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Showing posts from November, 2011

Backlist - More stuff inappropriately appropriated

There is something intrinsically pleasing about Baker's work. Whilst this is not his best by a long way (for that you should pick up Box of Matches or The Fermata - pant-wettingly brilliant stuff), this transcript of a (CIA?) taped conversation between two friends in a Washington hotel room is something other, a novel that is social and political commentary, that is a stylistic adventure, that deviates from the norm without falling into the post-modern mosh pit of literature by the likes of John Barth or Mark Z. Danielewski. It's also damned funny. Until fairly recently I had no strong opinions on American politics, on the lust for scandal and the love of celebrity that saw the population elect, in the words of Jonathan Coulton "a sweating filthy liar" in Richard Nixon, and a slightly deranged cigarette spokesperson and cowboy in Ronald Regan. Of course, W changed all that, and Obama has helped somewhat, like a temporary salve on a wound that will only fester eventua…

Backlist - A load of stuff reproduced without the author's written consent

Being somewhat silly, I began my discovery of Jeff Lindsay by reading the fourth novel first (publisher freebie) and then watching the first episode of the TV series. As it transpires, that's the wrong way to do it. So, keen to make amends I picked up this three volume omnibus edition to motor through the first three books before I remembered what has happened to Sergeant Doakes, Dexter's arch nemesis (at least, his arch nemesis in the Miami PD) by book four.
The appeal lies not just in the pacing, the fact that our protagonist is a merciless killing machine, and that he's doing what most people have occasionally dreamed of doing - taking out the trash! - but in the oddly affecting and twisted humour of the novels. Whether he's ruminating on why his "dark passenger" guffaws at a particularly amateurish crime scene (amateurish from the point of view of the killer that is), or balancing the training and development requirements of his protégés (seriously) agains…

Backlist - Adolf in Wonderland by Carlton Mellick III

Such a concept as this may have been doomed from the start, destined never to have been fully and accurately realised. From personal experience, the stuff that resides in the head rarely survives the transition from thought to word – hence the struggle to successfully find backers for my Dirty Despot trading cards – and in Mellick’s story of the futility and indeed folly of the pursuit of perfection, the prose is clumsy and awkward, the ideas beautiful and disturbing but uncomfortably chopped and fitted rather than allowed to smear sticky fluids across the page as they might wish, and although it ends on the up, the general reaction may more likely be one of disappointment than euphoria (and vomiting). Supremely ironically, and acknowledged in the introduction, the twiddling and fiddling over 8 years between conception and publication, has deprived Mellick’s fable of its joie de vivre and left instead a somewhat mechanical novel, the joys of the flesh removed and replaced by something…

Wanting by Richard Flanagan

First encounter with Flanagan came via Gould’s Book of Fish in hardback, a victim of some aggressive pre-post Christmas price slashing back in twenty tickety boo (along with a first edition of Martel’s Life of Pi in hardback at 2 for £20), and with the beautiful colour plates so sadly missing from future flimsier incarnations. As much as I loved and coveted more of the same, it’s taken me nearly ten years to catch up on the backlist, and I still haven’t gotten to Death of a River Guide – there are just too many things that need doing.

 ‘Oh, woe is me!’ etc etc. Time-theft from work isn’t often available to be recycled as reading time when in full view of the open plan office. But I have managed to squirrel away a bit of reading elbow room in which to fully appreciate the latest offering from Tasmania’s answer to Thomas Bernhard.
At this point I should perhaps clarify such a throw-away remark as that just this second made, just there.  In no way does Richard Flanagan resemble Thomas Bern…