My name is Max Cairnduff, and this is my blog. This is essentially a literary blog, I write up every book I read, whether I liked it or not, and share some thoughts on it. I read a mixture of literary fiction (particularly in translation), crime (mostly noir and hardboiled), science fiction and the occasional bit of history or reportage.

I have other interests of course, mostly cultural though. I love film, theatre, games (computer games, rpgs, board games, games generally), music (jazz, early blues, dubstep, electronic, hip-hop, pop, but like most people with a strong interest in music I listen to a wide range of stuff), some TV programmes (stuff like The Shield, Being Human, Heimat, Treme), I just have more to say about books so that’s what I blog.

Review policy

I’ve been offered books for review on occasion by publishers, as have many other book bloggers. That means it’s probably worth having a review policy. On reflection, mine is very simple, I don’t intend to review books provided to me by publishers.

That’s not because I see anything wrong with reviewing publisher-provided books, I don’t. It’s because my reading time is limited, and I enjoy following my enthusiasms and passions as they take me. I’d hate to feel beholden to read a book, and I don’t think if I did feel that I’d do a fair job by the author anyway.

That said, I do appreciate the offers I’ve had and I wish the publishers and authors concerned every success.

24 responses to “About

  1. I’ve been thinking about dreaming up a review policy too or even a collaborative independent blogger’s manifesto if anyone else is interested.

  2. I’ve done a review policy – when I received some books for review. BUT I actually asked for them as they were the University of Sydney’s Australian Classics Library and that is RIGHT UP MY ALLEY but I have rejected a couple of offers/requests that have come in since from others for the same reason as you Max. I hate it when people thrust books on me. Some people I know have to look for the next book to read but that’s not me – or many of us – is it?

    BTW Your idea is an interesting one Guy. You might like to start by looking at some out there. I’ve done one.

  3. I’ll take a look at yours, Gummie. I haven’t had one because I didn’t even think about it, but after reading Max’s well perhaps it’s a good idea.

  4. If you want to utilise e-mail w/o displaying an address, there’s an option.

    write some preamble i.e for e-mail:


    At least it works for me.

  5. Dear Max,
    Thank you so much for your blog… I just love it and it is very enlightening…. I wish you all the best. Karam

  6. I think I need to consider my review policy carefully in the light of yours – I’m getting a bit fed up with receiving so many books, but on the other hand some are gems. A dilemma I think

  7. Yes, I agree it is Tom. So far, besides the very occasional offer via my blog, I have managed to develop relationships with about three publishers who send me their newsletters and are happy for me to request what I would like to review. I am very abstemious in doing so because I have so much I want to read. I do not want to receive unsolicited books.

  8. John

    Hi Max, happened to catch your comment on the late great Clifford D Simak on the Guardian site. You’re not the only one who thinks very highly of this science fiction writer. When I began reading SF he was the first author I truly admired, a unique voice in the genre.

  9. Hi John,

    I’m delighted he’s remembered. I read a lot of Simak back in the day, and I remain very fond of him. He had a tremendous humanity to his writing and while it’s gone out of fashion I don’t think that’s the same thing as being dated. It’s not as if he was writing hard sf after all, which can sometimes date quite badly (even though that’s mostly what I now read on the SF front).

    If you’ve not read Wilson Tucker I do recommend him, another SF writer of that period who is getting a little forgotten but absolutely deserves to be remembered.

  10. Hi Max 🙂 I love your blog – starting from the name ‘Pechorin’s Journal’ 🙂 I love Mikhail Lermontov’s ‘A Hero of Our Time’, especially for its beautiful description of the Caucasian mountains (Georgia is so beautiful!) and so it was wonderful to know that your blog is named after the novel’s hero. I also love the fact that you love Chinese literature – not just the variety written by Chinese expats and dissidents, but also the ones which Chinese themselves read – like ‘Outlaws of the Marsh’ (I don’t know anyone outside China even mentioning this), ‘Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio’ and ‘Six Records of a Floating Life’. It made me quite happy and excited to just see those titles in the comments section of one of your posts 🙂 Looking forward to exploring your blog 🙂

  11. Vishy,

    If you love Lermontov you’ve come at a good time. Emma of bookaroundthecorner and Caroline of Beautyisasleepingcat are currently about to both read A Hero of Our Time and write up their thoughts.

    Also, and I can’t recommend this too highly, Guy Savage of His Futile Preoccupations has several posts about Lermontov and A Hero all of which are well worth reading.

    Otherwise thank you for the kind words. There is a wealth of fascinating Chinese literature, classic and modern. I admit my interest originally came from rather cheesy TV series like Monkey and in fact Outlaws, which inspired me to read Journey to the West and Water Margin (which I haven’t read in full actually, I should return to it). I’ve not yet read Romance of the Three Kingdoms or Dream of the Red Chamber, but clearly I need to do so.

