Franz Kafka

Posted on 19 July 2010. Filed under: Interesting websites | Tags: , , , |

Kafka was an interesting author. He wrote a number of manuscripts and asked his friend, Max Brod to burn them all after his death, he didn’t seem to have any interest in having them published. I can’t begin to speculate on why this is so and I’m hoping some articles will come to shed some light on his reasons. Brod didn’t honour that request, he believed Kafka made those directions specifically because he knew Brod would ignore them. I suppose that’s a reason, ensuring your friend would keep them and publish them but I just don’t buy it.

I’ve read The Trial and I suspect it hasn’t translated to English very well. One article I read talked about the incredibly long sentences Kafka wrote, with some of them going over a whole page with the impact coming just before the full stop, this is made possible due to German sentence structure where the verb is positioned at the end of the sentence. I just found the English translation to be unwieldy and hard to keep track. I would love to read the original but my German is almost non-existent.

Until recently many of Kafka’s manuscripts were stored in bank vaults in Switzerland. You know the vaults, harder to open than a macadamia nut. They’re being opened now and the contents are being read and examined by a team of lawyers, literary experts and Brod’s secretary’s daughter. You can read the article here.

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Eclectic Books

Posted on 22 June 2010. Filed under: Collections, Uncategorized | Tags: , |

I seem to have a collection of eclectic books. Some of them are novelisations of movies while others are spins offs and the rest are just a little strange.

The novelisations of movies are:

The Great Dinosaur Robbery by David Forrest which starred Peter Ustinov, Helen Hayes, Clive Revill, Derek Nimmo, Joan Sims, Bernard Bresslaw, Natasha Pyne, Roy Kinnear, Joss Ackland and Deryck Guyler. It’s set in New York where five British Nannies steal the skeleton of a 200 million-year-old dinosaur, not just any dinosaur skeleton but a brontosaurus skeleton. It’s fabulous fun as were most of the Walt Disney movies made in the 1960s and 70s.

“Don’t Look Now…we’re being shot at!” starring Terry-Thomas and Bourvil.

Monto Carlo or Bust with a cast of stars including Tony Curtis, Terry-Thomas, Bourvil, Walter Chiari, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, and Eric Sykes. It’s set in the 1920s during the big race to Monto Carlo and there’s a lot riding on this race. There’s reputations, inventions and most of all…money.

The World’s Greatest Athlete starring Tim Conway, Jan-Michael Vincent, John Amos, Roscoe Lee Browne, Dayle Haddon, Billy DeWolfe and Nancy Walker. The coach was having trouble, he was always losing…until one day he brought back a young jungle boy from Africa.

1941 starred Dan Aykroyd, Ned Beatty, John Belushi, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Christopher Lee, Tim Matheson, Toshiro Mifune, Warren Oates, Robert Stack, Treat William. The plot, if there is one, six days after Pearl Harbor, a Japanese submarine surfaces off the coast of California. Its mission – to capture Hollywood…the result – total unbridled lunacy!

Jabberwocky was created by some of the Monty Python team and starred too many people to list but included Michael Palen, John Le Mesurier, Warren Mitchell, Annette Badland, Harry H. Corbett and Terry Jones. It is the story of King Bruno the Questionable’s attempt to save a cast of thousands from the threat of the Jabberwocky. I’ve only just found this book so haven’t had time to read it as yet but I suspect it’s as mad as anything done by the Monty Python team.

The original novels based on television series are three books about Maxwell Smart, Agent 86 of Control and I’m sure you all know about him and Captain Nice. Mild, meek, mother’s boy Carter Nash is Captain Nice, the super-human protector of Big Town. With these books anything that can go wrong will go wrong at the funniest possible moment and in the funniest possible way. All four of these books are written by William Johnston.

As for the rest, well they’re a miscelleous bunch of wackiness. We’ve got:

The Trouble with Mobb’s Mob, written by Ray Slattery. It’s set in New Guinea and the Pacific war is raging…somewhere off in the distance. It’s a book about a bunch of Aussies braving the war behind the lines. It’s neither exciting, gripping, bloody, suspenseful or sexy. But it is funny.

Kings Cross Crims by Michael Hunter. Set in Sydney, Australia the mob are being harrassed by Detective Reilly so they decide to build underground and that is where the hilarity ensues as Madam Sadie’s daughter likes the new engineer just a tad too much.

