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James Sharpe "Instruments Of Darkness" (University of Pennsylvania) 



James Sharpe is a well known historian on the topic of witchcraft in early modern England. The witchcraft trials in England were different from their continental counterparts and that becomes apparent in this book. Sharpe comes to some great conclusions and analyzew how tensions between church, state, and society were able to produce such widespread fear that led to the witchcraft accusations and trials.

I really enjoyed this book and learned a lot from it. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to learn more about the subject.
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Carrie Fisher "Wishful Drinking" (Simon and Schuster)




I started reading this extremely short memoir the other day before the sad news of her demise came through which was a bit eerie. It can easily be read in a couple of days.

Not really a whole lot of substance (for a book about substance abuse), but a rather interesting look at Carrie Fisher. This isn't a true autobiography or chronological look at her life, or even a true memoir. Its a bit of a stream of conscious rambling about her ECT, bi-polarity, substance abuse, and a overall look at the wacky family she's had. Almost more like an "explanation" for how things turned out and why she is the way she is and why things happened the way they did, more than a true (auto)biography would be.

In that sense it barely scratches the surface when it comes to giving readers true insights into her bipolar disorder, drug problems and alcohol abuse.

You quickly pick up on some idiosyncrasies of Fisher and her humor isn't always that funny/entertaining, but generally the rambling stream-of-conscious memoir here is at least for the most part entertaining. Don't go into this looking for a lot of insight on Leia or backstory to Star Wars or even really Carrie Fisher in general. But worth a read all the same.

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Georges Simenon "The Late Monsieur Gallet" (Penguin Classics)



For such a short novel i found this one slow going and for the reasons outlined below. It is also the first Simenon Maigret novel i have read.

This is part of the Penguin Classics, a project to reprint the novels of Simenon in order of publication. THE LATE MONSIEUR GALLET is #2 in the series and I was surprised to find that Maigret is already 45 years old. He has spent half his life in various branches of the police and is now in the Paris Flying Squad.

Monsieur Gallet it seems has been leading a double life for the best part of twenty years, living under two names, with a wife and son under the name of Gallet. However he no longer has the job that Madame Gallet thinks he has, so how does he earn his money? In addition it seems that his death is somehow related to the hotel room he has been allocated.

If Monsieur Gallet has been murdered, then who committed the deed? There are plenty of suspects but none quite fits the bill. Gallet it seems may have been a crook.

The plot is convoluted as one expects of Simenon, and Maigret spends quite an amount of time away from home on this case. He would prefer what he considers a "real murder", where motives and details are clearer.

Guided partially by his own intuition, Maigret delves more deeply into the mysterious circumstances and unravels a devious plot. However, there is very little attempt to scratch beneath the surface of most of the characters (including Maigret himself), and the narrative felt oddly flat.


I found the plot a little tangled and disappointing. I don't think Simenon needed to make it quite as complex as he did, although he made it so to accommodate a range of characters like Gallet's reprehensible son and his girlfriend. Perhaps not the best Maigret novel to start with, and i have two other Maigret novels to read yet.
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Harvey Pekar "Harvey Pekar's Cleveland" (Top Shelf Productions)




“Cleveland’s a tough, slightly bowed, achy, gray, crotchety, charitable town with moments of brilliance and unexpected, often ironic laughter. Like Harvey.” -Jimi Izrael.

This graphic biography was written by Pekar before his death in 2010. If you are a die hard Pekar fan, there may be little new content for you here. However, it was clearly a last attempt at telling his own story in his own unique way. A must read for anyone schooling in graphic novel biographies.

This is a look back at Cleveland's roots as a city intertwined with Pekar's own experience growing up in Cleveland all his life. It's hard not to see this as Pekar's own retrospective, as he breezes through his Cleveland life story in the short span of a hundred-odd pages.

For any fans of "American Splendor," this is an essential read, because it revisits many of its characters and stories from a different angle (a surprisingly gentler one), even though it's still coming from Pekar himself.

For readers unfamiliar with his work, "Cleveland" is a mixed bag. While it is a beautiful ode to a city, and maintains Pekar's strong personal voice, the narrative thread is jumpy, the way Harvey Pekar likes it, and may take some adjusting to.
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Mark Forsyth "The Etymologicon :A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language" (Icon Books)





This is a book of words and a book of origin of words. There are some very interesting stories about how a word came by and some not so, but nevertheless, the book keeps your attention till the end.

