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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Strictly Irrelevant Sunday - Summer Reading List

It's summer and Ireland is getting an inordinate number of nice sunny days that can only occur when people are taking their final exams.  Murphy's Law dictates to these poor specimens that have to do their finals or college entrance exams that, once they are done and can go out and frolic with the rest of us, the sky clouds over and the weather turns crappy again.

I don't have exams (don't be jealous, I barely have an income either) so when I'm not listing items on eBay and wanting to bash my head against my laptop (more on that later in the week) I can usually be found down the park or in my back garden reading a good book.  Here are a few of my summer picks.

Perfume by Patrick Suskind - A tale of Grenouille, a man with a miraculous sense of smell and no odour.  Grenouille cuts a swathe through 18th century France in search of an unattainable perfume, which eventually degenerates into mass murder.  This book is simultaneously hilarious and grotesque, and is written with a wry disgust for humankind.   Fun Fact - I bought this book when I was sixteen because I had heard that it was Kurt Kobain's favourite book.  I'm not too sure if that's true (I can TOTALLY picture him enjoying it though...), but this is one of my favourite books nonetheless.

Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham - If you have ever, ever been in an unhealthy, slightly obsessive relationship, then this book will probably make you feel incredibly uncomfortable at how much Maugham knew about human dynamic.  This book is semi-autobiographical and the writing unnerves me so much that I find I have to put it down from time to time.  It's understandably known as one of Maugham's masterpieces and hopefully a massive re-issue of his previous works will mean that he is no longer criminally underread.

The Classic Fairy Tales by Iona and Peter Opie - I've been reading a lot of Angela Carter recently and her novels are like adult fairy tales, with strong woman and immoral men, magic, comeuppances and twists and turns that are both human and otherworldly.  This is what the original fairy tales were... Peter and Iona Opie compile 24 of the most popular fairy tales and trace them back to their unsavoury, unsanitised beginnings (Did you know that the Prince from Sleeping Beauty was a rapist?  I don't remember that in the Disney version).  This goes back to last weeks Strictly Irrelevant post about Dina Goldstein's work and how, in fairytales, not everything is what it seems...

The Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellion and Rock'n'Roll by Simon Reynolds and Joy Press - I haven't read this yet, but I'm a big fan of Simon Reynolds' brand of well-researched, passionate musical polemics and his encyclopedic knowledge of almost every popular musical movement.  This book is about rock and roll as seen through a prism of gender - from mysogynistic rock to woman on top.

Alexander McQueen: Genius of a Generation by Kristin Knox.  I don't have this book as it was only released a few weeks ago, so i'm still not sure if it's a cynical cash-in or a loving tribute.  Nevertheless the book is a bit slim at 128 pages, but is chock-a-block full of photos and commentary.  Just a quick FYI though - the book doesn't dip into McQueen's menswear collection, which would lead me to think that this may be more geared towards fashionistas looking for a quick fix rather than a proper overview of the man's work.

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Yep, I'm a big nerd.  What is everyone else reading this summer?