The Falafel king is dead by Sara shilo

Source – review copy from the lovely Kelly at Portobello books

This is Sara Shilo’s debut novel ,she is a Northern Israeli ,that didn’t start writing til she was in her forties inspired by her fellow israeli writer David Grossman who helped her get this book published ,she suffers from ADHD thou this is mentioned in the story but it makes the style very unique quick cuts jump between characters make this an unusual book .

The book is set in a town in the north of Israeli where the people who live there live under the threat of attack by missiles and this book follows one day in a family after such an attack the way they cope and comes to terms with the death of a patriarch the Falafel king of the title ,this day is six years after that event but there still under alert and missiles fly by daily ,we hear from his wife Simona and the children Etti ,Dudi ,Itzik and Kobi there are two other children Chaim and Oshri but they are involved but not as narrators to the story the narrative jumps  the story is jumpy and a little hard to follow at first so much I had to put this book down for a day or two and come at it with time and a clear head this isn’t a book you can catch in patches no you have to sit and soak in the wiz of Katyusha missiles ,a family in turmoil is the widow sleeping with the sun ,the daughter Etti is coming of age and discovering sex and freedom .

Who would have thought the Katyusha would find me outside ?I haven’t been out ,really for six years I just switch off and go : to work ,to the market ,to the market ,to work .And the one time Simona does something different the Katyusha catches here out.

The opening of the falafel king is dead ,Simona is caught in a missile attack .

I was remind of sketch on a spoken word CD by the American rock /spoken word star Henry Rollins about a letter he’d had from a Israeli fan who had just suffer a missile attack and how that had put his own problems into perspective .This book shows yet again the vibrancy of Hebrew literature living under constant fear of attack is just awful and this book puts you in the shoes of the family a lower class working family selling street food ,which falafel is ,it’s a chick pea ball with salad in a pitta bread very tasty snack . the book was translated from Hebrew ,it has won numerous prizes in Israel including the Sapir prize in 2007 the Israel version of the booker prize .

It’s a man’s world too

The year of feminist classics is under way with Ana Amy Iris and  Emily at helm their reviews of classic women’s writing this year  .Well here is the rub guys why don’t us male bloggers do a year of big male writers .Those scary male writers people are scared of Mailer ,Bellow ,Hemingway ,Steinbeck ,Self ,O’Brien,Kerouac ,Burroughs,Xaiver Herbert ,Tim Winton and also the two new peirne titles fit the bill as well  .So if any male bloggers want join and sort out a reading list of a month books that be great .There is great manly writing that is getting less read these days so why don’t we promote them  as well !!!


The gospel of Anarchy by Justin Taylor

source – review copy

Justin Taylor is a young American writer ,this is his debut novel last year he published a collection of short stories “everything here is the best thing ever ” ,which I have but have only read the first couple of stories but style wise this is just as good as his short stories .He has written for a number of american magazines and appeared on public radio .

The book is set in 1999 and goes through millennium in is David story from dark nights on the internet trading Pornographic images to meet an old friend leads to an alternate world the hippy alternative universe an anarchist collective ,this is a story of youth and growing up and what happens when you take the wrong path ,it can be fun but at times very dark .all this is sparked by David meet old college buddy Thomas and going to fishgut this is an old house full of people  ,that is the collectives heart and base .This is maybe the dying embers of a sixties dream gone bad ,I love music from big pink and the idea\ of communal living has appeal to me the ability  to swap ideas and feed of other people’s creativity would be great ,but Fishgut isn’t like this the morals are lost in some ways I m remind of Garlands beach what happens when paradise turns bad ,this tackles people’s dream searching for religious belief ,identity and in particular a place in society or in this case in  a group .

Thomas took me on a tour of fishgut ,not that there was much to show .There were three bedrooms – his , Kathy ,and one outfitted with two sets of bunk beds as a guest room or travellers rest .They were all scenes from the same low-budget disaster movie .the linoleum in the kitchen was faded past pigmentation ,but held on to a hazy hangover memory of having once been green

the first site of fishgut .by David shown round by his old friend Thomas .

