Month: October 2014

What I Think About When I’m Not Blogging – October 2014 Wrapup

Posted October 31, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading, What I Think About When I'm Not Blogging / 0 Comments

The Anubis GatesOn the day of writing this (which is not the same as the day posting this) I was ready to abandon this journalling idea all together. I just scheduled my next What I Think About When I’m Not Blogging post for the next day and I thought to myself, “This isn’t a journal entry, this would make a good blog post”. Talking about book projects and challenges is a great bookish blog post and while it has some elements of book journaling it wasn’t the same. I had recently finished writing my review for Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman and I was thinking that this is who I want to emulate. Though I’m not sure I know how to write a personal essay; is it the same as a blog post?

Then while sitting in a room full of salt, I started The Complete Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby (known as The Polysyllabic Spree and Housekeeping vs. the Dirt in the US), which is a collection of articles from his monthly column in The Believer called Stuff I’ve Been Reading. This got me thinking about What I Think About When I’m Not Blogging and how I should go forward. I want to write like Anne Fadiman but I need to start practicing. Nick Hornby mentions in the introduction that he spends a lot of time thinking about how to simplify his writing and I can’t help be feel jealous by this idea; I need to spend more time polishing my own writing to make it sound better.

I am not happy with my writing and I have a feeling I will never be happy with it. My mind races with ideas and thoughts and I struggle to keep up with it. Currently my mind is singing Cosby Sweater by Aussie Hip-Hop band Hilltop Hoods while trying to think about what to write, this is making for some weird typos. Thankfully my wonderful wife is always willing to look over my writing before I post it and make me look good. It isn’t a perfect system, sometimes I want to post something right away but I don’t want to pressure her and other times things get missed and end up in a tweet by Simon and Schuster.

I want to become a better writer and I have finally admitted to myself that I am a writer; I normally refer to myself as just a reader. However I feel the need to document my reading life and while I may never write fiction, I can become a better essayist. The only way I am going to improve is practice and while I feel like my reviews are getting better, I feel like I have been doing myself a disservice lately. I have been so far behind in reviews that I feel like I am playing catch-up. I could write mini reviews and be done with it but that isn’t going to solve any issues either.

Getting back to The Complete Polysyllabic Spree, the reason I mention this books was that Nick Hornby has taken a very simple concept of what he has been reading for the month and builds his essays around that. I am not saying that he is someone I want to write like but I can take that simple idea and start building on that. For example, for this post, I’m combining my monthly wrap up and making it more of an essay. I am hoping I can start with this basic concept and begin to build upon it.

I started What I Think About When I’m Not Blogging because I wanted to journal more and the idea comes from the fact that when I am not reading or blogging, I’m thinking about reading and blogging. I am sure my wife is sick of me being so passionate about literature but she has been great in nurturing my passion and supporting me. Recently I have been having a great time reading, I feel like I have hit this groove and I don’t want it to end. All my free time I want to spend reading but sometimes, I just end up catching up on Cinema Sins or the Climb the Stacks channel.

I have completed seventeen books this month and while I didn’t enjoy some of them, I’m glad to have read them. This month for the Literary Exploration book club I had to read The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers, which was weird and challenging, but I managed to finish it. The only other assigned reading I had to read was for a book club that meets in real life and that book was We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler and that was a brilliant but I am still sorting my thoughts on that one.

I had a birthday on the 30th of September and I got a lot of book vouchers for my birthday; I have had a wonderful time buying books and I have already expressed my thoughts about this book buying binge. However, while I have so many new books to read, I have borrowed a few books from the library instead. I know I need to read my books but I was following my reading instincts, which lead me to books like The Unloved by Deborah Levy and E Lockhart’s new novel We Were Liars.

I have found myself exploring the complexities of the mind, not just the psychological but that has been a big part of my reading. Haruki Murakami has reminded me how complicated the mind can be and while reading Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage not only was I converted into a fan but it reminded that I am fascinated by psychoanalysis and should pick up some Freud and learn more about this literary theory.

