It’s Monday 8th August 2016! What are you Reading?

Posted August 8, 2016 by Michael Kitto in What are you Reading / 10 Comments

It’s Monday, What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted over at Book Date. I thought I’d join in with this meme as a way to be more consistent with my posting schedule, the idea is to post regularly. As I treat this blog as a book journal I thought it might be nice to have this kind of information documented.

One Hundred Years of SolitudeOne Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez (translated by Gregory Rabassa)

One of the 20th century’s enduring works, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a widely beloved and acclaimed novel known throughout the world, and the ultimate achievement of a Nobel Prize winning career.

The novel tells the story of the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the family. It is a rich and brilliant chronicle of life and death, and the tragicomedy of humankind. In the noble, ridiculous, beautiful, and tawdry story of the family, one sees all of humanity, just as in the history, myths, growth, and decay of Macondo, one sees all of Latin America.

Love and lust, war and revolution, riches and poverty, youth and senility — the variety of life, the endlessness of death, the search for peace and truth — these universal themes dominate the novel. Whether he is describing an affair of passion or the voracity of capitalism and the corruption of government, Gabriel Garcia Marquez always writes with the simplicity, ease, and purity that are the mark of a master.

Alternately reverential and comical, One Hundred Years of Solitude weaves the political, personal, and spiritual to bring a new consciousness to storytelling. Translated into dozens of languages, this stunning work is no less than an accounting of the history of the human race.

At the Existentialist CaféAt the Existentialist Café by Sarah Bakewell

Paris, near the turn of 1933. Three young friends meet over apricot cocktails at the Bec-de-Gaz bar on the rue Montparnasse. They are Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and their friend Raymond Aron, who opens their eyes to a radical new way of thinking. Pointing to his drink, he says, ‘You can make philosophy out of this cocktail!’

From this moment of inspiration, Sartre will create his own extraordinary philosophy of real, experienced life – of love and desire, of freedom and being, of cafés and waiters, of friendships and revolutionary fervour. It is a philosophy that will enthral Paris and sweep through the world, leaving its mark on post-war liberation movements, from the student uprisings of 1968 to civil rights pioneers.

At the Existentialist Café tells the story of modern existentialism as one of passionate encounters between people, minds and ideas. From the ‘king and queen of existentialism’ – Sartre and de Beauvoir – to their wider circle of friends and adversaries including Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Iris Murdoch, this book is an enjoyable and original journey through a captivating intellectual movement. Weaving biography and thought, Sarah Bakewell takes us to the heart of a philosophy about life that also changed lives, and that tackled the biggest questions of all: what we are and how we are to live.

Pale FirePale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

The urbane authority that Vladimir Nabokov brought to every word he ever wrote, and the ironic amusement he cultivated in response to being uprooted and politically exiled twice in his life, never found fuller expression than in Pale Fire published in 1962 after the critical and popular success of Lolita had made him an international literary figure.

An ingeniously constructed parody of detective fiction and learned commentary, Pale Fire offers a cornucopia of deceptive pleasures, at the center of which is a 999-line poem written by the literary genius John Shade just before his death. Surrounding the poem is a foreword and commentary by the demented scholar Charles Kinbote, who interweaves adoring literary analysis with the fantastical tale of an assassin from the land of Zembla in pursuit of a deposed king.

Brilliantly constructed and wildly inventive, this darkly witty novel of suspense, literary one-upmanship, and political intrigue achieves that rarest of things in literature: perfect tragicomic balance.

What Are You Reading?


Rant on Pokémon Go and the Gaming Industry

Posted August 1, 2016 by Michael Kitto in Pop-Culture / 6 Comments

pokemon goThere is no doubt that Pokémon Go is the latest craze, with nostalgia being the driving force behind its popularity. I remember my first Pokémon game; it was Pokémon Blue, which was released in 1998 for Gameboy. While it was a fun game, and I enjoyed playing it, it never was a game that stuck with me. I know there are many people that brought and played most of the games as they were released every few years but I don’t know there was a lasting effect. I know a new version of the game would mean people would stop playing one for the newer version but how much game play can you really get out of these games?

