August 27, 2009

Drug-Driving - The Truth Shall Be Told!

What the fuck is this advert supposed to be telling us? That taking "drugs" (any drugs, or presumably any illegal drugs) turns the imbiber into a Large Grey Alien?? That a policeman driving a police car at night in the rain will be able to spot you, you mutant scum-dribbler? That he will then come and arrest yo' ass FOR HAVING UNFEASIBLY LARGE EYES?? Personally, I'm tempted to go out and score right now so I can spend all evening staring in a mirror and giggling at my ocular munificence. You twats, you've spent my taxes on this drivel...

(Incidentally, I once met the rather marvellous screenwriter - and possibly director? - of "Buffalo Soldiers," the Joaquin Phoenix-starring US army satire. Anyway, she told me an excellent story about Rick Rubin's predilection for hunting Large Greys. So now you know... Want to be America's Greatest Rock Producer? Being a Buddhist is not enough - chase other life forms in your spare time).

Ashes To Ashes, Bring Back Bopara, Cunning Cricket Chat, Deathly Dull, Delusional...

I feel, having posted on the very first day of the Ashes series that I should say something at the end, preferably something which reveals me to be a perceptive and deep-thinker on the game and sends cricket fans from all over the blogosphere rushing off to read "Clear Water," a book which features a former spin bowler and hence should be top of their reading lists for days when only unremitting bleakness will do. So here we are.

It wasn't as epic and scintillating as 2005, more about two brittle teams, each hoping to implode less than the other. But it was pretty compelling, if in a similar way to watching two drunken tramps trying to bend down to see who could pick up a 2p coin first. (England seem to have got their implosions down to about one per series). My man of the series is poor old Ravi Bopara, who not only had a nightmare but wasn't even invited to the players' celebratory party at the end. Oh, and Ricky Ponting, who I must admit to having booed - strictly panto-style - at Lords, which I've felt guilty about ever since. And Michael Clarke was fantastic. Last time he was over he had long hair and the Aussies would make a seat out of their arms for him between overs in order to stretch out his dodgy back, which made him look like Little Lord Fauntleroy. Now he looks like a dour Australian but has batted brilliantly. As for the England team, while I'm glad they won I haven't really warmed to any of them. And please, please, tell me that Ian Bell will be dropped again..?

(I know, not that perceptive or incisive - I'm hoping my cheap and politically incorrect joke about the tramps will paper over the cracks...)

Pynchon, "Inherent Vice" and Other News From The Sixties

So, yeah, like, this actually is the Voice of Pynchon, man, pretending to be, y'know, like the character in his new novel. It's been proved by some straights at the freakin' Wall Street Journal. Crazy, man, crazy...

(The book is wonderful, by the way. Very funny and affectionate and beautiful. Enough to make you like hippies).

In other Sixties throwback news, Harvey Pekar has begun publishing his first web comic here. The first episode is him and Robert Crumb on the telephone going on about the evils of the avant garde. Bleurch.

Crumb, meanwhile, has gone all the way back to the Book of Genesis to get his kicks (men with big beards and women with... well, we all know what the women will have). Due out in the UK in October, this is old news. But then I'm old...

August 05, 2009

Holiday Reading - Pynchon, Berry, Vila-Matas, Barker, Marĺas, Macdonald

I'm off on my jolly ol' hols soon so I've been stockpiling books to take with me. I always take more than I can possibly read in the time available. I like getting them out when I arrive at my destination and piling them all up. I like humming and hawing over which to start on. I like having the option to switch or read two or three at once. It's an essential part of holiday luxuriousness to have an excess of books to hand. So, these are the books I've decided to take with me:

"Inherent Vice" by Thomas Pynchon. Got it on Sunday, have already started it. It's like being on holiday early. Very funny, very good fun - Pynchon's Cali books are always a blast. Like, dude.

"The Manual of Detection" by Jebediah Berry. Read an article about it ages ago, I think, and stuck it in my basket on Amazon. So have now bought it, in hardback, without knowing much about it. That's holidays for you. The booktrade is relying on poor suckers like me. This means that William Heinemann can limp on for another, erm... hour?

"Montano" by Enrique Vila-Matas. The follow up to his excellent "Bartleby & Co," I meant to buy this shortly after I read the aforementioned but decided to wait until it was out in paperback. Which it never was. Sounds strangely familiar...

"Darkmans" by Nicola Barker. Have decided not to hold its Booker shortlisting against it - it might still be interesting, well-written, clever, possibly even innovative. It might. It really might. Also, having just read and enjoyed the considerably shorter "Reversed Forecast" I promised myself and an expectant world (haha) that I would. Also Jimmy Cash rates it. Incidentally, do authors have to write a big, long book before they're taken seriously?

