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Jarv’s Favourite Books. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

It’s been a while since I delved back into my extensive library. Not sure why, really, other than that I was vacillating over which book to do next. Part of me thought that I’d review one of the more difficult Murakami books, and I did want to cover The Bonfire of the Vanities, but Droid’s just started reading it. However, in the end, Kingsley Amis’ debut novel, Lucky Jim, was looking at me on the shelf, and the choice was just obvious.  Read More…

Jarv’s Favourite Books: Quite Ugly One Morning by Christopher Brookmyre


The mid 1990’s were a funny time in Britain. On one hand, Britpop was still running strong, Trainspotting and the Full Monty showed that we did actually have a film industry, the country was in economic good health, and, really, everything seemed to be pretty rosy. However, on the other hand, things were not as great as they appeared to be. Maybe it was because I was young and naive, but it struck me that if the country was really in as great shape as it seemed to be, then why were the papers full of corruption, incompetence and loathsome behaviour from our ruling classes? Whether it was Aitken or Archer going down for perjury, or Hamilton taking cash-for-questions, it didn’t matter as the lasting impression I have of the time was that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was a country run by asset-stripping bondage fetishists who would sell their mother to the glue factory for a couple of quid. At the time this sense of je ne sais quoi that permeated through the nation really did leave an uncomfortable feeling and if I had to put my finger on the feeling it’s that we were pig fucking sick of the Tory bastards, Thatcherism and the rest of it and we felt confident enough to try to rebuild the country. We were wrong, in hindsight (fuck you New Labour), but there was a fragile optimism coupled with a belligerent sense of celebration (have a look at Tony Blair’s inauguration in 1997 if you don’t believe me- oh, and America, I hate to break this to you, but Barack Obama= Tony Blair in a different tie). Things, this time, really were going to be better.

There were a handful of writers at the time that attempted to catch this feeling, who despised the right wing of this country and wanted to set it all to rights. Christopher Brookmyre was one of them. Read More…

Jarv’s Favourite Books: King Rat by James Clavell

It’s time for me to have a look back through the extensive book collection I’ve got at home and pick out another one of my favourite novels. James Clavell’s King Rat is a book I discovered in my teens, having read my way through the potboilers Shogun and Tai Pan. Both of these books are great fun, Shogun in particular, but reek of airport fiction- they’re the kind of weighty piece of trash that you’d read on the beach somewhere and on return home forget forever. Nevertheless, Clavell penned an entire Asian saga (this is some undertaking, frankly) and both of the aforementioned pieces of enjoyable trash followed distinct and defining events in the Far East. Shogun featured the rise of Toranaga, in 17th Century Japan, and Tai Pan was about the Opium Wars and the foundation of Hong Kong. King Rat, despite being the first book he wrote, is the fourth novel in the series (I’ve not read Gai Jin for some reason) and is a heavily fictionalised account of Clavell’s own time in Changi prisoner of war camp, and is, I believe, vastly superior to the hugely overrated Empire of the Sun (I really don’t like Ballard), which deals with a similar story.  Read More…

Jarv’s Favourite Books: The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

Iain Banks is, quite frankly, a phenomenon. He turns out roughly a book a year either under the name Iain M. Banks for his science fiction Culture novels (including Consider Phlebas) or sans initial. The books he writes without the initial tend to be more serious “proper” fiction and not genre work, although many of them do tend to dabble in the realms of fantasy and science fiction rather than a more traditionally literary theme. The Wasp Factory was his debut novel, and I still think it’s arguably his best work- it’s certainly the least forgettable novel that he’s written. Read More…

Jarv’s Favourite Books. Number 4 Abarat- by Clive Barker

I’ve really got to stop numbering this series, because it gives the wholly erroneous perception that I’ve thought about order of preference regarding these books. I haven’t, rather I’m just penning these reviews in the order that they occur to me. Abarat, for example, is nowhere near number 4. Don’t get me wrong, it is excellent and a wonderful introduction to a truly compelling series, but number 4? That’s ludicrously high.  The real reason that I’ve picked it is that the first 3 novels I chose were all more, well, realistic, whereas Abarat is not only a Children’s book, but also a pure fantasy novel. I really like this book, partially because of the depth of imagery in it, partially because of the coherent and well thought out mythology, but mostly  because it’s damned scary for a kiddies novel, with many a passage that sends a shiver down my spine even as an adult.  Read More…

Jarv’s Favourite Books. Number 3: Adios Muchachos by Daniel Chavarria

That’s enough of the highbrow novel reviews for a while. Anyone that sees the bookshelf at Casa Del Jarv can easily spot a vast contradiction. On one hand there are works such as The Incredible Lightness of Being, or Kafka, and then bang next to it is some gloriously seedy piece of trash like Eric Van Lustbader’s Ninja. I read pretty omnivorously, and as such there’s no real genre that I stick to. With that minor apology, it’s time to review one of the most gleefully trashy novels that I’ve ever read: Adios Muchachos.

Read More…

Jarv’s Favourite Books. Number 2: Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh

Decline and Fall has played a large part in my life. Not my actual decline and fall, obviously, as I don’t think I have declined in any way other than physically, intellectually, and morally since I was 18 and I certainly haven’t actually fallen yet, but the book itself. Read More…

Jarv’s Favourite Books. Number 1: South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami

To be absolutely honest, some of my favourite reviews/ articles that we do on here are the ones where we step slightly outside cinema and discuss other things. In particular, I’ve always really enjoyed Xi’s excellent book reviews, and I’ve thrown in a few thoughts of my own (usually on return from holiday). However, I’ve always held off reviewing books in full (honourable exception to I, Lucifer) as I find it more of a struggle to write outside my comfort zone. Furthermore, there’s something very personal about novel preferences- one of the first things I always did when hooking up when I was younger was inspect any books that she may have had, not to the extent of the main character in the Rachel Papers, because that’s just creepy and such psuedo poseur behaviour rankles with me, but I have always believed that a persons taste in literature informs about their character. It’s subconscious of me, and I do have to say massively hypocritical given that I read omnivorously and my bookshelf is a mix of the stupendously high-brow and the staggeringly low brow, and I’ve read all of them and it’s disconcerting to see the likes of Ulysses resting up against Secret Diary of a Call Girl (Mrs. Jarv’s, honest). So, with some reluctance, I’ve now decided to run a review series on some of my favourite novels, and I’ll go into why in a second. Read More…