Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Rust Is A Form Of Fire by Joe Fiorito / Headstrong by Patrick Link / Secrets Of Islay by Robert Kroeger

Rust Is A Form Of FireRust Is A Form Of Fire by Joe Fiorito
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of my Top Ten Books of 2015 and one of my WorldReads from Canada

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I admit that I wasn't certain what to expect from Rust Is A Form Of Fire. I received an advance copy from the publisher, Guernica Editions, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review, and chose the book mostly for its wonderfully weird title. This review is my second for Sophie and Suze's NetGalley Challenge.

Inside, Joe Fiorito has compiled a series of notes and sentences that recorded his 18 hours of observing random people passing a Toronto street corner. It sounds like a bizarre premise for a book, but I thought that it worked beautifully and I thoroughly enjoyed reading every word. The prose itself is practically poetry, indeed Fiorito mentions this in his introduction.

The people of Toronto appear very much as the people of any major city so it was easy to imagine myself into Fiorito's shoes. However, there were also expressions that I didn't understand - backhoe, 'do rag - and elements such as the regularly passing street cars which reminded me that this was not my city. I would love to see the five figure sculpture for which the book is titled. There is a gentle thread of humour running through the observations, mainly due to the repetitive and mimicking nature of people. Do we really all wear such a limited range of clothing and shoes? Is our ebb and flow so predictable? Does everyone in a city buy takeout coffee?

I would love to recommend Rust Is A Form Of Fire to anyone who enjoys contemporary poetry, impressions of travel or the ever popular pastime of people-watching. Especially to the people-watchers!


HeadstrongHeadstrong by Patrick Link
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Buy the audiobook download from Audible via Amazon.co.uk

My recent NetGalley download, Dresden, unexpectedly opened itself on my Kindle Fire using the Overdrive app which I haven't needed to use for months. This was fortunate because I discovered two unlistened-to audio books, left over from the 2014 AudioSYNC season. Headstrong was one of this pair.

Not a book as such, but a full cast recording of a short play, Headstrong by Patrick Link examines the phenomenon of high numbers of brain damage cases among men who play American Football. Its small cast of four characters manage between them to convincingly portray both the compelling arguments for change towards a safer sport, and the counter-arguments that the existing spectacle is more important to the game than the health of its players. I liked the Beowulf analogy, particularly as I am planning to revisit that saga soon, that Beowulf would not have become a popular hero had he not confronted danger, countered with his awareness of said danger being the salient point to argue.

The characters in Headstrong are all excellent and I found it easy to picture each one as they spoke and to understand why they behaved as they did. The sadness at the waste of lives is poignant and, despite knowing pretty much nothing about American Football, I felt angry on behalf of the affected players and their families.

The play is followed by an interview with an 'expert' which is interesting although does seem oddly over-rehearsed. I found it amazing that CTE brain damage was first being discussed thirty years ago, but was hushed up and ignored and it has taken so much negative publicity surrounding the problems of affected players to force the NFL to implement changes. As such Headstrong is an important and accessible play which I hope reaches a wide audience worldwide.


The Secrets of Islay - Golf, Marathons and Single MaltThe Secrets of Islay - Golf, Marathons and Single Malt by Robert Kroeger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of my Top Ten Books for IndiePrideDay 2016.

Buy the book from Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Waterstones
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

I was lucky to be informed of a limited time opportunity to download a free copy of Secrets Of Islay by Robert Kroeger through the Goodreads group Read Scotland 2015 Challenge. This book is already my fourth towards my goal of eight reads for the Challenge and it's only February. I may need to rise to a higher level!

I didn't realise that Secrets Of Islay was a factual book when I downloaded it. It recounts the efforts of one man to organise two linked sporting events on Islay, a golf tournament and a marathon race, and in the process to discover the truth of life while tasting a lot of drams of good whisky. I know nothing about golf, other than how to snigger at the clothing, and have never been a whisky drinker unless it was in a Whisky Mac (whisky mixed with ginger wine) which I'm sure would horrify the purists. However, I do like to consider myself a runner so hoped to at least understand the marathon part of the tale.

Kroeger manages to interestingly include a lot of Islay history within his pages and I enjoyed learning about past events that have shaped the island's people. Most of this information is imparted using the device of direct speech with Kroeger apparently reporting extensive monologues word for word. However, all the speakers have exactly the same style of rehearsed 'talk show' speech with no individualism. I did find this disconcerting at first. I appreciated the addition of clear colour photographs throughout the book. I haven't seen that in an ebook before and it is a nice touch.

Secrets Of Islay is quietly inspirational. It doesn't shout like an improvement manual, but has a strong message of getting off thou bum in order to make the most of life. The quotes and poems at the start of each chapter are well chosen, indeed the first, Warning by Jenny Joseph, was a favourite quote of my Mum's. Sadly she didn't live long enough to wear purple. I will almost definitely not take up golf as a result of this book, but I have been encouraged to make more effort with my running and I would like to visit the beautiful Islay one day, maybe even to cheer on the marathon runners!


View all my reviews on Stephanie Jane or on Goodreads

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