"Your Face Tomorrow. 1: Fever and Spear" by Javier Marĺas. Someone else who I've been meaning to read. This one seemed to have the worst reader reviews on Amazon so is undoubtedly his masterwork. I found out recently that Marĺas is now King of Redonda. The first king having been M.P.Shiel, whose "masterpiece", "The Purple Cloud" I failed to finish on my last summer holiday. I hope it's not an omen...

"The Galton Case" by Ross Macdonald. There was a piece in the Guardian Review at the weekend saying he was better than Chandler and Hammett. A bit like saying that eating creamed cockroaches is "better than sex" (you know what these weekend supplements are like...) so I thought I'd better give him a go... arker

August 02, 2009

Recent Reading

Apologies for the alliterative title and uninspired subject matter - I can't think of anything worth writing about, so I'm going to list the books I've read or failed to read in the last couple of motnhs or so (a lot of failures on my part in here - no idea why). (Also in no particular order):

"The Widow" by Georges Simenon. Another nasty and marvellous roman dur from Mr Simenon. This one has the introduction from Paul Theroux that I thought I blogged about previously but can't find. If you wanna read it (the intro), the link is here.

"Woman's World" by Graham Rawle. This should have been sensational but somehow it wasn't. Graham Rawle used to do the "Lost Consonants" cartoon in the Guardian but when he wasn't he was writing this book, pieced together entirely from the words found in women's magazines of the sixties. This constraint made graphic by actually chopping up said magazines and then pasting the pages together. So it looks great and seems like a great idea. But somehow it didn't take flight for me.I don't know why. I wanted to love it and instead I admired the idea more than the execution.

"Berlin Alexanderplatz" by Alfred Döblin. I read that the translation was terrible but bought it anyway (it's Archimboldi's favourite book in "2666"). The translation is terrible. Or if it isn't terrible then the original is. You can sense that it should be great, but I gues it's a little like trying to read "Ulysses" in a bad translation. Anyway, I had to give up. Failure.

"The Hour of the Star" by Clarice Lispector. Very short and strange novella narrated by a man writing a book about a young peasant woman from the north of Brazil. After the first thirty or forty pages - which are a little hard going in that modernist way - it builds to a rather beautiful little climax.

"The Black Insider" by Dambudzo Marechera. I read a short piece about Marechera by China Mielville so I bought this, as the title he'd recommended was unavailable. It comes with an introduction about how the bookn was originally rejected for not being "African" enough. I think it might have been rejected for being too bloody difficult. It has a cracking opening - the central character is living in a war-torn future London inside a bombed out university building - but then the story gets more and more lost in diversion and digression and mind-bending difficulty. I got lost. Must try again.

"Give + Take" by Stona Fitch. Amiable read about a travelling jazz musician and jewel thief. It was the first release from Fitch's free-publishing venture, Concord Free Press and is enjoyable and fun without being life changing. Good on jazz.

"Hard Rain" by Ariel Dorfman. Then again, maybe I don't have the powers of concentration to get through something life changing. "Hard Rain," from what I read of it, seems to be a series of reviews or essays of non-existent books, written by Dorfman as he waited for the inevitable coup which deposed Allende. It starts brilliantly but then becomes very... difficult. I must try again. Maybe on holiday..?

"The World Doesn't End" by Charles Simic. Short prose poems by the Serbian-American. He makes a really good introduction to them in this film at around 9 minutes 30, although it's worth starting from 7 minutes 30 to watch his anecdote about Venus, the Goddess of Love. Anyway, the poems are fantastic - wide open, allusive, funny and strange.

"Menage" by Ewan Morrsion. I already wrote about this here. It's still really good.

"Printer's Devil" by Stona Fitch. More Fitchiana, this time published by Scottish-based indie Two Ravens Press. Set in a post-apocalyptic future and concerning a member of a printer's guild (something like a gang), it's dark and well-written. But I wonder whether post-apocalypse actually limits a writer's imagination - they all seem to be much the same. Perhaps we all have the same nightmares...

"Reversed Forecast" by Nicola Barker. Nicola Barker's first novel, which I found on the bookstall of my daughter's school's Christmas fair (classy bookstall innit?). Have been meaning to devote some reading effort to Barker for a long time and didn't regret it. I loved this book - the quality of the writing, the affection for her characters, the ordinary oddness, everything. Am going to read "Darkmans" now, having been previously put off only by my dislike of sans serif fonts (Something, I'm glad to say, she has made no attempt to justify, despite so many people commenting on it).

Emil Hakl - "Of Kids & Parents". Published by Czech publishers Twisted Spoon, and bought by a friend of mine in Prague, it's the funny and well-paced story of a middle aged man and his father going out on the piss one evening, which manages to deal with the topography of Prague, communism, war, drink, sex, ornithology and a whole heap of other stuff, without feeling like it is. Oh, and despite its origin it's in English, too.