David gets caught up in affairs with the women at Fishgut ,as he sleeps with them and  get caught up in a five way love triangle ,there is a found journal that leads to a cult left by old guest of the house a man of the road .I enjoyed this book Taylors writing is playful and dark at same time he draws you into this crazy youthful world like he did in the shorts I ve read by him .


what a beauty -a pocket book

How lovely are the new Penguin Mini Modern classics ,Like the old penguin 60’s that were released for penguins 60th ,they slip neatly into a jacket pocket for use when ever you find a spare second ,although I have two book apps on my phones I find reading via phone hard at best of times so these new Minis will Keep me going for a good while as modern paperback sometimes are too big for a pocket of a casual coat .saying I don’t like my book apps I love my goodreads app great to just scan and go so to speak .

Do you always have a book with you ?

Do you use book apps on the phone ?

Death and the penguin by Andrey Kurkov

Source – personnel copy

Andrey Kurkov is a Ukrainian writer he grew up under the soviet system ,his father was a test pilot and his mother a doctor .He trained as a Japanese translator and did his Military service as a prison guard in the southern Ukraine city of Odessa ,he has publish thirteen novels and some children’s books .His books have been translated into numerous languages

Death and the penguin was Kurkov’s debut novel and was written in russian and translated here by George Bird ,he has translated Kurkov’s over novels .The book centre’s on Victor a writer struggling to make a living at his craft he has a companion Misha a Penguin he rescue from a local zoo that had to get rid of its animals .The book starts with victor been offered a job which he takes as Obituary writer ,so he then seems to be boosted in the world of politics and corruption as he meets and chats to the friends and family of the recently deceased  or to be deceased as it turns out along the way Victor meets another Misha a human thou which made me laugh as she is referred to as the non penguin Misha through the book .There is also two women that seem to end up at the funerals and a shadowy figure called that fat man ,A downward spiral of disaster awaits Victor as the hapless writer gets drag into a conspiracy ,which means he has to escape and Misha the penguin ends up getting sent to her home in the Antarctic .

Two days later the phone rang ,

capital news. Sorry to trouble you said a crisp ,clear female voice I have the editor in chief on the line .

The receiver changed hands .

Viktor Alekseyevich a man’s voice enquired couldn’t pop in today could you ? or are you busy ?

no said Viktor .

The phone call that sets Viktor on a troubling path and a start in writing Obituaries

This book was dark and comic novel ,a look at post communist Ukraine ,I felt Misha and Viktor maybe symbolise Ukraine a little Misha a nation flightless and out-of-place and Viktor an artist want to find its voice amongst corrupt people and crumbling system .Kurkov’s writing is fast-moving and lyrical at times .Most of the story is told from Viktors point of view as he gets caught up in troubling times .Misha is his escape from his everyday world this penguin that needs him to look after him and ultimately set her free on her new life and in doing so sets himself on a new life path .This book has a follow-up penguin lost

This is one of my eastern european reading challenge choices ,

Have you read this book ?

Is there Elitism at work in book blogging ?

I am a working class  man school educated ,that loves reading maybe without the best grammer in the world ,but a sackful of passion .I have the feel that this means my blog is oft over look ,and may even be a joke to some people ,but here is the rub I love my blog and books ok I m never ever gonna  be as well read or written as some of you ,but I feel my words need to be heard and hell waterstones don’t ask what your level of learn is books are free to all  .sorry need to get it of my chest I find some bloggers attitudes terrible .Don’t ask I m not gonna say .

Love Virtually by Daniel Glattauer

Source – review copy

Daniel Glattauer is an Austrian writer born in Vienna ,he studied education and art history ,he then began working in newspapers as a columnist ,his columns for the austrian paper Der standard were collected into a book called counting ants .I first heard of this book over a year ago from my German twitter friend Tati that raved about it

Well to Love Virtually what is it about ? ,well I pleased to say it does something I have wanted to see in Literary fiction for a long time and that is use modern tech as a drive or device for a  book in this case it is e mails so he has also dragged the Epistolary novel in to the 21st century with much style and vigour ,like Samuel Richardson in the 18th century it is love that is the driving force of this novel .


I would like to cancel my subscription .Can I do so by e-mail ?

best wishes,

E Rothner

Emmi’s first misdirected e-mail to Leo Leike ,not Like magazine .

