Stories: Life in Books

284 Responses

First ←Older Page 1 4 5 6 7 8 12 Newer→ Last

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Ben:

    If you lose all that then the story is really just Biggles Goes to School. Not that the latter isn't a fine story in it's own right.

    Man, I've never been able to find Biggles Goes to School. I've Some rare ones (including some of the ones with racist overtones), and some first editions, but that one has always alluded me...

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    Strangely enough Graeme it is the only Biggles book I've actually read, as it was the only one I could find in my father's library (growing up in the same house he did had benefits for books).

    If I remember I'll have a look for it at their house when I visit them next week. I doubt they have it still, since they shed a lot of books when they moved houses a decade back.

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 896 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Bell,

    Rob Stowell wrote:

    Chris- yeah, they are all good books Pilgermann, or Kleinzeit, or The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz - and Riddley Walker is a classic... but not, for me, a loved one.

    I agree of course, Rob, that it's a matter of taste. Also, that there seems to be a 'library card' for certain books written into one's DNA.

    For me, the culmination of a life that has somehow been built on the idea of Hoban's books (in most cases, before they were even written) was a pilgrimage to Canterbury in 2005, to coincide with Hoban's 80th birdthday. Our group was led down into the crypt of the cathedral and, in the Jesus Chapel, a fellow Riddley fan, Eli Bishop, read us the "Eusa Story" (Chapter 6), followed by the part of Chapter 15 where Riddley is in the crypt with its "stoan trees":

    "I opent my mouf and mummering only dint have no words to mummer. Jus only letting my froat make a soun..." etc.

    I am by no means a religious person, but my face is still rusty from that experience.

    On the matter of poetry, two words: Billy Collins.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 47 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    As I wrote to another PA reader earlier in the week, although I enjoyed Riddley Walker, I spent so much time trying to figure out all the allusions that I started treating it less as a story and more as a puzzle. I couldn't engage with it or suspend disbelief.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2968 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    And on the 'difficult to do well non-fiction' front, some of the best sports books I've read ....

    Noel Holmes' Trek Out of Trouble, about the 1960 All Black tour to South Africa is the best sports book I've ever read.

    When I interviewed Warwick Roger and Ron Palenski about sports writing for Mediawatch once, Warwick declared it the best NZ sports book ever.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18991 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Bell,

    Stephen Judd wrote:

    although I enjoyed Riddley Walker, I spent so much time trying to figure out all the allusions that I started treating it less as a story and more as a puzzle. I couldn't engage with it or suspend disbelief.

    I can see how that might happen, Stephen. It has in part to do with the reader's expectation of writers and books. The first time I read Riddley, the first of Hoban's books I'd read, for some reason I trusted him to take me where he wanted me to go. I didn't spare a though for allusions or imagery that time, just enjoyed the ride. I missed a lot, but I've made up for that since - I don't think I have read any book more often.

    Other writers fail miserably to win my trust in the same way, almost from the first word. Almost everyone raves about Atomised by Michel Houellebecq, so I was positively predisposed. But I found it excruciatingly contrived to read; DBC Pierre's Ludmila's Broken English almost as contrived. Strangely, the style of Riddley doesn't get in my way nearly as much.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 47 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Chris, I think in part Riddley Walker (the book!)'s initial opacity may have to do with the written word- your description of hearing a passage read makes me wonder if much of that initial alienation is just about spelling (never really liked clockwork orange, either- tho' I loved "How to be topp"!) I know I got into it later in the book... but I've never heard Riddley read aloud, and that's worth a try!
    Broken English is- well, broken... but for a rollicking good read- however contrived- Vernon God Little also has a strong voice- with even a touch of Huck Finn- the first truely great young adult narrator.
    (Huck Finn is well worth re-reading- a let-down ending, and hard to read aloud to the kids (just what emphasis do you put on the word "nig**r"? I found that curiously squeamish!) but the classic roadtrip-on-a-river full of ghosts and demons, charlatans and samaritans, twisted around the difficult friendship that develops between Huck and Jim. Very rich.)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 1579 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Bell,

    I think it's pertinent that you cite Huckleberry Finn, Rob, since Riddley is often mentioned in the same breath.

