Art Kavanagh

Talk about books: a newsletter about things I’ve read

I just got a very battered but complete and readable paperback copy of Andrew Taylor’s 1988 spy novel, Blacklist, in the post. I would have settled for the ebook but it’s not available from Apple, I don’t ever use Kindle/Amazon now, and I couldn’t get Kobo to take my money. 📖

Blacklist back cover Blacklist front cover

Here’s a concert I’d love to have got to. The first time I saw the Brad Mehldau Trio was in the Barbican in Feb 2006. The sound/mix was dreadful until the encore. I heard part of it on Radio 3 later and it sounded so much better. I hope it won’t be long till next time 🎶 🎹

Hey, I seem to be able to access Substack with Safari again. I’ve no idea what’s changed; can’t help feeling that it probably won’t last. Now to see if I can use Google too. It’ll be like old times.

Can’t help wondering if a data goldmine is actually useful for any purpose and if so for what? How TikTok is turning a generation of video addicts into a data goldmine — John Naughton

I’ve just started to read Robin Sloan’s 2009 novella, Annabel Scheme, which I downloaded free from his site about 2 years ago but hadn’t got around to reading till now. Enjoying it so far, I think 📚

I found the first series of Westworld very disappointing and didn’t watch any more, only to be told later that it had got a lot better and I was missing out. It seems that not everyone agrees. Joel Golby asks how the most glorious show on tv became the biggest mess 📺

I suspect there are going to be plenty of Republican legislators in GOP-controlled states thinking “Oh shit, we got what we were asking for.” The Supreme Court has just split their voters.

Another look at why I reacted so adversely to le Carré’s Smiley’s People on first reading. “A preferable technique to bribery”: The nature of coercion in Smiley’s People 📚

You gotta be cruel to be kind

Wayne Robins, Nick Lowe’s quality rock and roll revue 🎶

I’ve read Lucy Foley, The Guest List 📚 and added a brief comment to my bookshelf page: Highly entertaining but very contrived plot. The identity of the murder victim is revealed only near the end of the story — but comes as absolutely no surprise …

He added some Verbaluce™ to the drip, and soon I was feeling the same things but saying them better.

Verbaluce™ sounds just what I need. Will it be coming to market soon? George Saunders’s short story, “Escape from Spiderhead

Long but mostly interesting piece from Hamish McKenzie explains (among much else) why Substack took VC funding: Escape from Hell World.

The current issue of my email newsletter, Talk about books, discusses Kate Atkinson’s spy novel, Transcription (2018), a book I enjoyed even more on rereading than I did first time around: A fabulist’s adventure: Kate Atkinson, Transcription 📖

A fabulist’s adventure: Kate Atkinson, Transcription

A fabulist’s adventure: Kate Atkinson, Transcription As she lies dying on the street outside the Wigmore Hall, having been hit by a car, Juliet Armstrong’s thoughts are all with her son, Matteo, and what she’d like to say to him: Tell him that nothing mattered and that that was a freedom, not a burden. (p. 327) It’s an untruth, though a comforting, if potentially dangerous, one. Does Juliet believe it herself?

The novel … has a million jobs to choose from, and each individual novel can pick what fits.

It shouldn’t need saying but it apparently needs regular repetition. Countercraft

I renewed the domain name registration of “” for a second year a few days ago, so I suppose I must be taking this newsletter thing seriously.

I’m rereading Kate Atkinson, Transcription, which I first read in about August 2020. I’m surprised at how much I had forgotten of the spy fiction plot, though I’ve enjoyed the book a lot both times. For the next issue of my newsletter 📚

I’ve been enjoying bassist Thomas Fonnesbaek’s 🎶 recordings with Enrico Pieranunzi 🎹 but have just realized that I probably saw him live about 5 years ago. I went to see Justin Kauflin in the the Kevin Barry Room at the NCH, without knowing who was in his trio, and was very pleasantly surprised when Morten Lund walked onstage and sat at the drums. I didn’t pay any attention to who was playing bass but now think it must have been Fonnesbaek. It was an excellent concert anyway.

Last year, I tried to cancel my Irish Times subscription but they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: a year at half price, just €6 a month. If they’re going to mess with my browser preferences, though, I’m really leaving this time, once that year is up 😡

I like the Irish Times website redesign. But how long is it going to keep nagging me to enable notifications? Shouldn’t there be a checkbox labeled “Don’t ask me this again”?

Sorry to see the return of MagSafe on the MacBook Air: it’s not a major irritant in itself but it suggests that Apple is focused more on eye-catching gimmicks than useful improvements. And I’ve always been fond of the Air’s distinctive tapered design. Tant pis 🤷‍♂️

The most recent issue of Talk about books is longer than usual and a few days late. It’s about the last two books (the 5th and 6th) in Tana French’s series set in and around the Dublin Murder Squad: Daughters and fathers: Tana French, The Secret Place and The Trespasser 📖

Daughters and fathers: Tana French, The Secret Place and The Trespasser

Daughters and fathers: Tana French, The Secret Place and The Trespasser This will be the last of four posts about Tana French’s series of novels set in and around the Dublin Murder Squad. I wrote separately about the first two novels in January and February 2021 and about the third and fourth together in March of this year. I considered discussing the third and fifth books in a single post, since The Secret Place (2014) and Faithful Place (2010) have several characters in common and are at least as closely linked as any other two novels in the series.

This time, it worked. I don’t know what’s going on.

Now I can’t sign in to The Guardian (which insists on a sign-in before it will let me read anything). I don’t want to stop using Safari (the only browser I know of that will allow me to use separate windows instead of tabs) but this is getting beyond a joke 😡