Tha is how it starts a number of missent e-mails a chance encounter ,how often have you miss wrote a e-mail and got a postmaster notification ,well this one time Emmi a married women middle-aged women doesn’t she sends it to Leo Leike ,who replies ,she replies and so on ,as the e-mails unfold over what seems a small amount of time as you read but if you follow the timeline is weeks and months these to lonely souls ,er maybe not lonely maybe searchers would be a better term ,they look over the fence and see something the like and start to flirt ,a love affair of words unfolds ,he loves the size of her feet ? This is written with great panache ,you see how what you say unseen can sometimes be misinterpreted by the other person ,also the power of words to attract people to your personality ,but as we near the end there is a stumbling block should they meet ,this is where the virtual world and real world may be miles apart Leo has in this time meet Emmi’s friend and had drinks they did once sit in a cafe but didn’t really know who was who but have possibilities as the just drank at a set time and didn’t meet in a busy place on a weekend .


The thought of actual contact seems to fill you with panic ,Leo .We will see each other , and we’ll like each other, and we’ll talk to each other just as we always have ,but this time with our mouths .We’ll feel comfortable with each other from the word go, and after an hour we’ll no longer be able to conceive of what it would have been like had we  never set eye on each other .

part of a E-mail as Emmi tries to tempt Leo into a meet .

Now do they meet ,what happens well ,buy the book LOL you’ll love it I hope I did ,I am a romantic ,I meet my darling Amanda via a chat room and she made me the man I am now ,so this story really touched me I remember our texts and phone calls before we ever meet and the nervousness in meeting and I can say Glatteur has caught this perfectly ,also part of the modern condition maybe the way  people interconnect  you can and might meet have blurred in part to tech and travel .The husband and wife translation team of Jamie Bulloch and Katharina Bielenberg need a huge mention They took the male and female parts and I think it shows and maybe adds a slight advantage to the original as I feel Emmi has a definite female voice in her E-mails that maybe has been strengthened in translation by Kaharina doing her e -mails .the title was changed but after reading the book ,still not sure german title Gute Gegen Nordwind ,a rough translation good versus north wind or good against the north wind ,although this title works better in german .a follow-up every seventh wave is out next summer can’t wait here .

Winston’s score –

Brief encounter for a digital generation ,or anne hall for the blackberry kids ,

I see a film of this book Woody Allen would do a great job for the angst versus love mix that is this book

there is a twitter stream for this book

Winston’s books and a visit for #savelibraries

Been a while since I posted books I ve got so done last few I ve got in last week or two .I manage to clear some library books as I always have my quota maxed out but had chance to get 8 books this time for a change .

Monseiur Pain By Roberto Bolano –

This is part of the ongoing translations of Roberto’s early novels a short novella ,A mystery book about a Peruvian poet ,this is the time Bolano changed from a poet to a prose writer .another for the Bolano challenge

While the women are asleep by Javier Marias –

Last year i got the first part of his your face tomorrow trilogy and never got to it so took it back to library ,this seems a better intro his first collection of short stories in a number of year ,characters on the edge of society.

Antipodes – Igacio Padila

Mexican writer ,the cover appealed and knew he was part of the crack movement that want to move latin american literature from the boom style .

The tree and other stories by Abdallah Al Nasser

Don’t know a lot about this writer but like short stories from Arabic ,,so thought I d give it a whirl ,he is from Saudi Arabia he currently live in london .

The character of rain by Amelie Nothomb

This short novella is told from the point of view of a two and half-year old and I thought be great to compare to the room that I want to read at some point this year .

Hidden camer by Zoran Zivkovic

This Serbian novel sounds wonderful a man is invited to a film show gets there and find he is the only one and the film is him on his lunch hour ,dark sounding this will do for my eastern European challenge .

Jia by Hyeiln Kim

A novel about North Korea ,It says it all based on true life accounts of growing up under an oppressive  regime ,I have another book I want about north Korea this caught my eyes as I scanned the shelves .

Lizka and her men by Alexander Ikonnikov

A new russian writer this follows a young women growing up under russia’s new freedoms ,spend time with a number of different men ,I like the cover of this and another for the Eastern European challenge.

The particular sadness of lemon cake by Amiee Bender

This is Bender’s new novel follows a young girl that finds she can sense people’s emotions via the food she eats this follows her to adulthood as she finds out how to cope with this unusual gift ,this was sent after a request from Harvey at windmill books .