On the other side of my reading spectrum I have been diving into memoirs, firstly with Ex Libris and then moving onto Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch. I have also mentioned The Complete Polysyllabic Spree already and it has been interesting just to learn about the reading journey. I want to read more books about books; I have another memoir by Wendy Lesser called Why I Read waiting at the library for me to pick up and read next month.

It is a weird situation that I am in; I have so many new books plus plenty on my shelf waiting for me to read but I am using the library so much. I have The Elegance of the Hedgehog and Sylvia Plath’s Ariel to read next month and I am sure there will be more visits to the library. Being able to check what the library has online is not helping reduce my TBR but it helps me to follow my reading interests as they change from day to day. My wife would prefer that I spend more time with what I have and she might be right, however following your heart and reading on a whim is so much better.

I feel like I have so much more to say but I am not sure how people will take this format of blogging so I am going to stop here. I found this an enjoyable experience and I am excited to write more like this and I am going to try and incorporate more of my personal life and thoughts into these in the future. For a first attempt in the new direction, I think this worked well. I am not sure if this will be monthly, weekly or something in between. I will see how things go and I will go from there. However I would love to know what you thought of this; as well as any suggestions or criticism that can help me improve essay writing.

Read More


The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

Posted October 30, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Fantasy / 0 Comments

The Anubis Gates by Tim PowersTitle: The Anubis Gates (Goodreads)
Author: Tim Powers
Published: Ace, 1983
Pages: 387
Genres: Fantasy
My Copy: Paperback

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

When millionaire J. Cochran Darrow finds The Anubis Gates that will make time travel possible, he quickly assembles a team to go back to 1801. He hires Professor Brendan Doyle to give advice about the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Soon a band of misfits are assembled and they are off on an early 19th century London adventure and throughout time.

If you think the plot sounds a little weird, then you are not the only one. I spent a lot of time wondering about the logic behind the locations and people within The Anubis Gates. This was the steampunk pick for the Literary Exploration book club and true to the group’s purpose; this book really challenged my reading choices.  It was an interesting experience, I had no idea what to expect next and there was no way to predict anything.

The cast of characters was strange; I expected to like the book because Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Lord Byron were featured. Unfortunately they didn’t get enough development and that might be for the best but I was interested in finding out what Tim Powers would do with them. This book also featured an Egyptian wizard, werewolf, crazy clown and so much more.

What I found to be the biggest problem with this novel was the fact that Tim Powers took so many of his good ideas and tried to force it all into one novel. There was a lot going on and it was all over the place. There never was enough time to develop scenes or characters and it just felt like everything was condensed to make room for all his ideas. The concept was great, wacky and fun but the execution did not work for me.

Tim Powers is a well-respected fantasy author; his book On Stranger Tides (1987) was the inspiration behind the Monkey Island video games and also turned into the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film. The Anubis Gates is often considered one of the pioneer sin the steampunk genre (though I am not sure I would class it as steampunk) and also won the Philip K. Dick Award in 1983. Powers seems like an author that you either love or hate. However from my experience, 1980’s science fiction and fantasy are all a bit odd and unusual.

This is such an unusual novel, which makes it extremely difficult to explain and review. I wanted to enjoy this book but for the most part I found myself skimming the pages. There are great concepts and ideas going on in this but the author didn’t want to explore them instead attempting for a fast moving adventure. For me that just made things difficult. I am fascinated by people who love this book, I’d love to know the reasoning. If you love science fiction or fantasy novels, this might work for you; unfortunately it didn’t for me.


Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

Posted October 29, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Graphic Novel, Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloudTitle: Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (Goodreads)
Author: Scott McCloud
Series: The Comic Books #1
Published: William Morrow, 1993
Pages: 215
Genres: Graphic Novel, Non-Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

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

I have been getting into comics lately and I am quickly discovering there is so much about this medium that I do not know. When trying to review a comic or graphic novel, I find it easy to talk about plot but talking about the art is difficult. I picked up Understanding Comics because there is so much to learn and I wanted a better grasp on the art form. And it is art, it might not be as highbrow as artists like Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet or my personal favourite Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, but it is still art. To exclude comics as an art form would be like removing Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollack or René Magritte from the art world because you ‘don’t get it’.