With Pokémon Go the popularity is unquestionable, with more downloads and active users than Twitter. When it debuted in the US, it was able to capture 10.81% Android users, while according to BGR, the two most popular games Clash Royale and Slitherio only managed to 1.67% and 0.84% users. Taking $2 million a day in revenue, from the US market alone. Casual gaming and micro-transactions are dominating the gaming industry and I am not pleased.

Don’t get me wrong, I am playing Pokémon Go but I think Ingress is a better game. Both Pokémon Go and Ingress were developed by Niantic, Inc and are essentially the same game with a different skin and less functionality. I am impressed with the stories I have heard about people coming together, there are even stories where people out in the parks late at night are also feeding the homeless. It is a beautiful phenomenon that sadly will not last.

Games like Candy Crush and Game of War that are making a billion dollars a year in revenue, are struggling to hold on to their users. While I am sure they are not complaining about the money they have made, as someone that played a lot of games in the past, I am concerned with the state of the gaming industry. The industry is out to make money and they are doing just that but at the cost of the gaming industry. I believe if this trend continues innovation will suffer. The industry will be trying for quick money grabs and the big Triple A titles that demonstrate innovation and artistic capabilities will no longer exist. There type of games that drive the computer industry as it pushes the limits of technology and have them looking at ways to make computers better, faster and more capable.

Think of it this way, if the games industry stops making Triple A titles, and rather focus on casual gaming or micro transactions, there will be less monetary value in making better computers. The computer industry is driven by the need for faster, more capable computers; you take away the gaming, that need is reduced exponentially. Things are moving in this direction, the 2016 game Hitman was released in episodes; meaning you were paying for a level. There were claims that this was due to delays in the game production but this is just the first step. I would imagine that if it happens with one, with no real outcry it could happen to others.

I know I am just ranting about the state of the gaming industry but you have to be aware, I am not their target audience anymore. I use to play a lot of games but now I do not have time. I am addicted to Civilization V (a game released in 2010) because I enjoy the complexity and I want a game that will challenge me. For those not familiar, Civilization is a 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) turn based strategy game. You start a game by picking a leader of a civilization, which have different traits and then you play against a number of AI players to win either by domination, diplomacy, research or tourism. The game involves around diplomacy, economics, government, and military. I love these games because of the replayability (I think I have about 300 hours of gameplay in this game) and as it is turn based, I can play with while watching TV instead of playing a casual game on my phone.

I think there is a use for casual games, and sometimes you want to play something quickly while you wait. My problem is that everything seems to be a carbon copy of something else that is successful and there is no real complexity to these games. I am not saying all causal games are bad and I do enjoy Pokémon Go. My concern is the direction that the gaming industry is going, I want to be entertained but I also want to work for it as well, I feel more fulfilled if I am challenged. What is your opinion of the current gaming trends?


Can I Make Twilight Sound Interesting?

Posted July 28, 2016 by Michael Kitto in Literature / 0 Comments

twilightI have a keen interest in literary theory and criticism, I often think it is a dying art form. However for me personally, I think it is a very useful tool to develop. While literature teaches us about the world around us, it can help develop empathy and lead you to explore new ideas. Literary criticism and theories can help unpack those ideas and look at commonality in those books we read. If writing is a therapeutic undertaking which allows the author to get ideas out and explore their own mind. Literary criticism is the exploration into understanding those thoughts and unpacking some deeper meaning.

While some people read for escapism, I tend to enjoy a book more if I find something deep. That’s not to say that all novels are meant to be dissected in this way, I believe that you could find deeper meaning in all novels, whether the author meant it or not. Sometimes the author is not aware of the deeper meaning that come out in their writing. I think that trends, symbols, motifs and even opinions (both personal and political) seem to be represented in your writing.

There are many types of literary theory out there and I think that most people interested in criticism tend to focus on the theories that they understand the most. For example, if you have a degree in psychology you might focus on psychoanalysing the text you are reading; trying to understand the characters’ and authors’ psychological makeup.  While someone that has a political interest in socialism, might look at a piece of text through a Marxist lens and explore the class issues that are evident in the writing.

I thought I might try to explain some common literary theories on a very basic level, as a way to understand just how interesting criticism can be. Note that I am not an expert and I am trying to learn more about criticism (that is how I got talked into buddy-reading The Norton Anthology of Theory & Criticism), but I thought this was a topic that needed to be talked about. I am going to use Twilight by Stephanie Meyer as my example, because I want to demonstrate that literary theory can be used on any writing and may even make it more interesting.

