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Weekend read: The post-hope politics of House of Cards

I have enjoyed both series of Netflix‘s remake of House of Cards. I’d argue that the second series was better than the first, but both are better than almost anything else I’ve seen on TV in recent years.

If you, too, enjoyed the series, you’ll likely also enjoy Adam Sternbergh’s discussion of the show, its philosophy, and how it came to be. It was published in the New York Times Magazine. And if you are not already a fan, I’d probably advise watching the first series before reading, as it’s laden with spoilers.



This post is sponsored by House of Cards on Amazon

This 2,258th post was filed under: Weekend Reads, , , , .

Review: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

You may know that The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro won the Booker Prize in 1989. You may know that it remains one of the 20th century's most critically acclaimed novels. You may know that it was adapted into a film starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, nominated for 8 Academy Awards in 1994.

Somehow, all of this passed me by. Indeed, when I downloaded it onto my Kindle, I thought it was a new release. Despite having read several of Ishiguro's novels in the past, my addled brain had (very) wrongly confused him with Haruki Murakami.

Yet even with my warped preconceptions, The Remains of the Day blew me away.

It is absorbing, beautifully composed, moving, and deep. The way this novel subtly drew me in and toyed with my emotions put me in mind of a Shostakovich piano concerto: the music does the work of capturing attention and emotion, and before you know it, without any particular effort or concentration, you are drawn into and beguiled by a whole new world.

The novel is narrated by an elderly butler on a road trip in the 1950s. He reflects on his life, and his strive for professionalism and 'dignity'. The characterisation is so complete that when I think of the narrator, Stevens, I think of a person rather than a character. The Remains of the Day is a novel about the nature of relationships: professional, personal, and, almost existentially, with oneself. It has glittering moments of humour which made me laugh out loud. And it has moments of remarkable tenderness – which are almost painful to read – and moments of morality and politics which provide genuine food for thought.

The composition is wonderful. The narrator is not entirely reliable, and infuses much of his commentary with predictable (possibly professional?) bias, but he also accurately reports speech in a way which allows the reader to fill in the gaps. This is hardly an original device, but it is rarely used to such profoundly devastating effect as in this work.

It is a matter of some fascination to me that so many other readers and reviewers describe this novel as 'sad'. Certainly, it reflects on a life which some might consider unfulfilled, and certainly, the tale of the narrator is heart-breaking. Yet I found the novel itself rather life-affirming. The Remains of the Day caused me to reflect on my own life – as all the best novels do – and to reflect with some satisfaction.

If I were to summarise this book in a single word, it would be: beguiling. I mean that in the more traditional sense of the word, both enchanting and mildly deceptive. Ishiguro does all the heavy-lifting in this book, guiding the reader through Stevens's world and gently signposting his flaws. Each word is chosen so carefully as to turn the prose into poetry. This is a challenging book, but by no means a challenging read.

I cannot recommend The Remains of the Day highly enough.

Remains of the Day is available now from amazon.co.uk in paperback and on Kindle.



With a little help from my friends, this post will also appear on Medium, Goodreads, Amazon and some other places too, shortly after publication here. Recycling is good for the environment, right?

Post sponsored by Amazon

This 2,257th post was filed under: Book Reviews, .

Weekend read: Keep your shirt on Zac – we’d all be better for it

Howard Jacobson’s wonderful Independent article uses a powerful mix of haughtiness, humour and persuasion to react to April’s news that Zac Efron had his shirt ripped off at the MTV Movie Awards.

I think the passage of time has somehow made this article even better – perhaps it is because summer’s approach makes its message more timely. I can’t help but think that the missing comma in the headline is intentional, as a lovely punctuation pun.

Oh, and I should apologise to anyone who was in the same Starbucks as me as I searched the stock photo archive for something to top this post… frankly, I’m surprised Starbucks wifi didn’t block some of those results!



This post is sponsored by Dating Direct

This 2,256th post was filed under: Weekend Reads, , .

Weekend read: Networking for those who hate networking

I’m no fan of “networking”. I’ll happily chat with most people, but during designated “networking” time, it becomes awkward and exhausting. Little fills me with quite as much dread on a meeting or conference agenda as “networking”.

This weekend, I’m recommending an article by Andrea Ayres-Deets article from TheNextWeb on the very topic of networking. She calls it an ‘Introvert’s Guide’, which sort of put me off the article, as I was a bit worried that it would be full of dichotomising pseudoscience. The first part of the article does have a bit of that, but the touch was light enough that it didn’t make me close the article at once.

What I liked about this article was not so much the advice it gave, but rather the way Ayres-Deets injects her own experiences into it. I found it very endearing, but also found it easy to relate to. I accept that this might seem a weird reason to recommend an vaguely ‘self-helpish’ article, which is exactly the sort of thing I normally hate. But, hey, I enjoyed it, and you might too.



Post sponsored by Argos

This 2,255th post was filed under: Weekend Reads, , .


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