Category Archives: Reviews

What I’ve been reading lately, part 14


As we all now know, Robert Galbraith is the detective-novel pseudonym of J. K. Rowling. I read Career of Evil, the third book in the Cormoran Strike series, not because I wanted to read Rowling particularly, but because the book is heavily influenced by the songs of Blue Öyster Cult — a band that I love.


But I got more than I bargained for. Rowling-as-Galbraith is a compelling author: not a much better prose stylist than Rowling-as-Rowling, but with the same knack for narrative that makes you want to read on. Continue reading

Paul Simon: Still Crazy After All These Years (1975)

After 1973’s uncharacteristically upbeat There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, Paul Simon’s next release was the enjoyable but inessential single live album Live Rhymin’ (1974). But his subsequent studio album stands among his very best work — an anthology of ten very different songs that nevertheless cohere around Simon’s underlying theme: a growing concern that, at the age of 34, he had passed his creative peak, couldn’t successfully settle in a relationship, and had tied himself into decisions that he might now make differently.

As I write this at age 46, Simon has just released Stranger to Stranger at age 74. The idea that he was once 34 seems impossibly distant; and the idea that he could have worried then about being past his prime nothing short of absurd. Yet that concern, treated in Simon’s distinctively whimsical and self-deprecatory manner, gave rise to a masterpiece.

Paul Simon - Still Crazy After All These Years - Front
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What I’ve been listening to in 2015

Here is my now-traditional top-ten list of the albums I’ve listened to the most in the previous calendar year. (See this list of previous entries.) Also in accordance with tradition, it’s ridiculously late.


I listen much more to whole albums than to individual tracks, so each year I pick the ten albums that I listened to the most (not counting compilations), as recorded on the two computers where I listen to most of my music. (So these counts don’t include listening in the car or on my phone.) I limit the selection to no more than one album per artist, and skip albums that have featured in previous years. Then from each of those ten objectively selected albums, I subjectively pick one song that I feel is representative.

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What I’ve been reading lately, part 13


Can’t remember too much about this one: I seem to remember it involves the decline of journalism and the transformation of newspapers into advert mills, but that’s just the backdrop. The actual plot has slipped away since I read it. I do remember that I enjoyed it, though, so make of that what you will. Continue reading

What I’ve been reading lately, part 12

[See also previous and subsequent posts in this series.]


Ridiculously, I can’t remember a single thing about this one.


A pleasant but unremarkable take of three mismatched young-adult brothers who put aside their differences to gain revenge on a father who they feel has let them down. I have the sequel on my Kindle (having downloaded both when they were temporary freebies) but don’t have much inclination to read it. I probably will do eventually. Continue reading

What I’ve been reading lately, part 11

[See also previous and subsequent posts in this series.]


By this stage, if you’ve been following the “What I’ve been reading lately” series, you’ll know what I think about Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels by now. I think they’re great fun, very easy reading, and nowhere near as deep as some critics seem to think. Making Money very much falls under this description. I thoroughly enjoyed it the first time I read it, thoroughly enjoyed it when I re-read it this time, and no doubt will thoroughly enjoy it again the next time I read it. But let’s not pretend Pratchett ever had anything very deep to say, beyond “Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was nice?

Orthodoxy — G. K. Chesterton


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What I’ve been reading lately, part 10

[See also previous and subsequent posts in this series.]

I have got far, far out of date with this blogging thread: I’ve read 49 books that I’ve yet to write about here, so I’ve forgotten much of the detail of the older ones and I’m going to be terse about many of them. Never mind, off we go:


Night Watch — Terry Pratchett

And enjoyable installment in the Sam Vimes sequence: thrust back in time to when he first joined the Night Watch, he unwittingly becomes his own mentor. Lots more going on here, including an incipient revolution in Ankh Morpork, and Reg Shoe’s origin story. Continue reading