Book Reviews & Essays on Literature

Weird and funny – The Rapture of the Nerds by Doctorow & Stross

Sci-Fi and Fantasy writers often present original concepts in their novels, but Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross not only invented new ideas for The Rapture of the Nerds, but an entire new lexicon. It is missing a glossary, but if you’re not the kind of reader who immediately needs to make sense of a book, then you can just let all those un-English words and speculative notions roll over you, and eventually something will come out in the wash. I had to read it three times to get the gist of it, but a couple of new words stuck in my head. One was “meatsuit” – the bodies that humans are in: as much as one would like information and even personalities to be in code and uploaded to the Cloud somewhere, we all live in meatsuits and if we leave the meatsuit we die. At least, that is what one would suppose. Continue reading

Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson

Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson, Flatiron Books, released September 22, 2015

Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson, Flatiron Books, released September 22, 2015. PS – the cover of the book GLITTERS! Who can resist that.

I read Jenny Lawson’s first autobiography Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, with a sense of having made a happy discovery, and that, I thought, was that. Of course, that wasn’t that at all. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened was the first friendly, funny introduction to a dark subject. Lawson gently pulled us into her world, and allowed us to talk and laugh about it. In Furiously Happy, she pulls us into her world again, but this time with little claws and a grin like a crazy raccoon. She pins us to a wall and pokes us in the eye with the truth, saying hey you, this isn’t all fun you know. The theme of Furiously Happy is that she will survive and be happy, even if it is furiously, determinedly, maniacally so. Lawson gets very serious here (not all the time, but enough to make her point) about the fact that she has health problems and depression and mental illness, but that knowing that others have the same problems makes it easier for her. Her friends, online and in real life, and those who eventually meet her in person, help her to keep going. I thought that was rather sweet – kind of a love letter to weirdos like me.

The Spoon theory and Internet Friends

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The lighter side of craziness – Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A mostly True Memoir), by Jenny Lawson, Berkley Books, New York, 2012

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A mostly True Memoir), by Jenny Lawson, Berkley Publishing Group, Penguin Group New York, USA, 2012

Furiously Happy - A Funny Book About Horrible Things, by Jenny Lawson, Berkley Publishing Group, Penguin Group New York, USA, released September 22, 2015

Furiously Happy – A Funny Book About Horrible Things, by Jenny Lawson, Berkley Publishing Group, Penguin Group New York, USA, released September 22, 2015

Let’s pretend this never happened by Jenny Lawson

I laughed ’til I cried when I read this book. I really did. I had to read it with a roll of toilet paper at hand. I read it on the train and tried to stop laughing because the other people were looking at me like I belonged in a hospital ward. I am afraid I shrieked with laughter in a most uncivilized way and ended up having to restrict myself to small doses of a couple of pages at a time because it was so deliciously hilarious and I did not want to go into meetings with my face all red and wrinkled and hiccupping like I was drunk. Why? Continue reading

Artists turning into authors – Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland

Worst.Person.Ever. by Douglas Coupland (Vintage Canada, October, 2013)

Swapping art forms is tricky

I am acutely aware of the fact that having a talent or skill in one line of art, does not mean you have the same level of skill in another line. A good actor does not automatically become a good screenwriter or novelist. A good painter does not automatically become a good sculptor. A good multimedia artist does not automatically become a good writer.

Rather, chances are that a mediocre or amateur painter will be come a mediocre artist in another medium. Each art form has its own skill set, its own techniques, its own history, context, methodologies and discourse. Enter into the world of a specific art form and you are dumped headlong into a world as different from whatever else you had been doing, as chalk is to cheese.

Change from the world of entertainment or art to that of commerce and you are in yet another world. More than one celebrity has discovered that moving from acting to fashion design or retail takes new skills, a lot of work, and a lot of learning. And even so, might not succeed.

How did Douglas Coupland fare in this transition? Go directly to the review.

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Books for Summer road trips – Stories from Iceland, Denmark and Canada’s small towns

Books for Summer road trips

This past month I travelled south into the USA, down through Washington State, into Oregon, turning around at Portland to go east to Yakima, and then back north home.  It was a long looping drive, around the coast, skirting or getting into mountain peaks and forests, puttering along big highways and small byways (when we got a bit lost), through cities like Seattle and little towns like Chumstick (there’s a name for you!) that we only saw because of the forest fires burning along other routes. It was the little towns that were most interesting – how they are defined by their economies and resources, and in turn, how the people that live there shape the town.  The politics, tastes, habits and incomes of the inhabitants were plain to see.   Continue reading

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The Comedy of Brent Butt and the Canadian Psyche – Corner Gas

In some countries, comedy is a serious business

Brent Butt, writer and creator of “Corner Gas”.

Brent Butt, writer and creator of “Corner Gas”.

At the time that I relocated to Canada from South Africa, I thought that the situation down South was pretty depressing. The tension in the country was even showing in the work of local comedians who seemed to have turned bitter and defensive. Comedy was either viciously political or superficial and slapstick. Making fun of public figures could get you sued. My impression was that South Africans had lost the ability to laugh at themselves. It was not a good time to be politically incorrect.

Then I arrived in Canada and saw my first episode of the Canadian sitcom Corner Gas. First I thought; ’¿Qué…?!’ Then, ‘Oh, this is funny!’ It was philosophical, but also witty – in a dry, sneaky sort of way. There are poignant, reflective moments and some hard truths underlying the banter in some episodes, which gave them more depth than one would expect from a sitcom. Continue reading

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion

the Rosie project

HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., May 2013


I initially liked this novel, written from the point of view of a man who shows quite a few symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome. He is precise, pedantic, unsocial, uncommunicative, excessively analytical and non-empathetic. He likes reaching decisions through logical reasoning and making lists, and likes to dissect his experiences as if he were looking at himself through a microscope. He decides to get a wife, and sets up a project to find a partner by running applicants through a checklist that includes DNA screening. Then he gets involved with a woman called Rosie who, in all respects, does not meet the criteria he has set, but who interests him nevertheless. Continue reading