-erotic tones, but then... Begs for a second read. Or a tenth.

The Temple: That's what I call a bit of Karma for a stubborn nationalist.
Note: for some reason (and what I mean is lazy translation), it's titled as Santuario (sanctuary) in my Spanish copy instead of the closer Templo.

The Tree: Did not take the expected turn. And sent me on a wiki-walk that ended landing me on the seven wonders. Pretty imagery.

 

Actually, the whole collection, for all the horror elements, is powerful on beautiful and vivid imagery. The kind that plays as a magic-movie on your mind, fills you with wonder as you read and stays with you.

 

 

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