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In which Netty tries to come to grips with Babel-17 – and the whole sci-fi genre in general …

July 1, 2015

Well, obviously this wasn’t my choice. I say obviously, because as regular readers (all three of ‘em! Haven’t made that joke for a while now!) know, Andy is the one who does regular laps of the sci-fi pool, while I merely sit on the side and occasionally dip my toe in the water.  

A late 1980s artist's impression of the main character Rydra Wong. I have more to say about this later ...

A late 1980s artist’s impression of the main character Rydra Wong. I have more to say about this later …

Although I must say that at the behest of my blogging partner-in-crime, I am a lot more comfortable with this genre than I used to be. I may have even been mildly enthusiastic when he suggested American author Samuel R. Delaney (He’s gay! He’s black! He writes sci-fi! His best book is 900 pages long! Errrr …)

Actually, we could have read Dahlgren (the aforementioned book), but instead we settled on Babel-17 – a shorter and sweeter option at 192 pages. My copy is part of the well-regarded Gollancz SF Masterworks series, which publishes reissues of “important” (I don’t know who judges what makes the cut) sci-fi books from 1950 onwards. I reckon I’ve read about half a dozen of these now; I have even enjoyed them. Which just goes to show, you can’t always judge a genre by its cover …

I am probably more sympathetic towards Babel-17 than Andy, maybe because my expectations aren’t that high. Which is not to say it’s a bad book – it’s not, and I note that it won the prestigious Nebula Award (for best sci-fi novel of the year, that year being 1966, in this case). However …

It took me a while to get into the swing of reading sci-fi, but what I found helped immeasurably was not attempting to try and understand everything that is going on. Sometimes you’ve just got to let the words wash over you. Well, that was the key for me, at any rate. That, and suspending one’s sense of (dis)belief. 

The timeframe of Babel-17 is unspecified, but presumably it is set several centuries from now. There’s a 20-year-long intergalactic war going on between the Alliance and the Invaders. The Alliance have been intercepting communications from the enemy that they believe to be a code, which keep cropping up before major, catastrophic accidents believed to actually be incidents of sabotage. They solicit the services of a galaxy-famous poet and linguist specialist Rydra Wong, who soon ascertains that the dispatches are in fact a language, dubbed Babel-17 (geddit?)

Here’s where things get a bit complicated – the whole novel is based on a non-linguistic concept known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: “that language actively shapes perception and mental processes” (I am quoting here from Adam Roberts’ introduction to my copy of the novel). The character of Wong, who speaks multiple earth and extraterrestrial languages, also displays telepathic tendencies; she becomes a conduit for Babel-17, which takes over the minds of its users, as she deciphers it.

Oh, I should also mention that Wong, as well as being a famous poet, is also astonishingly beautiful and an experienced space captain. And she’s only 26. And therein lies one of my big problems with this genre – or my scant acquaintance with it – the portrayal of female characters.  

I mean, kudos to Delaney for making his main character a female captain, putting her in charge of a largely male crew, and sending her out on a space mission to grapple with the various conundrums surrounding the mind-bending Babel-17, and in the process somehow managing to bring an end to the crippling interstellar conflict (which is all-too-neatly resolved and packaged up by the novel’s end, another major quibble of mine). Oh, and during the journey she also finds love with a rival who may or may not be the real enemy. I mean, really? Now, I might be a cynic and/or a pedant, but I would have expected a bit more than a white-picket-fence ending for our brave heroine.

Maybe I’m reading (boom! tish!) too much into it. Maybe I should accept the (many) plot improbabilities and just go with the flow. Because Babel-17 is first and foremost an entertaining romp with some fantastically fun characters. The night Wong spends in Transport town with an out-of-his-depth customs officer while she is assembling her crew is riotous. Later, a touching camaraderie develops between the crew, who have unwittingly co-opted the services of an onboard saboteur who not only threatens the mission but could also cost them their lives. On face value this is a journey that is not going to end well. But then – oh. I already pre-empted that, didn’t I? Dang. 

The problem, as far as I can see it, is that sci-fi (like heavy metal) is a prejudged genre like no other. The people who say they “hate” sci-fi (and I used to be one of those people) are unlikely to have read much of it, or maybe even any at all. And herein lies its issue as far as attracting new readers. I can say with confidence that were it not for Andy’s influence, I would not have read any sci-fi. But I am pleased that I did. I reckon it makes us a little less ignorant and a little more likely to give thought to what lies beyond both space and time. And that can only be a good thing.

