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

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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

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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

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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

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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.


The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Posted May 23, 2016 by Michael Kitto in Classic / 4 Comments

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor DostoevskyTitle: The Brothers Karamazov (Goodreads)
Author: Fyodor Dostoevsky
Translator: Constance Garnett
Published: Dover Thrift, 1880
Pages: 736
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Paperback

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Written in the final years of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s life (he died four months after it was published), The Brothers Karamazov is probably his most philosophical novel. It tells the story of four very different brothers who all got involved in the murder of their own father. While similarities can be made between this novel and Crime and Punishment as they share similar themes, they are still vastly different. Rather this book deals more with life, death and the meaning of life.

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.”

At the start of the novel we meet Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, who fathers three sons during his two marriages and is rumoured for have fathered a fourth illegitimate son. He often makes the list when people talk about ‘the most disgusting characters’ in literature, or similar topics. This forms the basis of the plot and the brothers grow up with very different lives, separated from their father and each other. As a result these four brothers are very different; Dmitri is a sensualist, Ivan a rationalist (an atheist), Alexei is a novice in the Russian Orthodox Church and Pavel, well let’s just say, silent and sly.

The very different personalities of these brothers is what allows Fyodor Dostoevsky to explore all his philosophical ideas. One of the major themes in this novel is that of religion and while questioning faith is a common theme in modem literature at the time, in Russia it was considered big deal. In 987 Vladimir the Great sent out envoys to study the various religions of neighbouring nations in order to pick the right religion for Russia. Seems a little unorthodox (no pun intended) but eventually the nation adopted Orthodoxy. What became Russian Orthodoxy was embraced by all of Russia and had its own vision of creating a country of love and humility.

This is important because The Brothers Karamazov is not about questioning the existence of God but rather the role of the church when it comes to morality. It should be noted this was at a time where the Russian Socialism movement was gaining some traction and their goal was to create heaven on earth. With characters of vastly different ideals, Dostoevsky was able to explore the ideas he had floating in his head from different angles. Was Christianity simply a mask for the authority? In one of the most famous chapters Ivan talks about “The Great Inquisitor” which is a powerful argument of scepticism and against religious faith.

Other major themes found in the novel are that of fate and free will. This is closely connected with the ideas around religion. For Alexei, he has the freedom to commit to the order of the church, something that seems like a paradox to someone like Dmitri. Fyodor Dostoevsky explores the psychological makeup of control by society and authority. This plays into the Socialist debate at the time; do we have free will, when we are being controlled by the church or the Tsar. Or maybe we have the freewill but blindly follow the laws put in place by the church and the authority without question.

For Ivan, he lives by the philosophy that “everything is permitted”, which leads to another major theme, that of justice and morality. The murder of Fyodor Karamazov is at the centre of this theme, as well as the trail the follows. The Brothers Karamazov essentially wants the reader to question life, question their beliefs, and the roles of earthly or divine justice. The justice system found in the novel appears to be weird and problematic. The innocent are found guilty, the jury are manipulated by lawyers and the book even questions harsh punishments; like exile to Siberia. It is here we wonder about the different between morality and the laws imposed upon us.

There is so much more you can get out of The Brothers Karamazov (for example family) but for me, this reading through was about questioning life in the lead up to death. I really liked how Fyodor Dostoevsky used the different brothers to explore the different angles and question his own beliefs. Dostoevsky often wrote about society, religion, politics and ethics, however in his final years while writing The Brothers Karamazov, we get the sense that he was thinking more about his own life and his legacy. In fact his tombstone is inscribed with the verse from John 12:24; “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it dies, it bringeth forth much fruit.” Most people know that I’m a fan of Fyodor Dostoevsky and I am so glad to have read The Brothers Karamazov however next time I plan to read it in the David McDuff translation, rather than this one translated by Constance Garnett.


Submission by Michel Houellebecq

Posted May 18, 2016 by Michael Kitto in Contemporary / 0 Comments

Submission by Michel HouellebecqTitle: Submission (Goodreads)
Author: Michel Houellebecq
Translator: Lorin Stein
Published: William Heinemann, 2015
Pages: 256
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle
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Have you ever picked up a book and then wanted to cancel all your plans just so you can spend time reading? It is a nice feeling and one that I experienced with Michel Houellebecq’s novel Submission. I know this not an experience you would want to have all the time, but I am sure my wife was happy to spend more time playing Dragon Age. However, I think it is a rare treat to be so captivated by a book that everything else needs to be placed on hold. I have been wanting to read Houellebecq for a very long time and now that I have experienced his writing, I am upset that I waited so long.

Submission takes place in the near future, 2022 to be exact. France is about to hold their presidential election and two candidates are looking to be the favourites. The next leader could be Marine Le Pen of the Front National party or Muhammed Ben Abbes of the emerging Muslim Fraternity. Turning the political debate into one of Nationalism or the embrace of a new party with religious ties. The nationalist believe France should be for the French, while the Muslim Fraternity would be a big shift in France’s culture. For starters, it would be the first non-Catholic religious party to gain power, not to mention the impact this will have on the country, both religious and culturally speaking.

At the heart of this novel is François, a middle-aged academic who feels like his life is slowly disintegrating into nothing. His lifelong obsession with the ideas and works of nineteenth-century novelist Joris-Karl Huysmans (best known for his novel À rebours, published in English as Against Nature or Against the Grain) has gotten him nowhere. He is alone and even more concerning to him; his sex drive has diminished completely. While the political backdrop makes for a very interesting novel, Submission looks at the ideas of isolation, love, change and faith.