I’ll Plead Insanity by David Cross. I picked this book up from a little shop in a little town somewhere, possibly in Warburton, quite some time ago. I was enchanted by the idea of the plot which seemed rather far fetched and also by the idea of a far-fetched plot set in Australia. A summary of the plot goes a bit like this: Richard is a young widower whose wife, it seems, has fallen over a cliff and been eaten by a shark (except her left leg). He constantly tries to get young women into bed and fails at every turn. There is a policeman investigating in Maigret fashion who gives Richard a cookbook but Richard manages to stuff up the most basic of recipes. So many strange things happen including things that go bump in the night.

Dancing Aztecs by Donald E. Westlake is set in New York. We have a dozen statues one of which is made of solid gold and is worth a million dollars, they all get mixed up and chaos mixed with hilarity ensues.

The very last one has a bitter-sweet story. It’s called Two Lucky People by Tony Kenrick. It’s the story of two people who have the same very rare disease, they’re going to die in one month and they’re both feeling very sorry for themselves and for not having done anything useful in their lives, then they meet Mason Ramsey and decide to help him fulfil his dream of having a concert hall in a poor neighbourhood. Mason was being threatened by Giogios Kolynos. Kolynos was an ex-gangster who had the best of everything: he had the best secretary; the best address; the best apartment and the best staff. Harry and Grace set out to change all of that.

I know I’ve left lots of information out of this article, but the thing that brings them all together is that they’re all quirky and humorous. Some of them have a sad story in them but there’s so much goodness in them that I want to read and reread them over and over again. Others are just totally mad and need to be read many times in order to understand the madness.

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More random thoughts and some random websites

Posted on 23 February 2010. Filed under: Interesting websites | Tags: , |

I’m trying to read a book so I can review it, strange thought that, the book is Dracula by Bram Stoker. I will be finished it in a few days but while you’re waiting I have to give you something to ponder on and so here’s another in my random series of random thoughts. I’ll give you a few websites as well just because they’re fun.

This is The Millions and this particular post is “Long Live Fiction: A Guide to Fiction Online”. As you might possibly have guessed I really like fiction, non-fiction can be good too, but I really like the flights of imagination that you can get with fiction and the more I do the more I find that fiction can be anywhere. Some can be really short as I discussed here while others can be much longer. See the blog for links as it’s quite good.

I’m sure you all got quite bored reading the lists I’d found and checking out which books I’d read and which I hadn’t. Anyway, here’s another one except I’m not going to annotate it as some of those books go way back for me and while I know the name and author there’s no way I’m going to remember whether I’ve actually read them.

Neil Gaiman blames Michael Moorcock here. If you’re a writer, who got you started? Neil Gaiman blames credits Michael Moorcock with starting him off on the road to stardom authorship.

I’m working on some upgrades to the website. They’re in the middle of happening, by someone else, a lovely person with skills I don’t have, and I’ve had to stop listing books until it’s finished. Hopefully this should only take a couple more days as my Mum is coming to dinner on Friday and I’ll have to move everything out of the dining room. I was complaining about this to some friends the other day and they were telling me how lucky I was as they had to transform their offices into a dining room for every meal. I want to continue complaining as they only have to move sewing stuff and a sewing machine while I have boxes of books but I suspect it’s about equal for the actual moving, it’s just they have to do it a lot more often.

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Good Omens – Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Posted on 31 January 2010. Filed under: Book Reviews | Tags: , , |

Here is the first of Terry Pratchett Reading Challenge 2010 books. I chose Good Omens, which Pratchett co-wrote with Neil Gaiman, for the very complex reason that it was more easily reached than any other. The basic premise is that armageddon is about to happen, we have an angel and a devil on Earth and they have been on Earth for such a long time they’ve started behaving more like human beings and of course that just adds to the fun.

This was a reread for me and I couldn’t help noticing how much more I enjoyed it this time. I always find that rereading a Pratchett book opens new doors for me as I learn more about people and learn more about history and geography. The more I experience the more I find the books have changed for me. This book was no exception, I still enjoyed Aziraphale’s bookshop and wished I could have some of the same books, I thoroughly enjoyed the passage about the misprints. The part near the end about the final battle which I found so confusing last time, however, was just as confusing this time.

There are a number of concepts that both Pratchett and Gaiman are attacking with fervour such as the weight loss industry and the fashion industry, they show both industries in a very bad light. They spend far more time on the weight loss industry and made total fun of it.

Anyway, would I recommend it to people? Does a fish swim? I always recommend Pratchett to people he’s suitable for most readers. However, as this is also Gaiman it’s a bit blacker than normal Pratchett books and so you have to be aware of that if you’re a younger reader or if you’re looking for books for younger readers.