Queer theory

Queer theory is the exploration of sexuality and gender identity within a piece of text. From what I can remember there is no queer characters within Twilight; it is a heteronormative novel. However if you look at sexuality within the novel you can come up with a different story. Take for instance the fact that Edward is over a hundred years; is this perpetuating a fantasy of the older more experienced man? What does this say about Belle and her sexuality (not just her sexual identity)?

Feminism (sometimes referred to as Gender studies)

Feminism is a popular lens for critical analysis; in Twilight you can explore a lot on the topic. We are looking at the role of the woman within the text. While there is little descriptions about Belle, what do have makes her out to be a needy woman with no notion of independence or any idea on what she really wants. Although this is done on purpose, to make it easier for female readers to put themselves into her shoes. Ask yourself, how is Belle depicted in her role as a daughter to a single working father, and as a girlfriend. Just to be clear I am not saying Twilight is anti-feminist, I would say it is rather a post-feminist piece of writing (but I will not go into defining post-feminism).

Marxism

I enjoy Marxism when it comes to literary criticism; it looks at the class conflicts. There are three basic classes, all represented in the novel. The Cullen family represent the upper class, the Swans are middle class, while the Blacks are representing the lower class. Look at the Cullen class, they are represented as wealthy, well educated, and the classical representation of all things related to the upper class. Now look at the way Edward Cullen interacts with Belle and Jacob through the Marxist lens. Does their interactions represent an inherent class struggle?

Post-colonialism

Within post-colonialism, you can look at the relationship between the Cullen family and the Blacks. In post-colonialism you need to take into account the historical conflicts of the setting. Since the Cullens are super white (vampires) and the Blacks are Native American, you are able to see this motif play out quite easily. The relationship between white people and the indigenous in western culture is a big issue that is often explored, whether it is obvious or not.

Psychoanalysis

This is the exploration into the conscious and the subconsciousness of not just the characters, but also the author and even the reader. If you think of Twilight as a work of romantic fantasy, what does it say about the characters, the author and even the readers? This would closely parallel Queer theory and feminism in this instance because this is meant to be a romance. So this fantasy of an older, more experienced man plays a big part in understanding the character of Belle.

Intertextuality

While intertextuality is not a literary theory it is useful for criticism and understanding the relationship of a text with the literary world. Intertextuality is simply the ‘interrelationship between texts’, looking at influences and connections with the wider world of literature. In the case of Twilight you can look at the mythology of vampires and werewolves and how they differ to other books on the topic. This is a very simple way to look at Twilight, especially since the vampires in mythology do not match those that are found in this series.

I like to look at the intertextuality between Twilight and Wuthering Height (Belle’s favourite book), especially how the relationship seems to mirror that of Catherine and Heathcliff. To be clear, Wuthering Height is a piece of Romantic literature, which is not to be confused with romance. Both Heathcliff and Edward is a typical Byronic hero, which is described by Lord Macaulay as “a man proud, moody, cynical, with defiance on his brow, and misery in his heart, a scorner of his kind, implacable in revenge, yet capable of deep and strong affection.” The relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff is toxic and is disturbing that Belle would base her idea of love on their relationship. Although Edward is named after another Byronic hero, and that is Mr Rochester from Jane Eyre, which yet again another toxic relationship that could be compared to the one found in Twilight. You could go with intertextuality, for example the fairy tale Cinderella and the connection Twilight has with that story.

There are so many different literary theories that you could use to look at the writing in Twilight and deconstruct it into something deeper. Also while reading critically, you could use other tools to analyse the text, from looking at Stephanie Meyer’s background, the cultural influence and there are many other ways to look at this series. I am still learning about literary theory and criticism, but I am very interested in the way the tools I am learning can transform the text into something deeper. I think using Twilight was a good way to prove the usefulness of literary theory or criticism. I would like to know what literary theories interest you and how you would use it in the context of Twilight.