The author shows many strange connections between roots and the words that have formed in the English language. Learning the roots has definitely helped me improve my vocabulary. The other day I impressed my colleagues with the meaning of 'retrospective' using Etymology.

The author could have dived deeper into other roots like 'paed' for child (paediatrics, pedagogy), 'gyne' for woman, 'manus' for hand (manuscript, manual). I searched for some of these after reading the book, but would have loved it read it in the articulate style that Mr. Forsyth writes.

It is a very funny, enlightening and ingenious book about the origins and hidden connections between words in a light-hearted and often irreverent way, which starts and ends with books, and covers everything else in-between: from chickens, testicles and sausages to Bohemia, California and assassins on drugs. You will never think about certain words in the same way again.
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Immanuel Kant "An Answer to the Question: 'What is Enlightenment?" (Penguin Books)



Written during the period known as the Enlightenment, the philosopher attempts to explain basic principles to his reader. He explains the concept of the republican government, and why it is essential to perpetual peace. The philosopher is confident that human kind is progressing toward a better state. The optimism of the Enlightenment, and the belief in the capacity of humans for rationally reworking the world, is on full display.
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Iain Sinclair "London Overground" (Penguin)





The book opens with a memorable image of the author witnessing one bird after another being struck by traffic as each starts to feast on those that have previously been struck and killed. The author goes on to consider walking along the route of Chaucer's pilgrims, then meets some travellers on the Orange line and decides instead to walk round that - in a day. He enlists an artist film-maker friend and they make the trek. The author draws on trips he's made in preparation for the journey and on trips he subsequently makes to fill out his story of the route and the day. They travel past football pitches and cemeteries, and many luxury flat developments. The author recollects his previous experiences of east and (on a more limited basis) west London and in particular his memories of memorable people he has known, such as Angela Carter and J.G. Ballard.

There's also a memorable piece on Freud and the last months of his life spent in Hampstead. These are mostly the bright moments in the book. We learn there's a great deal, normally associated with the movement of market forces, that the author really isn't keen on. The book ends with an account of an accident later suffered by his companion on the walk from which he is luck to escape with his life.

This was my first encounter with the work of Iain Sinclair. I suspect that, for all the mixed feelings I experienced as I read this it may not be my last. It's not an easy read, stylistically, but it's certainly memorable and I'm glad I stuck with it.
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Joan Didion "Where I Was From" (Vintage)




Didion explores the uneasy, unarticulated, and ultimately tragically ironic relationship between Calif.'s citizens and the state. She uses the story about her family and its long history with Calif. to describe the values of Californians, especially among those whom have a long history with the state, as including rugged individualism, resilience, and taking care of ones own. But, as Didion explains, those values run counter with the state's dependence on the federal government for its economic well being. The defence industry, especially aerospace, followed the railroad industry in creating one of the world's biggest economies. Huge ranches were purchased with government support, then sold off as housing parcels and commercial real estate. The rich farmland (shades of Steinbeck) was made possible by federal investment in dams and irrigation technology and the diversion of water from other states. Didion is uneasy about this unspoken relationship between values and economics.


I very much enjoyed this thoughtful, incisive examination of what it really means to come from, or belong to, California. Didion grew up in Sacramento surrounded by the pioneering legacy of California and its ethos of self-reliance and independence—only to look more closely and realise how thoroughly dependent the state’s agriculture, water and economy is on taxpayer funding from the very federal government that so many Californians disdain. Reading Didion is in a way like listening to music, because her prose is so spectacularly sharp and clear, and her themes re-emerge and connect to one another in such unexpected yet harmonious ways.


I must admit, i did not expect to be engrossed in this book, but she hooked me in nonetheless.
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A. L. Kennedy " What Becomes" (Vintage)




The back cover blurb of What Becomes makes explicit reference to the old Jimmy Ruffin (among many other performers) hit What Becomes of the Brokenhearted and this collection of short stories does mainly examine fractured or doomed relationships within or outwith marriage. The emblematic story title here would be Whole Family With Young Children Devastated though in the story concerned it actually refers to a notice about a lost pet displayed on local lamp-posts. Two stories are exceptions. Another concerns the careful reconstruction of a new life and relationship after the woman's husband has died, while As God Made Us is about the camaraderie of a group of ex-soldier amputees and the prejudice they still face.

