The Book Catapult

A Year of Reading, Week 25

Books read (all or part of) this week:
Red or Dead by David Peace
Further Joy: Stories by John Brandon
The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection by Michael Harris

I didn’t finish any of the books I was reading this past (birthday) week, but here’s a quick rundown:

Red or Dead by David Peace is an insanely obsessive biographical novel about legendary soccer coach Bill Shankly. Shankly brought the Liverpool Football Club to national prominence in England’s Premier League in the ’60’s and early ’70’s, winning three First Division championships, 2 FA Cups, and a UEFA championship. The prose style to this is hard to describe – “obsessive” is the word that I keep coming back to. It’s repetitive, methodical, and metronomic – much like a back-and-forth soccer match, I suppose. A sampler: 

And in the sunshine. The lovely, spring sunshine. The new Champions of England ran around the pitch. The Anfield pitch. In the sunshine. The lovely, spring sunshine. The new Champions of England ran a lap of honour around the ground. The Anfield ground. In the sunshine. The lovely, spring sunshine. Ron Yeats carried the trophy around the stadium. The Anfield stadium. In the sunshine. The lovely, spring sunshine. 

Etc. Etc. It’s weirdly hypnotic and I find it hard to tear my eyes away while I’m in it, yet often can’t bring myself to go back once I leave. Great for reading between World Cup matches though.

John Brandon’s first collection of short stories, Further Joy, is a bit of a David Peace antidote, in a way. I’ve been a fan of Brandon’s for a while – his three novels Arkansas, Citrus County, & A Million Heavens have all gotten The Book Catapult write-up and/or been Catapult Notables. His characters always hang just at the fringes of acceptable behavior, yet have a strange magnetic pull to them that cannot be denied. I’ve read five of these new stories so far & met a manipulative down-on-his luck gambler, witnessed a burgeoning May-December relationship, visited a weird Rapture-stricken town, and followed a young woman with nowhere to go in a small, swampy Florida town. Weirdos and aimless wanders all, wondering where to point their ships and how to approach the next phase of life. And they’re wonderful.  

And The End of Absence by Michael Harris – just started dipping into this startling, poignant nonfiction piece. We are the last generation to remember life without the internet. We all carry an infinite wealth of information around in our pockets. We are never alone, always connecting with people all over the globe, yet do we know how to interact with each other face to face anymore? What does this mean? Socially, personally, genetically? Are we rewiring our brains for the better or worse? A fascinating subject – and one that makes me want to slow down, unplug, stop staring at this screen…

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