December 31, 2008

New Year Extended

I'm extending New Year until January 2nd because I still have stuff of the year to come from Tim Etchells and Anne Hardy. Soon after that, I'll complete my uninformative book-by-book non-analysis of "2666". In the meantime, check Las obras de Roberto Bolaño, the best Eng-lang site I've found about the fellow so far... Have a good one...

Susan Tomaselli - Books of the Year

Not six degrees of separation (there are only five), more a nod to Ariel Manto's 'Free Association' column (though not as clever), my favourite reads of 2008 happened in a sequence; that is, one book lead me to another. Only two of the books on the list are new, as in published this 2008, but they are important as they restored my faith that the year wasn't a dead loss; perhaps publishing isn't totally fucked? These six books were a good run: from the new Nabokov, to the old Nabokov, to the pretend Nabokov, to a different type of word [virus] master, to the new junky on the block, my "fiction" books of 2008 are:

The Lazarus Project, Aleksandar Hemon, always different, always the same >> The Enchanter, Vladimir Nabokov, the original of Lolita & read in anticipation of his new one >> Novel with Cocaine, M. Ageyev, "decadent and disgusting," said Nabokov >> Junky, William Burroughs, his finest >> Down and Out on Murder Mile, Tony O'Neill, always good for a quote Sebastian Horsley nails it when he says "a well-written life is almost as rare as a well spent one. And what a life..It is a map of hell with directions showing his readers exactly how to get there."

Susan Tomaselli lives in Dublin, is the editor of Dogmatika, and is a
contributing editor to 3:AM Magazine

December 30, 2008

Pete Shenton's Mainly Live Events of the Year

Phil Kaye.
Sparkling, fast, funny, imaginative, beautiful, cruel and hilarious. The funniest, most courageous storyteller on the planet. His story about the tooth fairy brought me to tears. Like a babbling speed freak who somehow manages to create sense and wonder out of the most circuitous of journies. His energy makes me want to be him. If you can get to see him you should do it without fail.

John Hegley, In Our Kennel.
The master of the audience. Moving between short, sharp and funny two line poems to dreamy tales about the ever growing world inside the kennel. Somewhere between tender hippy friend and slightly cross schoolmaster.

Probe, Magpie.
A collection of dances by different choreographers danced by two of the most talented people working in contemporary dance.

Anna Theresa De Keersmaker’s Rosas dancing to the music of Steve Reich.
The perfect marriage of minimalist masterpieces of music and Dance. Some chaff from the choreographer but its worth sitting through because also some absolute gems.

Office Party.
Incredible office party experiential performance. Members of the public join in and some of them strip naked. It's crazy shid. Excellent cabaret style performances from the likes of Ursula Martinez, who, if you haven’t seen you should (she’s also in La Clique in the West End at the moment). Funny and fun, and warm. Like a really good night out with loads of mates who you don’t actually know. Seems strange but it works.

Don Paterson – The Book of Shadows.
Not strictly from this year but I’ve been reading and rereading it all year. A magic book of aphorisms. Splendid bedtime philosophy.

Gabi Reuter
Young, UK-based German choreographer/performer doing philosophical stuff about space and the imagination. With humour, imagination and, of course, space.

Nine Finger by Fumiyo Ikeda, Alain Platel, Benjamin Verdonck.
Belgian-based, politically-charged, emotionally powerful and intelligent dance theatre based on Uzodinma Iweala’s novel Beasts of No Nation. A show that kicks the narrative around in such a beautiful way that both keeps you following the action whilst at the same time feeling like you don’t know quite what’s going on. An amazing performance from Benjamin Verdonck.

Greg Fleet.
Aussie stand-up who tells the most excruciating story about meeting Stephen Fry and using the word gay inappropriately. Definitely my funniest moment of the year.

Edmund Welles Quartet.
Bass Clarinet heavy metal jazz. It may sound shit on paper but in my ears at least it sounds awesome.

