30/06/2014

Reading - June 2014

Fame In The 20th Century by Clive James (1993)
As full of insights and pithy phrases as ever, but because these are the scripts to the TV episodes from which this book was a spin-off, it doesn't flow as well as James's usual writing. At times it seems like a series of potted biographies rather than a reflection on the changing nature of fame, which is a shame because what he has to say about the subject is as interesting as ever. The full text is online, although I bought the book second-hand.
Foundation's Edge by Isaac Asimov (1982)
What's remarkable about Asimov is how little his style has changed over the years. Comparing this with The Stars, Like Dust, which I read last month, it's just as chatty, just as full of good ideas. It's a lot longer though - I wonder if, come the 80s, his editor told him that big books were what the market wanted?
The Week (7 June / Issue 974)
Rock Stars Stole My Life! by Mark Ellen (2014)
Reading this hugely enjoyable autobiography, I can hear Ellen's voice in my head from the Word podcasts; childishly enthusiastic about both the music he loves and the words he uses to simultaneously describe it and satirise some of the excesses of the industry. His unassuming self-portrayal masks the fact that he  - with David Hepworth - has defined mainstream music journalism for a few decades and successfully edited the best music magazines we will probably ever see. That's no mean feat. He's very amusing about his life in magazine publishing but I do worry slightly about him - now that The Word has shut down, what is there in a shrinking industry for the man who edited magazines like Smash HitsQSelect and Mojo? I hope he's OK.
The Week (14 June / Issue 975)
I Don't Mean To Be Rude, But ... by Simon Cowell (2004)
Part memoir, part extended self-justification, part manual. All ego.
Get Fit: Running by Owen Barder (2005)
Second reading as revision and in order to vary my training plan. An excellent and compact primer on running for fitness. See also the author's extensive web site, which includes a slightly different version of this book and many other useful items.
Foundation And Earth by Isaac Asimov (1986)
In the introduction to Foundation's Edge, Asimov explains that his publisher commissioned these two novels at a specific length. This one, while full of the usual good ideas and a lot of sometimes stilted exposition, also reads like he was told to include more sex. In Asimov's case, this mostly comes down to talking about sex. Still, nice to have the whole thing tie back to Daneel Olivaw and the author's much earlier robot series of stories.
The Week (21 June / Issue 976)
About A Boy by Nick Hornby (1998)
Last time I read this, I don't think I had children. This time, I have a 12 year old boy, just like Marcus in the story. I enjoyed it more this time. It's so well observed and so well written - unobtrusively well written, too, a very easy read. The ending fizzles out slightly - effectively "and over the next couple of months everything got slowly better", but that's probably more true to life.

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