What We're Reading 

Hidden gems, hot favourites, slow burners and the odd guest columnist.

September 2015

 - Wednesday, September 02, 2015
Jack: Der Klang Der Familie: Berlin, Techno and the Fall of the Wall—The sound of a city in transition; a new generation of Berliners fleeing the ghosts of Sally Bowles and George Smiley at 180 beats per minute: It was basically pure coincidence. This new, raw, stark machine music appeared—and then the Wall came down. In East Berlin, the administration collapsed; the former GDR capital became a 'temporary autonomous zone'. Suddenly, there were all these spaces to discover: a panzer chamber in the dusty no man’s land of the former death strip, a World War II bunker, a decommissioned soap factory on the Spree, a transformer station opposite the erstwhile Reich Ministry of Aviation. People were dancing at all these sites rejected by recent history, to a music virtually reinvented from week to week. The 'sound of family' is all fascinating rhythm; a vital social, pop and oral history as told by DJ's, producers, promoters and club-owners—or as one scenester comments: total amusement sans regret.

John: After promising our editor a few words for a few months and breaking her heart, by breaking my promise, I have finally put fingers to keyboard. So a thriller from me this month—Memory Man by David Baldacci. Baldacci's latest offering is the first book featuring an unlikely hero Amos Decker. Decker is a small town detective whose life has fallen apart after his family was brutally murdered, years earlier. Amos is the 'memory man' because he cannot forget anything. Even the smallest details of daily life are permanently etched in his memory as are the events he would rather forget. A mass killing at the local high school sees Amos drawn back to assist the police after years of scratching out a living as a PI. It's predictable but nicely done. A great book for the long plane or train trip or a weekend at the beach.

Andrew: The long story, or novella—I don't care what you want to call it—has always been a favourite length of mine for fiction. Too too often a really fantastic prose stylist loses their way operating all the machinery required of a novel. Adam Johnson's The Orphan Master's Son was a complete revelation to me last year; a fantastical, riveting novel of contemporary North Korea that was operatic in its beauty. It was mostly mostly mostly brilliant (I really don't want to put you off it), but yep, like a lot of opera, I did get a bit wriggly in my seat about half way through the second act. Fortune Smiles, however, is an absolute knockout. Comprising six long-form stories, they all have a heft and profundity and a dark humour without any of the drag. The standout story is one of a man with tendencies towards paedophilia caring for a pair of young girls in his neighbourhood.