Pete Shenton (shouting on the left, with Tom Roden) is a dancer, choreographer and Co-Artistic Director of New Art Club.

December 29, 2008

Nicholas Blincoe - Books of the Year

Les Murray, The Biplane Houses
This came out in 2007, though I only read it in 2008. My timing might be off but at least I got there, which I often don't with poetry. This collection is intelligent, raucously enjoyable, cranky yet stately. Imagine Philip Larkin hooked on surrealism, and if that doesn't excite you, then read it anyway and work out your own comparison.

Geoff Dyer, Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi
This will come out in 2009, so again my timing is off. Geoff Dyer has not written a novel since Paris Trance, over a decade ago. Some might argue that he still has not written a novel, and that JiV/DiV is really two autobiographical novellas that set out from where Yoga For People Who Can't Be Bothered To Do It left off. Either way, it is great, conjuring up a weirdly uplifting kind of everlasting depression.

Hussain Agha, Ahmad Khalidi, A Framework for A Palestinian National Security Doctrine
This came out in 2006 so, again, time is out of joint. Palestinians are so scattered and so vulnerable, this short book only sets out the parameters of the problem: How can the Palestinian leadership offer security to Palestinians in the occupied territories? In camps in neighbouring states? inside Israel? or in the wider diaspora? What is the best army/security apparatus that the current quasi-state of Palestine could hope to get up-and-running, while still under occupation? Questions like this.

Simon Lewis, Bad Traffic
Simon was the quietest of the writers who took part in the New Puritan project, ten years ago. He did nothing at all, then came out with this, a great thriller and perhaps the best novel of 2008 - a tough Chinese cop searches for his daughter across an alien landscape he cannot hope to understand - mostly Essex.

Nicholas Blincoe is a novelist and critic.

New Year, New Thomas Pynchon

I'm so slow it's embarrassing, but there we are. The news you all already know is that there's a new Thomas Pynchon to look forward to in 2009. Called "Inherent Vice," apparently it's a detective novel set at the tail end of the sixties. Anyway, according to the Penguin catalogue (via The Ampersand"), the "cast of characters includes surfers, hustlers, dopers and rockers, a murderous loan shark, a tenor sax player working undercover, an ex-con with a swastika tattoo and a fondness for Ethel Merman, and a mysterious entity known as the Golden Fang, which may only be a tax dodge set up by some dentists." At this rate Mr Pynchon will start hammering out a book a year like Mr Roth. Just give him the Nobel now, for heaven's sake!

December 26, 2008

Doug Nufer - The First Star Spangled Banner

Doug Nufer in acapella vocal mash-up mode. Why? Because it's there...

(Finished "2666" last night. Whoosh. More when I have time to write properly...)

December 24, 2008

Bolaño translator on the Today programme

Natasha Wimmer was on the Today programme on Radio 4 on Monday morning, comparing "2666" to "Moby Dick" and "Don Quixote. She was accompanied by Philip Hensher, of all people. Go figure. You can listen here. Scroll down until you get to 8.45am.

Sam Mills - Books of the Year (and a film)

The Books
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
I read this after God’s Own Country by Ross Raisin – another book I’ve enjoyed this year. Both employ idiosyncratic narrative voices from the point of view of young men. Ness’s book has been published as a Young Adult novel, but in many respects it’s the more sophisticated of the two. Please don’t let the teen tag put you off – once you start reading this book, you’ll discover an utterly fresh voice you’ve never come across before.

The Butt and Liver by Will Self
In an era where creative writing courses seem to be steering writers towards a recognisably uniform, pared-down prose style, Will Self’s verbose, sesquipedalian prose seems increasingly anarchic and unique. He’s my favourite writer, and he is still on top form.

Beat The Reaper by Josh Bazell
Strictly speaking, this wasn’t published in 08 – it comes out next year. When I started reading a proof I was convinced I wouldn’t like it - thrillers aren’t my usual thing. I ended up reading the whole book in a day. It’s a brilliant pageturner and also extremely clever and quirky – the texts is littered with hilarious footnotes. You will find yourself learning bizarre but intriguing facts about sharks, modern medicine and World War II along the way – as well as the most ridiculous and extraordinary way of killing someone in a fight when you are naked and locked in a freezer with no weapons.

