Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Recent Reads

Ship of Fools by Fintan O'Toole: Read this book and weep at the way we have allowed a collection of crooks and thimble-riggers to ruin us. O'Toole's polemic would inspire a revolution if had a critical mass of people in the country who actually read serious books. It is an expose of the cosy and corrupt cartel that runs this country. He's particularly good on the Ansbacher debacle and the abject failure of the Central Bank to police what was going on - even the sainted Peter Sutherland gets a slap in this section. The ruling classes, politicans, bankers, and the professions blatantly laundered their money off shore and the Central Bank turned a blind eye. When it became too obvious, the government introduced tax amnesties lest the great and the good suffer the wrath of the Revenue Commissioners. He also examines the disgraceful sale of Eircom at a time when we were trying to build a knowledge economy. There's lots of colour in this truly depressing book - most notably when describing the vulgar and ostentatious displays of wealth by the political elite and their paymasters in banking and the building business.

Blood's a Rover by James Elroy: Elroy's staccato mannered prose is only bearable in short chunks so this is the kind of book you dip into. Also, the narrative is so fractured that you are constantly trying to orientate yourself as the action constantly shifts locations and personae. But it's worth persisting with as every now and then you encounter perfect pithiness in the language - usually of a scatological nature: James Dean is "hung like a light switch", Sal Mineo "has a well travelled chute" (don't ask). Real live characters mix with the fictional ones so we encounter Howard Hughes, J. Edgar Hoover and Sal Mineo along with sundry killers, junkies, CIA operatives, and mysterious molls. The time is around the Robert Kennedy asassination and the action moves from LA, to Las Vegas to Haiti.

The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave: Mildly diverting. Way too many masturbation scenes. Lively language, monstrous character, tedious story. And what's so special about Avril Lavigne?

Blood River: Tim Butcher: Surely to God it's impossible to write a boring travel book about the Congo in its current state? Butcher manages this unlikely feat. You get none of the sense of danger, violence and the randomness of life in is this benighted country. You do get lots of boring historical padding.