Fight Club 2 by Chuck Palahniuk and Cameron Stewart

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Firstly, do meta-narratives annoy you? By that I mean, books that know they’re books, books that feature their author as a character. If so, then perhaps avoid this.

That said, I loved it.

Whilst Chuck Palahniuk is a character throughout the whole book, his presence is not too overbearing. It does however provide an interesting device to explore how characters can grow independent of their authors (and author’s intentions – Tyler, has been around for a LOT longer than anyone thought) and how the movie impacted culture (and how some people don’t even know there’s a book).

The plot, concerns the narrator (now named Sebastian), and his life with Marla and their son (or, as he puts it, “the consequences of sport fucking”) after the first book where he’s now medicated and seeing a therapist. What he doesn’t realise is that twice a week, when he’s undergoing hypnosis, Tyler is waking up to run the world.

The plot is faintly ridiculous at times but it works really well in the meta-framework they’re using. I don’t really want to spoil it, but the whole book is an interesting new addition to the canon of, and the story of, Fight Club.

Also, in the collected version, you get the Free Comic Book Day issue of Fight Club 2, which illustrated in comic form, the original ending of the novel – which was changed in the film.

A beautifully drawn book by Cameron Stewart too, and a shoutout to whomever did the layouts – which at times, can obscure (on purpose) what a character is saying, to great dramatic effect. An example (of a very early, spoiler-free page of the book) is below.

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Highly recommended. And on a final note, if you’re waiting for the movie version, don’t – they’ll never , can’t ever, make a movie out of this.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries catalogue here.

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Brilliant Book Titles #82

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb:
Honored as a “Best Poetry Book of the Year” by Publishers Weekly

“The book’s a little crazy, packed with air quotes and brackets, jokes and condemnations, forms that explode across the page. Crazily enough, it’s also packed with truth.”—NPR

“The voice of this third book from Bibbins is marked and numbed by the onslaught of American media and politics that saturate the Internet, television, radio, and smartphone: ‘the way things are going, children/ will have to upgrade to more amusing.’ Much like advertisements or news stories vying for viewer’s attention, the book intentionally overwhelms, eschewing sections; the author instead differentiates the poems by repetition, creating a sort of echo chamber, similar to the way viral information cycles through social media platforms.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“[A] hilarious send-up of contemporary values and an alarm bell of sorts, directing attention to all that is so sinister in our civilization.”—American Poets

“Whip-smart and wickedly funny, They Don’t Kill You is Bibbins’s most authoritative and self-possessed collection to date.”—Boston Review

The poems in Mark Bibbins’s breakthrough third book are formally innovative and socially alert. Roving across the weird human landscape of modern politics, media-exacerbated absurdity, and questionable social conventions, this collection counters dread with wit, chaos with clarity, and reminds us that suffering is “small//compared to what?”

Mark Bibbins teaches in the graduate writing programs at The New School and Columbia University, and edits the poetry section of The Awl. He lives in New York City.

Brilliant Book Titles #81

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb:
Nocturnal Omissions: A Tale of Two Poets – birthed through correspondence between authors Gavin Geoffrey Dillard and Eric Norris – is an unabashedly erotic, romantic, poetic, sometimes even philosophical dialogue on love, sex, and art’s glorious afterlife. You will never pick up a pen, a lover, or a book of poetry quite in the same way again.

The Motel Life by Willy Vlautin

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This is the tale of two brothers from Reno who are not having a whole lot of luck.

Frank, who narrates the story is drunk in a motel room when his brother Jerry Lee (himself not sober) bursts in with news that will set them off on a path that you suspect is not going to end well.  This is a very short book but the characters of the brothers are very well drawn.  Bad things do not just happen to bad people and even though the brothers make some terrible choices, I found myself rooting for them.  The boys found themselves on their own at a young age and have never quite managed to get on an even keel.  I found Frank’s concern for his more vulnerable brother particularly touching.  Jerry Lee is a troubled soul who asks Frank to tell him stories to stop the bad thoughts which threaten to engulf him.  So Frank weaves tales of beautiful women and riches which could not be more different to the boys’ current predicament.