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Babel 17 – Andy is a little lost for words

June 29, 2015

A few years ago Netty and I went to a Melbourne Writers Festival event featuring China Mieville and Alastair Reynolds. I know why I was there, although I have to say I can’t really remember why Netty was. At some point during the discussion Mieville namechecked Samuel R. Delaney as an influential boundary-breaching writer of science fiction who happened to be gay and infused his writing with a sense of his queerness (as I say, it is a few years ago, and I do paraphrase, perhaps a little too liberally). I decided then that at some stage Netty and I should read some Samuel R. Delaney, and, this year, we finally got there.

And we maybe should have got there with Dahlgren after all.

Dahlgren, apparently, is Delaney’s masterpiece. It’s also colossal, and has been compared to Gravity’s Rainbow. Given that neither Netty nor I responded with huge enthusiasm to Pynchon in Year One of the Challenge, Gravity’s Rainbow parallels did not sit, well, so we opted for something shorter and more accessible.

babel17Babel 17 is certainly shorter than Gravity’s Rainbow. And it’s probably more accessible than The Crying of Lot 49, or whatever lot it was. But it’s not necessarily any more rewarding for all that.

There were a couple of things I really, really liked about this book – there’s a scene early on involving a customs officer and a succubus that is superb – and there was almost nothing that I hated. But it was such an awkward, weird mix of things – high-concept scifi on one level, a literary novel “about” language and linguistics, but also a pot boiler paying more than lip service to the American tradition of scifi as intergalactic Western-cum-hardboiled crime yarn – and none of this really sat well together. In fact mostly it just doesn’t work. As a lifelong scifi fan I can look at the work of the English writer John Wyndham – someone who has since been sneeringly dismissed by many – and comfortably say, Soz, Sam, John was doing way better than you well over a decade earlier.

Delaney can write superbly – there are stretches (shortish, admittedly) that make me wish he’d refocused his literary intentions. But there are swathes of it, chapter after chapter, where characters talk like pantomime pirates and behave like extras in a pretty terrible episode of Star Trek (and keep in mind that, in my book, most of Star Trek was pretty terrible).

I’m afraid I can’t be bothered writing much more about this book because meh which means less than 500 words which is kind of wow. Those slivers of brilliance might just tempt me, under certain circumstances, to read some more Delaney. But Babel 17 (was it 17? maybe it was 49. maybe I got the numbers mixed up) left me very disappointed.

Meh.

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In which Netty wanders down the paths of memories past with a particularly memorable Boy …

May 24, 2015

Childhood is a funny thing. And, ironically, the further away from it you get, the longer looms its shadow.

boy-coverAustralian writer Sonya Hartnett gets this, and she gets this in spades. She is nominally considered a “young adult” author, although she also writes for adults (Of a Boy is one of her “adult” books, despite it concerning, and taking place in, a nine-year-old’s world).

This is not my first foray into Hartnett’s writing. Ten-odd years ago she wrote, under the pen name “Cameron S. Redfern”, the roman a clef Landscape With Animals, supposedly a barely fictionalised account of her affair with a well-known member of the local literary establishment. It is very, very good, although I can’t see a picture of the aforementioned member (ooh er, matron) these days without immediately (re)calling to mind one or two scenes from that book, details of which I won’t go into here.

She is probably the most decorated of our modern writers, too – she tends to pick up awards the way some of us pick up takeaway food. Of A Boy, published in 2002, also won its fair share of accolades. And fittingly so – there are plenty of reasons here to delve into more of Hartnett’s output of 20-odd novels.  

What’s not to like? First and foremost, she is a storyteller par excellence. Then there’s her prose, which is devastating in its simplicity and straight out of the not-a-word-wasted school of fiction. And the way she creates and sustains mood through the use of words – in the case of this book, recreating a world that is long gone (Of A Boy is set in 1977) but never too far away. As they say, the more things change …

Of A Boy is a slight novel, a mere 186 pages, easily read in one sitting (or in my case, two). It opens with a retelling of the final moments of the three Metford children, aged 10, seven and five, who set out on a foot for the local, suburban milkbar to buy ice cream, but never return home. I am guessing it is loosely based on the (in)famous case of the Beaumont children, who disappeared at a similar age from a South Australian beach in 1966; no trace of those children has ever been found.

