Microviews Vol. 24: Woody Guthrie In Space

on Friday, March 1, 2013
The Man Who Watched The Trains Go By by Georges Simenon
Remember that film Falling Down where everyman worker bee Michael Douglas has the meltdown to end all meltdowns? Well this is the stylised French version from the 1950s, complete with sex, murder and occasional good manners. A mesmerising portrayal of a man's descent into his own personal hell (not to be confused with Paris).
4 out of 5 Catherine Zeta-Joneses

Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra
I'm generally a sucker for novels about the Pinochet era, but this quiet, warm novella by Zambra lacks the emotional kick in the guts I crave from works of its kind. Questions of complicity versus complacency play out in this reflection on a thoroughly misunderstood childhood crush. A good, but vaguely unsatisfying, piece.
3 out of 5 Military Coups

House of Earth by Woody Guthrie
This recently discovered novel by folk hero, champion of the downtrodden and troubadour extraordinaire, Guthrie is pretty much exactly what you would expect. A lyrical, though not wholly successful, hymn to those who scraped at the bottom of the dustbowl. Life takes swipe after swipe at a proud share-cropping couple whose only dream is to buy a small piece of land on which to build an adobe home. Think a less accomplished Steinbeck or Sinclair, with the added bonus of long descriptions of the protagonist's penis and you'll have some idea of what you're in for.
3.5 out of 5 Rolls In The Hay

The Explorer by James Smythe
Five astronauts on a mission to go further into space than anyone has ever gone before. Path to glory or suicide mission? From the outset it is clear that there is something very wrong here. No need for HAL. The humans are dangerous enough. The Explorer is a slow burn of a novel, with some straggeringly smart twists. Get on it and rejoice, fellow nerds!
4 out of 5 Space Odysseys

Tenth of December by George Saunders
Maybe I'm just too thick to get it, but I don't see what all the fuss is about. Saunders is a fine writer and there are flashes of brilliance in his latest collection of short stories (Home and Escape From Spiderhead spring to mind), but taken as a whole it doesn't add up to much. Disjointed po-mo posturing that flits a feather across the toes of the self-involved literati set while leaving the rest of us out in the cold. You may now line up to take shots at me.
2.5 out of 5 Infinite Jests


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