Tuesday, 12 September 2017

The Little Town Where Time Stood Still by Bohumil Hrabal

Currently reading...

  

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Erasmus Hobart and the Golden Arrow by Andrew Fish

Erasmus Hobart and the Golden Arrow by [Fish, Andrew]
Awaiting review...

Friday, 25 August 2017

UnAmerican Activities by James Miller

Awaiting review...

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Very Good, Jeeves! by P. G. Wodehouse

The Giant Squirt and the Luminous Rabbit
are even now being packed.
Sincerest apologies, if apologies are due, for the delay resulting from my recent indolence, itself in no small part due to the very trying nature of moving oneself and one's entire life from the capital city (of Wales) to an outlying yet nearby enclave of middle-middle class respectfulness.

In short, I've moved to Penarth.

The Vale! Glory be etc. Frankly, it was that or suffer cross-city commutes four times a day, up to four days per week, at peak traffic, to fetch or deposit the boy at his new educational institution.

So, I've been busy and I've been tired.

Not too tired for Wodehouse, however–just too tired to put finger to keyboard. This collection of 11 curt but classic tales of Bertie's travails and the seemingly unerring instinct of his man, Jeeves, is peak Wodehouse. The short form leaves no great room for a long-winded run-up, and plays a straight bat (with a tongue winkingly in cheek) down wicket right into the reader's grateful hands, fairly cutting to the heart of the matter, i.e. the inevitable intervention by Jeeves in the confused and precarious plotting of Bertram Wilberforce Wooster as he negotiates the pratfalls of a life in which there is nary a finger to lift, except to snaffle another canapé or tilt a glass mouthwards. I found myself guffawing heartily and at inopportune moments whenever I picked it up. It is the perfect tonic for anyone in the mood to sink into the eiderdown or slide down the neck of a good bottle. In fact, I would go as far as to say that, transferred epithets or no, taking a good draft of Wodehouse every day means, "everything will be oojah-cum-spiff."

Sunday, 30 July 2017

A Child Across The Sky by Jonathan Carroll

Ever try looking happy when you've
just been scared shitless?
I don't have a problem, per se, with Jonathan Carroll. Indeed, I've long enjoyed hoarding his novels with a view to drip-feeding them into my life as and when the whim takes me. I have fond memories of The Land of Laughs, and even though, in parts, Bones Of The Moon annoyed me, I was uplifted and happy to have read it. 

A Child Across The Sky returns us to Bones... characters Cullen and Weber once more, this time related from the point of view of the former film director and latterly the director of a theatre company of terminal cancer patients in New York, Weber Gregston. His best friend and occasional collaborator, Philip Strayhorn has killed himself, in unusual circumstances, leaving behind him a legacy of horror movies, magical video tapes and an angel named Pinslepe, who may or may not be the angel of death and is also pregnant with Strayhorn's ex-partner Sasha, who in turn is pregnant with her and also with cancer.

Hmm.

Carroll has never felt the need to explain things, particularly when it comes to causality, and often only does so obliquely when he so chooses. He addresses complex, adult themes with  a kind of whimsy that occasionally grates, and he could be accused of childishness, using children and animals as avatars or metaphors or angels of death, and anything-can-happen as a plot device, expecting the reader to faithfully accept the facts of the action without question. We're expected to believe Strayhorn is in the afterlife carefully directing the action (when it transpires he couldn't do anything as a writer/director except steal Weber's ideas in the first place), helped by Pinslepe, a pregnant child-angel, who prevaricates with Weber and in places outright disagrees with what Strayhorn says in his intermittent narrations, which he later admits were not one hundred percent honest. What it boils down to is that Strayhorn has birthed an evil by creating his last Midnight horror film, and he tries to convince Weber (and the reader) that only he can correct this by the shaping of something of beauty out of the final cut of his as yet unreleased final movie.

I feel I might be misrepresenting the book, and I know that dedicated fans will take issue with my opinion, but it all feels like rather a mess. I was quickly fed-up with the unreality of the main characters, both in how they react to patent absurdity and their relationships with each other. I was underwhelmed by the climax and resolution, and I was disappointed with the plot, the introduction of characters who mean nothing to the story (sorry, Blow Dry), and the intrusion of Strayhorn into the structure of the novel. In my opinion, this is the weakest of Carroll's books I have read to date, and the next one might have just dropped a few places on the To-Read list.


Sunday, 23 July 2017

One Of Us by Michael Marshall Smith

I guess, like some guy once said,
if triangles invented a god, the chances
are high it would have three sides.
It's been a lot of fun working through Marshall Smith's back catalogue once again, short stories notwithstanding, building up to the very exciting recent release of Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence which I hope very soon to devour and regurgitate for your pleasure, post-Wodehouse

Well, for my pleasure at the very least.

It also goes to show just how fallible and self-deceptive the old shallow human mind truly is. I'd almost no recollection of this one whatsoever, except for all the talking white goods (it's not all that juvenile, I promise*) which I'd assumed were actually in one of his other books.

Ah, the perils of chain-reading an author with a very pronounced style!

His three novels as MMS, first person narratives with a charmingly churlish and wise-crackingly unreliable central protagonist, could be read as three stories of the same character but taken from three discrete near-neighbour parallel universes. 

The voice is strong with this one.

Here, Hap Thompson, a fringe career criminal, takes on a dubiously legal job at REMTemps at which, as the name suggests, he dreams the anxiety dreams of people who can afford to pay people to toss and turn at night on their behalf. The explanation of just how this works is hazy at best, but happily for verisimilitude, Hap isn't the stickiest toffee-apple in the barrel so it's believable (quite like many of the other leaps of faith the authors asks of the reader). Unluckily, a lucrative sideline in temporarily stored memory fragments lumbers him with the memory of a murder, and worse, it's a Los Angeles cop. Hap is in serious trouble, but not even he can suspect the true scope of his peril.

There are a few surprising twists (even for me who had already read this once) and that the completely unlikely explanation for it all slips through the censors is down to one thing only - MMS doesn't hang around to take questions. His prose is fluid, whip-crack-sharp and rages like a swollen river over rapids. Everything pushes the reader forward towards the resolution (or as close to as you can get when dealing with... I've said too much), and there just isn't time to be anything other than grateful for an insight into his imagination.

I am genuinely shivering with anticipation to read his next book. I was happy with, but not delighted by, his straight-out horror writing as Michael Marshall, and my interest waned. But with the release of Hannah.... I find myself having to temper my rampant enthusiasm once more. That, if nothing else, is the best praise I can offer.


*Who am I kidding?