June 2004
... click on the book images to look at the book...

- All of this month's books have extracts available to read online -

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SIMON RECOMMENDS:
"The Secret History"
by Donna Tartt

There's an awful lot to say about this book and I just know that I'm not going to get round all of it. Try a murder mystery set in a New England college campus; a nerdy but elitist group of students studying ancient Greek and their mentor; try the resurrection of mythological beings, a bacchanal which in its frenzy reaches a climax with the slaughter of an innocent. Guilt is a major theme here. Actually guilt and its antithesis, the ability to act with no guilt, to play at being God - are ya listenin' Bono? - just kidding. This is a massive bestseller. Popular I think, because it works like a traditional murder novel, but have none of the clichés. Quite highbrow really. One for the thinkers.

SIMON RECOMMENDS:
"Star of the Sea"
by Joseph Connor

Steel yourself, for this is a devastating experience and of course, all the better for being so. The Ancient Greeks were the ones who gave us the concept of and indeed the word still used today, for a feeling of psychological clarity, one feels immediately after a period of prolonged and extreme emotional activity that is catharsis. The Ancient Greeks were referring to the mentally washed sensation, which their best Tragedies were able to inspire in the audiences who saw them. "Star of the Sea" has the effect. In this compassionate story, Connor has achieved a brilliant study of the third Irish potato famine and the subsequent period of immigration to the North American continent, by a people desperate to flee the horror of starvation and certain death that would be their fate if they stayed in that blighted country. Late in 1847 the Star of the Sea sets sail from Liverpool for New York. On board as well as the ship's crew are four hundred refugees in steerage class and in first class a mixed bunch of more fortunate people, among them a journalist, members of the aristocracy and their staff. There is a "monster" stalking the deck at night and he is intent on murder. Other characters' lives on board are linked together by a tangle of histories and relationships, known and unknown. It is almost as though sacrifice upon sacrifice must be made, in order for the passengers to be able to reach their promised land. And the ghastly demand, of blood spilled in the old country, to be satisfied with more blood shed, stretches across the vast ocean to grasp at the tiny lives clinging on to this decrepit vessel. But it is the personal stories, which tell in human terms the sheer scale of this disaster that strike the deepest chords of pain and suffering. Lost souls, broken families, public responsibility losing out to greed; love turning into guilt; helplessness turning into bitter vengeful rage. And with these layers of sadness, love, fear, blame and hatred the tension of this story mounts to a terrific climax.

 

SIMON RECOMMENDS:
"Pompeii"
by Robert Harris

This book came out last summer, I remember that we were coming in to play our little run of Cali shows at the time. I started reading "Pompeii" on the plane from Tokyo. By the time the plane landed at LAX I'd read half of the book and was totally hooked, I finished it the following day by my hotel pool, the intense heat of the afternoon, really adding something to the experience. It was one of the best books I read last year, certainly the most riveting. And that's actually quite a surprise really, because here you have a story which takes place over the four days of the great eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79 - a pretty well documented event, which most of us learned about at school. It doesn't seem on the face of it to be the formula of a captivating novel. But I'm playing with you really. You see, Robert Harris, in case you are not familiar with his previous works, is able to work a special magic with historical events. He researches his subject matter to an almost obsessive degree. And more importantly he tells the story though characters, which are identifiable and real to us with emotion and sensation, and as a reader you get the rare opportunity to imagine yourself inside someone else's skin to see through their eyes, feel what they feel and smell what they smell. Harris is on record as saying that while in modern day Pompeii, doing the research for this novel, it was when he recognized the smell of water on warm stone that he knew he could make the protagonist "Atillius" come to life. I'm not going to tell the story for you, that's really up to you to find out, believe me it'll be worth it.

SIMON IS CURRENTLY READING:
Blogs

I've been blogging recently; not posting blogs but reading them, the verb is the same for doing both, isn't it? Well it should be, coz the reader is just as important as the one who is posting the blogs, right? I reckon my favourite is ...sorry: Belle-de-Jour. Of course I have the underlying suspicion that it's Martin Amis, in drag - so to speak; wow, that really would ruin it. No, I like the blog because it's funny, and resilient and actually: brave. And of course, I just love sexy Jewish girlz. Are ya listenin' Katy?

I also rather like poetry blog; there's a lot of cheese there, but some stunning poems too: check out 'linkage"

These are the things that get me through long studio days when I've dried of ideas - like tears.

Actually, if you do like poetry, this is amazing.

luvzya
whoosh
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