The Film
I caught this Korean film by off chance – it was showing for one night at the Manchester Cornerhouse. It’s such an unusual and enigmatic film that it’s almost impossible to describe, and I also think the less you know about it, the more powerful the film is. It’s moving, and funny, and romantic, and frightening, and surprises you at every turn. The ending left me feeling elated for several days…

Sam Mills is the author of the Young Adult novels The Boys Who Saved The World and A Nicer Way to Die. She is now working on her first novel for adults.

December 20, 2008

Melissa Mann’s Blue Peter-style review of the year or “things that made me go mmmm in 2008”

• Amanda Palmer's debut Who Killed Amanda Palmer - this girl sounds like the secret love child of Siouxsie Sioux and Tori Amos and excites me in ways I find confusing!
Flowering Spade by Sean Hayes - this guy has that perfect ‘gargle-with-gravel-and-Jack-D-twice-daily’ type voice you need for ambient folk. Plus any album with a banjo on it gets my vote every time, oh yes siree-bob!
Two by Kathryn Williams and Neill MacColl (Ewan’s son, Kirsty’s brother) – close harmonies, heartstring-tugging lyrics and sparse guitars make this a sublime ‘tell-someone-you-love-em’ type listen.
• Eliza Carthy's Dreams of Breathing Underwater - sounds a bit like a musical jigsaw puzzle deliberately put together the wrong way, and includes a fine drinking song, Oranges and Seasalt.
Love Tattoo by Imelda May - infectious fusion of Dinah Washington, Billy Holiday and the undisputed queen of rockabilly, Wanda Jackson.

Down Where the Hummingbird Goes to Die by Justin Hyde – debut poetry collection from a storytelling poet-of-the-common-man, with a gift for writing killer left hook lines that come out of nowhere and floor you. Dudes like Hyde don’t come along very often. Never heard of him? Well if there’s any justice in the literary world, you will.
The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas – by jove, mainstream publishing finds its balls and has a punt on an “ideas” novel… halle-friggin’-lujah!
Jim Giraffe by Daren King – anyone who doesn't laugh out loud at the Toilet Tart and Rhinoceros Poo chapters is far too sensible for their own good and should be banished from society in my view.
Boys' Night Out in the Afternoon by the "Alan Sugar of Poetry" and one-time housemate of Buster Bloodvessel, Tim Wells - this collection is a rare thing: accessible, lowbrow poetry that’s clever, inventive, poignant and guffaw funny. Erm, so yeah, I liked it, a lot.
Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen - twenty years in the making this poetry collection, but worth every second of the wait.
Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo - I like being surprised when I read a book, something this novel kept doing, e.g. with its scenes of anarchists spinning rats by their tails in a cafe and a parachutist falling from the sky with his slogan-inscribed penis hanging out.

• Juan Munoz Retrospective at Tate Modern – a master of contradiction and a storyteller who used sculpture instead of words
• Cy Twombly's Cycles and Seasons at Tate Modern - another rule-breaker with his graffiti-like scrawls on canvases and his found-object sculptures.
Francis Bacon at Tate Britain – wasn’t a massive fan of Bacon before I went to this exhibition, but was inspired by his obsession with fixing movement to the canvas.

No Country for Old Men – oh that gun, that gun!
Persepolis – it’s got punk, it’s got ABBA, it’s got women in full hijab. It’s a cartoon that shouldn’t work but spookily, it does.
In Search of A Midnight Kiss - an intelligent, witty US indie film set in monochrome LA on New Year's Eve. A bit A Bout de Souffle-ish.
The Orphanage – not since The Shining have I had the bejesus scared out of me quite so much.
I've Loved You So Long - Kristin Scott Thomas does sad and angry, in French!
• Patti Smith – Dream of Life – in the spirit of ‘f**k the word, the word is dead’ read someone else’s soddin’ thoughts on it…

Melissa Mann is a neon sign outside a derelict transvestite shop on Manningham Lane in Bradford. She continues to act as a beacon of false-y hope for all those who now have to rely on Evans Outsize in the Arndale Centre for their extra large fishnets and foundation garments. Yes, Melissa Mann talks even more shit than Will Ashon for slightly more than free… you are paying me for this, right?