Now that I have had a little rant about art, let’s talk about comics and Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. This book is a graphical look into comics as an art form, exploring the history of comics and tries to explain the meaning behind the art. It starts off trying to define what a comic is, which I quickly realised was an impossible feat. McCloud ended saying “Comics are juxtaposed pictorial and other images in a deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or produce an aesthetic response in the viewer” but then went on to explain how problematic that definition can be.

A highlight for me was found in chapter two where Scott McCloud explored the vocabulary of comics. The chapter begins with explain René Magritte’s painting The Treachery of Images (1928-29), an artist I am a big fan of. I actually went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the hope to see The Treachery of Images, but it was currently on loan to the Art Institute of Chicago. What I liked about this chapter was how he took the meaning of this painting and expanded on it to help explain comics. He took something easy to explain and built upon that to the more complex ideas.

Reading Understanding Comics makes comics sound like highbrow pieces of art and maybe that is how we should view them. Instead of thinking about comics as a lowbrow medium, it is about time we experience the art and what it can tell us. In this book six major ideas around the art. Idea/purpose, form, idiom/style, structure, craft and surface; explaining how they can all work together to make great pieces.

There is a lot of information within Understanding Comics and I don’t think I have explored it all yet. It has equipped me with some new tools when reading and reviewing comics. The best thing about this book is the way Scott McCloud changes his art style and methods to explore the different ways you can execute the theories behind this book. I am glad he referenced all his work, especially when talking about other artists and how they write comics. The graphical representation of the art theory in the book helped me to understand comics a little better but there is just so much here that I will need to reread this a few times before it sinks in.


All that is Solid Melts into Air by Darragh McKeon

Posted October 28, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

All that is Solid Melts into Air by Darragh McKeonTitle: All that is Solid Melts into Air (Goodreads)
Author: Darragh McKeon
Published: Viking, 2014
Pages: 391
Genres: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

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

All that is Solid Melts into Air tells the story of the Soviet Union in 1986. A nine year-old piano prodigy continuously falling victim to bullies, a surgeon throwing himself into his work to avoid the emotion pain of a failed marriage, a former dissident struggling to free herself from political constraints. Everyday Russians trying to make life work in this repressed state; that was until a disaster in Ukraine changes things.

Most people who know me know that I am a fan of Russian literature and books set in Russia. The Cold War years are of particular interest to me, the social and political unrest makes for a haunting backdrop for great story telling. When I head that All that is Solid Melts into Air was this year’s answer to A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, it was all I needed to buy this book. While reading the book I found out the novel centred around the Chernobyl nuclear accident which just gave that extra element to turn this into a new favourite.

I have never read a novel about the Chernobyl disaster before and I am struggling to think of other books that focus on this historical event. So I was pleased to have a new insight on a situation I hope to never experience. This was a beautiful and haunting tale of Russians living life and the connections they make along the way. However little gems like the controversial idea of implementing safety measure pre-disaster and the Soviet Union’s efforts to cover the accident up really helped make this novel great.

The title is taken from a line in The Communist Manifesto, which is quoted before the novel kicks off. This is an interesting quote to add, not just to give a reference to the title but the implications of what to expect within the novel. As Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels theorise in their political manifesto, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”.

“All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.” – Karl Marx (The Communist Manifesto)

While this is a strong character driven novel, it is not the personal but political transgressions that stood out for me. All that is Solid Melts into Air is set in a time where the Iron Curtain is beginning to collapse; things are drastically changing and then the disaster involving the Chernobyl Power Plant throws the people into civil unrest. While the book focuses on a few characters the overall theme is one of class struggles. The Russian people struggling against the Soviet government; the fear and repression rules stronger than the radioactive atmosphere. An interesting concept considering the communist society that Marx wrote about was nothing like the political government at the time.