The Metford children’s disappearance is just another issue to add to the ever-growing pile of worries that afflict nine-year-old Adrian. He is an anxious little boy who lives with Beattie, his hard-nosed, 60-year-old grandmother (or grandmonster, as he sometimes thinks of her), and his uncle Rory, an agrophobic twentysomething who struggles with the mental demons left behind by a car accident that killed his best mate.

Adrian has been abandoned by a father who doesn’t want him and a mother (Beattie’s eldest daughter) who cannot care for him, for reasons unspecified. Another daughter, Maggie (who has renamed herself Marta), visits often, bickers with her brother Rory, and needles her mother, particularly about the presence of Adrian  – a quiet, unassuming boy – in the family home. Adrian’s problems aren’t limited to home, either – at school he has one friend, Clinton Tull, the last line of defence before he falls into the abyss of friendlessness and ostracisation, an edge on which he is always teetering. Hartnett captures the sense of these devastatingly cruel schoolyard machinations better than any other writer I have encountered; they are so realistic and true to memory that at times they sucked the air out of me as I read on.

Forced to play outside one cold day (it is fast approaching winter), Adrian encounters Nicole, a slightly older girl who has moved in next door, along with her younger sister and brother (there’s that combination of three children, two girls and a boy, that is a recurring motif throughout these pages), and her parents. She calls on Adrian to help her nurse an injured bird that later dies; the two children perform a touching burial service. Nicole is abrasive, abrupt and moody; later in the book it will transpire why she dons this protective armour.

But for Adrian, she provides a welcome distraction from both home and school, as the sense of abandonment that continually dogs and threatens to overwhelm him – as he is rejected by his schoolfriend Clinton, then overhears his aunt Marta encouraging Beattie to rid herself of him – closes in. It is Nicole to whom he turns, but can this troubled pair of misfits provide salvation for each other? The sense of menace and foreboding that hangs over this novel from the get-go suggests not, although the final denouement is even more shocking than the reader could have possibly suspected. It takes a writer with an incredible amount of chutzpah to condemn her (or his) characters to their ultimate fates.

One of the blurbs on the back cover of my copy is from a review in the Sydney Morning Herald, and it sums up About A Boy better than I can: “Exquisitely painful to read … (It) is an almost suffocatingly powerful evocation of the emotional life of the very young … (for) anyone who recalls being a child. And everyone who doesn’t”.

And that is exactly the reason why I won’t be rushing out to read another Hartnett book for a while – not because she is not an exceptionally good writer (she is, and then some), but because, almost two months after reading this book, it still lingers in the dark corners of my mind, places I don’t often like to visit. This is not an easy book to shake. Read it, by all means – but don’t expect not to walk away deeply, almost unbearably affected.  

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Of a Boy – In which Andy (finally and reluctantly) reads a book by Sonya Hartnett. And is pleasantly surprised

May 20, 2015

Pleasantly surprised is a bit of an understatement, actually.

Netty had her reasons for not wanting to read Lolita, and they are legitimate, if arguable. My reasons for not wanting to read anything by Sonya Hartnett are so laughably illegitimate as to be unworthy of an argument: In 2010 I was invited to write a series of (what I now realise were, along with most of what I write on this blog, laughably execrable) posts about the Melbourne Writers’ Festival. One of those posts was about a session involving Hartnett, in which she and a couple of other writers discussed their childhood reading. One of the writers Hartnett mentioned was John Wyndham, a childhood favourite of mine, and while she was nostalgically fond she also called him sexist, which I found odd, given two of his best books, Day of the Triffids and The Chrysalids, contain very strong female characters, and Trouble with Lichen is about a male-and-female duo of microbiologists. In my blog I took (not terribly serious) exception to Hartnett’s comments and called her “rude”. Hartnett took (apparently quite terribly serious) exception to this, responded with a comment longer than the few sentences I’d dedicated to her views on Wyndham, and left me with the impression that she was the sort of slightly precious, slightly self-important writer I’d prefer not to read. So I didn’t. Until Netty insisted that if we were going to read some creepy paedophile filth by some defector creep from Russia then we were damn well going to read Hartnett and not some other female Australian writer such as Amy Witting or Helen Garner (my suggestions).