Kennedy's style in her short stories is oblique. Very little is stated outright either by her narrators or by the characters but it is all exquisitely, carefully written. The overall sense is of people clinging on, desperate to make connections.

There was one peculiar phrase where a character was described as, “constructing these laborious smiles which I think were designed to imply he was a dandy youngster and blade about town,” - of which I can only make sense by assuming that similes was the intended word. But if it’s not in fact a typo it’s brilliant.
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Cynan Jones "Cove" (Granta Books)




In just 100 pages this belies the fact that a novel need to be bloated as many are today.


A man is adrift on a kayak, miles out to sea. He is injured. During a storm he was struck by lightning. He is having problems remembering anything, his name, and details of his previous life. The man's memory is like a dropped pack of cards.

His condition is so bad that he is struggling to even survive. The only thing keeping him from giving up is his slight recollections of the past. This is a simple story told in sparse English. Here and there there are echoes of The Life of Pim but this is less flabby.

The narrative matches the threadbare state of the injured man. It is pared to the bone and is very effective and powerful.
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Simon Armitage "Gawain And The Green Knight" (Faber & Faber)




Armitage's translation has much more going for it than an introduction which favours my understanding of the old English text.


King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table enjoy a Christmas celebration. But, along comes a huge green knight who goads them into accepting a challenge. In order to protect King Arthur, Sir Gawain agrees to the challenge. He must make one blow with his sword against the Green Knight today, then in one year Sir Gawain must come and find the Green Knight and receive one blow from him. Well, Sir Gawain chops his head off in one blow, but the Green Knight picks up his head and laughingly gallops off. You'll have to read it to see what happens.


It zips along, with modern diction and a translation which is more poetic than literal. A few times I felt like his word choices were a bit too silly but, looking at the original text on the facing page, it always appeared (to my very inexpert eye) that his choices were well supported (the Gawain poet was not above silliness!). It's been a long time since I last read Sir Gawain, and I'd forgotten what a great poem it is – beautiful, funny, and moving. Armitage's looser translation is really marvellous!
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Max Porter "Grief Is The Thing With Feathers" (Faber & Faber)





“I lay back, resigned, and wished my wife wasn't dead. I wished I wasn't lying terrified in a giant bird embrace in my hallway.”

“I missed her so much that I wanted to build a hundred-foot memorial to her with my bare hands. I wanted to see her sitting in a vast stone chair in Hyde Park, enjoying her view. Everybody passing could comprehend how much I miss her. How physical my missing is...”

After his wife dies suddenly, a man and his two young sons are plunged into a spiral of pain and despair.
The man is working on a biography of the poet, Ted Hughes and at the family's nadir, the father is visited by
Crow, the infamous trickster, that is featured in Hughes work. The bird is here to heal and comfort the grief-stricken.

A moving and tragicomic prose poem which centres on a grieving father and his two young sons as they cope with the sudden death of a wife and mother with the "help" of Ted Hughes's Crow. A deeply original work which deserves the hype - I am no expert on Ted Hughes, and I felt that greater familiarity would have made it even more resonant. I am still reading his Birthday Letters - a collection of verse or an homage to his deceased wife Sylvia Plath - and hence the poignancy of this very short bovella.

This is an amazing debut. It is a potent novella, packed with dazzling verse. Despite it's dark themes, it also contains humour and glimmers of hope. One more quote, (I bookmarked a multitude):

“Moving on, as a concept, is for stupid people, because any sensible person knows grief is a long-term project. I refuse to rush. The pain that is thrust upon us let no man slow or speed or fix.”
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Anita Brookner "Hotel du Lac" (Penguin)





” I am not a fascinating woman,” reflects Edith Hope as she sits in an out-of-season Swiss hotel trying to decide how she should make her way through life. But there is something about this quiet, plain woman who wears comfy cardigans and prefers the quietude of her garden to drinks parties and social gatherings, that makes her fellow guests gravitate towards her.

Perhaps it’s because, like her, they are all adrift; washed up at a lakeside hotel that provides solace to those in need by sticking stolidly to its traditions.