Corrections by Thomas Benrhard

I ve been looking for a Bernhard for a while and happened on this at the local Oxfam ,the book is about a character similar to Wittgenstein driven mad by pure thought .

The Murder in the vicarage by Agatha Christie

This is a bargain from the shop the works ,a copy of the original crime club books ,this is the first Miss Marple book ,my Gran loved Christie so snapped this up .

Peter Camenzind By Herman Hesse

This is one of Hesse’s earlier novels I loved the Glass bead game and Steppenwolf ,so this Oxfam buy is great want to see what his earlier works were like and this book is semi autobiographical .

These come from the lovely Lila that has just started at Penguin these are four of the Mini classics for the 50th year of modern classics .The books consists of number of short stories by each writer .

My dead dad was in ZZ top by Jon Glaser

source – from Publisher due out Feb 8th

Jon Glaser is an actor comedian writer and director ,he has appear in a number of films such as be kind rewind  and comedy shows ,as well as live tours he wrote an earlier book Adult swim’s .

The book follows Jon as he goes through his late fathers belongings and uncovers a lost world of his father as he was a member of an early version of the band ZZ top but left as he couldn’t grow a beard and disliked the direction the band was taking .Now this of course is 100% fake as it says on the cover but this book then goes into nearly every well-known America star of rock and roll from the 60’s onwards .I whole cornucopia of found items from the belly aching born to brunch original version of Bruce Springsteen born to run with a photo showing a ring from a drink thus giving Born to run the song we all know and love .I read this over the space of an evening and was in floods of laughter I know most of the people we have piece’s from within the book so loved Glaser’s with at subtle changes and well thought out version of people’s songs .The rewritten Prince titles for his performance at Steven Spielberg sons bar mitzavahed .

Thank you : steve ,kate

Mah- zel tahv to Rachel

I could never take the place of your Rabbi

Raspberry Yarmulka

when Doves Ketch

little red Draidle

I would die 4 your Gefilte fish

Theives in the synagogue

sexy potato Latke

Some of pince Bar Mitzvah set list .

This remind me of Mark and Lard from British radio in the early nineties with their band the Shirehorses where the took well-known songs and rewrote the lyrics .so if you want know where the name B***hole surfers comes from I choose this or what bands like Boston ,Creedance Clearwater revival  did before they were famous  Jon will give you a great version of what they did before they were famous .a glimpse behind the curtain at what might make certain bands tick and what may happen if the had sold songs to advertise things .I choose this from Harper perennial as a change I want to try some more lighthearted thing this year and this was a perfect choice I perfect gift for any rock or pop lover .

Winston’s score –

It has be the Shirehorse’s David Bowie spoof ,this book reminded me so much of this cd and the way it made me laugh in the 90’s when it came out .As I always say a book the bring back happy memories is a book worth reading and this one did !!!

A song for carrying water and other stories from somalia

Source – Library

This book is published by Gatehouse a specialist in literacy books this book is designed for people from Somalia to learn English and was written by Somalia refugees living in Manchester .The stories are folk tales the women heard as Kids ,so their oral tradition is written for future generations .

These stories are short and on the opposite page is the Somalia translation ,the stories cover a lot of what happens in village life ,such as how to tender animals ,like advice about Hyenas ,folksy tales like the lion ,the fox and the rabbit a tale about a fox and rabbit ,that are asked by a Lion to watch some animals but end up eating one and the fox gets away as he blames the rabbit wonderful tale for Kids about morals .The main Tale is six stories about Igal Shedad  a coward .

Another time Igal Shedad ,

fell asleep under a tree .

a leaf fell on his moustache.

he shouted and screamed

and ran home to his wife .

he thought a lizard had landed on him .

One of the Igal Shedad tales about a leaf .

These are stories show what part men play in Somalia society these stories are ultra short the book is only 105 pages long so the tales are 50 pages in length but are accompanied by great illustrations to the tales ,also at the end is touching thumbnail sketches of the women that wrote this stories and the journeys ,how long it took them to get here the struggles they had . and how they struggled at times .This book touched me simple tales but evocative of being sat round a fire or at a bar listening to elders tell them over and over again ,to capture these is great so often these folk tales disappear before people have chance to write them down and remember them .

Do you like folk tales ?

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February 2011


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