    I do intend to give Vernon God Little a try. But oh, for more time to read... I've just about finished Part One of Don Quixote and hope to conquer the rest before I crawl off to die. :-)

    I'm also halfway through Alan Bennett's fabulous Untold Stories - not the sort of book I'd mention in a list of supposed 'greats' (whatever that actually means), but I do love reading perceptive people's diaries - the experience reminds me greatly of Brian Eno's A Year With Swollen Appendices (not as painful as it might sound), which I also recommend. These books might not be great in the spirit of many of those mentioned by others in this thread, but they are such 'cosy' reading - in the absolute best possible meaning of that word - that you just don't want to put them down. I've been carrying the Bennett around with me from room to room a bit like a security blanket...

    My final word on Riddley (really, I promise everyone!): Try reading the first paragraph aloud to yourself. It becomes a living thing and, once you've heard Riddley's 12-year-old voice in your head, it's unforgettable - you don't really need another reader.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 47 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    I'll tell you what else Noel Holmes wrote - "Just Cooking, Thanks". An anecdotal, idiosyncratic seafood cookbook with illustrations by Lonsdale. I read it in formative years, in fact I've nicked my Dad's copy, and while I rarely make anything out of it any more, it taught me an awful lot about practical cooking. It is also a great relic of Kiwiana that deserves a reprint.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2968 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    Kiwiana...shudders like Lisa Simpson, oh how I hate that world, nothing personal Stephen.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Really? I mean, the very word Kiwiana is redolent of Kiwiana. What other word could you use?

    /chants in Bart voice

    Kiwiana! Kiwiana! Kiwiana! Kiwiana! Kiwiana!

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2968 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    Look Stephen, we don't want a visit from Captain Riddley, now do we?
    Ralphie is my favourite, "Everyone's a winner!"

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Riddley Walker,

    Ralphie's some thing in us it dont have no name...it aint us but yet its in us. Its looking out thru our eye hoals

    AKL • Since Feb 2007 • 890 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Llewellyn,

    "Noel Holmes' Trek Out of Trouble, about the 1960 All Black tour to South Africa is the best sports book I've ever read."

    Ooh, thanks for the recommendation - our Dad gathered the most amazing collection of NZ sports books (mainly rugby and cricket) from the 60's and 70's, all of which are sitting in boxes in Mum's garage - I'll have to ask A to rifle through them next time he is there to see if the Noel Holmes book is there :)

    Mt Albert • Since Nov 2006 • 399 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    With a couple of friends I used to smoke with at the Wailing Bongo

    The Wailing Bongo! OMG! Did you ever call it the Wailing Bong? I did.

    OK, back to the books.

    That'd be the Wailing Bong and Transcendental Meditation Centre thanks very much...

    Late to the party but I'd add Le Guin's (mentioned earlier in the thread) The Dispossessed - caricature PolSci or Stead's Smith's Dream.

    And in a pitch for poetry of a less Emo-kind, how about e e cummings she being brand new... (or if Emo is you're thing, since feeling is first)

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2233 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    There is no poetry of the EMO kind, I will not let that meme stick, I think poetry of that kind is a mood tinged poetry, described as poesy, or better still, duende.
    Smiths Dream the movie, I enjoyed very much, perhaps it was when Smith started to feel, that everything went wrong, an interesting NZ theme.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    Late to the party but I'd add Le Guin's (mentioned earlier in the thread) The Dispossessed

    A fantastic book, and one that tuned me into thinking about what an anarchic society might look like, and the extent to which we might replace external institutions of control with internal social mechanisms of control. <academic faff>For the various Pol. Theory nuts on here, think of Foucault's analysis of Bentham's Panopticon.</academic faff>

    Political Theory aside, it's a very elegaic book. And having read it, I found that I was ready to read The Left Hand of Darkness, which I had previously found boring and unpalatable.

    She's a great writer. I love the way that she makes me think about the different ways that we order our lives.

    Manawatu City • Since Nov 2006 • 1323 posts Report Reply

  • Felix Marwick,

    I wouldn't say these books are life changing but to me they'r a bit like old friends that I visit on regular occasions.
    Julian - Gore Vidal
    I Claudius & Claudius The God - Robert Graves.