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The Original Jennings

Posted on 29 November 2009. Filed under: Book Reviews | Tags: , |

Jennings and Darbishire, two of my favourite childhood characters. They seemed to live idyllic lives in boarding school and have all sorts of adventures. The books were written by Anthony Buckeridge with the first one, Jennings Goes to School, being published in 1950 and the last, That’s Jennings, in 1994. I’ve just found out that Jennings was based on someone Buckeridge used to know at school who was always getting into trouble.

Diarmaid Jennings was a couple of years behind Buckeridge and as you can see from his obituary the fiction boy, Jennings was a fair representation of the real person. He’s recently deceased and has led an interesing life, living out his last days in New Zealand.

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Books that get a new lease of life

Posted on 20 November 2009. Filed under: Rant and Rave Time | Tags: , , , |

One thing I’m always puzzled by is why some books get a new lease of life and others don’t. I’m talking about books that are passed down the generations or rediscovered by a new generation. What makes one title be remembered so much and another pass into obscurity? I don’t actually have any answers here, I’m just posing the questions.

In most cases it’s going to be the writing, in others it will be the illustrations, but I’m sure in some cases it’s simply for the ideas. Sometimes it’s for the memories as we enjoyed the book so much or it excited our imagination to such a degree that we remember it and find a copy later in life to show our kids.

One such book is actually a series of four books. Classic Australian fantasy, set in the bush. It is the Bottersnikes and Gumbles series by S. A. Wakefield. Written in the 1960s they have travelled very well and copies are now quite expensive. Sometimes you’re lucky to get a copy cheap as the seller has no idea of the price, but mostly they cost a lot. The whole series was reprinted in 1996 and the strange thing is that the reprint costs more than all four books sold together. This series is exactly what I mean, the prices show how loved and collectable they are. They were fantastic in my day and my kids think they’re wonderful. Everyone I know of who’s read them just love them.

There have been millions of books written over the years and very few actually make it through the ages. I’ll name a few that have so you don’t think I’m only thinking of my childhood. Heidi by Johanna Spyri, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and 1984 by George Orwell. I read most of them in my childhood as have many, many other people and referred them to their kids and to other people as well. Heidi was just the cutest person and made such a change to everyone around her, who wouldn’t want to be her or be with her? 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was ahead of his time and totally captured the imagination. Huckleberry Finn is the ultimate adventure story and who hasn’t wanted to run away and travel without worries? 1984 was about a time in the future, one that people don’t want to happen and many of us were rather worried that it would. I recall the year 1984 with a little trepidation even though I knew the technology wasn’t quite ready yet and society would fight such a move I still remember worrying that Big Brother would happen. Interesting that it made such an impact on me.

I’m going to leave this here, unfinished, as I don’t have any real answers only speculations.

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Flesh and Blood – Jonathan Kellerman

Posted on 16 November 2009. Filed under: Book Reviews | Tags: , , , , |

Flesh and Blood – Jonathan Kellerman

I’ve been wondering how I’d be able to read enough to be able to blog about them. I may be a fast reader but I really don’t have a lot of time to read and a couple of weeks ago I remembered I had some audio tapes. I pulled one out of the cupboard, it’s pre-loved and I don’t want to sell anything substandard so I must listen to it. I finished Flesh and Blood by Jonathan Kellerman today on the way home from a funeral. An interesting juxtaposition of fiction and reality except my great uncle was 96 and died of natural causes.

The author comes from a book writing family. Both himself and his wife are published authors as is their son. You can find more details on Feed Your Reading Habit. Jonathan was a child psychologist and his crime fighting hero, Alex Delaware, is also a psychologist. In this book Alex Delaware traces the murder of a young patient.

Sometimes audio books are abridged and they always say the abridgement has been approved by the author so one hopes the abridgement has been done well. I am going to have to find the complete book and reread it. It was a great listen, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The characters were well drawn and it was easy to see the detective friend trying to rein in the psychologist without success. I have no hesitation recommending this author to others who enjoy crime books. Along with characters and the writing I liked the way the hero had a good, ongoing relationship, it did become a bit rocky due to the nature of the case he was working on but at the end of the book they’re both trying to make amends.

You can find more about the books Jonathan writes on his website. I really wish I hadn’t looked at his website, though, I’ve just found the next book of his I absolutely need to read and my To Be Read Pile is so big as I’ve just found a whole pile of biographies and autobiographies. Anyway, it’s called Obsession and it’s about…wait for it…obsession behaviour. Very exciting!!

Warnings:
Sex scenes
Swearing
Violence including death

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