The Adventures into Krissy Kneen and Incredible Erotic Literature

Posted July 25, 2016 by Michael Kitto in Literature / 4 Comments

The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex MachineSometimes you come across a novel that sounds so weird that you cannot help but consider reading it. For me, while browsing the shelves of Avid Reader, a delightful indie bookstore in Brisbane, I came across Krissy Kneen’s novel The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex Machine. The premise was simple, a young woman who wears a True Love Waits ring finds herself joining a sex book club. They dedicate themselves to exploring the so called classics of erotic literature. Upon reading this novel, I found this to be a delicious romp of genre blending and surreal sex. In the vain of Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure but with a blue glow emanating from her vulva. This fact I discovered early in the novel with the line “She wondered what Jack would think on their wedding night when he lifted her skirt to find her glow-in-the-dark vulva providing subtle illumination of their final act of love”.

One of the joys of this weirdly surreal novel was the way Kneen managed to explore the journey of sexual awakening while also recommending some good erotica to the reader. I compare this book with Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (or shall I call it Fanny Hill) simply because it explore this journey into sexual pleasure in a similar way. While one book feels more about the empowering nature of desire and the other a perverted fantasy written by someone stuck in prison.

I will admit my experience into erotica is very limited, from a perverted start into the website literotica to a mild curiosity in this genre. One key difference I have found between modern erotica and the classics is intention. For popular authors like Tiffany Reisz, Sylvia Day and E.L. James, their books intend to explore a fantasy, hoping to titillate the reader in one way or another. While in the case of the classics, it was more about exploring something much deeper. Whether it be a sexual awaking (Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure), the pleasures of the flesh (A Sport and a Pastime) to just using sex for symbolism.

I still have gaps in my reading for this genre, for example Anaïs Nin or Marquis de Sade. Though I am curious to explore it in greater detail. Thanks to Krissy Kneen and her novel, I now have a list to work from. I was pleased to see James Salter kicking off this wonderful novel and I was eager to write down a list books to read…only to find them listed in the back of the novel as well. In my never ending efforts to be well read, I now have some direction when it comes to Erotica.Erotic literature

While I adore the voyeuristic nature of A Sport and a Pastime, I was pleased to see some transgressive erotica gracing the pages of The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex Machine. One could argue whether these picks should be considered erotic in nature but they do explore sex in an interesting way. Take for example Lolita, there are some beautifully written erotica writing in the novel but this is countered by the disturbing nature of Humbert Humbert. Dolores’ own sexual awakening will be forever tainted by the predatorily nature of Humbert. This can also be explored in Me and Mr. Booker by Cory Taylor and Alissa Nutting’s novel Tampa which takes on the idea of the fantasy of sleeping with the teacher. However for further exploration into this I would recommend a memoir; Excavation by Wendy C. Ortiz.

Then you have something far more disturbing in nature with Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille, which takes sex to a far more depraved level. While this novel will indeed shock and sicken you, the symbolism to be found is what I found undeniably appealing. With the help of some essays combined with this novel called “The Pornographic Imagination” by Susan Sontag and “The Metaphor of the Eye” by Roland Barthes, Story of the Eye transforms into more than a surreal erotic. As I read it, I was disturbed by the mind of Bataille but now I feel sympathetic to his pain.

I was not surprised to see Henry Miller (Tropic of Cancer) or Joseph Kessel (Belle de Jour) was neglected from the pages, I was expecting Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs to make an appearance. Sex in Burroughs represents power and could have added an interesting dynamic, though this could be just a projection of my love for surrealism. It is pleasing to read a novel that mirrors fragments from the classics. Kneen not only recommends books to Holly White and the reader, she was able to pay homage to the greats.

While my journey into erotica seems to be focused on the classics, I am all too aware that I have not considered literary erotica. I would like to think that a more literary erotic novel would closely resemble what I am interested in rather than just a fantasy aimed to arouse. I know I need to read Affection and Triptych by Krissy Kneen but I do need to try other authors. More research is needed for me and recommendations as well as I continue down this rabbit hole, who knows I may write more about erotica in the future.


My Hot and Sticky Blog Re-evaluation

Posted July 7, 2016 by Michael Kitto in My Essays, Writing / 2 Comments

It is often a good thing to re-evaluate your life, your goals and if you are a blogger like me, your blog. I have been thinking about this for a while and decided it is time to refocus. You may have noticed that I have not been as active on my blog as I would like. I had this goal to write something about everything I read, plus I wanted to do more than literature. However due to motivation, work and other plans, I have not achieved much at all on here. I would say I have about twenty books to review but is it really worth the effort? Maybe, but does this achieve what I want to achieve.