    Strange Tales is tremendous, though it’ll be ages before I finish it and write it up. Still, delightful stuff. I saw a scholar’s house while in China, preserved in a garden. Having done so really helps bring the Tales to life.

    Anyway, all comments welcome and thanks for popping by.

  12. HI Max

    Just a note to apologise for my sudden departure from the book blogging scene. I intend to relaunch my site in due course focusing on just a few favourite authors – based on some of my more indepth reviews.

    I thank you for your frequent comments on my book reviews which were always much appreciated. I’ll keep dropping in to Pechorin’s Journal to see what you’re up to here and to get ideas for new books to read – something I’ve often found here in the past

    best, Tom

  13. Hi Tom,

    Life of course has to come first, so there’s certainly no need to apologise. I’ll miss your blog though, I’ve discovered a few books through it and had good conversations. Please do let me know when you relaunch, and good luck with the music and painting.

  14. I saw. Shame I went on in the comments to call Alan Hollinghurst Hollingsworth. Ironically I’ve since noticed it may have been an autocorrect error, because the same thing happened to me when trying to write a tweet about it. No way of knowing now, and to be fair I do routinely get people’s names wrong in real life so it wouldn’t be a huge stretch for me to do it online. Annoying though given that I have two of his novels, both of which I’ve read, literally opposite me as I type this. So it goes.

    Still, always good to get cited. Hopefully some new readers will find the blog and like it enough to stay.

  15. I’ve had a thoroughly enjoyable morning, going through your blog. The name attracted me – I quite adore Lermontov, especially his poetry (The Sail is one of my favourite poems).

  16. That’s very kind. I’m glad you found some stuff of interest. If you’re a Lermontov fan though you should follow the link at the side to the blog His Futile Preoccupations. Apart from generally being an excellent blog, Guy there has written a good few reviews of Russian literature and has written quite a bit on Lermontov, which I think you’d find fascinating.

  17. Mij Woodward

    Hello Max. Like your book blog. I look forward to your review of the Luminaries, as I know I will never read it. Too many pages, and also one reviewer said it was sort of Dickensian and I am probably the only reader in the world who does not enjoy reading Charles Dickens. I notice you enjoy Colm Toibin. You probably are aware that he has a new book coming out in October–Nora Webster.

  18. Mij Woodward

    Forgot to mention, Max–Have you ever played Carcassonne? My husband and I are addicted, as well as to Ticket to Ride.

  19. Hi Mij,

    Thanks for the comments. The Luminaries is great, but it is big and the first half is at times (and intentionally I think) a slog. I’ve reviewed Catton’s The Rehearsals here though already which may interest you if you’ve not read it.

    You’re not alone on Dickens by the way. I think he’s a massively overrated writer.

    I do enjoy Toibin, and I didn’t know about Nora Webster. Thanks for the heads-up!

    And yes, I have played Carcassone. Great game. Haven’t played Ticket to Ride yet. Pandemic is probably our go-to board game at the moment, there’s a very good ipad port of it too which helps for portability.

  20. Glad to have found your thoughtful blog Max. I look forward to lots of reading here. Regards from Thom at the immortal jukebox (drop a nickel!)

  21. Thanks Thom, and sorry for the appallingly slow reply – some comment alerts got lost in my email inbox while I was away on holiday.

  22. Hello Max,
    I admire and commend your interest in Antal Szerb. I wonder if I could tempt you to compare “Traveler and the Moonlight” to “Journey by Moonlight”? In the links below and in the book’s “Translator’s Note, you’ll find out why I translated the original “Utas es holdvilag” [lit. Traveler and the Moonlight” and not “Journey”] by Antal Szerb in 1988, and why I kept retranslating it through five editions. The “Translator’s Note to the Special 70th Edition” will also tell you why I paid to have the translations published. Unfortunately, you will be finding out something quite shocking about how the original Antal Szerb classic was translated by Mr. Len Rix & Co. Because, you see, the teeth of justice may grind slowly but eventually they’ll bite you in the ass. In the final analysis, it will be the courts and not “Old Boys” or old blogs that will decide about which translation is authentic and which is a forgery — and it will be readers and time that will decide which translation is a classic.


    Peter Hargitai

  23. Thank you Peter. I shall do so, though it may be a little while. Translations as I’m sure you know are tricky beasts, it may be that one is more faithful and yet another more enjoyable to a particular reader. Adherence to the spirit may war with adherence to the actual language. That’s why it’s good to have competing translations, at least in part.

    I’ve reviewed a reasonable amount of Hungarian fiction here. It’s underappreciated in English as a body of work but is quite clearly world class literature.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s