Edith is a romantic novelist who’s been exiled to the hotel after an indiscretion that outraged her friends. The other guests include the beautiful Monica; a young woman with an eating disorder who’s been sent to the hotel by her husband along with an ultimatum — sort herself out and produce a son and heir otherwise she’ll be history. Then there’s Madame de Bonnueil, an elderly widow who is dispatched to the hotel every summer by a daughter in law who considers her a nuisance. And finally the overbearing, self-indulgent Mrs Pusey and her curiously clinging daughter who spend their lives flitting around the shopping capitals of the world in pursuit of exquisite hand embroidered lingerie thanks to the generosity of the long-dead but not lamented Mr Pusey.

They confide in Edith and use her as a fresh audience for anecdotes told repeatedly to anyone who will listen. Edith observes them all, as she drifts around the hotel and its environs, trying but failing to write her newest novel and all the while writing to the mysterious ‘David’. Brookner teases her readers with suggestions that a secret affair with this married man was the ’unfortunate lapse’ that landed Edith in Switzerland. It’s not until the last few chapters that we learn the truth.

This is a novel that’s written in a clean and unadorned form of prose which yet manages to captures the atmosphere of this retreat and the foibles of its guests. Nothing much happens for most of the book. Only the arrival of the single, wealthy businessman Mr Neville disturbs the Edith’s routine of solitary walks along the lake shake, much partaking of cake in the one and only cafe in town, and then dinner in the hotel.

Mr Neville succeeds in penetrating Edith’s facade, challenging her presumption that her only options for the future are spinsterhood or a marriage based on the romantic ideal of love that feature in her novels. What he offers her is a third way. He needs the kind of wife who will never cause a scandal and take great of his home and especially his collection of famille rose dishes. In return she will gain a recognised social position giving her the freedom to behave as she wishes, protected from castigation and recrimination.

“You will find that you can behave as badly as you like. As badly as everybody else like too. ….And you will be respected for it. People will at last feel comfortable with you,” he tells her.

As the basis of a relationship, it sounds more like a business transaction than a declaration of affection. Whether it’s one that Edith decides to buy into is something I’m not going to reveal. At the heart of the decision however is an interesting question about the way society views single women of a certain age and whether they can only achieve social acceptance by virtue of marriage.

The book isn’t long enough to do full justice to this theme unfortunately, nor is the resolution of Edith’s dilemma fully convincing. Are these flaws sufficient grounds for the vocal criticism which greeted the announcement that Hotel du Lac was the winner of the Booker Prize for 1984? Malcolm Bradbury called the novel ”parochial”, and absolutely not the sort of book that should have won the prize while The New Statesman called Brookner’s novel “pretentious”. Both seem unfair criticism – because in my hombre estimation it’s still a well written novel that poses challenging questions and holds the attention long after the pages are closed. It still resonates with me since the first time i read it when it came out in the eighties.
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Jem Campbell "Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops" (Constable)




Very funny book containing brief anecdotes from booksellers about weird requests to which they have been subject. Most are gathered from a particular bookshop in London and another one in Edinburgh, with a short selection from others elsewhere in the country/world. They range from the vacant ("I read this book decades ago, don't know the title or author but it had a green cover, do you know which one I mean?"; or "the title was "something something", can you search for it on your computer?") to the chillingly naive ("I enjoyed the Diary of Ann Frank, why did she never write a sequel?") They also include bizarre requests to buy or borrow items such as ice cubes or condoms, or queries on how to cook a chicken.  
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Alan Bowness "Modern European Art : Impressionism To Abstract Art" (Thames & Hudson)




A good summary of the development of European art from Manet to the late 1950s. Suffers slightly from the monochrome reproductions; a Rothko on black and white doesn't really work. Coverage of sculpture is somewhat erratic (Jacob Epstein is mentioned only in passing, for example), but otherwise fairly comprehensive.

A good introduction nonetheless.

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Joan Didion "Run River" (Vintage)



This is Joan's first novel. She was only in her twenties when she wrote Run River, and it is a winner--stylish but never mannered , subdued, witty, assured, and filled with Valley (as in the Sacramento Valley) characters with whom Didion was rather obsessively in love.