December 19, 2008

Richard Thomas - Some Thoughts on 2008

(...but not this Richard Thomas...)

January – Marcin Wasilewski
A wonderful piano trio from Poland best known for backing trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, The album contains a stunning instrumental version of Prince’s “Diamonds and Pearls”

A Town Called Addis – Dub Colossus
Traditional Ethiopian music meets Jamaican dub masterminded by Nick Page formerly of Transglobal Underground.

Miles From India
A double cd in which several musicians associated with Miles Davis play with traditional Indian musicians on several of Miles’ tunes, occasionally flawed but mostly brilliant.

Stan Tracey/Keith Tippett
Great concert at the Barbican in January 2008 where the two great British jazz pianists came together to perform some wonderful improvised playing.

Kill Your Friends – John Niven
A laugh out loud black comedy set in the A&R world of the mid 90’s when everything was being done to excess.

The Butt – Will Self
He’s long been a master of the short story but his novels are now getting better and better and this is his best so far

Jar City
A wonderfully bleak police procedural set in Iceland directed by Baltasar Kormankur from the book by Arnaldur Indriasson

Mad Men
Great HBO series set in the American advertising world of the late 50’s and early sixties

41st Best Stand Up Ever! – Stewart Lee
A very self deprecating title from Stewart Lee who goes on to prove that he is far better than the 41st best stand up.

Richard Thomas runs Vox 'n' Roll at the Boogaloo in London and at festivals including Latitude and the Carling Weekender and is director of the Laugharne Weekend literary festival. Impressively, he has managed to keep any images of himself off the internet so instead I'm using a picture of John Boy Walton, othrwise known as... Richard Thomas. I know that's a little misleading and everything, but what's a man to do?

December 17, 2008

Roberto Bolaño - "2666," "Part 4 - The Part About The Crimes"

"The truth is, none of it made any sense" (p.595)

The fourth and longest part of "2666" details the deaths (or rather, the discovery of the corpses) of the 106 women murdered in Santa Teresa and the surrounding area in the five year period between January 1993 and December 1997. Some of the crimes appear to have been committed by a serial killer or serial killers, others by husbands, lovers, clients, narcos (drug traffickers), police etc etc. Every new discovery begins with a description of the body and how it is found. If the police manage to identify the victim we find out a little about the woman who has been killed. In a few cases they work out who has murdered her and, in little more than a handful, they manage to catch the perpetrator before he escapes across the border to the US or seemingly vanishes into thin air.

Interleaved between these grim, matter-of-fact vignettes are the stories of policemen Inspector Juan de Dios Martínez, Lalo Cura (who, if I've read it right, may be the son of Arturo Belano or Ulysses Lima from "Savage Detectives") and Epifanio Galindo (the book's three 'good cops'); arts journalist Sergio González; suspected serial killer Klaus Haas (the Lynchian giant who ends "The Part About Fate" and who I'm guessing will be related to Archimboldi from Part 1 in some way); US sheriff Harry Magaña; herbalist and 'seer' Florita Almada; ex-FBI expert on serial killers, Albert Kessler; and congresswoman Azucena Esquivel Plata. And in addition to these main stories are many others which are folded in, introduced as clues or as red herrings, or just as static.

The effect is slightly bewildering, presumably deliberately so. We're forced to follow the police - the way they become distracted over and over again from the main task at hand, are always being pulled away from the central core of what the whole book is about. At root, the cause of the murders seems to be the deep misogyny of society as a whole, the police joking about how many orifices semen has been found in, husbands killing their wives for no reason, a city working at a fever pitch of violence, the economy fuelled by illicit drugs money, occupying a strange interzone between two states.

