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Triumphant Return Appendix 1

Bless you lovely people. I had a response from a reader to my previous post asking me which authors made the cut and survived the purge, and which were sent to the Gulag. So, in answer, in alphabetical order here are some of the authors whose books were deemed indispensible.
Paul Auster, Nicholson Baker, John Barth, Thomas Bernhard, T.C. Boyle, Richard Brautigan, Italo Calvino, Jonathan Carroll, Stephen Donaldson, Glen Duncan, Umberto Eco, Tibor Fischer, Richard Flanagan, Joseph Heller, W.F. Hermans, Bohumil Hrabal, Ismail Kadare, John D MacDonald (unread ones), Harry Mulisch, Ryu Murakami (selected), Cees Nooteboom, Viktor Pelevin, Thomas Pynchon, Jon Ronson, Will Self, Natsume Sōseki, Mark Twain, Kurt (and Mark) Vonnegut.

On reflection, I appear to be a serial literary misogynist, or, for the sake of my own vanity, whatever word is next down the taxonomical hierarchy of hate from misogyny. I did have some novels by women, I’m sure, but then they went to charity / the recycling bin so …

Triumphant Return*

I am moved. Both in the literal, location-swapping sense and in the lesser used (by me) "Jimminy-H-Cricket What Have I Done?!" emotional meaning. 
Gone is the old, mouldy and crumbling but generously proportioned flat, replete with ample bookshelves and free-standing storage facilities plus laundry room and three (count 'em, three!) toilets. Our new abode is the snug, warm, dry conveniently located two bed terraced house of our dreams, with one minor** drawback - no space for our combined collected (and also slightly mouldy) reading history. 
I clearly hadn't thought this through. When packing books into boxes (many, many boxes) we paid no heed to the relative floor spaces of future and erstwhile dwellings, including whether there would actually be enough space to unload the boxes, let alone unpack them. Once the move was under way, it quickly became apparent that once the furniture was in place, boxes of books would not fit. Not that many anyway. Therefore, I spent a …

The Quiet Girl by Peter Høeg

With the publication of Høeg's latest, The Elephant Keeper's Children, came a timely reminder that I had so far neglected his often disparaged 2006 "thriller". This may be a tiresome refrain, but it had been on the shelves for quite some time (since approximately2006 in fact) and looked off-puttingly drizzle-grey, conjuring images of prose of vague beauty and uncrackable intellectualism, coupled with only a dizzy hint of narrative and mostly confusing characters. Of course, this is written with hindsight, so most of my now fully formed thoughts are informed by one particular review I read before starting, that of the much enjoyed Bookslut which one may read by clicking on the disturbing moniker so indicated.

Of course, regular readers (oh ho! More tired self-deprecation approaching - the plural noun there is probably redundant) of mine will understand that, as Aristotle puts it, "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepti…

Metaliterature on Hiatus

Metaliterature is taking a break. Not a long one, and not by choice. You see, the Literature family, (Meta, Children's, Challenging Women's and Pet Care Literature) is moving home, and all of the family's library has been packed into discrete but very similar boxes with no obvious markings thereupon. Thus, I am in the startling position that I actually have nothing to read! 
We should be in and unpacked for December 2012* so normal service will be resumed once I've found where I put the latest Will Self novel.

In the meantime, there is a last hurrah on the horizon, what with Peter Høeg due a punt imminently, so don't go too far now, y'hear? 


*Realistically, July 2013...

Lazarus Is Dead by Richard Beard

All is not what it seems with Richard Beard and his writing. Taken on a primary level, as I do with most novels, Lazarus...is a slightly dry, mostly comic portrayal of an interpretation of the life of Lazarus, interspersed with "fact" taken and / or extrapolated fromvarious sources, including the Gospel of John, various Renaissance paintings and the like. My wife, being an intelligent, literate and generally >170 IQ type person, quickly identified that this book was clearly not just a simple imagined biography.

I think the exchange went something like this:

She - Oh.
Me - Wassat?
She - Reminds me of Raymond Queneau and those chaps*.
Me - Exercises in Style Raymond Queneau?
She - Hm-hm, and the Oulipo bunch**.
Me - Aren't they a Romanian football team?


After her withering look and sigh of disgust, of course I rushed immediately*** to the library**** to check out Oulipo (or Ouvroir de littérature potentielle) and what that meant in context. I was none the wiser.

Me - You've …

Double Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

In retrospect, it is a fool’s errand to attempt to review one of a series of books, especially when earlier volumes have been given the old sacred cow slaying once before, thus outlining the particular themes and devices used by the author and the singular characteristics of the recurring character(s). Indeed, Dexter is now a household name, thanks to the popular Showtime series, and as such it is difficult to find a new angle amidst the entropy of my particular system. If one is aware of the main conceit, the only other areas of discussion are plot or style related. Therefore, after a cursory attempt to put across what is new or what continues to be good / bad in this, the sixth volume of the series, I might take the opportunity to digress.


Dexter is still alive and practising his dark arts in the Miami district, all the while maintaining his double existence as a forensic geek at Miami Metro PD. Curiously, in this volume, he doesn't get to do much killing, although it doesn't…

Metaliterature - what meaning to have is this for meaning?

