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Sunday, 26 October 2014

Portions From a Wine Stained Notebook - Charles Bukowski (2008)









So what do you do when you are feeling oppressed by nuns and sick to your stomach? Read some Bukowski, that’s what. It was a no brainer reaching for this, the first of two recent volumes of previously uncollected short pieces, including some from his infamous “Notes of a Dirty Old Man” columns and other rare Bukowski miscellany. Bukowski’s writing makes you feel better, it soothes the rough edges of life and gives you a smelly beer-soaked hug and a cuff around the ear for daring to have any pretenses. Portions From a Wine Stained Notebook covers all the Bukowski bases, from musings over the stupidity and cruelty of humanity, to the greatness, or not, of other writers, drunkenness, perverted sex, John Fante, women, assorted lowlifes, tragedy, bathos and pathos - sometimes all at once. Although a fine Bukowski collection, it is not quite up to the standard of Absence of the Hero (2010) and some of the pieces are bordering on substandard for Bukowski. Still, it’s well worth a read for Bukowski enthusiasts; others should start with the immortal novels, Post Office (1971) and Women (1978).

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Sacred Hearts - Sarah Dunant (2009)







Sacred Hearts is historical fiction set in a convent in Ferrara in sixteenth century Italy. Medieval political intrigue melds with the rigors of convent living as the narrative follows the struggles of a rebellious fifteen-year-old novice called Serafina and the egregious demands this places on the Abbess and the apothecary, Zuana, whom is also the most engaging character. Read for the library book club whilst under the influence of various viral invasions (yes, they were medieval on my ass, so to speak), this novel did not sit well with me. Dunant’s prose style is merely adequate, bordering on dull.  Although the historical aspects were reasonably interesting, it was not enough to sustain my attention and provide a counterbalance against the moribund narrative pace, the endless whispered prayers, the smoothing down of habits and acts of god caused by termites. I’ll remember Sacred Hearts as book club fodder and although it has its appeal for some readers I struggled, which forces my hand into giving the novel a mediocre rating.