I am a little sad to see this gem has remained under the radar; All that is Solid Melts into Air deserves so much more attention. Despite that horrific setting, this is a novel of great beauty with visceral portrayals of both people and places. The struggle the people go through is handled with tender care and empathy. It is hard to believe that Darragh McKeon is a debut author; much like Anthony Marra, I am eagerly awaiting his next novel. All that is Solid Melts into Air is a new favourite and you can expect it to be near the top of my ‘best of 2014’ list.


Archie: The Married Life, Vol. 1 by Michael Uslan

Posted October 26, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Graphic Novel / 0 Comments

Archie: The Married Life, Vol. 1 by Michael UslanTitle: Archie: The Married Life, Vol. 1 (Goodreads)
Author: Michael Uslan
Artist: Norm Breyfogle
Published: Archie Comics, 2011
Pages: 320
Genres: Graphic Novel
My Copy: eBook

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

When I was young tween, the only real reading I did was Archie comics. We had them in our house all the time; my parents must have thought they were safe enough because no one ever gets any action. There has been news recently about Archie being shot to death in the graphic novel Death of Archie which is the last book in The Married Life series. This news got me curious so I had to pick up the first trade paperback which covers the first six issues of this series.

I have always been on the side of Betty and never could understand why Archie would choose Veronica over her. Archie: The Married Life is split into two different timelines; almost like a Sliding Doors scenario, or, if you are a fan of Broadway, If/Then. This series follows the life of Archie married to Veronica and then Betty. There are some situations that are different in each timeline but mostly follow the same events. Unfortunately nothing much has changed since they were in high school.

Archie: The Married Life does try to look at the normal day-to-day issue facing adults but it holds back too much. For example, Midge finally breaks up with Moose because she is scared of his violent outbursts. This story arch could have gone into some interesting themes of emotional and physical abuse but it treads lightly around the topic. Moose does try and work on his anger issues but there is just so much more they could have done.

My favourite character was always Jughead and I enjoyed it when he hard a love life, luckily this is inserted into this series but not very well. He is getting married. I won’t tell you to who, but the only romance I saw between them was when they shared a milkshake at Pop’s Treat. This brings me to my next issue; why are they still hanging out at Pop’s Treat? I am sure it would be nice to have a place to hang but they could go to a bar or something different every now and then. They are working adults now, but they all still act like teenagers.

I think my biggest problem is the fact that this series is a sugar coated interpretation of what adult and married life would be like. No one has sex; although there was some alluding to an affair between Veronica and Reggie, but nothing happened. The series is still marketed to young tweens and this disappoints me, I thought Archie: The Married Life would have been a more adult look at the Archie world, I was wrong. I don’t even know if I want to continue, I might just read Afterlife with Archie instead.


What I Think About When I’m Not Blogging – 25th October 2014

Posted October 25, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in What I Think About When I'm Not Blogging / 0 Comments

reading challengesI have often considered this blog as a book journal that documents my reading life from its conception in 2012. What I Think About When I’m Not Blogging is an attempt to close the gap between book blogging and journaling. This is a (semi)regular stream-of-conscious where I explore all the bookish thoughts I currently have got on my mind.

I have been thinking a lot about book challenges and book projects lately. We are coming to the end of the year and it is about that time to start planning for next year. For the past couple of years, I have committed myself to a 36-book challenge, which included all different genres. This is The Literary Exploration Challenge and while it will be running again next year, I am not sure if I want to be involved. Sure I will be hosting it at the Literary Exploration book club but that does not mean I have to do it again.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the challenge and I think it is a great way to experience genres of different varieties. I just want to commit to something different next year. I have only been reading books since 2009 and in that time I have discovered close to 700 books (680 books according to my spreadsheet). I remember back in 2012 I wrote a post about re-reading and how there are so many books to discover, so I didn’t want to waste too much time re-reading.

Since then, I’ve changed my mind; I know there are millions of books out there that I want to read. I know that I will never get to them all and that does stress me out. However I have changed a lot as a reader and a book blogger and I want to see what I think of books I have read in the past. There are favourites I want to experience again but there are also classics I might not have been ready for. I am curious to see what I will get out of books from my past.

