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

The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell

book, tipping point

This book is about contagion, how an idea, a product, a book, song, movie, or a phone can suddenly become the item to have. What causes one product to succeed while another fails? The point where an item becomes an overnight success is the “tipping point”. Once you reach the tipping point there is no stopping the flood. It is like the flu virus, up till a certain point, the flu can be contained. Some people are getting over it, as others are coming down with it. That’s the balance point. But if there is a small increase in the number catching the flu, the tipping point is reached, and there is no stopping the contagion until it has burnt itself out. The Tipping Point is a non-fiction book about how that tipping point is achieved. What are the factors that cause one item to reach the tipping point, while a similar item will fail? For something to reach a tipping point it requires some special people: Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen. Connectors are people with a special gift for bringing people together — connecting them. Connectors know lots of people, but it is important that they are not all within… 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

Against their will

Book cover, Against their will

AGAINST THEIR WILL  is the story of Conscientious Objectors during World War 1 in England. This is a fictional account based on actual events. Conscientious objectors were opposed to the war, seeing it as a war for no purpose, a war based on propaganda, a war about chauvinism and prejudice, a war let loose by the failure of international diplomats. It was not a war to end war, but a war to create animosity and new hatred. Some conscientious objectors opposed it on religious grounds, but they were also treated as though they were aiding the enemy. Those who refused to be conscripted where vilified, cursed as cowards, imprisoned, bashed, tortured, treated as traitors, and sometimes killed in one way or another. There was no sympathy for those who refused to aid the war effort. And yet the C.O.s continued in their opposition to the war, despite the pressure, despite the hatred directed at them. This story has another aspect, that of occultism, Kevin Darwin while in prison, has various psychic experiences. He meets the mysterious Gita Lume, who appears to have uncanny powers and knowledge about his deepest secrets. The army, concerned about the number of conscientious objectors, trialed… Continue reading