Monthly ArchiveOctober 2005

Fiction 23 Oct 2005 12:04

Death and the Penguin

coverDeath and the Penguin
Andrey Kurkov

I was attracted to this books because of an interview with the author in Radio National’s Books and Writing. It’s such an absurd type of humour that you almost expect to see “Douglas Adams” in the cover, but no: it is, apparently, a fine example of modern Russian (well, Ukrainian) humour.

The main character is a frustrated and depressed writer who lives with a similarly depressed imperial penguin, which he adopted from Kiev’s zoo because they couldn’t maintain it. The penguin is depressed because he’s lonely, and the weather in Kiev doesn’t really suit him, especially in the summer. The writer, because he can’t find a way to write the Great Ukrainian Novel (or even a novella).

The situation changes when he’s hired by the local newspaper to write obituaries; he is tasked with writing literary pieces about important people who are still alive, to be published when they die. All goes well until they do start dying and the penguin gets invited to the funerals.

It starts a little slow, but it escalates very quickly and very absurdly, and it’s amazingly funny. The ending is excelent, and I’ll certainly be looking for more books by this author.

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Non-fiction 16 Oct 2005 18:05

A Man on the Moon

coverA Man on the Moon
Andrew Chaikin

Reading this book, I realized how much I did not know about the Apollo program.

Based on hundreds of hours of interviews with all of the original astronauts and their support team, this is an incredibly detailed recounting of the adventure that took 12 men to the surface of the Moon. It tells everything, from the training and preparation, to the complicated process of selecting who would fly on each mission, to the actual flight and exploration.

It’s not a book full of scientific or technical data; it’s about history, not numbers. Still, it goes to an impressive level of detail, and you finish the book hoping that there would be more. It takes you to the moon with the astronauts and brings you back safely.

This book was the basis for the HBO series “From The Earth To The Moon”, and the recent editions include a foreword by Tom Hanks. For those interested in the history of space exploration, this is an indispensable resource.

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