An Eclectic Pre-Yuletide Reading Session

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I should really start my stressing a very happy new year to everyone whilst also adding my apologies for the belated content. Amidst working my two jobs, experiencing some emotional and mental upsets and shuffling non-stop between obligatory and willing socialising the end of the year flittered away without giving me chance to write.

My lack of writing however was mainly the result of my determination to get some much-craved reading done, and thanks to organisation and a new reading tactic I managed to reach my end of 2017 reading target as well as implement a reading technique that I'm finding incredibly useful already in my new and improved literary ambitions for 2018. Here are just a few mini-reviews of some of the books I read in December:

  Paroxysm  — Jean Baudrillard

Paroxysm — Jean Baudrillard

Baudrillard is somewhat of a master of spewing spectacles which, whilst sounding fanciful and thought-through, are actually at their root core abstract from the common sensical and rather silly. This extended interview consists of an interviewer pushing Baudrillard around his little box of vocabulary to the point that he runs out of reserved and rehearsed sophistries and has to resort to speaking in his own tongue which, sadly, is underwhelming and, quite frankly, sterile. I’m a lover of complex prose, but I found this interview to be fanciful for fanciful’s sake, a somewhat contrived, pseudo-philosophical discussion which seemed not fully endorsed by the speaker, resulting in a flimsy and uninspiring dialectic. Nevertheless it was enjoyable to read: mainly for the challenge of unveiling the silliness of it all

Neverwhere — Neil Gaiman

I’ve put off reading a Gaiman for a long time, and this was only purchased in panic. I was on my lunch break at work when I realised I had forgotten my book at home so I rushed down to the bookstore in the mall and snapped it up from a display stand. This edition is, as Gaiman claims it, the definitive edition which he has tweaked since its first publication. He states in the introduction that much of the humour was slashed by his editor the first time round so he’s decided to reinstate it. If you’re not aware the novel is based on the television series he was commissioned to write back in the 90’s, but all the rejected scenes from the show were protectively collected by the author and gathered into this novel which I can only imagine makes for an interesting translation for those who have seen the show. This particular edition is also entirely illustrated by Chris Riddell which was glorious to experience (as all his works are) but on a technical note the binding of the book is rather shoddy (page 24 fell out within an hour of first being opened so I continued to read it rather delicately afterwards.)

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Before this review continues I would like to give a full disclaimer: I hate London. Can’t stand the place; you would actually have to pay me to go there for any other reason other than to meet up with a very dear friend of mine such as my childhood chum or one of my old University buddies who relocated there. Therefore I steer away from novels set in London or feature London as their main plot; I find it usually too easy, tripe and ultimately unimaginative. London is overdone in my opinion and I’m bored of it, so you can imagine my face when I saw that Neverwhere is, you guessed it, all about London. Thankfully I was pleasantly surprised: Gaiman’s writing was and is enough to pull the image of London to one side and allow his skill to take centre stage. I wouldn’t wish to regurgitate the plot synopsis which you are more than capable from reading online or off the blurb itself, but as an essence, Neverwhere breathes a refreshing aura of inspired storytelling which I find hard to come by. The novel is littered with those quirky twists and manipulations of the mundane and ordinary which I remember enjoying very much-so in the Harry Potter series as a child. There’s no doubt in my mind that J.K. was somewhat inspired by this novel as it was published the year prior to The Philosopher’s Stone. I will admit however that the early writing irked me at times: Gaiman, I noticed, has a tendency to draw up the most convoluted similes which are abnormally bizarre; a technique which would be perfectly fine did it match the surrounding text or the build of the narrative, but I would argue they didn’t. They seemed eccentric for eccentric’s sake. It wasn’t until the latter half of the book where I really felt Gaiman’s personality and confidence with the text really began to shine and it was, ironically, in this literary environment where the similes would have taken a better fit. Unfortunately they were applied much too early at a point when the narrative was too stringent and unforgiving to their nonsensicality.

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Christmas Days — Jeanette Winterson

I’m not sure why I cried at this book, but by the end of it I was sobbing. No, it didn’t convert me to being interested in or amicable towards Christmas (if anything, it affirmed my emotions towards it) but I found myself last night in bed in floods of very painful tears. Again, this could be because I’m in a bad place right now, it may be because this is a very difficult and painful time of year for me, that I feel all those stereotypical sad, lonely and lost feelings some people feel at this time of year; but it probably doesn’t help that Jeanette Winterson is a mystic of emotion. Each portrayal of love, be they raw, hurt and tragic weren’t exhausted by melodrama, action or event. They were so real and human that they seemed to unfold in my own living room space. What the novel played out were spaces of bruised, uncertain, confused people. Each story presented me a profile of a person I had been, or was becoming. Whilst Jeanette clearly loves Christmas, she doesn’t romanticise it. She knows it’s an imperfect time which can leave the fragmented feeling more-so. It’s a time when the bitter tastes sweet but it’s never fully palatable; like a faulty medicine, one which is weak and out of date. Though strip away the overwhelming parts of it which don’t fit you as an individual and what’s left of the season is an icy mirror where the past and present are refracted before your very eyes. It was powerful stuff.