And while I’m not completely chuffed that Netty gave in on Lolita, I am very glad I gave in on Hartnett.

Of a Boy is set in 1977. The news is full of the disappearance of three young children – two sisters and their younger brother – on the streets of an Australian suburb. Nine-year-old Adrian, being raised by his gran though his selfish, disturbed mum and dad are both alive, absorbs the news of the disappearance, but goes through life as the slightly weird, rather lonely, rather too self-aware little boy that he is. When a new family move into the house across the road Adrian forms an odd, seesawing friendship with the oldest daughter, Nicole, and their relationship becomes increasingly intertwined with the disappearance of the three Metford children.

Adrian, in 1977, is nine. Hartnett was born in 1968. I was born in 1969, and lived in the northwestern suburbs of Melbourne from 1976-80. There were times when I wondered whether Adrian lived in Glenroy, seriously. The city in which Of a Boy takes place is never (as far as I and Netty can remember) specified, but it seems to me pretty obviously to be Melbourne, the city of Hartnett’s (and my) birth. Going down the street to buy lollies, trips to the local swimming pool, sleepovers at a friend’s place, dubious, shifting schoolyard loyalties – none of these things are specific to late ’70s Melbourne, but Hartnett saturates her story with a sense of time and place that sometimes left me dizzied. I spent godawful months wandering the grounds of Glenroy Primary School (I had a specific route) during lunchtime, having been abandoned by a group of kids I had thought were my friends who had suddenly decided I was Big Ears (and then later, and in hindsight rather hilariously, Odor Ears) and who refused to speak to me. Later they would speak to me again for a few months. And then they wouldn’t. Childhood is pretty seriously fucked up, and Hartnett captures that in a way I don’t think I’ve read before. The petty betrayals, the tentatively extended affection, the cruelty at once disparagingly despatched and monstrously sadistic – it’s okay, I don’t need therapy just yet, but memories? I’ve had a few.

Oh – and apparently, I have only discovered in writing this post, Glenroy Primary School no longer exists. Jeff Kennett’s work, I guess.

Hartnett’s ability to see things from the perspective of a nine-year-old boy, rather than, perhaps, from Nicole’s, is also astonishing. the feeling that someone who wasn’t at all like me had crawled into my nine-year-old brain was a bit freaky, on more than a few occasions.

There is much more to rave about in this book – the characters of grandma Beattie – so flawed, so hard, and in her knowledtge of her flaws and her rigidity so worthy of at least some forgiveness; and of Rory, Adrian’s deeply messed up, strangely wise, artistic uncle – but I’m afraid, precious, self-important blogger that I am, it was the stuff that resonated with me that I was keen to rave about.

So that’s what I’ve done.

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In which Netty (finally and reluctantly) reads Lolita. And then has some things to say about it …

April 23, 2015

Andy is right – I most decidedly did not want to read Lolita, despite his numerous suggestions over the years. And I only did relent because that’s what this blog is all about – reading important works of (mostly 20th century) literature. No matter how dubious in subject matter. More on that, obviously, later.

lolita-coverI’m not big on Russians in the literature department. I mean, I read One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in college, and I finally got around to Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master And Margarita about 10 years ago (it’s very, very good. Read it by all means). The closest I’d come to Russian-cum-American author Vladimir Nabokov was The Police song Don’t Stand So Close To Me, about a teenage student’s infatuation with her teacher, which references the novel (“It’s no use/ He sees her/ He starts to shake and cough/ Just like the/ old man in/ that book by Nabokov”). And frankly that’s as close as I wanted to come. Hell, I haven’t even seen the movie(s) – the original or the remake.

Let’s not beat around the bush here – Lolita may be a novel, as Andy so pertinently notes in his post – but it’s a novel about a man in his late 30s who is having a sexual relationship with a pubescent girl, against her wishes, even though she initiates the first physical contact and then goes along with it, enticed and subdued by various bribes and threats. As always, rape has little to do with sex, and everything to do with power. And, sadly, as the book plays out, we discover its lead character is not the only older man willing to exploit this young girl for his own means and ends.