For the longest time I wanted to be a writer, I never was sure what I would write but it was something that was always in the back of my mind. When I started reading and blogging, that desire slowly faded, to the point where I convinced myself that I was not a writer. This became a problem, as I would always dismiss myself and any ideas that I might have. The ideas kept swimming around in my mind; I was just not doing anything with them.

It took me a long time to change my thinking, I am a writer. I may not be a writer of fiction but I love blogging and that is a form of writing. It is a skill I want to build and improve. I want to write more engaging posts and the only way to do that is to practice. My blog is a collection of my thoughts and writing and I can see improvement happening. I am happy to be write about literature instead of writing literature. I am happy in my own writing universe but I still feel the need to push the boundaries.

I started a BookTube channel as a way to develop my skills at communicating and ultimately become a better writer. I got addicted to the community and my writing started to suffer. I need to find the balance. The channel Stripped Cover Lit proposed a #HotAndSticky novel writing challenge. Similar to NaNoWriMo but instead, you have a more manageable 488 words a day over the course of a few months (June till September). I decided to join in as a way to push myself further and see if I can in fact write fiction.

story ideaI think 488 words a day is a good way to start developing a writing habit again and try something new. My first novel idea was to write a hard-boiled detective novel with a female protagonist. I wanted to explore the pulp crime genre but I also wanted to explore the idea of how women are treated in a male dominated job and even go into sexual manipulation and abuse. I had a great plot lined up but it was not working on the page. I do not know if I have the ability to write plot heavy stories, I tend to rush through the story arc.

I quickly put this idea on the backburner and decided to try something different. This idea was to explore a grumpy bookseller as he reflects on life and attempts to find a connection with someone, in a world he does not understand. I hoped that trying a transgressive story would work for me. I want to try developing a character and seeing how the idea progressed from there.

I did not have much luck here although I did found some fragments that I enjoyed, I just felt like a failure. Reflecting on this, I asked myself what type of writer I wanted to be and a few names popped into my mind. Mary Roach for her entertaining and educational style and Anne Fadiman for the way she wrote about books. Both authors are witty and knowledgeable; two things I admire greatly about their writing. I have come to the conclusion that if I want to write like this, I need to change the focus on my blog.

I still think reviewing is an essential skill to develop and I will continue to work on that. I have to stop reviewing every book I read and start practicing essay writing. I would love to write about my journey into literature in different essays, and develop that skill. But I also want to develop a more educational approach. A busy work and life schedule means I cannot achieve everything I want to achieve right now, but I need to work towards my goals. I would like to say ‘expect less reviews and more essays’ but this is a work in progress and I am not sure what the future will hold.

You can expect changes, but I feel like I am still trying to develop the skills I want, I think in order to do that, and I will need to try. I am a little unsure how to best write an essay but this is the place to experiment; Knowledge Lost houses a lot of my writing and blogging from when I first started. Most of it is embarrassing but it is a not so subtle reminder on how much I have improved.

I have some ideas planned and to begin with, this may be very focused on literature and my reading journey, I hope in time I will be writing about an array of topics. I hope this is enough to reinvigorate my passion for blogging and writing. Giving me the freedom to explore without the reminder of how many book reviews I am behind. I hope you will continue with me on this journey and if you have a topic you would like me to write about, I would love to know it.


Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Posted July 5, 2016 by Michael Kitto in Classic / 8 Comments

Don Quixote by Miguel de CervantesTitle: Don Quixote (Goodreads)
Author: Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Translator: Edith Grossman
Published: Harper Perennial, 1615
Pages: 940
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Don Quixote is a staple in western literature, it ushered in the golden age of Spanish literature and it is also is one of the earliest examples of the modern (canonical) novel. The novel tells the story of a Spanish nobleman (Hidalgo) obsessed with the chivalric romance literature of the middle ages, who sets out to try and revive chivalry. With his trusty squire Sancho Panza, he sets out on an adventure to undo all the wrongs and injustices he encounters in the world. Claiming to be a knight. he gives himself the name Don Quixote of La Mancha.

