Tag: A Sport and a Pastime

Distracted by Other Books

Posted September 11, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 14 Comments

My Thoughts and Reading in August 2018

August is Women in Translations month, which means there is a big influx of people reading translations, even the publishers and big bookish media seem to promote the event. This feels like a double edge sword for me, while I love that more people are reading from my corner of the bookish world, there are plenty of cringe worthy moments to be had as well. There are people who like to make themselves the authority of the topic despite showing no interest previously in the male/female balance in the world of translations. Admittedly this reaction I have is just my grumpiness coming to play and in reality I should be thankful to see so many people participate in a month dedicated to reading women in translations. For those that did not want to dedicate a whole month, some BookTubers even put together a Women in Translations readathon, but I will not be discussing my problem with readathons here.

I had planned my reading month, thinking that while vacationing around Tasmania I would have more reading time than expected. I packed four books to read during the trip, plus a kindle but I only managed to complete one novel during that entire trip, and it was not even a book I was enjoying. Prior to my vacation, I had read Convenience Store Woman, a book that I still think about to this day. The hype surrounding this book is justified. I also read The Door with my wife, which was discussed on the latest episode of Lost in Translations. Before my trip, I scheduled six reviews for my blog, all being women in translations. I am pleased to say, that I am pretty much up to date with reviewing, as I have made the choice not to review every book I read. I want to spend more time writing essays and improving my writing abilities so while reviews seem to be an important aspect of my blog, I hope this means that I will write more.

Tasmania was an amazing experience, I have not been there before and I really enjoyed the cold weather. I got to experience snow falling for the first time, most non-Australians might think this is not as special as I make it out to be. The book I read while away was Oneiron; it was not for me, and I really struggled to get through it. I understand what Laura Lindstedt was trying to do by putting these women in this situation and have them reflect on their lives but I was disappointed. I did however start Aracoeli and I am having a much better experience. Elsa Morante is a wonderful writer and for those who do not know her, she is one of the authors that influenced the writing of Elene Ferrante.

During my trip I visited bookstores every chance I got, which did leave me with a much heavier bag by the end of the trip. I wanted to limit my purchasing by focusing on expanding my women in translation collection but I failed at that. So many stores seemed to have a very limited selection for translations, which is fast becoming the biggest downside of my reading niche. The feeling of leaving a bookstore empty handed is heart breaking for a book lover. However, if I started to complain about the amount of books I did end up purchasing, I would be lying to myself. I have so many amazing books to read, I just need to find the time.

After Tasmania we stopped in Melbourne for the weekend and attended the Melbourne Writers Festival. This year had an amazing line up and I think I want to write about what I saw in a different post. The festival has inspired me to be more active in my blogging and to write more pieces, so let’s see if it pays off. The final book I read before going back to work was Sofi Oksanen’s novel Purge. Previously I read When the Doves Disappeared which I liked but did not love, honestly, I think Purge is a far superior novel. Because it was Women in Translations month, I think it is necessary to check my reading stats to see if I have a balanced reading life this year. I am pleased to say that 75% of my reading have been translations, which is indicative of my passion. With 52% being books written by women. I hope to maintain this balance, but I know how easy it is to have the statistics change.

Happy reading everyone.

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The Adventures into Krissy Kneen and Incredible Erotic Literature

Posted July 25, 2016 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost 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.


All That Is by James Salter

Posted February 22, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

All That Is by James SalterTitle: All That Is (Goodreads)
Author: James Salter
Published: Picador, 2013
Pages: 304
Genres: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

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

After 30 years James Slater returns to the literary world with a new novel, All That Is. With 88 years of life experience under his belt, Salter offers a unique perspective of life, passion and regret. All That Is explores fragment of Philip Bowman’s life, as a naval officer in World War II, attending Harvard University and going on to be an editor of a small publishing house. While this doesn’t cover Bowman’s life in the way a memoir would, we get little snippets of his life and what is important to him.

James Salter has been often dubbed as a writer’s writer, a title he wished to shed when writing All That Is, but does he pull that off? For me, this title means that he is a writer than other writers and serious readers love, but that the casual reader often won’t enjoy. The reasoning is that the beauty in Salter’s books is in the proses and not the plot. He feels like an old fashion writer; he writes proses so  elegant that it is often intimidating. He doesn’t try to write the perfect sentence that will blow the reader away every time; he does not want to lavish the reader, but you’ll still find a style that I think is graceful from page to page.

Something that I think goes against what is often taught to writers is that Salter is really good at ‘telling not showing’. He knows what he is doing and he executes this method in a precise way that just works for him. There are times when his similes and metaphors do come across as weird but for the most part everything flows and I found myself being swept away in the cleverness of his writing.

When exploring Philip Bowman’s life, we really get a sense of him as a person and the people he meets along the way. Some people we only meet for a few paragraphs but the style of Salter is enough to give the reader a good sense of who they are in such a short amount of time. This is a real talent and I really loved the little snap shots of people along the way. He manages to explore the little details and while we don’t know everything, he has painted a magnificent portrait of Bowman’s life.

