One-line book reviews: 61-80

Features Ballard, Chaucer, Conrad, Peake and Lady Sashina.


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One-line review #61: ‘The Red and the Black’ by Stendhal.

Some pretty good social observation and sexual politics (esp. the tit-for-tat between Julien and Mathilde), but it does drag on.

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One-line review #62: ‘The Canterbury Tales’ by Geoffrey Chaucer (modern prose version by Peter Ackroyd – in preparation for reading the original).

A truthful, addictive and infectiously riotous panoply; what more is there to say?

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One-line review #63: ‘As I Crossed A Bridge of Dreams’ by Lady Shashina (real name unknown).

Beauty in banality.

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One-line review #64: ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ by Philip K. Dick.

It does lots of things all at once, and it does them better than many authors can manage one at a time.

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One-line review #65: ‘Fatherland’ by Robert Harris.

Slick and clever, but strangely unsatisfying (it wanted to be a thriller and a Orwellian book at the same time, and I’m not entirely sure that he managed to combine the two successfully).

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One-line review #66: ‘The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman’ by Lawrence Sterne.

Everything up to Tristram’s birth was very entertaining, but I quickly lost the will to read on thereafter.

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One-line review #67: ‘Time’s Arrow’ by Martin Amis.

Clever, funny, ironic, poignant; pretty good.

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One-line review #68: ‘The Spy Who Came in From the Cold’ by John le Carre.

Clunky politics but the atmosphere ratchets up nicely, with a decent payoff.

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One-line review #69: ‘Titus Groan’ by Mervyn Peake.

Staggeringly great; his playful use of language is a joy, and leaves you feeling like you’ve been assaulted by brilliance from many different directions.

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One-line review #70: ‘Atomised’ by Michel Houllebecq.

Blllleeeuurrrrgghhh.

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One-line review #71: ‘Nostromo’ by Joseph Conrad.

Hard work, but worth it, despite an unsatisfying conclusion; what Conrad does so well is the psychological dynamics of the political events (the moments when people get glimpses of how much they’ve been influenced by others in their character and outlook, without realising it).

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One-line review #72: ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ by John Bunyan.

Too many lists.

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One-line review #73: ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy.

Utterly gripping read, intelligent, multi-layered, full of lasting imagery; fantastic.

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One-line review #74: ‘The Big Sleep’ by Raymond Chandler.

Does a good job of capturing the worldview of a P.I. living on instinct and shrewd observation, but it baffled me for pretty much the same reason; not my cup of tea.

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One-line review #75: ‘The War of the Worlds’ by H. G. Wells.

A strong opening; thereafter, surprisingly tedious.

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One-line review #76: ‘Cat’s Cradle’ by Kurt Vonnegut.

“What makes you think a writer isn’t a drug salesman?”

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One-line review #77: ‘The Drowned World’ by J. G. Ballard.

Intense, disturbing, evocative, imaginative, immersive.

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One-line review #78: ‘We’ by Yevgeny Zamyatin.

Interesting to read as an influence on ‘1984’, but very weird and probably needs rereading.

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One-line review #79: ‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding.

Nice sense of menace, shame about the ending.

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One-line review #80: ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ by Ursula Le Guin.

Written in beautiful prose, and I found the story to be more compelling because of the earthy feel she gives to the magical elements; more grown-up than many of the novels for grown-ups i’ve read this year.

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