From the very start, we get a sense that maybe Don Quixote is crazy. In psychology the term Quixotism relates to “over-idealism” and is often used in reference to someone with a naïve romanticism towards utopianism. The term “tilting at windmills” refers to a scene near the beginning of the novel where Don Quixote races off to fight giants that were actually windmills. If you consider that Don Quixote went mad from all the books he was reading and set off to try and fix the world, then this could be used as a metaphor towards Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra own feeling toward the same books, but rather than fixing the world he wrote Don Quixote. This brings to mind the quote from Toni Morrison “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

Don Quixote, like many books of the time, was read to children; this is a novel I could never imagine being read to any child now. However one thing that makes this novel so great is that there are so many interpretations to be taken from the text. Harold Bloom (who wrote the introduction to my copy of the book) calls this a work of radical nihilism and anarchy, in the way it glorifies fantasy over reality. Calling him the Sorrowful Knight whose objective is that “He is at war with Freud’s reality principle, which accepts the necessity of dying.” The translator of the edition I read, Edith Grossman, has said, “When I first started reading the Quixote I thought it was the most tragic book in the world, and I would read it and weep”. However when she worked on the translation she remembered “sitting at my computer and laughing out loud.”

After the French Revolution a popular interpretation of the novel was that it was about ethics and righting the wrongs of society.  While later on it was a social commentary which always lead to the discussion of whose side Cervantes was on. You could even pull some religious or feminist themes out of this novel but for me, I read this as a Marxist text. The relationship between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza was a good representation of the class struggle. It is evident that Quixote needed Sancho Panza more than Panza needed him. Sancho Panza was there to rise the ranks of society while Don Quixote was be completely lost without his squire.

I cannot talk about Don Quixote without mentioning the way that Miguel de Cervantes played with intertextuality. This novel is split into two parts; the first part was originally published in 1605. In 1614 a second volume was released by an anonymous author. It is believed that Miguel de Cervantes started writing his second part after this and in 1615 it was released. While part one was a spoof of the literature that annoyed him, part two was more an attack on this unauthorised story of Don Quixote. It even made references to this scandal as Don Quixote explores the concept of someone writing about him.

This is the type of novel that deserves to be read again and again. Every reading will probably offer something different and this review is a reference point of what I got out of reading this book the first time around. If you get the chance, I recommend reading this with someone. I read this with Hilary from Yrrobotfriend and the discussions were the best part of this reading experience. While reading this novel I enjoyed part one the most but on reflection, I think part two offers more.


Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt

Posted June 3, 2016 by Michael Kitto in Contemporary / 4 Comments

Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha HuntTitle: Mr. Splitfoot (Goodreads)
Author: Samantha Hunt
Published: Corsair, 2016
Pages: 322
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Ruth and Nat are orphans living in what could only be described as a crazy cult. Many years later, Ruth’s niece Cora finds herself pregnant. Ruth appears after years thought lost, but she cannot speak. She leads Cora on a mysterious mission, but where is she going? Mr. Splitfoot is an attempt at a contemporary gothic novel by author Samantha Hunt.

I picked this book up from the library for a number of reasons. I wanted to see a modern take on the gothic novel and I was interested in the cult-like plot. This book sounded like something I would really enjoy. But sadly I felt like Samantha Hunt just tried to do too much in this novel and nothing really came together as expected. I felt let down by the book and my only consolation was the fact I borrowed the book from the library instead of spending money on it.

Granted there is a lot of interesting elements within Mr. Splitfoot and by a more experienced writer this could of have been a beautifully layered novel. There is a touch of mystery, the gothic, the absurdity and horror elements to be found in the book. I felt like Hunt piled together every great idea she had and tried to pack it into the novel. This left me feeling like she had started so many threads but never actually finished them. The satirisation of religion, or the southern gothic cult, and the mystery or the coming of age story are all really good ideas. There are so many good ideas but at some point you need to stop cramming in ideas and focus on how they work together.

Mr. Splitfoot is an example of why I should never listen to hype. I think it is an entertaining read and there is a little bit of everything. However I wanted more depth, more exploration. I like the ideas the book presents but then it did nothing with them. I felt like this was just sloppy but for someone wanting a thrilling plot, this novel might work. I know I have very different taste in literature to the norm; I just need to remind myself not to fall for hype.