As if it was a refrain to the novel we are often taken to a cocktail party and often we read about Philip Bowman making a move on a woman (often a married one) and inviting them to lunch. This often leads to sex and I think we are constantly reading about these conquests because they are important to Bowman. While this does feel a little repetitive at times, I think it is interesting to show the behavioural pattern of Bowman and his tried and true method of picking up woman.

I want to talk about the sex within All That Is (and Salter novels in general), while there isn’t as much as there was in A Sport and a Pastime (which I consider an erotic novel) there was still a lot in this one. The sex scenes in his novels might be considered crude and offensive to some, but they do play an important part, in All That Is we explore the passion and regrets of Philip Bowman’s life, a man that likes sex and though he can be a bit of a dick at times when trying to get laid, it felt honest and real. Salter doesn’t play around with euphemisms when he writes sex scenes, they are non-ludicrous and sometimes over descriptive. The thing I like about his sex scenes is that he doesn’t always try to be erotic, sometimes they are awkward or unintentionally funny, this just makes it feel more real; sometimes there is passion and it’s erotic, sometimes things go wrong. Often better than the sex itself is the events that follow, they may just be lying in bed making small talk, but it is here we get some real unseen insights into these characters.

I think I’m becoming a fan of James Salter, while I would recommend A Sport and a Pastime over this novel, there is a real joy in reading proses like this. James Salter does give a huge nod to the book industry and his love of books, but for me this was about life, love, passion and regret. Exploring the life of Philip Bowman was an interesting endeavour; sure, he is fictional but the book says a lot about life in general. Salter is not for everyone but if you like beautiful language and not afraid of some graphic depictions of sex then he is an author worth checking out.


Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

Posted August 24, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic, Erotica / 0 Comments

Tropic of Cancer by Henry MillerTitle: Tropic of Cancer (Goodreads)
Author: Henry Miller
Published: Harper Collins, 1934
Pages: 336
Genres: Classic, Erotica
My Copy: Library Book

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

Tropic of Cancer is probably best known for being about sex, a book that was banned for over thirty years. An autobiographical novel of a struggling writer living in Paris in a community of bohemians. A fictionalised account of Miller’s life living underground, with prostitutes, painters and other writers.

This is an odd novel, not necessarily good but a literary landmark. Without Henry Miller we may never have books like Lolita, Naked Lunch, A Sport and a Pastime and even Tampa. On the plus side, we may never have Fifty Shades of Grey. This novel pushed the boundaries of literature in the 1930’s and found itself being banned, which developed a cult following that helped influence the future of literature. I tend to think, much like Lady’s Chatterley’s Lover, if it wasn’t for the banning of the book, this novel wouldn’t be a classic; it would have just faded away into obscurity.

There are some advantages to reading this book, there are the autobiographical elements but then Miller focuses on his friends and colleagues. Almost off topic, like he is commentating on what is happening in their lives. Then it gets a little more complex because there is a stream of consciousness reflecting on the occasional epiphany. The whole narrative gets really confusing with its non-linear approach, the tangents and reflections. It makes the whole book hard to read and in the end not really enjoyable.

I can’t help but compare this novel to The Dud Avocado, the sexual adventures in Paris is similar but Tropic of Cancer wasn’t as interesting and a female lead makes for a less sex obsessed narrative and tends to focus on life abroad as well. I can’t help thinking just how narcissistic Henry Miller must have been with all those autobiographical novels of his life; do people still do that? Or is this just a thing of the past, pushing the boundaries.

I have to give Henry Miller one thing; he doesn’t hold back, he will expose the good, the bad and the disturbing parts of his life. If I ever wrote a book like this (which I have no interest in doing anyway) I would be more inclined to hold back, to paint myself in a more favourable light; Miller doesn’t do that at all. There isn’t much I can say about this book, it’s about sex and that is about it. The stream of consciousness part was interesting but I still find that difficult to read. I would probably tell people to skip this and read The Dud Avocado or something similar but for the book snobs (like myself) if you do read this book I hope you get something out of it apart from the historical significance of a book like Tropic of Cancer.


A Sport and A Pastime by James Salter

Posted April 19, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Erotica / 0 Comments

A Sport and A Pastime by James SalterTitle: A Sport and a Pastime (Goodreads)
Author: James Salter
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1967
Pages: 200
Genres: Erotica
My Copy: Library Book

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

1950’s France, an American middle-class college drop-out Philip Dean begins a love with a young French girl. But this sad, tender story of their erotic affair has been captured by a witness, a self-consciously unreliable narrator. This narrator freely admits that some of the observations are his own fantasy of the couple making A Sport and A Pastime an intensely carnal account of this affair and in part a feverish dream.

James Salter’s writing in this book is really interesting; he creates this wonderful imagery with the scenery, the colours, the smells and when it comes to the erotic side of this story this continues in a way that never felt crude or overdone. Sure the descriptions might feel really tame for our generation but there is a real lyrical way about the whole book that really worked for me. I will admit that I’ve not heard of James Salter before but I’m very impressed with his style that I would be curious to read more.

