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Despite the lack of precipitation, I have pulled the first books off the shelves of my Wet Season library. (They’re metaphorical shelves. The library is actually a plastic tote box, formerly used for field gear and specimens.) Last year, I worked my way through stacks of Graham Greene, Thea Astley and Barbara Kingsolver titles. This year I am concentrating on Umberto Eco, Amitav Ghosh and a selection of U.S. authors who write what Daniel Woodrell describes as ‘country noir’. I’ll see how it goes. I am currently half way through Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum and feel I should be taking notes.
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I am not confining myself to those authors, of course. I have just finished reading James Lee Burke’s latest — Feast Day for Fools. I love JLB. Love him to bits. I’ve read every one of his novels and short stories and enjoyed them all. But I did not get much entertainment out of this one. The central character, who seems to me to be too old to go around belting people with that much vigour, doesn’t drive the story. Instead, the narrative bounces off the multiple antagonists like a pinball. There are twists and dazzling prose and a feel of Cormac McCarthy about this, which, in itself is no bad thing. But there is no emotional core to the tale, just a lot of lost and violent characters who remain lost and violent throughout. And, to be honest, I can’t even remember whether the maddest and baddest of the mad, bad guys was killed in the end. This is not a good thing.
But my reading of it might differ from someone else’s. That’s the wonderful thing about fiction — the story is constructed between writer and reader. The story is different for everyone.
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I am currently engrossed in China Miéville’s Kraken. An urban fantasy set in London, it revolves around a crime that draws the attention of the Met’s crack Fundamentalist and Sect-related Crime Unit. Or, as the author summarises it, “It’s a dark comedy about a squid-worshipping cult and the end of the world.” The protagonist is a mollusc curator from the Natural History Museum. When the giant squid is stolen from the Darwin Centre, this fictional curator immediately lays the blame on Steve O’Shea from Te Papa. And, by crikey, so would I.
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The cyclone pantry is now stocked. Not only do I have enough supplies to last through the aftermath of another Yasi, but also sufficient to survive a zombie apocalypse. That is, as long as the two events do not occur consecutively. And if they do, I hope the zombie thing comes first, because then the cyclone will wipe them out. As you can see, I’ve thought this through. Although I have food, batteries, water containers, books etc, I have yet to sharpen the shovels. I do have a collection of LPs, which means I can adopt the Shaun of the Dead delaying strategy if need be. There are no Prince albums, so I should be all right.
The above applies only to a human zombie apocalypse. If the local road kill is reanimated, I will be safe. It won’t be me they come after.