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My booklog. (Now would that be a `klog'?) I'm an avid reader of all kinds of literature, but preferredly contemporary American fiction, Indian fiction and science-fiction literature. I also collect books on photography, architecture and art, and, of course, have a large collection of origami books.

Newer book reviews are in my blog in the category "books".

Wladimir Sorokin: Der himmelblaue Speck (12/2004)

This book was a present at my company's christmas dinner. I do wonder how it was chosen.

The book was originally written in Russian, interspersed with Chinese, German, French and English phrases. I read the German translation, and I can read French and English all right, so I got the impression that the author threw some Chinese into the mix just to make it difficult.

The story is difficult to recount. Experiments in a siberian military outpost with the clones of famous russian authors, a strange sect of earth shaggers, travels backwards in time, Stalin and Khrushchev having sex, Stalin's sons as transvestites, ...

Wladimir Kaminer: Russendisko (11/2004)

A book by a Russian who lives in Germany, writes in German, but learnt German as a second language. The style is rather peculiar; the writing as such is good, but sometimes the author uses expressions that strike a certain chord with native speaker: You somehow feel that a native speaker would not write this expression, because it is too stilted, or it doesn't fit in the context.

The individual pieces are 3--4 pages long; it makes for a funny, if somewhat short reading.

Robert Rankin: The Witches of Chiswick (11/2004)

Another one from the public bookcase on Poppelsdorfer Allee -- thanks to the guy/gal who put it there!

This one is described on the cover as "far-fetched fiction", and I can heartily agree: Time travel, Victorian super-computers, witches, martian half-breds, holy guardian sprouts etc. It was a fun read, though. Might pick up something by Rankin again sometime.

Larry Niven: The Ringworld Engineers (10/2004)

I read this one years ago in German; recently, a friend of mine gave me an English edition she'd picked up from bookcrossing. So I re-read it, and I'm going to deposit my German edition in the public bookcase.

Jack Kerouac: On The Road (10/2004)

Oh well, what's there to say about Jack Kerouac? King of the Beats, Father of the Hippies, friend of Allan Ginsberg and William Burroughs ... I guess I had to read him some time or other. Written in a distinctive style of stream-of-consciousness prose, "On the road" chronicles the main character's travels across the United States and into Mexico, in search of the ultimate experience. It is mostly autobiographical in nature, the protagonist being a thinly disguised version of the author himself.

I was prompted to buy this book by the United Future Organization's track "Poetry and Jazz" on their first album; this track features Kerouac's "spontaneous prose", which he performed at jazz concerts.

William Burroughs: Junky (9/2004)

William Burroughs appears to be the most long-lived member of the Beat Generation, having died in 1997 at the age of 83; this may be held to support his theory regarding the life-prolonging effects of hard drugs put forth in this book. "Junky" describes the author's experiences with hard drugs, peddling dope to support his habit, his frequent attempts to wean himself off, and taking up drugs again.

I experienced this book as a very analytical account of drug addiction -- the addict's helplessness when faced with the drug, and the complete lack of joy and satisfaction in his life, save for the few moments he's high, perhaps do more to deter people from hard drugs than any other reason.

T. C. Boyle: After The Plague (9/2004)

I bought this book as travel reading for my recent trip to Slovenia. In retrospect, T. C. Boyle is not an ideal author for reading on a holiday; his writing is too brutal and pessimistic for that occasion.

"After the Plague" is Boyle's last collection of short stories, ranging in topic from the Alaskan who kills his rival in love, over the slacker husband who denies his wife her only chance at winning a marathon by drugging her, to the fate of the survivors of a plague that wipes out 99 percent of the population of the United States.

Neal Stephenson: In the Beginning was the Commandline (8/2004)

A glorified rant. If you've been on Usenet for a while, you will know all the arguments expounded here; it has just been given a greater audience because it happens to be written by an accomplished author. Please, Neal, stick to graphic novels and novels, and leave the pontificating to other people.

Alan Hollinghurst: The Swimming Pool Library (8/2004)

I got this one from a public bookcase in Bonn; an interesting find to turn up in such a place.

This one ties well with my earlier reads of Moab is my Washpot and The liar; it's another gay/english/public-school/... story. The protagonist is a twenty-something well-off gay in the 1980s London. His adventures with diverse lovers, in gay clubs and gyms are interspersed with excerpts from the diaries of a gay Lord in the colonial Sudan of the 1940s.

Nothing spectacular, but has a nice feel for England's gay culture.

Stephen Fry: The Liar (7/2004)
Stephen Fry: Moab is my Washpot (6/2004)

Those two can almost be grouped unter one heading: Moab is my Washpot is the auto-biography, The Liar is the fictional account. No matter in which order you read them, you will recognize much from one book in the other.

I liked the auto-biography better; The Liar lacked coherence, lacked style, lacked a real story.

Fernando Vallejo: Our Lady of the Assassins (6/2004)

I saw a movie on Arte recently, titled La vierge des tueurs, by Barbet Schroeder. It moved me so much that I bought the book it's based on the next day.

The story is set in Medellin, Colombia, the `city of hate', home of the drug cartels and one of the most dangerous cities in Colombia. The narrator, Fernando, comes back to his birthplace to die, because he does not expect any more of life. However, he falls in love with a young hustler and mafia killer named Alexis. Before they can leave the city together, Alexis is shot, but he is quickly replaced by another young hustler, Wilmar, who incidentally is Alexis' murderer. The book ends with Wilmar being murdered as well.

This story of an improbable love in an improbable city is written in a stream-of-consciousness style; the narrator impassionately tells of the madness that surrounds him.

The descriptions of senseless brutality in Medellin are apparently not too far from the truth: The movie was shot on scene in digital video, without a full film crew. Supposedly, it's too dangerous to bring a full crew and a movie camera into the city.

John Rechy: City of Night (4/2004)

The story of a male hustler, based on the author's own experiences, published in 1963. Disturbing, but a very worthwhile read. An interesting look at the stranger facettes of the gay subcultere before Stonewall, before Pride and gay liberation.

Samuel R. Delany: The Jewels of Aptor (2/2004)

The Jewels of Aptor is Samuel R. Delany's first novel, written in 1962, when he was only 19 years old.

The story already contains the familiar Delany elements of myth and fantasy, paired with an uncanny science-fiction-like familiarity. The poet Geo travels to the lands of Leptar to find a Jewel that will give the wearer power over other men's minds. Leptar turns out to be a land devastated by an atomic holocaust, with descriptions of cities and skyscrapers that seem oddly familiar. The people of Leptar are, however, quite adept at technology, and seem to have retained more knowledge from bevor the holocaust than Geo's own people.

Delany later revisits this theme (a world where our own reality has acquired the status of myths) in The Einstein Intersection. But even as a 19-year-old, he delivers a very powerful story that easily lives up to his later works. Highly recommended for Delany connoisseurs and S/F lovers alike.

Copyright © 1999--2004 Sebastian Marius Kirsch , all rights reserved.
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