The relationship with Philip Dean and the French girl, Anne-Marie, is just wonderfully portrayed; there is no sense of love between the two, only raw passion. Anne-Marie has a healthy sexual appetite and she wasn’t afraid to tell him what she wanted which I find a little rare, especially considering the year this was written. While she feels like she is dominating at time, there are other times she feel really submissive and I think Salter did a wonderful job in getting that balance right.

The unreliable narrator was tricky to get used to; a friend of Philip’s from Yale, he was on holidays enjoying regional France but he seemed rather obsessed with this affair.  You never quite know what is real and what is made up in his head, sometimes he will tell you but most of the time you are left wondering. It would be weird having a narrator standing beside the bed while you have sex so you have to assume that most of the sex is either his own fantasy or word of mouth.

I do like the way James Salter used this narrator to create this almost dreamlike story and I expect there is a lot more in the novel worth exploring. With a reread or two, I’m sure you will discover some interesting elements. I think Salter was trying to explore the emotions behind sex but sometimes that feels a little ambiguous; the tenderness, thrill, passion all come out rather clear but at times I thought there was an element of boredom and selfishness that was also coming out, just not as well.

A Sport and A Pastime is a wonderfully lyrical novel worth sinking your teeth into, the short sentences really give it a poetic feel throughout the whole book. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting but I am glad I gave it a try. I have to wonder why James Salter never had commercial success, was it because he was a misogynist? His style reminds me a bit Steinbeck and Hemingway and yet he isn’t as popular as the two. I’m not sure if I would read much more in the erotic genre but I will have to check out some Henry Miller or Anaïs Nin in the future.


Monthly Review – March 2013

Posted March 31, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 2 Comments

Happy Easter everyone, hope you are all enjoying the long weekend. I hope everyone has had a wonderful month of reading and had time to fit Lolita into their busy schedule. I’ve noticed a lot of mixed reactions to this book which would mainly be a result of the controversial nature of this book but it really is one of those books that have helped shape twentieth century literature, so well worth checking out. Still a lot of action happening with the reading challenge as well; looks like two hundred books been added this month. For those who don’t know about the reading challenge, there is still time to join in the fun, so check out my introductory post here.

A reminder that next month’s book will Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami for our Japanese literature theme. I haven’t read much Murakami but expect some great discussion on this book, hopefully with some thoughts to the Magical Realism genre.

Highlights for my month’s reading included Infinite Jest which I’ve finally finished; the beautiful painting of Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding; Lolita; and In a Lonely Place. I would like to mention two other books that really blew me away. First, Pride and Prejudice which I finally got around to reading after putting it off for far too long (also have you seen the Lizzie Bennett Diaries?). Also Tenth of December; while I’m not much of a reader of short stories George Saunders showed me just enough to change my mind. What have you been reading this month and what were the highlights?

My Monthly Reading


Books Beside the Bed

Posted March 11, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 0 Comments

While I’ve noticed people write posts about what they plan to read during the week, I thought I might do something similar. I thought rather than make this a regular theme; it will just be something to help break up all the review posts. I like the idea of a post about the books by my bed because I have so many books I want to read, it could be fun to share what I’m currently reading and hope to read soon.

The Son by Philipp Meyer

I don’t know why I was excited to read this book, I’ve not even read American Rust but when I was offered a review copy I jumped at the chance. So far I’m finding this book to be compelling and can see why people hold Philipp Meyer in such high regard.

 

What it Was by George Pelecanos

George Pelecanos is best known as a writer for The Wire, I will admit I’ve not watched the show in its entirety but I thought I’ll try one of his books. This has a real 1970’s feel to it and so far I’m really enjoying the pulp style. Apparently this is book five in a series but it reads like a standalone novel.

 

A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter

I first heard about this book from The First Tuesday Book Club (now known as The Book Club) and thought it might be a short book for the Literary Exploration challenge’s Erotica pick. This is a library book so I will need to get to this book soon.

 

Ghostman by Roger Hobbs

Another library book, this book was talked about on the Books on the Nightstand podcast and they described the protagonist as a descendant of Lee Child‘s Jack Reacher and Richard Stark‘s Parker. Then the final nail in the coffin was when the blurb called it “Stunningly dark, hugely intelligent and thoroughly addictive”.

 

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

A friend of mine lent me these books; while I’m not really a fan of fantasy I did mention I have enjoyed the fantasy/pulp crossover novels. So now I’ve been told to read Guards! Guards! and if I like it, Men at Arms.  Not sure when I’ll get to these books, but they sit beside my bed waiting for me.

 

Mimi by Lucy Ellmann

I recently receive this book and I don’t know what it is but I feel drawn to it. Mimi does look intriguing but I’m still not sure what to expect. The novel is described as “Sparkling, polemical, irreverent, slippery, and sexy”.

While I have plenty of other books I plan to read these are the books sitting next to my bed hoping to take priority. This is not always the case, I might put some on my TBR bookshelf but they are all calling for some attention. Do you have a pile of books waiting beside your bed? and if so what are they.