Michel Houellebecq has been the centre of a bit of controversy, he has a tendency to say things that offend and comes across as vulgar; he’s been accused of being a nihilist, misogynist, cynical and Islamophobic. This is often the persona Houellebecq puts forward in interviews, but it is worth remembering he is a satirist and the persona they put on is not necessarily a true reflection of their actual personality. Michel Houellebecq often writes about controversial topics in order to get people to think about the topic. Atomised (known as The Elementary Particles in America) in 1998 took on cloning and Platform (2001) was on sexual tourism as well as having Islamic themes. In fact, if you look at all his novels, he often explores sex (cloning), tourism (or art) and religion. Even went as far as to have Houellebecq charged in 2002 with racial hatred towards Islam but he was later acquitted by the court.

The novel Submission was published on the 7th January 2015, that day Michel Houellebecq was on the front of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. On this day brothers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi forced their way into the offices of Charlie Hebdo with assault rifles and sadly killed 11 people and injuring a further 11. This sad event was not a result of Houellebecq being on the cover but rather a macabre coincidence.

I never felt that Michel Houellebecq’s Submission was anti-Islamic, or hate filled in anyway. I did think this was dangerous writing, I suspect the author is an arsehole, but still think this novel is exploring an important topic. Houellebecq has a great ability to make the reader think about life, religion, and philosophy. I had such an enjoyable experience with this book I went and picked up another one of his novels right away.


It’s Monday! What are you Reading?

Posted May 9, 2016 by Michael Kitto in What are you Reading / 14 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.

The Natural Way of ThingsThe Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in an abandoned property in the middle of a desert in a story of two friends, sisterly love and courage – a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted.

Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two inept yet vicious armed jailers and a ‘nurse’. The girls all have something in common, but what is it? What crime has brought them here from the city? Who is the mysterious security company responsible for this desolate place with its brutal rules, its total isolation from the contemporary world? Doing hard labour under a sweltering sun, the prisoners soon learn what links them: in each girl’s past is a sexual scandal with a powerful man. They pray for rescue – but when the food starts running out it becomes clear that the jailers have also become the jailed. The girls can only rescue themselves.

The Natural Way of Things is a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted. Most of all, it is the story of two friends, their sisterly love and courage.

With extraordinary echoes of The Handmaid’s Tale and Lord of the Flies, The Natural Way of Things is a compulsively readable, scarifying and deeply moving contemporary novel. It confirms Charlotte Wood’s position as one of our most thoughtful, provocative and fearless truth-tellers, as she unflinchingly reveals us and our world to ourselves.

Mend the LivingMend the Living by Maylis de Kerangal (translated by Jessica Moore)

US Title: The Heart (translated by Sam Taylor)

A twenty-four hour whirlwind of death and life.

In the depths of a winter’s night, the heart of Simon Limbeau is resting, readying itself for the day to come. In a few hours’ time, just before six, his alarm will go off and he will venture into the freezing dawn, drive down to the beach, and go surfing with his friends. A trip he has made a hundred times and yet, today, the heart of Simon Limbeau will encounter a very different course.

But for now, the black-box of his body is free to leap, swell, melt and sink, just as it has throughout the twenty years of Simon’s life.

5.50 a.m.

This is his heart.

And here is its story.

Long-listed for The Man Booker International Prize 2016

The World Between Two CoversThe World Between Two Covers: Reading the Globe by Ann Morgan

A beguiling exploration of the joys of reading across boundaries, inspired by the author’s year-long journey through a book from every country.

Following an impulse to read more internationally, journalist Ann Morgan undertook first to define “the world” and then to find a story from each of 196 nations. Tireless in her quest and assisted by generous, far-flung strangers, Morgan discovered not only a treasury of world literature but also the keys to unlock it. Whether considering the difficulties faced by writers in developing nations, movingly illustrated by Burundian Marie-Thérese Toyi’s Weep Not, Refugee; tracing the use of local myths in the fantastically successful Samoan YA series Telesa; delving into questions of censorship and propaganda while sourcing a title from North Korea; or simply getting hold of The Corsair, the first Qatari novel to be translated into English, Morgan illuminates with wit, warmth, and insight how stories are written the world over and how place-geographical, historical, virtual-shapes the books we read and write.

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At The Theatre: Antigone

Posted April 24, 2016 by Michael Kitto in Culture / 0 Comments

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Recently I had the good fortune to be able to see the play Antigone by a small indie playhouse in my city. Now the story of Antigone comes from Greek mythology, she is the daughter (and sister) of Oedipus. Antigone is best known from the Sophocles’ play where she is trying to secure a ritual burial of her brother Polynices. This is against the wishes of King Creon who wants Polynices to stay out unburied as an example to all those who seek to fight against the throne of Thebes.

The play I saw was not the one written by Sophocles but rather the French written by Jean Anouilh’s in 1944. I do not know the difference between the Greek mythology, the play by Sophocles or the one I saw but I was very impressed with the play. Now Anouilh wrote this tragedy during the Nazi occupation of France and he purposely made it ambiguous to get past the German censorship. However knowing this you can clearly see the parallels between the French Resistance against the Nazi occupation and the Greek tragedy.

This play is about war and standing against the authority in order to do what is right. Antigone was dressed in white to represent good while everyone was in black. This is a very speech heavy play that explores the themes mostly through dialogue. For the most part the actors preformed this play wonderfully with the exception of one person, who I thought was a little flat. I really enjoyed the use of lighting to create shadows that turned the stage into what could be considered a dystopian world.

While this is a Greek play, it appeared very much like a French production with some Avant-garde elements playing through while keeping a very minimalist approach. I was impressed with the play and would love to see more indie performances in the future. Antigone was translated from the French by Lewis Galantière and I highly recommend this interpretation of the Sophocles play, especially in relation to World War II and the Nazi occupation of France.