Politician’s Funeral Pyre

The Sympathizer
Viet Thanh Nguyen
Grove Press
November 2015

the_sympathizerThe Vietnam War, it will be no news to anyone, has had considerable impact on world history, both as a national tragedy for Vietnam and in its global cultural impacts.  It sparked a mass movement of people around and out of Vietnam and the rest of Indochina.  The song I’ve posted above is apparently about this migration.  I couldn’t find any English translation of the lyrics and sadly do not know any useful Vietnamese.  The Sympathiser follows the story of a migrant, the Captain, who journeys to the US as a refugee and sleeper agent for the Viet Cong.

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They Smoke Cigarettes and Play with Bombs

João Cerqueira, trans. Karen Bennett and Chris Mingay
River Grove Books

the-tragedy-of-fidel-castro_joc3a3o-cerqueira1The Tragedy of Fidel Castro is an entertaining jaunt into political and religious irreverence.  Communism, capitalism and Catholicism all get a heart lashing as God intervenes, at the beck of Fàtima, in a war between Fidel Castro and JFK.  In the meanwhile, the nature of politics, humanity and religion are also given for the reader to consider.

I’m sad to confess that I did not really get a lot of the humour in the book.  I’m not sure if this is because the nature of humour I enjoy is just different to that present in this book; whether it’s a difference in Portuguese and Spanish humour as compared to humour in the Anglosphere.  Or perhaps it’s just a few of the references I miss, with my relative ignorance of matters concerning post-Bay of Bigs relations between Cuba and the United States.

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Diligence and Frugality


Yan Lianke (Text, 2015) ISBN: 9781922184487, RRP AU$29.99 The Four books

It’s been a while since I read a book that left me with the single thought, “what the fuck?”  Strange as it might sound, I don’t mean this in a negative way.  It’s good when a book provokes thought about what just happened and what it all means — to an extent.  The Four Books is one such book.  Set in a re-educational camp along the banks of the Yellow River during China’s Cultural Revolution, it certainly inspires the questions, “what did I just read?  What did the author want me to get from this?” in ways that benefit it.  I like the book more now than I did when I finished it, simply by virtue of having given it some consideration.

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Boosterism [pt.2]


Sinclair Lewis (Bantam Classics, ISBN 978-0553214864)

Clayton’s households divide into two genera: proletarian families (and students) who accept Clayton’s wonderful seediness and property-amassing twenty-first-century Babbitts who resent it.

Amongst the latter, Bill Pontikis stands out for his efforts to assemble Clayton’s residents and businesses into a community. As one who has experienced Mr. Pontikis in person – sometimes at distances as little as five feet, I must conclude that rather than acting from any humanitarian motive, he simply wishes to enlarge the opportunities for commercial rapine. Nonetheless, the fact remains that unlike the majority of Clayton’s other petty napoleons, Pontikis has shown himself willing to take a hand in civic life. Continue reading

Clearwater Primeval

A Clockwork Orange
Burgess, Anthony (William Heinemann: UK, ISBN 0434098000)


The Monash Transfer and Recycling Station on Ferntree Gully Road gives you the best chance you’ll ever get to tolchock your property without bothering your conscience.

After paying their veck on the way in, you back your automobile up to the edge of a concrete pit three-feet deep. For as long as you want, they let you throw your stuff down there, watching it fly apart as it hits the ground. Boxes tear apart and CDs fly out through the holes. Electric kettles bounce like skipping stones, trailing their electrical cords. You pitch your microwave up into the air as hard as you can, grunting. For one crystalline moment it hangs in the air, rotating with the door open, before it explodes against the concrete. Continue reading

Boosterism [pt.1]



Lewis, Sinclair (Bantam Classics, ISBN 9780553214864)

Hilary and I both held tenure as delivery drivers at a pizza restaurant on Centre Road called, ‘La Casetta‘. I majored in second-hand smoke inhalation while Hilary pioneered a study into the effects of alcohol on Italians.

The cook used a substance called, ‘Beef Booster’. Like Sinclair Lewis’ boosterist, he knew that you had to have pep, by golly. When the pizza needed more pep he would open a bucket of Beef Booster and heap it on. Continue reading

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