Didion's sense of location and the specifics of the era is remarkable, so it takes little effort to be interested in the events, but set up as it is a framed story revolving around a murder, 20 years of backstory, and then the conclusion of the murder, she seems far too willing to make Run River an act of condemnation. I was given this paperback by my brother along with some of Didion's nonfiction works, and felt a little dismayed at first at my willingness to avoid reading the book. It's a feeling that goes away - the middle section of the book is filled with flawed, impish characters rendered in empathetic specifics, and is full of the humanely observed understatements that make Didion's best work so accessible (I am convinced no writer can devastate more with a seemingly average sentence - perfectly interrupted, of course). Still, returning to the murder at the end of the book, my reluctance returned, and I realised Didion's failure is to make the book a declaration of decay, to turn her events "tragic" (or, really, the stuff of nighttime soaps) in an attempt to critique the California pioneer identity. All this winds up doing is rendering the fates of her characters not all that important. Still, the book should be read for that glimmering centre of the book, a time when its characters flaws are rendered rich with empathy - its chapters detailing Martha, Everett's sister, as she (miserably) attempts to conquer heartbreak with pioneering audacity shows Didion's characters as fascinating idealists, endearing in their quixotic motionlessness.


For a first novel Run River is an extraordinary achievement.
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Anne Enright "The Gathering" (Vintage)







Genuinely incredible book. In the wake of the her brother's suicide a women remembers a terrible event from their childhood, an event that dislocates her from her life and her large family of brothers and sisters as well as her husband and two daughters. Her own memories and imagined events from her family's past intermingle with the return of her brother's body to Ireland for the funeral and the freefall fallout months later. Enright writes the heart out of this with painful fidelity to truth while wrestling with the difficulty, the impossibility, of truly knowing it, but also her compassion and insight into the frail and flawed humanity of her characters.

This is a searing portrait of family in modern Ireland that hurts and haunts and gets under the skin. I found myself utterly caught up in Veronica's voice and life and perceptions, immersed in her memories and imaginings as she fights to make sense of the fear and pain and strange damage in her life and her brother's which may or may not spring from something awful that happened one summer in her grandmother's house. A book about damage that does its fair share in the mind and heart and psyche of the reader.
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J. W. N. Sullivan "Beethoven: His Spiritual Development" (Unwin Books)




reat men, especially creative artists whose work lives after them, engage people's imagination for centuries. Beethoven, as man and composer, has inspired innumerable books both by his contemporaries and later writers, and it is proof of his endlessly fascinating, controversial nature that they all throw a different light on some aspect of his life and work. Since J.W.N. Sullivan wrote his book in 1927, much new information about Beethoven, his character, his illnesses, and his relationships has come to light, but it is still a valid contribution to the literature on the composer. Sullivan's basic theory is that Beethoven's greatness lies in his extraordinary perceptions, his heightened experiences and "states of consciousness," and his ability to organise and synthesise these into a musical expression of a "view of life." He asserts that Beethoven's initial despairing, then defiant struggle against his suffering--especially his deafness and resulting isolation--gives his middle-period works their heroism, and that his ultimate acceptance of it as necessary to his creativity marks the peak of his "spirituality" and gives his latest works their unparalleled sublimity.

Like many biographies, the book reveals more about the author than the subject. Sullivan, who is not a musician, offers some interesting, if sometimes extravagantly extramusical, analyses of Beethoven's works (though elsewhere he decries injecting "meaning" into music). He sees Beethoven's late fugues as outbursts of "blind and desperate energy," another battle with hostile fate; many musicians see them as another battle with counterpoint. He also makes subjective, high-handed value judgements: he detests Wagner and dismisses Bach as too religious, while Haydn and Mozart are too shallow to equal Beethoven's struggle-generated "spirituality." The book also brings up questions about beauty and greatness in art, the relationship between moral character and genius, and the impact of a man's personal experiences upon his creativity--all age-old but forever timely.
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Angela Carter "The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman" (King Penguin)






hile many of Angela Carter’s short stories and novels are delightful, bizarre, and twisted takes on fairy tales and genre stories, some tend more towards the dark, disturbing, and random. I’d probably put a bunch of stories and The Passion of New Eve in the latter category as well as this one, The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman. It has a very episodic, random feel, like an old-timey picaresque. There are also a lot of disturbing elements – for example, there is more than one gang rape in the book (err…there’s a centaur gang rape, for those who want to avoid that). The Passion of New Eve had a random feel and lots of bizarre sex and violence, but in that one, I felt there was a strong feminist thread running through the narrative, the author upended a lot of stereotypes, and it was more coherent in its focus on various aspects of an apocalyptic America. There wasn’t as much of that in this one – the stereotypes stayed stereotypes. For example, although the two main characters and One True Lovers, the narrator and Albertina, are both described as non-white, there are multiple characters who are portrayed in a “stereotypical native” way. I also didn’t find the book as cohesive as The Passion of New Eve, even with links to the main Albertina/Dr. Hoffman plot. It was still involving and had Carter’s wonderfully descriptive language, but not her best effort.