When I picked this book up I didn’t realise it was Vlautin’s first novel but I loved the easiness of the writing style and, although, short, it made quite an impression on me.  I have heard good things about Willy Vlautin’s “Lean on Pete” and I definitely plan to read that next.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

5 New Home and Garden Books to Watch Out For

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Romantic English Homes by Robert O’Byrne (7 Feb 2017)
Romantic English Homes is an inspirational collection of truly timeless houses.

Robert O’Byrne has gathered together a collection of some of England’s most glorious homes including a rural farmhouse set in a quietly picturesque village and a fourteenth-century folly. Ever since the English aristocracy embarked on a Grand Tour in the seventeenth century, the passion for developing collections has been a national trait of England. As a result, the country’s aristocratic palaces became repositories of treasure gathered from around the globe. But so too, thanks to the spread of an Empire providing goods from across the globe, did almost every residence in England. Romantic English Homes features 14 such houses. Large or small, old or new, they all convey an impression of massed objects intentionally mingling styles and tastes, the classical placed next to the gothic, tartan pattern competing with floral print. Decorated with defiant eclecticism, the buildings featured here indicate that although the Empire may have gone, the English love of collecting remains as strong as ever. Criss-crossing the country, from Dorset, Devon and Cornwall to East Anglia and Suffolk, from London to Staffordshire and Northumberland, it is both the romantic timelessness of these properties and their many-layered appearance that makes them so alluring.

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Tiny Tabletop Gardens: 35 projects for super-small spaces_outdoors and in by Emma Hardy (7 Feb 2017)

Be inspired by Emma Hardy’s beautiful ideas for tiny tabletop displays. Why not try some indoor projects for rainy days; plant some little ferns under glass domes, make Japanese moss balls for the roots of some colourful orchids, or why not create a unique water garden in glass goblets? Make use of any outdoor space you have with hanging lantern planters, little place name pots for a party, a tower of plants, and a beautiful chandelier with small planted glasses. The edible plants chapter has easy-to-grow delicious treats including potted blueberries, an alpine strawberry centrepiece and much more. Every project has helpful step-by-step instructions and aftercare tips from expert gardener Emma Hardy, so now even those with a minimum of space can enjoy the benefits and joys of gardening.

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Architects’ Homes (8 Feb 2017)
Features the homes of a range of leading architects from around the world, including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, and Europe

Explores the interior design techniques, art and decorative pieces, furnishings, materials, and technology incorporated into the homes of those who know the most about them

This stunning book takes a rare glimpse into the intriguing and unique homes of some of the world’s best-known architects. How do these architects design their own private domains? How do their furnishing styles impact on the structural integrity of the space? How do these individuals express their interior design flair in their own haven? The title starts by introducing the relationship between the architect and their professional work, by telling how that marries with their own private tastes, and how they interpret current trends and enable their own philosophies to transfer to their personal, private environments. Combining rich photography and spectacular imagery with the personal stories of these industry professionals, this book provides a rich source for those keen to delve into the design aesthetics, concepts and innovations of leaders in their very own field.

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RHS The Urban Gardener Paperback by Matt James (9 Feb 2017)

Garden designer, lecturer and broadcaster Matt explores how to design an urban outdoor space, no matter the size or location – from balconies and roof terraces to courtyards, basement areas and front gardens, factoring in areas for relaxation, play and growing your own produce. There are 16 step-by-step projects including creating a ‘living’ green wall, planting under mature trees and making a gravel garden and 13 case studies showing great design in action, with examples from Tom Stuart-Smith, Charlotte Rowe and Christopher Bradley-Hole. Award-winning photographer Marianne Majerus provides the visual inspiration.

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Modern Vintage Style: Using vintage pieces in the contemporary home  
by Emily Chalmers & Ali Hanan (9 Feb 2017) 
Decorating should be fun and inspiring, so there are no style diktats; no ‘this-must-go-with-that’. Modern vintage is all about trusting your instincts and taste and using a bit of imagination in seeking out the right items to create a perfect balance of old and new. In the first section of the book, Inspirations, Emily offers up imaginative and varied examples of furniture, lighting, textiles, decorating and collections & display. In the second section, Style, she shows you exactly how to pull the look together, applying her decorating philosophy so you can cook & eat, live, sleep and bathe in tune with Modern Vintage Style.

