Month: July 2015

Monthly Review – July 2015

Posted July 31, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 2 Comments

July Highlight
July Highlight

It feels like a bit of a cliché to yet again say how fast this month has gone, but it is once again a true statement. This is not entirely true, work days feel like they drag on and on, with so many stressful situations; I can see just how big of an impact it is making to my reading life. I much rather sit and watch television (or YouTube videos) after a difficult day of work than try and do any reading. Having said that, I still managed to read nine books in the month of July which seems to be my average for the year.

The first novel I read was One Night in Winter which was in part a campus novel, exploring a romantic poet (Alexander Pushkin) set in Moscow just after World War II. The author, Simon Sebag Montefiore normally writes non-fiction and has written a few biographies about Joseph Stalin. I found this to be an enjoyable novel with some flaws but what I appreciated were the endnotes. Montefiore goes through all the historical inaccuracies and explains why he made these changes for this novel.

After that I read Nest by Inga Simpson which is a contemporary novel about missing children, and I had a few problems with this one. If I focused on the nature writing, then I would call this book beautifully descriptive and stunning but my issue was with the mystery in the plot. All the descriptive writing about nature felt like a way to avoid discussing what was happening with the children. So I ended up thinking this book was just far too evasive and I ended up being frustrated by this.

Emmanuel Carrère’s memoir on Eduard Limonov was my next book and I felt like this one read so much like a novel. Translated from the French by John Lambert, Limonov is an amazing book about the leader of the National Bolshevik Party in the 2000s. The media often portrayed Limonov as a terrorist but reading through this biography reminded me just how the media is influenced by the political leaders in charge of running the country (in this case Vladimir Putin).

Next came a novel everyone is talking about, and that is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with this book, and I really appreciate that from a novel like this. There is so many parts in the novel where you just want to throw the book at the wall. I then went onto re-read Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice and this time around it was not an enjoyable read. I wanted to explore the character development of Louis, Lestat, and Claudia but since this novel is only 300+ pages and covers over 400 years this was impossible.

Then I went on to finally read In the Miso Soup by Ryū Murakami (translated by Ralph McCarthy) which has been on my TBR for a very long time. This was a short psychological horror that dealt a lot with culture clash and the idea of trying to solve loneliness with sex. I read another short novella called By Night In Chile by Roberto Bolaño (translated by Chris Andrews) and this is the story of Jesuit priest Father Urrutia who believe he is going to die. In the course of the night this priest reflects on his lives in a feverish daze. It starts off as a tender book but then you start questioning this narrator as it becomes clear that not everything he is saying is actually true.

I went on to read yet another novel in translation, The Story of My Purity by Francesco Pacifico (translated by Stephen Twilley) which tells the story of Piero Rosini who is determined to be a modern saint. Things do not go to plan, as he tries to live a pure life; I enjoyed the way this book explores theology and invoked a lot of questions about religion and how people often have a misconception on what the Catholic Church teaches on the topic of sex. Finally I decided to pick a mindless mystery novel, so I thought World Gone By by Dennis Lehane was the right choice. This did not require much effort to read and with my job stress I thought that was what I needed. However I think I may have outgrown modern crime novels and all the tropes found in the bestsellers.

As far as my reading goes, July was a pretty great month. In fact July was a good month, except when it came to working. At the moment I am currently reading The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, Mislaid by Nell Zink, The Green Road by Anne Enright and The Lucifer Effect by Philip G. Zimbardo so I have plenty to read going into August. I also plan to read some Richard Brautigan in the month of August, I have an omnibus that feature Trout Fishing in America, The Pill vs. the Springhill Mine Disaster and In Watermelon Sugar in it, so I will try to read all three books. Let me know how July was for you and what you plan to read in August.

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Boyhood Island by Karl Ove Knausgård

Posted July 21, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

Boyhood Island by Karl Ove KnausgårdTitle: Boyhood Island (Goodreads)
Author: Karl Ove Knausgård
Translator: Don Bartlett
Series: Min Kamp #3
Published: Harvill Secker, 2009
Pages: 496
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Library Book

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

Boyhood Island is the third book in the Karl Ove Knausgård’s six volume autobiographical novel, My Struggle (Min Kamp). While Knausgård talked in great length about his father in A Death in the Family (My Struggle #1) this is a more in depth look at his relationship with his parents. With the focus being on his childhood, Boyhood Island allows Karl Ove to reflect on his adolescence in a “coming of age” style novel.