    And when I feel like something a little twisted there's always Colin Wilson's A Criminal History of Mankind. If you haven't read it get a copy immediately. You don't have to read it cover to cover just open to a random page and prepare to blow your mind (ie the Pope did what??!!)

    Of course I've had (and to a certain extent retain) a fascination for absolute trashy sci-fi. Hugh Cook is quite droll in the way he manages to poke fun at the entire genre, and George R.R. Martin is possibly the best developer of depth of character in fantasy writing for decades

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 198 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    Speaking of Graves, his autoboigraphy, Goodbye To All That, was an interesting account of WW1 trench warfare. Graves was also a poet, but not of the ilk of Wilfred Owen, a poet who died in the trences but beforehand wrote some amazing poetry.
    How many amazing minds were lost to WW1?

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    Oh goodness, I forgot Grave's, White Goddess, very hard read but rewarding, especially the Druidic tree alphabet and early Celtic poetry references, and The White Goddess herself in all her glory.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Felix Marwick,

    If you are into WW1 literature I'd recommend a novel called "Her Privates We". It's author was anonymous and only went by a serial number of his dog tags.

    Very well written and quite chilling in places

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 198 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    ...There is no poetry of the EMO kind, I will not let that meme stick...

    Well said Merc.

    A fantastic book, and one that tuned me into thinking about what an anarchic society might look like, and the extent to which we might replace external institutions of control with internal social mechanisms of control.

    I was 16 when I read this book in seventh form English. It was a prelude to studying politics at Uni and I re-read it annually before forgetting it for ages until a year or so back. I love the structure of the book, the parallel stories exploring/synthesising political theory while both progressing the protangonists story and explaining his history.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2233 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Llewellyn,

    Another one that I haven't seen mentioned yet, but that I loved, Perfume, by Suskund.

    Terrific book - I hear a movie version is coming, how do you visually represent the sense of smell in all its glory?

    Mt Albert • Since Nov 2006 • 399 posts Report Reply

  • Scott Common,

    Well I'm coming to this discussion very late indeed - but it's good to see a number of my favorite authors and books mentioned already (comes as no surprised :-).

    The Hobbit was the book that started me reading, my mother read it too me at age 5 and straight after she finished I was determined to read it myself (which took a year but I did it!).

    Through my teenage years theres a number of good memories associated with the stainless steel rat books - great times and encouraged me to learn how to pick locks :-)

    I'll stop with the chronolgical now and just list some of the "world movers" for myself.

    HP Lovecraft I'm sorry, it's kinda naff, but I just adore his writing and the stories he crafted - I've been a fan ever since my late teens and he got me into some other more classical writers like Poe.

    Iain M Banks Player of Games in particular.

    The Illuminatus Trilogy This blew my little mind when I first read it - of course I had no idea what was actually going on but I was sure it was life alteringly important! On later readings I've been just as flattened and it's yet to loose it's appeal.

    _Peace and War Series__ Joe Haldeman - wonderful (if harrowing) take on a number of topics from the brutality of war through too the problems with an advancing society.

    The Invisibles Grant Morrison - Stands as a modern day counterpoint to Illuminatus and best read from beginning to end when suffering from a high fever :-)

    Blood Music Greg Bear - scary and microbiological - the full novel is better than the original short story.

    Babel 17 Samuael R Delaney - Just a great story about language and an unique vison of the future of space and transport.

    Ahhhh many others come to mind - but I will leave it there or this post wouldn't have an end. Always good to wax on about books one loves!

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 62 posts Report Reply

  • Scott Common,

    Another one that I haven't seen mentioned yet, but that I loved, Perfume, by Suskund.

    Terrific book - I hear a movie version is coming, how do you visually represent the sense of smell in all its glory?

    I lent that to my mother (who works as a high selling fragrance rep) who was both horrified (at some of the brutality in the book) and flawed (by the brilliant descriptions of smell). Wonderful book, not very comfortable - but the best often aren't.

    This is one book which is best left in the written form I think (unless they'll be introducing "smell'o'vision" for it :-)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 62 posts Report Reply

First ←Older Page 1 4 5 6 7 8 12 Newer→ Last

Post your response…

Please sign in using your Public Address credentials…

Login

You may also create an account or retrieve your password.