Straight Man by Richard Russo

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This novel by my much loved author Richard Russo has perhaps the funniest prologue to a book I have ever read! While explaining to us how he is not in fact a Straight Man,  Russo’s protagonist William Henry Devereaux gives us a wonderful anecdote about his stubbornness as a child, now a middle aged man he is the chairman of the English Department of a run down and underfunded college in Pennsylvania. He bumbles along without really caring taking potshots at his overly zealous and to his mind ridiculous colleagues.

In the course of a week after his wife goes away, he gets himself into all kinds of off the wall situations. Free to be the anarchist he will always be at heart. Russo paints a picture of small town American life like no other. He is often hilarious but also very tender in the treatment of his subjects. He explores relationships of all kinds in his customary thoughtful and humorous style. In short, Straight Man is classic Russo–side-splitting and true-to-life, witty, compassionate, and impossible to put down.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Brilliant Book Titles #80

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ online catalogue here.

Blurb:
In his new collection of poems – several of which have already become famous before their book publication – Clive James looks back over an extraordinarily rich life with a clear-eyed and unflinching honesty. There are regrets, but no trace of self-pity in these verses, which – for all their open dealings with death and illness – are primarily a celebration of what is treasurable and memorable in our time here.

Again and again, James reminds us that he is not only a poet of effortless wit and lyric accomplishment: he is also an immensely wise one, who delights in using poetic form to bring a razor-sharp focus to his thought. Miraculously, these poems see James writing with his insight and energy not only undiminished but positively charged by his situation: Sentenced to Life represents a career high point from one of the greatest literary intelligences of the age.

Brilliant Book Titles #79

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb:
Penelope is a pretty regular sixteen year old girl living in New York City. Except for a few run-ins with her nemesis Cherisse, high school has been fairly drama free …until the day that Keats shows up at school. Handsome, charming, but with an edge, Keats comes in and upends everything. Faced with her first break-up, and her first heartbreak, Penelope decides to put together a collection to tell her story and help her sort out her feelings. Featuring a spectrum of artefacts that chronicle the lives of the curator, her best friends, her first boyfriend and some dinosaurs, the Museum of Heartbreak explores the giddy confusion, inevitable sadness and sheer joy of growing up and falling in love.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

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I avoided this booker prize-winning tale of the building of the Siam-Burma railway during the Second World War when it first came out; it’s a story which has been covered before e.g. in the classic movie “Bridge over the River Kwai” but this novel is more wide ranging and perhaps a more realistic telling of the story.

The central character of the book, Alwyn “Dorrigo” Evans is a bright, recently qualified surgeon from rural Tasmania, the first of his family to make it through school to a university education. He’s made the right connections both personally and professionally and is destined for greatness. WW2 intervenes and Dorrigo enlists and is sent to Adelaide for training. A chance encounter in a bookshop there leads to the most important relationship of his life. The war then intervenes and after a relatively uneventful campaign in the Middle East, Evans is sent to Java where his battalion is captured by the Japanese. We then get a harrowing and explicit account of the physical decline of the Australian P.O.W.s as they are mercilessly driven building the railway for the Japanese Empire. We also get the story and future destiny of the Japanese and Korean prison guards.

I found this a well-written interesting book, the story of a life set in an eventful period of history with an interesting twist in the end.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

5 New Literary Fictions

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Innocents and Others by Dana Spiotta (12 Jan 2017)
Meadow Mori and Carrie Wexler grew up together in Los Angeles, and both became film-makers.

Meadow makes challenging documentaries; Carrie makes successful feature films with a feminist slant. The two friends have everything in common – except their views on sex, power, movie-making and morality. And yet their loyalty trumps their different approaches to film and to life.

Until, one day, a mysterious woman with a unique ability to cold-call and seduce powerful men over the phone – not through sex, but through listening – becomes the subject of one of Meadow’s documentaries. Her downfall, and what makes her so extraordinarily moving, is that she pretends to be someone she is not.

Heart-breaking and insightful, Innocents and Others is an astonishing novel about friendship, identity, loneliness and art.