This is not an excuse to write reviews on books I have missed but that is a bonus. Next year I would like to devote some more time to re-reading. I am not sure I would set an amount but ideally I want to re-read at least one book a month. The reason why I don’t want to set an amount or a reading challenge is I want to also spend some time with some reading projects. Sometimes a big book or a complicated book needs that extra time and attention and I would love to leave myself some time to explore them.

So there you have it; this is what I would like to achieve with my reading next year. Have you thought about a reading challenge for next year? Are you going to try something different? I like the idea of reading challenges but I think I will feel more free to read bigger books if I don’t set myself a reading goal or join any reading challenges.


Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

Posted October 24, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction, Speculative Fiction / 0 Comments

Station Eleven by Emily St John MandelTitle: Station Eleven (Goodreads)
Author: Emily St John Mandel
Published: Pan Macmillan, 2014
Pages: 333
Genres: Literary Fiction, Speculative Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

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

Emily St John Mandel’s new novel Station Eleven begins with a performance of King Lear; everything was going smoothly until the lead actor Arthur Leander dies on stage. A new strand of the flu known as the Georgia Flu sweeps the world. It “exploded like a neutron bomb over the surface of the earth” and wiped out 99% of humanity. This all happens in the first 30 pages, the rest of the novel focuses on a group of performers known as The Travelling Symphony, who travel America putting on Shakespeare plays to those surviving colonies.

The post-apocalyptic novel has been a popular topic over the past few years. There are millions of YA novels on the topic and in the world of literary fiction it books like The Road by Cormac McCarthy, The Passage by Justin Cronin and the Maddaddam series by Margaret Atwood dominate. Recently I have read some post-apocalyptic novels that have failed to satisfy me in the way that books like The Road by Cormac McCarthy had in the past. Both California by Edan Lepucki and On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee had potential but just did not get there. Luckily Emily St John Mandel was there to restore my faith in the literary post-apocalyptic genre.

What I look for in a post-apocalyptic can be difficult to pin point. I want a dark but glittering novel that is both intelligent and audacious. It needs to do something that is different so it will be set apart from others. Station Eleven did this for me; this is not a novel about the aftermath of a global pandemic, this is about the power and importance of art. Not so much the survival of art but the importance it plays on a more personal level.

Mandel wrote a roving novel that follows a group of people struggling with life in a desolate time. This is a stylistic and complex novel told in a non-linear way to explore both the present struggles like the rarity of food and water and the disappearance of all technology. This is an exploration into individuals rather than a collective destiny. Each character has their own story to tell and the non-linear format allows their backstory to be told. They are struggling with memories, loss, nostalgia, solitude and yearning from some stability.

Canadian author Emily St John Mandel is one of those authors that receives high praises for her novels but still manages to fly mostly under-the-radar. I hate to use this term, but with all the praise from other authors she comes across as a ‘writer for writers’. Based on my experience of her writing from Station Eleven this a sad situation, her skills deserve to be realised by the reading public.

I am glad I picked up this novel; I was a little hesitant but I had heard so much about Emily St John Mandel that I just had to find out for myself. To begin with the story of Shakespearian actors was what made this different but I soon found the haunting and complex plot  full of subtleties that worked in the books favour. I am still hesitant of all the new post-apocalyptic novels to come but now I know not to overlook Emily St John Mandel in the future.


Five Must Read Memoirs from Bibliophiles

Posted October 23, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Top 5 / 0 Comments

As a book lover, I found that I get a lot of pleasure out of reading books about books. There is something about a book that revolves around other books that really works for me. Judging by the popularity of books like The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón and more recently The Collected Works of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin I know I am not alone. I made a conscious effort to read more non-fiction this year and I quickly discovered a whole new genre that I enjoy; the bibliophile’s memoir. What could be better (also meta) than reading about someone reading, but be warned, it could also be damaging to your TBR list. So I thought I might offer five memoirs that people should read about reading and the reading life.