Actually, who would know what Lolita/Lo/Dolly/Delores wishes, wants or desires, because the book is wholly narrated by the odious, pathetic Humbert Humbert, so the reader only sees the girl (or “nymphet”, or “faunlet”, as Humbug would put it) through his eyes. Obviously that is deliberate, but it is difficult not to see it as yet another way in which Lolita is subjugated, objectified and moulded by the dominant male presence in her life. That Humbert is possibly the most unreliable of unreliable narrators (it is my theory that possibly the entire plot takes place only in his head) does little to clarify these murkiest of waters.

Would this book see the light of day in 2015? It was a battle enough to get it into print back in 1955 – indeed it was initially published in France (but written in English; not the author’s native language) after being turned down by some of the biggest American publishing houses of the day. It was banned in England – and later France – the following year, before its eventual publication in the UK and US in 1958. It was improbably turned into a film, directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring James Mason and Sue Lyon, in 1962, then again in 1997 (this time directed by Adrian Lyne, with Jeremy Irons and Dominque Swain in the main roles); both versions had more than their fair share of censorship issues.

Nabokov, who published nine English-language novels in his lifetime, along with a dozen in Russian, as well as numerous collections of short stories, poetry and criticism, always reserved a special place in his affections for his most notorious novel. In fact, he spent almost 30 years writing various versions of it – as a poem, a short story and another novel, as a novella and an unfinished manuscript, both published after his death; he even incorporated the concept into one of his Russian-language novels. All of which, frankly, makes me feel more than a little uneasy. What is it about this hebephilic relationship that so held him in its thrall over the decades? Lolita is dedicated to Nabokov’s wife Vera; interestingly, it was she, as executor of his estate, who made the decision to posthumously publish the Lolita-esque works her husband had wanted destroyed. Go figure.

Lolita starts with a foreword penned by a “John Ray, Jr, Ph.D”, who is asked to edit Humbert’s manuscript after his death “in legal captivity, of coronary thrombosis” (this is not a spoiler, peeps – this is the book’s opening sentence! However, he’s not in the lock-up for reasons the reader may initially suspect), before the fates of various characters – unbeknown at this stage to the reader – are revealed in the ensuing pages. Yep, he’s a bit of a clever clops, ol’ Vlad. A 1956 epilogue is appended to my 2008 Penguin edition; in it Nabokov outlines the book’s path to fruition (although the bit about the artistic ape appears to be a furphy) and asserts it “has no moral in tow”. As Mandy Rice-Davies remarked at the trial that resulted from the infamous Profumo affair of the 1960s, “Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?”

I’m not going to ruminate on the plot, although I will say that as this book’s reputation precedes itself, anyone who actually takes the time to read it will be surprised by the various, largely unexpected plot twists and turns. I certainly was, having originally gone in with some preconceived ideas about how it was going to play out. Despite Nabokov’s emphatic statement about its morality, this novel’s ultimate saving grace is that its perpetrator is under no illusion about the vile acts he is committing, even as he continues to commit them. This is no American Psycho, where its (also unreliable) narrator shows absolutely no remorse and basically gets off scot-free for his actions. Karmic retribution plays a large part in the proceedings here – as it must – and all the characters end up paying a huge price, some with their lives. Also – and this is very important – it is not an exploitative novel; it is neither titillating nor erotic.

Would I recommend it? That is a very grey area indeed. On subject matter, no – I don’t condone in any way, shape or form child sexual abuse, or any sexual abuse for that matter, and neither does any sane, decent, right-minded person. But purely as a work of literature – subject matter aside – it is undeniably cleverly plotted and well-written. I believe it is still on school reading lists around the (presumably western) world, almost 60 years after its publication, so it obviously has longevity.

But I won’t be rereading it, nor will I bother with any other Nabokov books. I don’t like books that leave me feeling like I need to take a long shower with a loofah brush afterwards.

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Lolita – Andy gets a bit gross and grubby with Vlad and Humbert

April 20, 2015

So here we are in the last half of April, blogging about the first book of the year. Granted, we took January and February off, but still, blogging about March’s book in the last weeks of April is … pretty much par for the course, I guess.

