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Backlist - Storage Stories by Jim Bob

Storage Stories by Jim Bob
As I go, I'm attempting to catch up on those that have gone before, unfortunately in no particular order, but those for which I would feel bad if they were left out. Some, including Ismail Kadare, David Mitchell and Michel Houellebecq are already consigned to the mists of time, but I am confident I can still reach back and grab at a few key titles.

One such is this unusual offering from former Carter USM front man Jim Bob. Truth be told, it probably wouldn't have had the effect it did were it not for two things: 1) My mate Rob was a bit loony about Sheriff Fatman and whenever we went to the City Arms in Cardiff for a few whiskys, it invariably made its way on to the rather excellent jukebox in there. I guess Jim Bob simply inveigled his way into my brain thanks to alcohol and good company. 2) I read it whilst my wife was in labour and so had been awake for 72 hours by the time I finished it. This rather profound experience, coupled with the surreality of life in Jim Bob's mind meant that long after I'd finished Storage Stories I was fishing passages out of my memory obsessively, like food trapped between teeth and irritating the gums.

What we have here is a series of connected stories based around a storage facility in London, staffed by a strikingly Mr Jim Bob-esque character, and where we meet such soul-tenderising -people like Carl, bearded battery-licker and a man dangerously obsessed with performing surgery on himself. Carl's story and eventual resolution made me weep (inside of course...) but the pathos and humour with which it's told is startlingly adept, considering, and after reading it feels a bit like someone gave you the illusion of free will when in fact your reaction was pre-determined to begin with. In fact, even flipping through it now, ten months later, I find myself remembering, fondly, large cuddly understated parts which caused my tired brain to over-heat a little.

I guess that if you love Carter and all things Jim Bob, you'll not need my advice to go out and buy a copy (you can get signed copies from his website), but if before now you'd not given a tinker's cuss for this struggling artist, then you might be surprised to learn that this song-smith can also write prose, and write it well.

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A Death In The Family: My Struggle Volume 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard

I sit here, wearing my limited edition Knausgaard t-shirt, immensely grateful to the kind people at Vintage Books for their surprising gift of the first four novels (and aforementioned t-shirt) simply as a result of being able to post a comment on their YouTube Vlog. There may have been a hidden agenda, considering I'm a book blogger (What, interrobang, a book blogger, interrobang and so on...) but I prefer to believe they picked me at random. Because I'm ace. 
Nonetheless, I had no idea what to expect of these books. I did do a little reading, and found lots of very interesting articles about Karl Ove Knausgaard, including this entertaining one in the Wall Street Journal. But in all honesty, nothing prepared me for reading them, and I can see why they cause controversy and consternation wherever they are translated (which is pretty much everywhere).
First off, being intelligent and perspicacious readers as I trust you all to be, you will no doubt have spotted the whole Godwin&#…

A Bright Moon For Fools by Jasper Gibson

Ah, what would be a review penned by yours truly without some sort of grovelling apology at the outset? A better review no doubt, but that aside I can't help but continue the tiresome tradition with an apology. Sorry to my regular robotic readers (hi bots!) but I have been very neglectful of the blog of late, having been tied up with my pursuit of a broader spectrum of dilettantism; I've been taking part in a number of MOOCs offered by various HEIs on the FutureLearn platform. Worth checking out if you ask me.

(Subtle enough plug, you think?)
Anyway, the break afforded by a foray into further education has proved something of a test for Jasper Gibson and his fiction. In truth, it took me a little while to remember what exactly the novel was about, who was in it, and how I felt about the whole thing. Instant alarm bells. Of course, having had a break, I'd had a good crack at filling my head with a whole bunch of other things worth remembering, so maybe it all just got squeeze…

Open Door by Iosi Havilio

*Shame Klaxon*
I am ashamed to admit it but I know next to nothing about Borges. I know the names of his books. I know he crops up almost without fail when conversations include literature from South America. I know his words book-end so many novels that I have that habitual proving-my-bold-assertion-mind-blankness which means my brain knows it to be true and won't humour your scepticism with an example*. And I know it's likely the biggest single lacuna in my entire reading history**.
So you may imagine my lack of surprise, on finishing this novel and reading the afterword by Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, lecturer at Birkbeck College, London, and author of works on the history and politics of Latin America, that Borges pops up, within three lines of text. Three lines! He wastes no time does Oscar. Of course, my shame bristled and I was ready to adopt the usual casual hostility to something of which I was ignorant. But straight away, I understood what he was saying. I have often consid…

UnAmerican Activities by James Miller

I don't think I was asked to honour the old convention that a freebie necessitates an honest if gently favourable review (at least I can find no written proof). I will however, name-check the generous (and possibly over-optimistic) @TheWorkshyFop, editorial director of the independent British publisher, Dodo Ink, from whose proof boxes of new November lead titles this one arrived. Thank you, sir!
I recall James Miller, specifically Lost Boys, from the dim and distant past. It may have been a commission for Waterstones Books Quarterly, or perhaps I was doing a solid for the Little, Brown sales rep. Regardless, I remember nothing about the book except being underwhelmed. From reading old reviews, it seems it had the coat-tails of the contemporaneous zeitgeist in its teeth, but one slightly savage Guardian review* points out it was pretty badly done. This might explain why I remember very little, perhaps proving Auden's assertion that, "some books are undeservedly forgotten; …