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Transit by Rachel Cusk (17 Jan 2017)
In the wake of her family s collapse, a writer and her two young sons move to London. The process of this upheaval is the catalyst for a number of transitions personal, moral, artistic, and practical as she endeavors to construct a new reality for herself and her children. In the city, she is made to confront aspects of living that she has, until now, avoided, and to consider questions of vulnerability and power, death and renewal, in what becomes her struggle to reattach herself to, and believe in, life.

Filtered through the impersonal gaze of its keenly intelligent protagonist, Transit sees Rachel Cusk delve deeper into the themes first raised in her critically acclaimed novel Outline and offers up a penetrating and moving reflection on childhood and fate, the value of suffering, the moral problems of personal responsibility, and the mystery of change.

In this second book of a precise, short, yet epic cycle, Cusk describes the most elemental experiences, the liminal qualities of life. She captures with unsettling restraint and honesty the longing to both inhabit and flee one s life, and the wrenching ambivalence animating our desire to feel real.

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The Blot by Jonathan Lethem (2 Feb 2017)
Alexander Bruno is a man with expensive problems.

Sporting a tuxedo and trotting the globe, he has spent his adult life as a professional gambler. His particular line of work: backgammon, at which he extracts large sums of money from men who think they can challenge his peerless acumen. In Singapore, his luck turned.

Maybe it had something to do with the Blot – a black spot which has emerged to distort Bruno’s vision. It’s not showing any signs of going away. In fact, it’s spreading, and as Bruno extends his losing streak in Berlin, it becomes clinically clear that the Blot is the symptom of something terrible. There’s a surgeon who can help, an elite specialist, the only one in the world. But surgery is going to involve a lot of money, and worse: returning home. To the land of ‘bullying, psychosis and bad taste’ otherwise known as contemporary America.

Specifically: the garish, hash-smoke streets of Berkeley, California. Here, the unseemly Keith Stolarsky – a childhood friend in possession of an empire of themed burger bars and thrift stores – is king. And he’s willing to help Bruno out. But there was always going to be a price.

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Autumn by Ali Smith (7 Feb 2017)

From the Man Booker shortlisted and Baileys Prize winning author of How to be both: a breathtakingly inventive new novel about aging, time, love, and stories themselves that launches an extraordinary quartet of books called Seasonal.
Readers love Ali Smith s novels for their peerless innovation and their joyful celebration of language and life. Her newest, Autumn, has all of these qualities in spades, and good news for fans! is the first installment in a quartet. Seasonal, comprised of four stand-alone books, separate yet interconnected and cyclical (as are the seasons), explores what time is, how we experience it, and the recurring markers in the shapes our lives take and in our ways with narrative. Fusing Keatsian mists and mellow fruitfulness with the vitality, the immediacy, and the color hit of Pop Art, Autumn is a witty excavation of the present by the past. The novel is a stripped-branches take on popular culture and a meditation, in a world growing ever more bordered and exclusive, on what richness and worth are, what harvest means.

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The Good People by Hannah Kent (9 Feb 2017)
County Kerry, Ireland, 1825.

NÓRA, bereft after the sudden death of her beloved husband, finds herself alone and caring for her young grandson Micheál. Micheál cannot speak and cannot walk and Nóra is desperate to know what is wrong with him. What happened to the healthy, happy grandson she met when her daughter was still alive?

MARY arrives in the valley to help Nóra just as the whispers are spreading: the stories of unexplained misfortunes, of illnesses, and the rumours that Micheál is a changeling child who is bringing bad luck to the valley.

NANCE’s knowledge keeps her apart. To the new priest, she is a threat, but to the valley people she is a wanderer, a healer. Nance knows how to use the plants and berries of the woodland; she understands the magic in the old ways. And she might be able to help Micheál.

As these three women are drawn together in the hope of restoring Micheál, their world of folklore and belief, of ritual and stories, tightens around them. It will lead them down a dangerous path, and force them to question everything they have ever known.

Based on true events and set in a lost world bound by its own laws, The Good People is Hannah Kent’s startling new novel about absolute belief and devoted love. Terrifying, thrilling and moving in equal measure, this long-awaited follow-up to Burial Rites shows an author at the height of her powers