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Author | Journalist | Speaker

  • Ken Ilgunas

The banner to my old Blogger blog

This is me launching my new website.

Thirteen years ago I created a blog ("The Spartan Student"), using the ever-clunky Blogger/Blogspot platform. I'd just moved into my van and wanted to share my experiences while also preserving my anonymity. As a budding writer, it was the best choice I ever made. My blog entries (about living in a van, about hitchhiking, and, later, about walking across the Great Plains) would serve as memory receptacles and rough drafts for my first two books.

Useful as it has been, that old blog has been showing its age and Blogger is getting even clunkier to use. I decided it was time to retire my Blogger website and hire a web developer to give my digital persona a facelift (using the Wix platform).

Now that I have a new website, I'm keen on doing some semi-regular posts and starting a ridiculous newsletter, which you can sign up for at numerous places on this site.

Let me conclude by recommending Iowa-based web developer Julie Feirer, who does great work, provides reasonable rates, and is super helpful and friendly. Her website is

  • Ken Ilgunas

Updated: Mar 14

The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch (1978, *audio*) I’m not sure if The Sea, the Sea is a good book. It’s a haphazard, crazy, bonkers book. It felt as if Murdoch was making it up as she was going along. But sometimes a story is worthy if it’s simply an entertaining ride, and The Sea, the Sea may have been my most enjoyable audiobook experience ever. The book is fun and ridiculous and atmospheric. But most of the praise should go to actor Richard Grant for his astounding voice acting performance. If there’s an annual best “narrator” award for audiobook narrators, it ought to have gone to Grant.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (2015) This is a book about an epidemic of memory loss in a post-war Arthurian Britain. I admire Ishiguro for cheekily playing with Arthurian legends—Merlin may have been engaged in dark sorcery; Arthur may have sought peace via brutal means; Sir Gawain wrestles with internal demons from his warring past. The book brought to mind the Rwandan genocide, in which one ethnicity vied against the other. (The Buried Giant is about the aftermath of the Briton-Saxon wars.) Memories breed anger which breeds revenge, and the violent cycle continues. One can imagine how forgetfulness can be a salutary disease under such circumstances, and I like how Ishiguro played with these themes. The “buried giant” — you could say — was simply the memory of the war atrocities that would, if unearthed, wreak havoc on Britain.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (1989) One of my favorite things about this book is how flawed Stevens, a self-denying English butler, is as the narrator. There is something boyish and endearing, if pathetic, about how persistently self-deluding Stevens is. Once you see this as a reader, the reading experience changes, because you can now see through Stevens and begin to tease out the truth for yourself.

Beverly by Nick Drasno (2016) I love Drasno’s two graphic novels, set in Anywhere, USA. The illustrations are likely deliberately bland: blank expressions, boring bodies, neat suburbs, and undecorated interiors. It all suggests a lack of spiritual richness in the characters’ lives. These characters are victims of a soulless and impoverished American culture: bad TV, recreational binge drinking, advertisements everywhere, media-generated paranoia…These characters seem to be wandering through these boring landscapes, searching, but rarely finding, connection or understanding. It all sounds so dreary, but there’s humor on every page. Drasno’s books are some of the best critiques — or diagnoses — of American culture, and the alienation, loneliness, and “something’s missingness” so many of us feel.

Gotta Get Theroux This by Louis Theroux (2019, *audio*) I’ve long been a big fan of Theroux. There’s a casual wisdom in this memoir, which covers everything from boyhood, to marriage, to his career. (It’s mostly about his career.) He spends an inordinate amount of time on his interviews with Jimmy Saville (who later turned out to be a serial pedophile), but I found myself enjoying this theme, and I suppose the continual fascination with the subject says something about Theroux. I strongly recommend the audio version, as Theroux is a gifted speaker.

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