Triple Choice Tuesday

Triple Choice Tuesday: Pechorin’s Journal

Triple-Choice-TuesdayWelcome to Triple Choice Tuesday. This is where I ask some of my favourite bloggers and other bookish bods to share the names of three books that mean a lot to them. The idea is that it might raise the profile of certain books and introduce you to new titles and new bloggers.

Today’s guest is Max Cairnduff, who blogs at Pechorin’s Journal.

Max is an energy and infrastructure lawyer living and working in London. As well as having a great love of books, he also has a huge love of music and film, which he tries to fit in along with work, games of various sorts, trips to the theatre and the occasional holiday. Max is also rather fond of cocktails (particularly absinthe-based ones).

He is married with two small cats.

Without further ado, here’s Max’s Triple Choice Tuesday selections:

Madame-Bovary A favourite book: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Flaubert doesn’t need an introduction and nor does Madame Bovary. In a way that’s the problem the book has — long before I read it I felt like I’d already heard everything there was to say about it.
Hearing about it doesn’t prepare you, though, for its sheer brilliance. The quality of the prose is extraordinary. It has tremendous psychological subtlety. It’s pretty much as good as literature gets. I’ve yet to read a better book.
A book that changed my world: The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
I divide my reading largely between literary fiction and crime. Raymond Chandler is both. The opening paragraphs of The Big Sleep are rightly famous and the first time I read them they ignited a love affair between me and hard-boiled fiction, which has continued to this day. With time, that led me to other crime sub-genres such as noir and pulp, but Chandler was the start of it all.
There’s far more depth to Chandler than is often realised, but it’s the attitude and prose that make me love him. “I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it.” Perfect.


Pendragon-Legend A book that deserves a wider audience: The Pendragon Legend by Antal Szerb
I spent a lot of time thinking about this one. I’ve read a lot of books over the past couple of years which cry out for a wider audience. What made me pick The Pendragon Legend was how it matches wit and humanity with some simply wonderful writing. It’s funny, it’s dazzling and it’s clever. Comic novels are difficult to do well but Szerb pulls it off with absolute aplomb.
Szerb was a Hungarian author and I read The Pendragon Legend in translation (by Len Rix). Somehow I hadn’t expected early twentieth-century Hungarian fiction to be this fun and I put off reading this book for ages after I bought it. Don’t make the same mistake I did.

Thanks, Max, for taking part in my Triple Choice Tuesday!

I’ve got a lovely Everyman’s Library edition of Madame Bovary (courtesy of KevinfromCanada) sitting in my TBR. Not read Chandler, although I should rectify it, because I do enjoy a good crime novel. And I’ve now added the Zreb to my wishlist.

What do you think of Max’s choices? Have you read any of these books?

18 thoughts on “Triple Choice Tuesday: Pechorin’s Journal”

  1. I always feel guilty that I don’t like Chandler though I am a huge crime fiction fan. I’ve tried…just can’t do it. When I was younger I thought it was a male/female thing but I’ve met lots of women now who do count him as one of their favourites…just not for me.


  2. We can’t all like everything. Sometimes there’s just no chemistry there. Do you like Hammett by any chance? It may be that you’re into crime, but not the hardboiled stuff.
    The Szerb recommendation I owe ultimately to William of Just William’s Luck incidentally. I already had a copy but his review convinced me to read it. I’ve written it up on mine and I link there to William’s review too.


  3. Great feature, kimbofo, and great choices from Max….
    Am going to browse through previous entries when I get the chance – minor inconveniences like work etc allowing!


  4. Love Chandler and Hammett: I was turned onto them by Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy, which I heard as a post-modern re-imagining of hardboiled crime. I know I should have read them the other way around, Chandler THEN Auster, but there you go…


  5. I know the subject has come up at Max’s blog, but it raises its head here too. There’s crime fiction and then there’s superb crime fiction, and all too often the latter gets heaped into the under-appreciated pile.
    Great choices, Max. But I expected no less.


  6. Madame Bovary is my favorite novel ever written. There is nothing better than the emotional feeling you get when reading a great novel.


  7. bethanne,
    As I said above, I’ve yet to read a better book. If I had to defend the novel as an art form I would point to Madame Bovary.
    Tomcat, have you tried Ross Macdonald? I’ve covered a few of his at mine. I don’t personally hold him as high as those two but others do and being fair I’ve not yet got to the ones he’s best known for (I’m reading him in order).


  8. I’m really going to have to dust my copy off the shelf, aren’t I? And I agree: when you read a great book and it truly resonates with you, it’s a terrific feeling. You want to buy everyone you know a copy, just to spread the love.


  9. All three of these go on my TBR. (Madame Bovary was there, but I keep needing a kick to get to it. Thanks.)
    I have not read any of Chandler’s work. My wife loves crime fiction, so this might be common ground for us.
    The only experience I have had with early 20th century Hungarian fiction (Embers, Sandor Marai) was outstanding. I always value your (Max’s) recommendations, this goes on the list.
    (Kim, great choice this Tuesday. “Same as usual”, while true, would have disguised the awesomeness of both this feature and your selection of guests.)


  10. Max’s choices are an excellent reflection of his (eclectic) breadth of taste.
    And, just to add to the Madame Bovary discussion, if you are planning to read it, I would suggest adding Les Liaisons Dangereuses to the pile as well. The two make an excellent compare-and-contrast enterprise.


  11. Les Liaisons Dangereuses is one of the finest novels I have ever read. I second that recommendation.
    On the Marai front I have The Rebels at home which I hope to read later this year. I also have an epic trilogy by Miklos Banffy, but finding the time for epic trilogies is tricky…


  12. I love the fact that your third selection is one that uses wit. Comic writing, as you say, is hard to do but is such a pleasure when well done. I will look out for this one… Great choices Max with excellent succinct reasons for them. Bravo!


  13. I have to say I’m not much of a Hammett fan either…it’s partly to do with the way women are generally portrayed in those books (if there at all they’re usually of the vamp or victim category). Though to be fair it’s been many years since I’ve tackled any Chandler or Hammett and I’ve mellowed some since then….perhaps I would be able to get past my female outrage now. Overall though I think I prefer my darker crime fiction to be from some of the modern writers like Ken Bruen and George Pelecanos.


  14. I have read Madame Bovary twice and plan to read it again soon.
    I absolutely loved The Big Sleep when I read it last year.
    And the Szerb is already on my shelf, after reading your review.
    PS : Les Liaisons Dangereuses is a masterpiece.


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