The Outsider by Albert Camus

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Camus is quoted as saying, “…if you want to be a philosopher, write novels”. The Ousider is more of a novella than a novel and you could quite easily sit down and finish it in one sitting.

The protagonist seems to be devoid of empathy and while he often understands that it is strange for him to feel no pain at his mother’s death, to feel no sense of love for his girlfriend and no sense of remorse for his victim, he still shrugs off the confusion of others with the logic of an unflinching pragmatism. He exists in a void where all of the things we recognise as essential human characteristics, he eschews as frivolous embellishments to the reality of being.

While it didn’t provoke any crisis of faith in humanity for me, it did make me think. Well written, with a compelling narrator and perfectly crafted in length. Well worth reading.

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

Beatlebone by Kevin Barry

beatlebone

Beatlebone is the fictional account of John Lennon journeying to Dorinish Island during an emotionally turbulent period for him in the late 70s. The novel is set primarily in Mayo but we see very little of the towns and villages, on account of paparazzi having decamped to Ireland’s Atlantic coastline. John enlists the aid of local man Cornelius O Grady to navigate the mischievous Irish countryside.

A quirky idea for a book but unfortunately not his best work. If you’re a big Beatles fan (which I assume Barry is), don’t look for this book hoping for an insight into life as a member of the Fab Four. He dwells on very little in his personal life apart from the nostalgic recollections of his parents and his unresolved grief in the same. The Liverpool accent and personality comes across well and there’s a few witty and absurd scrapes they get themselves into but Barry is capable of so much more. I think he himself may have lost a parent(s) in his youth and so was drawn to the subject through the medium of imagining an idol of his working through the same hurt?

There’s a break about three quarters of the way through the book in which the novel ceases and Barry addresses the reader directly about the personal journey he made when beginning to write the book. The thing about it is that it’s actually quite enjoyable, possibly the most enjoyable section throughout. It’s unclear whether he did this for himself or whether it was felt that the book needed a bit more. In the end, I think this says all you need to know about the book. It’s good, but he missed the mark so he had to put this extra personal narrative in to liven it up. It succeeds in doing so but fails to elevate the book further than 3 stars out of 5.

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

Brilliant Book Titles #276

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Blurb: 

With an afterword by Natasha Wimmer.

Winner of the Herralde Prize and the Rómulo Gallegos Prize. Natasha Wimmer’s translation of The Savage Detectives was chosen as one of the ten best books of 2007 by the Washington Post and the New York Times.

New Year’s Eve 1975, Mexico City. Two hunted men leave town in a hurry, on the desert-bound trail of a vanished poet.

Spanning two decades and crossing continents, theirs is a remarkable quest through a darkening universe – our own. It is a journey told and shared by a generation of lovers, rebels and readers, whose testimonies are woven together into one of the most dazzling Latin American novels of the twentieth century.

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

Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn

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Daisy Dalrymple has to solve the mystery of the death of Lord Stephen Astwick who has been found dead in the skating pond.  Set during the 1920s Daisy Dalrymple novels are always fun. Her nose for trouble brings her into contact with upper crust criminals and Scotland Yard (in the form of the charming and decidedly middle class DCI Alec Fletcher).

I have always loved country house mysteries whether it be Agatha Christie or Margery Allingham. Carola Dunn brings the 1920s to life in all its glory but does not shy away from the cloud of WW1 which hung heavily over the period. She also examines the changing roles of women post war. Daisy is determined that she does not want to just find a husband and settle down. She takes a job as a writer for Town and Country magazine and lives in her own flat.

This is the perfect book for the winter, when it’s dark and cold outside and you have a fire an armchair and a hot drink.

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

What Is It All But Luminous by Art Garfunkel

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Let me start off by saying that this is not a typical autobiography. It could be defined as a memoir, in a very loose sense. However, I would look at this as more of a piece of art. It’s like an extended work of poetry. Art Garfunkle writes in a series of ramblings and musings that do not always proceed in a chronological order. If you are looking for the definitive history of Simon and Garfunkle from Art’s perspective, this is not the book you want.

Instead, this book brings us into the free-flowing mind of Art as he goes through his life with its trials and tribulations. He does talk about his time with Paul Simon as they grew their careers into a multi-award winning act, but this is not the chief focus of the book. He is somewhat cagey in what he shares with the reader, he does not delve too deeply about his relationship with Simon. Instead, he mainly discusses anecdotes from his time in the band.

But you do get a sense of Art’s soul through his writing. His love for Laurie Bird is clear from the prose. You can see how he struggles as his singing voice begins to falter. How he has come to terms with being a father and husband. How he tried to find inner peace by walking across Europe. (He starts in Ireland, with a riveting description of the countryside). He gives an insight into the books that have shaped his life – these lists are fascinating to see how his literary tastes have evolved and changed.

I listened to “What is all but luminous’ on Borrowbox, where the book is narrated by Art himself. For me, this greatly added to my enjoyment of the book. Art reads his work like poetry and draws the listener in. From reading other reviews people have written, I can see why people who read the actual book did not enjoy it as much. Only by hearing the words as Art has written them do we come closer to understanding his life.

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

Brilliant Book Titles #275

my favourite thing

Blurb: 
Set against the tumultuous political backdrop of late ’60s Chicago, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is the fictional graphic diary of 10-year-old Karen Reyes, filled with B-movie horror and pulp monster magazines iconography. Karen Reyes tries to solve the murder of her enigmatic upstairs neighbor, Anka Silverberg, a holocaust survivor, while the interconnected stories of those around her unfold. When Karen’s investigation takes us back to Anka’s life in Nazi Germany, the reader discovers how the personal, the political, the past, and the present converge.

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

Brilliant Book Titles #274

im absolutely fine
Blurb: 

‘I have been waiting for this book my entire life. It’s brilliant.’ – Claudia Winkleman


‘A genius book. So funny, so wise, so cool and above all so USEFUL. I couldn’t love it more. I am buying it for every one of my friends.’ – India Knight

‘I’m absolutely fine but I slightly need to pee, I followed the road less travelled and now I don’t know where the hell I am, I may bleed to death shaving my legs, my soul aches, another week has ended without me becoming accidentally rich, I just put my keys in the fridge, unexpected object in the bagging area, I’ll have a café mocha vodka Valium latte to go please, where’s my phone? My anxieties have anxieties, no… not like that – here, I’ll do it, do I have to do everything? WTF?’

Is it just me? We gnaw on that, don’t we? Is it just me? Well, look around. Look at the rage, the resolution, the ‘hear me roar’, the panic, the power, the chin hairs, the shame, the empathy, the conversation, the sheer potential.

Welcome to Midulthood. A place where we recognise that we are all more alike than we are unalike. Of course it’s not just you. If we’re not in it together, we’re not in it at all…

From sex (What Could Possibly Go Wrong) to self-image (Does This Straightjacket Make Me Look Fat?), I’m Absolutely Fine is a wry look at real life, real wisdom and real information framed in fun.