But perhaps the most shocking thing about "Part 4" as a book is its refusal to draw conclusions. The only stories that end in this Part are the ones that end in death. This is not done in a standard "aestheticized" manner, where the tone of the prose is supposed to offer the 'closure' which the narrative appears to refuse. The stories simply stop as if only half way through. No conclusions are drawn. No poetic language is offered, the characters benefit from no new insight, however small. Any hint of an 'arc' to the story is denied. It's brutal and wholly effective - the temptation is to see the book as unfinished. But why not read it as a deliberate strategy? To offer any aesthetic sop would be to cheapen what's being described. "None of it made any sense."

"Every life, Epifanio said that night to Lalo Cura, no matter how happy it is, ends in pain and suffering. That depends, said Lalo Cura. Depends on what, champ? On lots of things, said Lalo Cura. Say you're shot in the back of the head, for example, and you don't hear the motherfucker come up behind you, then you're off to the next world, no pain, no suffering. Goddamn kid, said Epifanio. Have you ever been shot in the back of the head?" (p.511)

Books of the Year will be back tomorrow, with the choices of Richard Thomas, director of the Laugharne Weekend literary festival. Apologies for the interruption in service, but I promised the Bolaño updates first...

Clare Pollard - Books of the Year

"I have read 104 books this year. I know this because I am a loser and keep a list. Highlights have included 'discovering' some authors it turns out everyone in the know read about a million years ago - Richard Yates, Cormac McCarthy and Aldous Huxley (whose Doors of Perception is a real mindfuck - your dad calmly trying to convince you to take mescalin). Of this year's publications, the book that has inspired the most drunken rants is Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine. The book that made me want to strip off and menstruate in a desert is Wild by Jay Griffiths. And my favourite poetry books were Nigh-no-Place by Jen Hadfield and Stingray Fevers by Emily Berry. So this year girls beat boys."

Clare Pollard is a poet, playwright and sometime broadcaster and is currently writing her first novel.

December 16, 2008

Ewan Morrison - Books of the Year

"True to this year's DIY philosophy of finding beauty in the crap of the world, The Happiest Man In The World by Alec Wilkinson (Vintage) is a this-can't-possibly-be-true-but-it-is biography of one of the 20th century's most eccentric eccentrics - Poppa Neutrino - a man, who among other things, at an age when most men would be accepting slippers and Horlicks, sailed across the North Atlantic in a boat made out of junk he found on the streets of New York.

"Another great work about being a bum is the 19th century classic - Hunger by Knut Hamsun. 'A work of pioneeering modernism' it may be but for me it was a deep look at the kind of ecstatic madness that can be entered into when you turn your back on civilisation and the many satiations and distractions it offers. Both these books had me secretly dreaming of some kind of escape from the consumerist world, which is perhaps a pity as I'm still in it and did nothing other than read two book, so they therefore had a reactionary effect and prevented me doing anything other than - well shopping for books.

"Anyway, the final best book is by someone who did actually escape, and whose escape has thrown a great shadow over the whole purpose of writing at all. Consider the Lobster: and other essays by David Foster Wallace took me to the limits of what can be thought and said and made me very conscious of the prison walls of self-conscious and impotent knowledge that, it would seem, became too much for the man himself to stand.

"In spite of what seems the case, the thing that should be said about these three books is that they are all, in some impossible way, 'funny.' Don't ask me how or why."

Ewan Morrison is a novelist and writer-director for film and television. His second novel, Distance, was published by Jonathan Cape in June.

December 15, 2008

Matthew De Abaitua - My Best Imaginary Friends of 2008

Since the birth of my third child, I have become a full-time family man with no opportunity for male bonding. So the adventures of young movie star Vince and his gang of young bucks have become my equivalent of a night in the pub talking shit. The Entourage are my proxy mates. In previous series, their problems revolved around beautiful women, enormous pay cheques and artistic integrity, problems I no longer share but am keen to dither on the fringe of, in the hope I may overhear some of the carefree idealistic bonhomie of my salad days.