The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson

Posted June 2, 2016 by Michael Kitto in Contemporary / 0 Comments

The Gap of Time by Jeanette WintersonTitle: The Gap of Time (Goodreads)
Author: Jeanette Winterson
Series: Hogarth Shakespeare
Published: Hogarth, 2015
Pages: 320
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

I have not read many of Shakespeare’s plays. I remember in high school I did do Romeo and Juliet and all I remember is watching the movie. Since starting my reading journey, I have now read Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra. Hogarth have announced that they will be releasing modern retellings (they are calling them cover versions) of Shakespeare plays in celebration of the 400th anniversary of his passing. This will be including books by Howard Jacobson, Anne Tyler, Margaret Atwood and Jeanette Winterson. The first novel in this series is Jeanette Winterson’s interpretation of The Winter’s Tale called The Gap of Time.

I had to read The Gap of Time for book club and I will admit I was nervous, having never read the original play, but was happy to finally check out something by Jeanette Winterson. I am not sure if not reading The Winter’s Tale, put me at a disadvantage but I approached this book as a new story, not knowing what parts are influenced directly from the original text. I noticed many themes of identity, jealousy, forgiveness, parenting, power, race and sexuality but unsure if this was the work of Winterson. I know Jeanette Winterson often explores sexual identity in her novels but that does not mean William Shakespeare did not have an interest in the topic.

I read this book more like a coming of age story, exploring the idea of family in a modern day setting. There are elements of romance but for the most part it was a story of discovery and identity. It was playful (with quotes from Shakespeare in the text) and at times tragic. I think this is a balance that Shakespeare does really well in the plays I have read and Jeanette Winterson seemed to capture this really well in The Gap of Time.

I found this to be an enjoyable novel even if I could not compare it to the original text. I am impressed with Jeanette Winterson but I would be more interested in checking out what she can do without being constrained to a pre-set plot. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and Sexing the Cherry are both books I would love to read in the near future. As for the Hogarth cover versions, I am not sure how many I will read. There are some great authors being selected but I think reading the original text beforehand would be a huge advantage. Only problem is, I have a huge reading list already and not sure when I will get a chance to read more Shakespeare.


On My Bookish Existential Crisis

Posted May 31, 2016 by Michael Kitto in Project 5000 / 8 Comments

lots-of-booksHave you ever stopped to think about just how many books you may read in your lifetime? I have, and I had an existential crisis thinking about it. It all happened when a BookTube friend (time to read!) was talking to me about the amount of books she will read in her lifetime. I was sitting in a church thinking about the numbers and I began to freak out. My wife got really worried and obviously asked me what was wrong. I said that if I read a hundred books for fifty years I will only read five thousand books and this is not enough books.

I freaked out about the numbers for a few days and while I do not recommend having an existential crisis, I think it is very valuable to think about your reading in terms of numbers. Think about the books you want to read and the books you have read. Does your reading history reflect the type of books you want to read, or are you willing to try everything. I am of the believe that there is literary merit in all genres but that does not mean I want to spend my time reading books in those genres trying to find something great.

I have a reading goal of reading the entire 1001 Books you must Read Before you Die list, which would be a fifth of my reading journey. But then you think about the changes that are made in each update (why has there not been an update recently?), this list might end up consuming a quarter of your reading journey if you pay attention to all the books that were on the list.  The 1001 books list has served me well in the past, especially when I started my reading journey. This list gives me a way to close reading gaps and the chance to try different genres and styles to see what I like. I know now what my reading tastes are, so I often wonder if this list still has a purpose in my reading journey.

Having thought about the amount of books I will or will not read in my life, I decided I needed to focus on what I want to read. I have a limited amount of time, so I should be reading what I want to read. I began a reading project which I called Project 5000, to remind myself to be more focused. My plan is to read what interests me and remind myself not to waste time on books that do not instantly grab my attention. I talk a lot about Project 5000 a lot on BookTube and on Twitter, because I was looking at ways to remind myself to be more focused in my reading.

The suggestion I was given was to pick ten books and put it on my nightstand, and only allow myself to read from those choices. This still gives me a little variety and allows me to pick books that are interesting me at the time. It also means that I can feel like I am accomplishing something as I watch the ten books dwindle down to nothing. I want to be reading what interest me but I also need to find a balance between my main literary interests and trying other books that sound great.

