Thursday, 1 March 2012

Things What I've Read Recently & Rather Liked #3

The Bunny Poems
by David Caddy

The kind of collection that wraps you up in a whole other world, and not gently, like you're a kid, but like the sea lulling you into a false sense of security before roughly tugging you the other way to show you something entirely different.

These honest, rural, get-under-the-skin poems are fantastic.

from 'From the Farm'

... He carries an animals face on him.
Light emanates from its enormous
eyes and nose. He cannot let go.

He is rom the farm and the farm
has not let him go. Wrapped within,
he sneezes, missing more than woman...

 from 'Yes'

Mother turned the mangle's stuff handle,
wringing out the last drops into a bowl
her damp hands as white as cat gut...

from 'Arrowhead'

I will my snake belt today
its interlocking boar buckle
as a gesture before Domesday
until the cows leave the parlour
the last thinning of birdsong...

The Bunny Poems give us a 'localised sensation' of twentieth-century rural existence. They re-connect us with the land as a deep, mirroring presence; the double-edged properties of plants; creature-sense; and the animal face each human carries. At the same time, the poems are an acute acknowledgement of absence; in speech, understanding and relationship. David Caddy's edge of anger works to show real events having real consequences that can be subtle yet devastating.

Highly recommend - go check it out


The Stranger Next Door
by Amelie Nothomb

A beautifully written, subtle, psycholoical novel, exploring our idea of the grotesque.

I'm a massive Amelie Nothomb fan. This is not one of her autobiographical novellas. Like 'Sulphuric Acid' it falls completely into fiction but, unlike 'Sulphuric Acid' (which I wasn't a massive fan of), this book is amazing. If you're in the UK it's rather difficult to get hold of, as it hasn't been printed over here, but there are copies available over on ABE. I highly recommend other books of hers, particuarly The Character of Rain: The Japanese believe that until the age of three, children are gods, each one an okosama, or 'Lord Child'. On their third birthday they fall from grace and join the rest of mankind. Narrated by a child - from the age of two and a half up until her third birthday - this novel reveals how this fall from grace can be a very difficult thing indeed from which to recover. 


The Elephant Vanishes
by Haruki Murakami

I feel rather bereft at having read all of Murakami's short story collections now. This one is undoubtedly the best (but all three are brilliant). 'Sleep' is one of the best short stories I've ever read (you can read one translation of that story over here). In this collection you've got a man who works in an 'Elephant Factory' - each real elephant is split into five, from which five new elephants are made with only one part of the animal genuine. A couple's midnight hunger pangs drive them to hold up a McDonald's. A woman finds she is irresistible to a small green monster that burrows through her front garden. An insomniac wife wakes up in a twilight world of semi-consciousness in which anything seems possible - even death.

Buy it, read it. It's wonderful. 

New World Fairy Tales
by Cassandra Parkin

Cassandra's going to stop by the blog to talk about this book soon, hurrah! [ETA: That interview is now posted over here.] I read it at the weekend and just adored it. I have a big soft spot for fairy tales and myths. In this book, in contemporary America, an un-named college student sets out on an obsessive journey of discovery to collect and record the life-stories of total strangers. The interviews that follow have echoes of another, far more famous literary journey, undertaken long ago and in another world.

Drawing on the original, unexpurgated tales collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, six of their most famous works are re-imagined in the rich and endlessly varied landscapes of contemporary America. From the glass towers of Manhattan to the remoteness of the Blue Ridge mountains; from the swamps of Louisiana to the jaded glamour of Hollywood, New World Fairy Tales reclaims the fairy tale for the modern adult audience. A haunting blend of romance and realism, these stripped-back narratives of human experience are the perfect read for anyone who has read their child a bedtime fairy story, and wondered who ever said these were stories meant for children. [New World Fairy Tales - click to view]


  1. I also lovelovelove Amelie Nothomb. And Murakami.
    New World Fairytales sounds good. S'gone on my to-read

  2. I think Les Catilinaires (The Stranger Next Door) was the first book I 've ever read by Amélie Nothomb. I fell in love. Unfortunately many recent storiesaren't exactly up to the standard I would expect. Maybe she writes too much. Le Fait du Prince particularly annoyed me.

  3. I agree - some of her books I have loved, and some I've been very frustrated with. When she's good, she's bloody amazing, though.

  4. I used to adore Amélie Nothomb in high school, and she saved me several times when I had to choose which novel to read in french class. Especially Péplum and Hygiène de l'assassin I remember well, but Les Catilinaires has all but disappeared from my mind. It makes me quite nostalgic to read your post.