"Russell Brand's podcast
One of my four long weekly commutes was given over to a podcast of Russell Brand blathering away with his mates Matt Morgan and Noel Gallagher. Again, they became imaginary friends of mine – to the point that when I bumped into Brand, my heart leapt. But I resisted to urge to cross the boundary between fantasy and reality. Over the course of the year, Brand's narcissism got the better of him, and when Matt Morgan disappeared from the show to be replaced by a succession of celebrity mates, the show lost its check against Brand's worst instincts. As for the fateful broadcast with Jonathan Ross and Andrew Sachs, I listened to it on the platform of London Bridge station and thought, God, BBC compliance are slack these days. And then thought nothing more of it.

"Anathem by Neal Stephenson
A brick of science fiction that initially seems impenetrable, with its own argot and weird names. But I persisted and discovered an exciting parallel world of philosophy and a brilliant fictional execution of the multiverse theory. The novel features a cast of monks who are the custodians of learning cut off from a grimy secular world. Their conversations are paragons of reason and I found myself wanting to converse in similarly elaborate and devastating terms. But the world of Anathem was too far away from ordinary social discourse, so I remained mute.

"Music To Fall Asleep To, Klimek
2008 was the year I discovered Kompakt, the electronic music label operating out of Cologne. Their minimal techno is the sound of me chugging on Southern Trains from Sussex to London. Sometimes, when I have drunk heavily in a parody of my former social life, I have foolishly listened to Kompakt on the last train back to Sussex. Inevitably I fall asleep to Klimek's echoing Music To Fall Asleep To, and wake up thirty miles away from my bed. Then I am forced to "share" a cab ("hijack" would be a more accurate term) to get back home, cursing over every needless mile."

Matthew De Abaitua's first novel The Red Men was nominated for the 2008 Arthur C Clarke Award, and his friends tell him he is quoted in Iain Sinclair's forthcoming majestic work on Hackney.

December 13, 2008

Jamie Collinson - Books of the Year

"Writing this has led me to discover that I haven’t read many books published in 2008, which either means I’m not very current, or (hopefully) I’m still mining the past. As a result, I’m listing books that were new to me. Tim Etchell’s The Broken World was clever and moving, very addictive and just plain brilliant. Hitomi Kanehara’s Autofiction was enjoyably experimental and revealingly different in perspective. My book of the year (and my greatest newcomer shame) was Bret Easton Ellis’ Glamorama. Avant-garde, psychotic, masterful, and still a bestseller - he’s the Beatles. Roberto Bolano's Savage Detectives made me feel as I did reading Pynchon for the first time, in terms of pleasure and awe. The most poignant was reading The Girl With The Curious Hair, and thus finishing off all available David Foster Wallace a few months before he died. The title story of that collection is one of the best I’ve ever come across; frightening, clever, funny… R.I.P."

Jamie Collinson is label manager of the mighty Big Dada and writes for Flux, Clash and the Guardian blog.

December 12, 2008

Steve Finbow’s four-word review of 2008 books.

"Published in 2008
Miracles of Life by JG Ballard. Moving, elegant, dry, penultimate.
Nazi Literature in the Americas by Roberto Bolaño. Borgesian, subversive, clever, funny.
Violence by Slavoj Žižek. Explosive, confrontational, intelligent, paradoxical.
Born Yesterday by Gordon Burn. Brave, contemporary, disappointing, perspicacious.
The Book of Dead Philosophers by Simon Critchley. Fresh, informative, funny, dippable.

"New books read in 2008 but published earlier (i.e. ones I haven’t read before; so no Celine, Robbe-Grillet, Peace, Guyotat, etc.)
Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson. Gripping, literary, exciting, challenging.
Remainder by Tom McCarthy. Brilliant, different, philosophical, readable.
Tomato Red by Daniel Woodrell. Dark, poetic, psychological, precise.
Homicide by David Simon. Realistic, gritty, funny, depressing.
The Minotaur Takes A Cigarette Break by Stephen Sherrill. Surreal, dirty, modern, mythical.