I have suggested Nabokov’s Lolita a couple of times over the however many years it is now Netty and I have being doing the challenge. The last time Netty screwed her face up and said “Why would I want to read that?” This time round I explained, rather gently, that Nabokov was one of the few, perhaps the only giant of 20th century English-language letters that we had not yet tackled.

That got her.

lolitaBut having finally read the Russian great’s incendiary account of one seriously fucked-up man’s hebephilia (No, Humbert Humbert is not a pedophile – he is a monstrously nauseating creature, but he is attracted to girls who have just – barely – hit puberty, and that is a different paraphilia to pedophilia. There may be different labels for the various sexual abuses of children, but do the labels make any of those variations less monstrous, less nauseating? That, dear reader, is your call.), I can tell you that while I respect Vlad’s talent, and will at some stage get around to reading something else of his, I’m not sure Lolita is the magnificent work of world literature it’s supposed to be.

Although it’s pretty good. I mean, this is a book about a middle-aged guy sexually abusing a pubescent girl, and … um …. a lot of it’s really funny. Like seriously, Really, really funny. It is gross and it is disgusting, a lot of it, and it is often laugh-out-loud funny. Humbert’s lack of self-awareness, as hinted at by his creator, is sometimes a source of humour; his occasional moments of blistering self-awareness can be funny, too (although sometimes not so much). There is some slapstick, believe it or not, particularly in the penultimate (is it penultimate? I forget now) murder scene (no, I will not reveal who dies). Feisty, flawed, flippant Lolita herself – apparently Nabokov’s favourite among his fictitious creations – is often very funny.

And sometimes not so much.

There is a point well into the book where Humbert, narrator (mostly), acknowledges that he knows Lolita is desperately unhappy about her lo(li)t(a): after Humbert has raped her, nightly, she waits until she thinks he has fallen asleep, and then she weeps. Except he’s not asleep, and he hears her expressions of grief, and he tells his readers of them. And the next night he rapes Lolita, again.

There are those who claim Lolita is a defence of pedophilia, Or something. None of these tards have read the book, clearly. Nabokov himself claimed he never tried to be didactic, and I’ll cop that. He may not be saying “middle-aged men should not have sex with pubescent girls (or boys, even) because that is gross and disgusting”; but he certainly seems, to me, to be saying “middle-aged men who have sex with pubescent girls (or boys, even) are gross and disgusting and should be held to account for their actions by the law”.

OK, Vlad would probably be annoyed by me reading a little too much into his perspective.

So good but  not great, challenging but not a catastrophe for Western values (George Pell would know more about that sort of thing than Nabokov), queasily amusing, revolting, absorbing. Never forget, as you read Lolita, that this is a novel about the sexual abuse, the rape, of a young girl. But also, never forget: this is a novel,

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Welcome to Andy and Netty’s Reading Challenge – 2015 edition. In, er, March. But, you know, whateves …

March 12, 2015
beach-book-image

This is not me not reading Ulysses …

So your friendly scribes at ANRC got a little bit behind the eightball towards the end of last year (that is the correct expression, yes?), hence only just wrapping up the 2014 Challenge this week. So we decided to give ourselves a couple of months off over the summer break – which wasn’t really a break; I mean, I spent it reading Ulysses (yes, I read Ulysses, and no, it’s nothing anyone else needs to do ever. Trust me. That’s six weeks of my life I’ll never get back) and Andy probably read about 100 books in that time ‘cos that’s just the way he rolls. And, you know, that mob over at the ABC’s Book Club does it, so what’s good enough for them, yada yada yada …

So this year we’re only going to be reading 10 books. We’ve also decided to put the Side Challenge on ice for this edition, too, which is sort of a pity because Andy came up with a cracker of a theme – but it will probably return next year.

So without further ado, here’s what we’ll be reading this year:

March: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

April: Of A Boy by Sonia Hartnett

May: Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delaney

June: The New Yorker Stories by Ann Beattie

July: Atomised by Michel Houellebecq

August: Half Of A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

September: And The Band Played On by Randy Shilts

October: King Of The Badgers by Philip Hensher

November: My Struggle Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausegaard

December: The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

So, as usual, we’re not doing ourselves too many favours or cutting ourselves too much slack!

Righto – better get to it. See y’all in a couple of weeks. Still can’t believe I let Andy talk me into reading bloody Lolita …

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