The Eve of Destruction

THE EVE OF DESTRUCTION is a novel about America edging toward nuclear war with the Soviet Union. It would be a war that might kill hundreds of millions of people and poison the atmosphere for fifty years. In October 1962, American spy planes photographed missiles loaded with nuclear warheads in Cuba. The Soviet Union was installing the missiles, and they could reach targets in the USA within minutes. President Kennedy was trying to find a way out of the Cuban Missile Crisis without recourse to war. The US armed forces were confident about attacking the Soviet Union in one all-out nuclear war, certain they would win. President John Kennedy was doubtful about their advice and motives, cautious after they told him similar gung-ho things about the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. The Eve of Destruction is the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  EXTRACT  Luke could hear the roar of the huge printing presses in the background. He was sitting opposite Walt who smiled delightedly, unable to understand what this was about. Luke listened to the sound and smell of the printing, he imagined the newspapers whizzing down to the collection point to be bundled; he could smell the… Continue reading

TROUBLE ON THE TENTH FLOOR

Book Review: EYRIE by TIM WINTON This is a splendid novel. The story is focussed on the life of a burnt-out, incapacitated, environmentalist, Keely. He has fallen into political disgrace, untrustworthy, cast aside, defiled, and divorced. He feels old and defeated, living on the tenth floor of a run-down high-rise building near the Fremantle wharves. He is existing from day to day, drinking his life away, swallowing an assortment of prescription drugs, just waiting for the end. One day he meets a woman, Gemma, who lives on the same 10th floor with a six-year-old boy. She recognises him from an earlier time, when they were both children living in Blackboy Crescent, neighbours in another life. Gemma, now in her early forties, is brash, street-hard, tough-talking, and busy minding her six-year-old grandson — while her daughter is in prison for drug crimes. The child is strange, intelligent, and knowing far beyond his years, but takes a shine to Keely. The child troubles Keely when he sees him carelessly playing on the 10th floor balcony, climbing onto the railing, the grandmother unperturbed. The three of them make a barely-functioning alliance. Keely thinks the boy might have autism or Asperger’s syndrome. There’s something… Continue reading

Gould’s Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan

This is not an easy book to understand or to review. It does not fit into any known genre, there is no mystery in the normal sense; while there are murders, we know who committed them. Is it a love story? Not at all, but the book blurb thinks so. It is an historical novel, but more of a surrealistic history of a penal settlement, overlaid with humour and irony. The story is told by a felon, Billy Gould who portrays himself as nothing more than a lying rascal, yet he reveals himself in his own words to be educated and moral. If you have read James Joyce’s Ulysses, then you might have something to compare this novel with, but few people have actually read Ulysses, (apart from the final section) so there is not much help there. But if you have, then there are definite similarities in the word play, the metaphors, the allusions, the irony. Gould’s Book of Fish — should you read it — will probably be the most bizarre book you will read in the next 10 years. Is it worthwhile you ask. Yes, it is worth the effort, because it is an interesting, unusual, poetic,… Continue reading

Rabbit, Run by John Updike

Fiction It is more than 30 years since I first read this book, yet I still remember the feelings, the location of where and when I read it. Rabbit, Run was quite a revelation to readers in those days. One of the first non-pornographic books to use the F-word, the C-word, and to give detailed descriptions of sex; not just the details, but brought it down to earth, into practical realms. It was not the “swearing” that made Rabbit, Run popular, it was the descriptive passages, the conflict, the foolish actions of the characters that caught our attention. It is not a story of people from Wall St, the FBI, or Harvard. It is a story of ordinary people — just like those who live in your street. You might not like them, but they are real people. The story is set in 1959 in Pennsylvania. The protagonist, “Rabbit” Harry Angstrom, is not particularly likeable, nor is his wife Janice. This is not a story about heroes, but about defective humans. In the first few pages we find Janice, pregnant, sitting at home watching The Mickey Mouse Club, drinking, smoking, with the house in a state of disorder. Their toddler,… Continue reading