"Three worst books read in 2008 regardless of publishing date.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. Egotistical, sloppy, unnecessary, ker-ching.
Beautiful Children by Charles Bock. Over-hyped, overwritten, unedited, sentimental,.
What is the What by Dave Eggers. Worthy, worthy, worthy, worthy."

Steve Finbow is a Londoner (but plans to move to Tokyo). He has worked for the artist Richard Long, the biographer Victor Bockris, and was researcher/editor for the poet Allen Ginsberg. He blogs as The Glass Hombre, runs the show at Red Peter and is 3:AM Magazine’s newest editor.

Quote of the Day

"Sometimes he thought it was precisely because he was an atheist that he didn't read anymore. Not reading, it might be said, was the highest expression of atheism or at least atheism as he conceived of it. If you don't believe in God, how do you believe in a fucking book? he asked himself." - Roberto Bolaño, "2666," "The Part About The Crimes"

December 11, 2008

Rodge Glass - Books of the Year

"This summer I was lucky enough to travel round South America for a month. I was under strict instructions from my partner not to take any books that could be described as ‘work’ with me, so instead I took several by South American authors I’d never heard of or had always wanted to get round to. Augusto Roa Bastos’s I the Supreme is a brilliant, complex satire on the dictatorships that spread across the continent in the 20th Century; Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold is as taut as The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and just as incisive about the society it analyses. The Tree of Red Stars by Tessa Bridal explored beautifully and sensitively how Uruguayan citizens coped with the ripple effect of Che Guevara’s nearby revolution.

"But all those are old books. My favourite published this year is, by a long way, Oliver James’s Affluenza, which explores why the richer a country is, the less likely its inhabitants are to feel satisfied. James travelled to seventeen countries and proved again and again how the one thing so many people think will make them happy – money – is actually the thing most likely to make them miserable."

Rodge Glass is a novelist, biographer, journalist and musician.

December 10, 2008

Matt Thorne - Best Three Lee 'Scratch' Perry Records of The Year

"1. Repentance by Lee 'Scratch' Perry: This is the best album Perry has released in 2008. It has brilliant production from Andrew WK and features members of Lightning Bolt and apparently Moby (but don't worry, you can't hear him).

"2. Scratch Came Scratch Saw Scratch Conquered by Lee 'Scratch' Perry: This is the second best album Perry has released in 2008. It has cameos from Keith Richards and George Clinton and has a song about aliens having a party with depressed bank managers. How prescient can you get?

"3. The Mighty Upsetter by Lee 'Scratch' Perry: This is the third best album Perry has released in 2008. It has brilliant production from Adrian Sherwood and if he hadn't released two other albums it would be the best album Perry had put out in 2008."

Matt Thorne is a novelist, critic and all that good stuff. He didn't give me his own byline so I made this one up..

December 09, 2008

Niven Govinden - Books of the Year

"Short fiction is alive and well, and provides the perfect antidote to some of the year’s more bloated novels. Julia Leigh’s Disquiet (Faber), a tightly-knitted novella about a battered wife returning to her mother’s house in France is a must, reminiscent of early McEwan in the way it unnerves; Yoko Ogawa’s excellent trilogy of stories The Diving Pool (Harvill Secker), is a glorious mixture of Japanese suburban ennui and alarm, no more so than in the title story, where a teenage girl schemes to feed her growing obsession with her foster brother; Donald Ray Pollock’s Knockemstiff (Harvill Secker), a series of interlinked stories about the fictional eponymous Ohio town, is unafraid of shying away from the brutal desolation of small-town life, but written with real humanity – the sort of stories you imagine Raymond Carver to have written whilst drunk - and finally, to read Tobias Wolff’s short story collection Our Story Begins (Bloomsbury) is to immerse yourself in a master of the form. Staggeringly good.