I will admit that I have been enjoying the Min Kamp, but there is something about A Death in the Family that really worked for me. The way he talked about his father with lines like “Dad had got what was coming to him, it was good that he was dead,” in the midst of what felt a lot like a midlife crisis really worked for me. A Man in Love was a more tender novel, allowing Karl Ove to explore his relationship with his wife. I think the swing from a dark and bitter first novel to the tenderness of the second really allowed me to discover the range in Knausgård’s writing and I was very captivated by this.

When it came to Boyhood Island, I was disappointed that we were going back to his relationship with his father. I felt like A Death in the Family dealt with that issue; although in not great detail but enough to have the highlights. This book felt like we were going over the same material again but in far greater detail. The coming of age style worked when talking about Karl Ove’s life but I never felt like there was anything new to cover when it came to talking about his father.

There are some interesting insights in Boyhood Island that are well worth exploring, I just did not think it lived up to the other books in the series. I am keen to check out Dancing in the Dark, which covers Knausgård’s college years, I have a feeling there will be a return to form for this author. I am half way through Min Kamp so I feel like I might as well complete it. Karl Ove Knausgård is a very impressive writer and the range on display between each novel is what draws me to his novels. Although I have never read anything other than these autobiographical novels, I am interested in seeing how he writes in his other books.


Enclothed Cognition & The Stanford Prison Experiment

Posted July 18, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Psychology / 0 Comments

The Lucifer EffectWhile reading The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Philip G. Zimbardo, I have found myself thinking a lot about the Stanford prison experiment. This psychological experiment was led by Zimbardo and this book is his first full account of what actually happened. The Stanford prison experiment was a study into the psychological effects of the prison experience which was conducted at Stanford University in 1971. The funding for this experiment was provided by the U.S. Office of Naval Research, with interest from both the Navy and Marine Corps into the relationship between military guards and prisoners.

I first learnt about the Stanford prison experiment thanks to watching Veronica Mars (“My Big Fat Greek Rush Week” S03E02). However reading through The Lucifer Effect, I did not expect there to be so many different psychological ideas going on at once. I know simulating an environment will need different researchers and involve a lot of analysis but I kept thinking of different things that will need to be looked at and the list kept growing and growing. Take for example the experiences the prisoners would feel, disorientation, de-personalisation (as well as dehumanisation) and so much more. It was interesting that the guards took on this mentality that this experiment was looking at prisoner behaviour and felt the need to take on the role of a stereotypical guard.

The term “enclothed cognition” sprung to mind while reading the book. An idea that the clothes that you wear can psychologically influence you. Within an experiment of enclothed cognition, some people are asked to perform brain exercises; half were dressed in a lab coat. The results ended up with the group wearing the lab coat performing better than the others. They then went on to give everyone a lab coat, half were told it was a painter’s coat and the others, a doctor’s coat. The results were similar, with the people wearing what they thought was a doctor’s coat performing better than the others. The application of a military uniform and reflective sun glasses seemed to have a dominating affect towards the treatment of the prisoners.

There is a lot more worth talking about, with the Stanford prison experiment but I will live it with those few ideas. I am working through The Lucifer Effect slowly and I might add more posts about what I have been thinking. However I would like to mention that there is a movie called The Stanford Prison Experiment about to be released about what happened in this study that looks fascinating. I am very interested in seeing how it translates but I am sure it will be traumatising.


There But For The by Ali Smith

Posted July 16, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

There But For The by Ali SmithTitle: There But For The (Goodreads)
Author: Ali Smith
Published: Penguin, 357
Pages: 2011
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

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

A dinner party in a posh home in Greenwich took a sudden turn when Miles, one of the guests, leaves the table mid meal and locks himself in an upstairs room. He refuses leave and the diverse group of neighbours tell their story of the events trying to make sense of Miles motivations. There But For The is told in four points of view: Anna, who is in her forties; Mark, a man in his sixties; May, a woman in her eighties and ten year old Brooke.

