Tuesday, 22 October 2013

161/111 - Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland

I love Douglas Coupland. I find his books to be both hilarious, terrifying and thought-provoking. They are a perfect balance of absurd and existentialist and philosophical and dark. Love them.

This book follows the unfortunately-named Raymond Gunt, who is a B-unit cameraman. He is hired by Fiona, his ex-wife, to film a survivalist reality show populated by fuckable young people on an island somewhere in the Pacific. With Neal, his formerly homeless new assistant, he heads off and experiences a series of events, each more unfortunate than the last, somehow managing to cause a man's death, ending up hospitalised multiple times, and being accused of starting a nuclear war.

I really enjoyed this, and it reminded me of Filth (which I have seen recently, but haven't read the book yet) and also The Death of Bunny Munro a little, too. I felt terribly sorry for poor Raymond, and at times I wished he could have some better luck, as he was always just missing out on some sweet deal that Neal manages to muscle in on, or always walking into some unfortunate trap that someone has planned for him.

It's probably not my favourite Douglas Coupland, I think The Gum Thief still has that title, but I'd like to re-read some of his other books again, and I'd definitely like to give Generation X another try, as I didn't get on with it the first time round. I liked this a lot, though.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

160/111 - Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

So I know exactly why I bought this book, and when, and why I read it. Sadly it took me longer to read than I wanted to as I was a bit ill from work and didn't want to read it until I was feeling better, and this week I've taken some annual leave so I totally smashed it yesterday, even though I have been dipping in and out for a couple of weeks now. I was a bit nervous about reading this as I was worried that I wouldn't like it as much as The Shining, or some of Stephen King's other books, however I'm happy to report that I enjoyed it very much.

This story picks up about 20 years in the future, and Danny is now Dan. He has grown up but a lot of the troubles that followed him when he was a child have still pursued him as an adult. He is alone, and pretty down-and-out, having followed in the footsteps of his alcoholic father, and he's done some pretty terrible things. He spends his time drifting from town to town and working menial jobs until he inevitably gets fired and has to move on.

Danny eventually gets to a new town and feels the presence of his old friend Tony, which he takes as a sign to stay. He sobers up and gets a job as Doctor Sleep in a home for the elderly, and his nickname comes from the fact that he is able to help the dying over to the other side when they are close to the end.

He begins to receive strange messages from a little girl who we come to know as Abra, who has a similar ability to Danny's, albeit much more powerful, and she is being hunted by a group called the True Knot, who are a group of sort-of vampires who feed on the children with abilities like Danny's and Abra's.

I really, really enjoyed this book. There were lots of things that frightened me about it, but not in the same way that The Shining did - I was afraid that Stephen King was going to kill Danny or Abra. I was scared that Dick and Wendy wouldn't have a part to play (and on those counts my fears were justified) and I guess that was about it. It was really tense at a lot of points, and I loved the feeling of it all washing over me as a good story should do. There was even a moment near the end which made me tear up, where Danny briefly glimpses the ghost of his father on the old site of the Overlook hotel, and the love they have for each other, which is clear from The Shining, came back to me immediately and really moved me.

I don't really want to make and judgements on which one I prefer or which is better, as this is my first reading of the book and it was my first re-reading of The Shining, so I think I'll reserve that for a couple of years time when I'll inevitably re-visit them both. So I guess for the time being that's really all I want to say. I enjoyed reading it, sat on my sofa on my week off, with nothing else to distract me, which is exactly the way I wanted to enjoy it.

Can't wait for the next one!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

159/111 - The Colorado Kid by Stephen King

This is yet another book I have read on my iPhone recently. I guess I'm making a bit of a habit out of it while I'm at work in breaks etc, as it's so accessible in my pocket and/or handbag.

This is a story within a story - a young woman taking part in an internship at a small-town newspaper in Maine is told the story of the Colorado Kid by the two elderly founders of the newspaper one afternoon. The Colorado Kid is the nickname of the unknown man who was found dead on the beach of the island 20-something years ago. The two old-timers sit her down and slowly reveal the details of the story for which there is no real resolution. This story is about small towns and local people and I guess the nature of odd things that happen sometimes and how we aren't always able to resolve them.

I really enjoyed this book. I found myself really caught up in the mystery myself, which I guess is the point. I noticed that this was also published under Hard Case Crime, which is what Joyland has been published under (I haven't read this yet, but I'm now looking forward to it). Really good.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

158/111 - Mile 81 by Stephen King

This is going to be a quick one - I downloaded this onto my iPad when I first got it as there were a bunch of stories by authors that I liked that were only available on e-readers for some promotional reason, I guess. So I downloaded them and then sort of forgot about them. Since I've been reading more on my iPhone recently, I decided to dig some of these out of my library and give them a read, and this was one of them.

This is really a short story rather than a book, about a rest area known as Mile 81, which is abandoned. It follows the perspectives of a few people who happen to stop there in an afternoon, and their encounters with an abandoned car which appears to be eating people who go near it. I enjoyed it, as I usually enjoy Stephen King's short stories, so I was pleased to have read it. He seems to write a lot about cars, or refers to them a lot in his stories, I guess it's sort of an Americana thing; big cars, the open road, etc.

That's all I have to say, really. I enjoyed it. I'd like to revisit some more of his short stories as I always love reading them, but there's so much else to read!

157/111 - Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller

I bought this book just before the new Stephen King novel came out as I was interested in it. It always seems to have gotten a lot of attention and it was always in book displays when I was working at Waterstones, but for whatever reason I had never read it, so I downloaded a copy to read on my iPhone while I waited for the new book to come out. It just so happened that I didn't finish it before the new book came out, so there was an overlap of half an evening or something like that.

Most people will probably know the story of this as it's pretty well-know, but just to re-cap, Sheba is a new pottery teacher at a secondary school in London, who ends up having an affair with a 15-year-old pupil. The novel is narrated by Barbara, another teacher, after the affair has ended. Sheba has been caught and is in quite a bit of trouble, and Barbara is the only person she has standing by her side. Barbara starts writing an account of the incidents and their relationship just to have a record of it, which is how we find out the story and how we get an insight into their relationship. We soon find out that Barbara is an unreliable narrator (classic!) and that her version of events is quite polluted by the fact that she is pretty much barking mad. As it turns out, Barbara is pretty much obsessed with Sheba, in a vaguely romantic way, but it's not altogether explicit what she thinks is really going on in their relationship.

I really enjoyed this, I liked the way the story unfolded and I loved reading it through Barbara's eyes. None of the characters were particularly likeable, which wasn't a problem because they were all very interesting in their own horrible ways. I got really irritated that Sheba was such a fool and that she couldn't see through Barbara's manipulation and that she was such a wet blanket of a person, I guess.

A couple of days after finishing the book, I also rented the film on iTunes to watch for a couple of pounds, which was great. I really enjoyed the movie, especially Judi Dench playing Barbara as you don't really see her playing villains much, although she can be very hard-nosed I guess. Cate Blanchett played Sheba, and she was also very good at playing this slightly flighty woman who manages to delude herself that having an affair with a pupil is somehow okay. It plays out a little differently to the book and the ending seems to be more hopeful in the film, but I didn't really mind that much.

I'm not sure I get the obsession with the teen boy thing. This is the third book I've read in a little while where an older woman sort of falls for a teenage boy, which is certainly not my cup of tea, and I remember them being pretty ghastly overall. Definitely not for me.