I know I am interested particularly with post-war literature. By this I mean post-World War 2 till the end of the cold war. There are so many changes happening in the world that fascinate me. From the birth of pulp literature, counter-culture, punk rock, dirty realism and post modernism. There are so many interesting socio-political event and technological advances that helped shaped the world. The idea of impending doom allowed for some interesting changes in people and literature. While my reading extends to other topics, like transgressive and translated literature, I am just fascinated by the world before the internet closed the gaps in globalisation.

My first ten picks

  1. City on Fire by Garth Risk
  2. Fever at Dawn by Péter Gárdos (translated by Liz Szasz)
  3. Chess by Stefan Zweig (translated by Anthea Bell)
  4. The Dead Lake by Hamid Ismailov (translated by Andrew Bromfield)
  5. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (translated by Christopher Moncrieff)
  6. Nightwood by Djuna Barnes
  7. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (translated by Edith Grossman)
  8. Ask the Dust by John Fante
  9. When the Doves Disappeared by Sofi Oksanen (translated by Lola Rogers)
  10. Solzhenitsyn : A Soul in Exile by Joseph Pearce

I was very happy with the choices I made, I thought it was an accurate representation of what I wanted to read and I had found a solution that would work for me. However this was not the case, first of all I had a huge pile of books from the library waiting for me to pick up. This threw a small spanner in the works of my reading but ultimately I did not want it to take away from my focus. While I did detour with the library books, I am up to my last two books from the list, When the Doves Disappeared and Solzhenitsyn : A Soul in Exile.

I learnt that organisation is impossible when it comes to reading, I need to allow for library books, book-club and other random mishaps to take me on a detour but I will always end up getting back to the books on my nightstand. I have no idea how to fit re-reading into Project 5000; that is another complex question that I need to answer. It is a struggle to focus on the books I have picked and not get distracted by other books but I think I am better off in the long run. I have picked my next ten books to put on my nightstand and I do hope this solution continues to work for me. Allowing me to plan my reading and still give me the freedom I desire.


The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra

Posted May 25, 2016 by Michael Kitto in Short Stories / 4 Comments

The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony MarraTitle: The Tsar of Love and Techno (Goodreads)
Author: Anthony Marra
Published: Hogarth, 2015
Pages: 320
Genres: Short Stories
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

When I first read A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, I knew I had found a new favourite author in Anthony Marra. I was constantly recommending the novel to everyone and always took notice when someone suggested a book was the next Constellation. They were right with both All that is Solid Melts into Air and Girl at War. When I heard that Marra had another book coming out I was so excited. Then when it was released, there was no Australian publication and it would cost about $50 to get a copy delivered to me. I thought about just getting the audiobook but I really wanted a physical copy. Thankfully the Perth Writers Festival announced Anthony Marra as a guest and we quickly got an Australian edition of The Tsar of Love and Techno.

Unlike A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, The Tsar of Love and Techno is a collection of interconnecting stories. While it could be considered a collection of short stories, there is a common thread that allows this book to be read more like a novel. Beginning in 1930s Leningrad where a failed portrait artist finds himself with the task of airbrushing people out of existence. The people being removed from the pictures are the people the state have sent off to the Gulag for their counter-revolutionary behaviours. He finds himself removing his brother from pictures but instead of whipping him out of the memories completely he ends up putting his face in the crowds of other pictures.

There is something wonderfully captivating about the writing of Anthony Marra, and I think it goes further than just my love of Russian literature. I cannot help but be absorbed in his stories, eager to know what happens next. I love the way he explores Russian history and looks at ideas of war, censorship, family, love and the soviet government. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena does a good job of exploring the lives of ordinary people during war and The Tsar of Love and Techno is all about the people living in Russia during different periods of time.

While I think A Constellation of Vital Phenomena will always have a special place in my heart and everyone should read that book, The Tsar of Love and Techno is still worth the attention. I know some people have issues reading short story collections but I think this works as a novel. I am eagerly waiting the next Anthony Marra novel but I know I will have to wait a while. I just hope I do not have to suffer the same fate with The Tsar of Love and Techno, and Australia will release at the same time as the rest of the world.