"Rinsed plenty of new music this year, but what stands out is usually what helps me to write: MGMT, Goldfrapp, Fleet Foxes, and N*E*R*D."

Novelist Niven Govinden is the author of ‘We Are The New Romantics’ and most recently ‘Graffiti My Soul’ (Canongate).

December 08, 2008

Books (and Other Stuff) of the Year

Motivated mainly by boredom rather than righteous anger, I've emailed nearly everyone I know who is connected to writing or publishing and so on (a surprisingly small amount of people) and asked them to send me their choices for books of the year (or other Important Cultural Business of the year). The lists in the newspaper are always so dull, so I thought it would be interesting to find out whether this is because the format itself is tired and played out, or the people they ask to write them are tired and played out, or I am and it's all really a hell of a lot of fun and I'm just too much of a wet blanket to play along. It's an experiment, see? Or at least I think it is.

Anyway, the responses are already rolling in (or at least, trickling in) and I will post them up one at a time over a number of days or weeks for added excitement. Please feel free to leave your own suggestions, comments etc in the section provided...

December 05, 2008

More Phorm

Spooky. Within 45 minutes of posting about "Black Monday" Lamont and his new chums on the board of Phorm, someone from a Phorm-registered IP address checked out what I'd written. Which just goes to show, never fuck with the deep packet miners. They may not know where you live, but you can be pretty sure they know how you live...

Phorm and Content - Norman Lamont wants your Deep Packets

A couple of interesting pieces on Bad Idea's blog about the internet advertising company Phorm. The first focusses on the addition of Norman Lamont to their board of directors and the second on the simultaneous appointment of Kip Meek, one of the founders of Ofcom, apparently... The MD of Phorm, incidentally, is called Kent Ertugrul, which makes me wonder if Thomas Pynchon is now in charge of naming business executives...

December 04, 2008

Quote of the Day

"I am not that sensitive or that weak to believe that because someone says I can't do something it means I haven't done it." - Ornette Coleman. It could be self-help nonsense but read it carefully...

December 03, 2008

Techno Techno Techno Techno

Techno-paranoia story of last week goes to the Grauniad's Technology section for more stuff about How Fucked Up And Evil Google Are (Or Potentially Could Be, Fella). Seth Finkelstein used his rather excellent column to point out the various ways in which we perhaps don't want Google predicting flu trends, because, hey, once they get into that shit, what will they data-mine on us all next...? Feel that shiver run up your spine...

I still think they're only collecting data to feed into the giant, God-like A.I. they are intending to build in a few years, which could be a good thing, if you are to believe recent reports in the Telegraph about how the US are developing robot soldiers because they are less likely to rape, pillage, torture and maim than good old Johnny Human. Despite the Today programme taking a Daily Mail line this morning about mad, rampaging robots, this is more Isaac Asimov than the Terminator, or so the experts claim.

If you're interested in this kind of thing (although I have to say that I think in this day and age we're less moved by ideas of Good machines than by Very Very Bad machines) then there's a new book out called "Moral Machines" and the authors blog here.

December 01, 2008

Tom Raworth - more

In a republic of poets, receiving an email from Tom Raworth would be like getting a telegram from the Queen. So, it follows that yesterday was my 100th birthday. A friend of his had seen my post about his film "Hands," and so he emailed me to tell me about a more complete version which appears on his site.

"It is, indeed, my left hand," he writes, "photographed (sometimes just one frame, sometimes two or three) as still images once every day of 2007." Anyway, the full version is up here. This particular take is soundtracked by Billy Bragg because "when I'd finished the video I checked its time-length, ordered what music tracks I had on my computer by length.... and the Billy Bragg took exactly the same time. Serendipity too good to miss".

Be sure to check the news section of the site, too, for Raworth's excellent downloadable music podcasts, his battles with the law-drones of The Independent and much other good stuff. Or browse all the music here. He has a very fine record collection...