I thought the first chapter, describing the War on Reality, was superb. I was expecting something random, but was still a bit disappointed that Carter didn’t focus on that thread. In fact, after the initial chapter, the narrator encounters people and groups who are pretty much unaware of what is going on in the city. The narrator, Desiderio, is a dedicated but rather colorless bureaucrat. He describes how things in the city turned topsy-turvey – a plague brought down by the formerly believed-dead mad scientist Dr. Hoffman.

“The Doctor started his activities in very small ways. Sugar tasted a little salty, sometimes. A door one had always seen to be blue modulated by scarcely perceptible stages until, suddenly, it was a green door.”

But there’s no denying this incident – “During a certain performance of The Magic Flute one evening in the month of May, as I sat in the gallery enduring the divine illusion of perfection which Mozart imposed on me and which I poisoned for myself since I could not forget it was false, a curious, greenish glitter in the stalls below me caught my eye. I leaned forward. Papageno struck his bells and, at that very moment, as if the bells caused it, I saw the auditorium was full of peacocks in full spread who very soon began to scream in intolerably raucous voices, utterly drowning the music so that I instantly became bored and irritated. Boredom was my first reaction to incipient delirium.”

Things rapidly degenerate, as the dead roam the streets, inanimate objects come alive, and phantoms invade everyone’s dreams.

Desiderio faithfully assists the Minister, who is the only one willing to continue defending the city, but admits to himself that he is agnostic in the battle. He has strange dreams that are dominated by his ideal woman, Albertina, and she comes to be his only passion. The Minister sends him outside of the city on a mission related to Dr. Hoffman, but from then on, the narrator runs into one and another set of weird characters. He starts out in the creepy house of a missing mayor, finds refuge with boat-dwelling natives, joins a circus, falls in with a Marquis de Sade-like nobleman, and wanders a weird fantasy land. There are links to Hoffman and Albertina, but sometimes it feels like a stretch. Even when Albertina appears, there is still wandering and randomness.

Utterly unlike anything I have ever read, perhaps unlike anything I will ever read again. As I said, the initial chapter is difficult to overcome, but once you do, the story pulls you along through a story that is an allegory, but never a simplistic one. One of the most thought-provoking books I’ve read.

The title suggests a certain Dr. Albert Hofmann (which would be very close to the implied, but never stated, name of the hero's nemesis) whom was the inventor of LSD.
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Joan Didion "Salvador" (Vintage Reportage)




Salvador is Didion's account her 2-week trip to El Salvador in 1982, then a country in the early stages of a 12 year brutal civil war. Her opening report describes some of the carnage and the everyday terror Salvadorans experience. The opening report is a vividly disturbing picture of just how cruel we can be to one another. From there Didion describes her encounters with various powerful citizens and American embassy officials, who relate the corruption and the utter confusion that permeates this civil war from the top to the bottom. From these interviews it is fairly plan to see that the Salvadorans and those in charge have become desensitised to the violence and disappearances, and are largely apathetic to any reforms proposed by the government. Yet the terror is still very much with them without abatement. Reconciliation is clearly not on the table and the average citizen has no hope that this war is ending soon. Also, discussed to some extent is the ineffectiveness of the U.S. Foreign policy in the murkiness of the civil war. A war in which our allies are more content with the continuation of this war in order to consolidate power rather than fight over ideological outcome or for a greater purpose. In the wake of needless bloodshed on such a massive scale, all an ambassador can do is work towards small victories like trials before executions and doing everything possible to insure the safety of the citizens in their charge.

Salvador is not a factual history of the war in 1982. It is, however, the war seen through the eyes of a journalist with limited time and resources in country. Bias is inherit in this kind of journalism and time and events told second hand become as fluid as the eye witness accounts. Didion tries to elevate these problems by sprinkling quotes and statements taken from official and vetted sources related to story is she is conveying. It's a one-sided truth, but I have not doubt that it is the truth to Didion. So while it's not a scholarly account of the events taking place in El Salvador in 1982, it is an invaluable piece that gives voice to the experiences and horrific events that shaped the lives of Salvadorans for over a decade.

It's an interesting and fascinating quick read at only 108 pages.

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