Memoirs from Bibliophiles

Read More


You by Caroline Kepnes

Posted October 22, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Thriller / 0 Comments

You by Caroline KepnesTitle: You (Goodreads)
Author: Caroline Kepnes
Series: You #1
Published: Simon & Schuster, 2014
Pages: 422
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

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

A smile and a rant about books and Dan Brown from a beautiful woman is all it took. Joe Goldberg has a new obsession. Guinevere Beck is everything he ever wanted; she is smart, witty, and sexy but there is only one problem, she is not his. Beck doesn’t know it yet but Joe is going to do whatever it takes to make this relationship work.

You is a chilling psychological thriller about obsession and relationships. You starts off with a second person perceptive but it becomes apparent that the reader in never intended to be the ‘you’ Joe obsesses over. This unique viewpoint offers a weird and creepy insight into Joe’s obsession and slowly the novel morphs back into a more comfortable first person perspective. This really worked for me; I thought it was a great way to kick off the novel but I suspect this may cause real problems for other readers.

I am hesitant in reviewing this book because I really don’t want to give too much away. For me, this is much more than a thriller, this is much more than a book about obsession. This was a novel about relationships; the way we treat and try to possess others, manipulate others, as well as how much we really reveal to our partners. Sure, this is cranked up to eleven but the concepts are there, just explored in an extreme way.

What I loved about You was the way Caroline Kepnes takes normal relationship behaviours and just push them to their extremes. This allows the reader to look at relationships in a whole new way and explore how we treat others. Joe isn’t the only problem, every person in this novel explores a different behavioural trait and they all work together. While the overall feel for this novel is a psychological thriller, this relationship element is what made it work. The synopsis on the back of You calls it a “perversely romantic thriller” and that is the perfect way to describe this novel.

I know this book won’t be for everyone, there is a lot here that could put people off, however for me it was a perfect combination of thriller and relationship critique. The psychological element worked effectively to drive home some themes throughout the novel. You is one of the best thrillers I have read in a long time, it did something different with the genre and it was executed well. Caroline Kepnes pulled off a difficult task, I am looking forward to see what she comes up with next.


The Dog by Joseph O’Neill

Posted October 21, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

The Dog by Joseph O’NeillTitle: The Dog (Goodreads)
Author: Joseph O'Neill
Published: Harper Collins, 2014
Pages: 256
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Paperback

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

The Dog tells the story of a protagonist known simply as X; after a long-term relationship comes to an end he decides to make a change. Leaving New York, he takes an unusual job in a strange new city. Dubai is undergoing major transformations, the city is transforming into the ultimate futuristic city. Our protagonist finds himself in a different culture working as the “family officer” of the unpredictable and wealthy Batros family.

Right off the bat I can’t help but compare The Dog with Bret Easton Ellis’ book American Psycho and not for the reasons you might think. X might be an unlikeable character but he is no Patrick Bateman; well there are similarities but he isn’t going around killing people. Joseph O’Neill has created a shallow narcissistic character, thrown him into a very different culture and watched what might happen. This turns The Dog into a non-violent Ellis book just set in Dubai.

Can we also talk about the name X, not only does this book take its best ideas from Bret Easton Ellis and American Psycho but the protagonists name reminds me too much of the movie adaptation of J. J. Connolly’s novel Layer Cake. For those who don’t know or haven’t seen the movie, there is a character in that known as XXXX. Two connections to other novels and I am not off to a good start with this novel.

Normally I would love a novel with an unlikeable character stuck in in a culture clash but I kept seeing these similarities and it made it difficult. The book tried to make a humorous satire of the situation, playing on cultural differences and linguistics but I was still stuck. Every now and then I found glimpses of that craftsmanship I have heard about but maybe I should have just read Netherland, since that is the book people rave about.

The Dog was long listed for the Man Booker this year but I was assigned this book for book club. I just want it to be clear that I was not reading this book because of the long listing; in fact I was a little disappointed with this year’s list. I would have loved to enjoy this novel but for the most part it felt too similar to other novels. I felt the need to skim through The Dog rather than enjoying the writing and style.