Genevieve Lee sets out to host an elaborate dinner in her elegant Greenwich home; her husband Eric has planned to serve scallops and chorizo. However these people are a little different to the people that normally run in the couple’s social circles. The story revolves around Miles Garth who is now an unwanted guest of the Lee’s, after he locked himself away in an upstairs bedroom. However the book really looks at the four narrators and their connection between everyone else.

There tells a story of Anna, a social worker, who knew Miles thirty years ago. Genevieve found her email address in Miles phone and invited her in the hope of persuading him to leave. But follows Mark who is a photo-researcher, who invited Miles to the dinner party. Mark is mourning his old love and, at times, his dead mother speaks to him in rhymes. For is set entirely in the mind of eighty year old May. She is suffering from dementia but also has regular contact with Miles. The revolves around ten year old Brooke, who is the daughter of two of the party guests and the only one that has made contact with Miles since he locked himself in the room.

Where this book shines is in the writing; it is full of what has been now considered Ali Smith’s trademark wit and puns. It is an exploration into humanity, centred on a whimsical yet devastating dinner party. The stand out for me is the way that Smith masterfully used identity shifts and language gaps to explore language in what is essentially a locked-room mystery. This writing style may cause issues for some people but I was just in awe of just how clever If For But The really was.

As this is the first Ali Smith novel that I have read, I am unsure what to say about her as a writer. If all books are anything like If For But The then I would have to call her a master at puns, wordplays, metaphors and pretty much linguistics in general. There is plenty of buzz around her latest book How to Be Both, so I will save my opinion until I have read at least that novel. I am very confident I will be a new fan of Ali Smith but as I say, I have to experience more of her writing.


Walking the Camino

Posted July 14, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Documentary / 0 Comments

camino-poster

Camino de Santiago is commonly known as just the Camino or Way of St. James. It is a popular pilgrimage people take to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia where many believe the apostle St. James the Great is buried. Recently I watched a documentary called Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago which got me thinking a lot about the pilgrimage. I should first point out I am not Catholic, as were many of the people in the documentary but I found it interesting to explore what motivates people to take on such a huge task.

There are many routes you can take to walk the Camino, however the Camino Francés (The French Way) is the most common option. This is a 780km walk that starts off in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees and while there is no set agenda, according to the itinerary found on Wikipedia, takes 29 days to walk. This is just an example itinerary and it involves a 20-40km walk each day to the next town on the route.

The Camino de Santiago has mainly been a spiritual pilgrimage but while watching the documentary Walking the Camino it seems that nowadays it is a fitness challenge or a journey of self-discovery. A 780km walk would not be easy and I do not think I could ever complete it but I love the idea of slowing down and reflecting. The whole idea of no schedules and no worries (apart from the task at hand) would allow for time to reflect on life.

I found this documentary fascinating and I feel like completing the Camino would really be an impressive (and pretentious) feat. I have considered trying to complete it but that much walking really worries me. The idea of walking through Spain looking at the country side and eating the food is very appealing. I have only visited one town along the Camino, which is Santo Domingo de la Calzada but the medieval architecture and art is enough to entice people. Has anyone considered walking the Camino?

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Monthly Kickoff – July 2015

Posted July 1, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Kickoff / 0 Comments

How To Be a HeroineThe second half of the year is upon us; it really is hard to believe the year has gone this far. How has everyone’s reading been for the past six months? I have personally had a great half-year reading and hope the next six months are just as productive. This month’s theme is books about books and we are reading How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis. I am so pleased with the choice and looking forward to some good discussions over on the Goodreads threads.

As a reminder, August will be an indigenous theme and we are reading The Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, which I am sure will spark some interesting discussions. I have read this book before and I am still trying to decide if I should re-read it or not. September’s theme has been decided and it was almost going to be science fiction but urban fantasy just pulled in front by one vote. Also, don’t forget you can join in on all this fun over at Goodreads and you can help us pick our themes and books by voting in the polls.

I am currently reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and One Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore; both of these novels are really enjoyable so far. I also plan to read Nest by Inga Simpson for my real life book club and Limonov by Emmanuel Carre?re (translated from the French by John Lambert), which is a biography about Russian poet (and so much more) Eduard Limonov. Other than that, I would love to read The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Philip G. Zimbardo. After that, I will just see what will happen, what are you planning to read this month?