Not a review this time, more of a curiosity. It seems I'm receiving lots of hits from Russia (Здравствуйте России!) from people searching for the definition of "metaliterature". As such, it is something of a bespoke word, created to fit a need and probably not yet recognized outside literary theory / criticism circles (Merriam-Webster Online certainly don't like it). I was wondering what they typed in to end up here, so, for fun (it's not fun, sorry) I thought I'd bung it in Google Translate and see what came out. As it turns out, one needs a little hyphen for the rather ponderous machine to understand it, and even then only does half the job (meta seems to be meta in any language). 
Incidentally, below is, ironically, a Google Chrome Thesaurus definition* of "meta":

met·a Adjective/ˈmetə/
(of a creative work) Referring to itself or to the conventions of its genre; self-referentialInterestingly (not interesting, sorry) it says this for the full term, t…

***UTTER FILTH WARNING*** House of Holes by Nicholson Baker

In order to truly do justice to this book, and the rather spiffy reputation of Mr Baker for clever and challenging fiction, I attempted to read several reviews, posted around the time of publication, in many British broadsheets of firm middle-groundedness and of some repute. This may or may not be a cardinal sin of lazy reviewers, but I was in need of inspiration, prior to beginning reading, to keep my focus, as from what I understood of Baker's latest "novel" (parenthesis may be clarified later) it could curdle a bishop's milk. 

Embarking on this tangent, you may expect that I found something unusual in my foraging. Indeed, the unexpected truffle among the mushrooms was the near constantly vituperative tone of most reviewers (the one exception - a rather entertaining piece in The Paris Review). Filth, pornography, and (sad to say I can't remember which review this was in, despite going in search of it a second time) a wank-book*, were just some of the surprising …

The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen Donaldson

Every so often there comes along a book that is capable of devastation, one that wreaks emotional havoc and leaves strewn in its wake nothing but exhaustion, myopia and psychological ruin. I refer you to something like A Million Little Pieces by James Frey (back when it was biography and not fiction) or, for very different reasons, A La Recherche du Temps Perdu (which, at over a million words, is the very definition of an exhausting read). Both books have had, at different times, the same power to make me want to engulf any handy intoxicant and cry myself to sleep.

Picture then, if you will, not one novel, not even 7 (à la Marcel Proust), but 9 books of the most soul-crushing emotional turmoil imaginable. Admittedly I have yet to read books 7, 8 and 9, but after reading the second omnibus of Thomas Covenant, I think I’m due a break.
The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever sees the eponymous sceptic and leper thrust back into the service of The Land, an alternate reality…

The Case For Working With Your Hands... by Matthew Crawford

You know those books where, prior to reading them under the weight of readerly guilt for having to this point completely neglected them, you had avoided them as you expect, once the plunge has been taken and cover opened, to be confronted by a whimsical piece of nonsense, written whilst whiling away a few hours between gloating about how wonderful your life is to your dwindling stock of friends and sleeping with your ridiculously good-looking wife who also makes the world’s greatest vegan curry, and destined to annoy the shit out of you because you had the vain hope that maybe just this once it would be worthwhile and life-changing but are fully expecting to be seriously disappointed? That.
Sorry, did I just utilise a Twitter device?
Well, “That” in this case would be a gigantic fucking* lie. This book, scholarly in a slightly biased fashion, anecdotal in an entertaining and endearing manner, so so very interesting in a “Jesus Hindu Krishna I’ve wasted my life” sort-of-way, is the anti…

The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco

I have always held the snug and comforting illusion that Eco, being a rotund, avuncular European in my mind (and in reality, once I’d bothered to look him up, judging from a photo grabbed from Wikipedia – Eco is the ever so slightly less hirsute mammal on the right) was a properly cuddly old European Intellectual (capital I no less) who wrote comfortable fables of a suitably magical realism or historical fantasy bent. No doubt, the rather good but clearly inadequate cinematic version of The Name Of The Rose is partially to blame.
A cursory investigation however dredged up a host of worrying and confusing concepts and authors from the swamps of my lost and forgotten academic hinterland – post-modernism, semiotics, intertextuality, honkadori; Michel Foucault, Julia Kristeva, Hélène Cixous, Roland Barthes. When I purchased a signed copy of The Prague Cemetery from the lovely people at Rossiter Books (you can follow them on Twitter so you can) I believed I was in for a challenging but ente…

Driving Jarvis Ham by Jim Bob

I had a very enjoyable weekend this weekend past, spent drinking and then recovering with some friends with whom this had not been done in quite a while. One of them is a former radio presenter from Coventry (he’s from Lincolnshire, but the radio station was in Coventry) who regaled those present with tales of performer misadventures, including Ginger from The Wildhearts, and amongst others (discretely, if not discreetly), Carter USM.

[The knowing amongst my readers would spot immediately to where I’m off with this little prologue]
In return for these interesting revelations, another of the party, himself a Wildhearts fan (a British band who interestingly offer their website in both English and Japanese) nodded knowingly as he offered an anecdotal riposte about his friend who baked a birthday cake for Les Fruitbat Carter.
[Eeep! In the drive for proximal glory I may have wandered, but shall endeavour to pull this back in]
Which in turn reminded me to ask both if they’d read either of the…

Nevermore by William Hjortsberg

For a number of years I was mistaken in the belief that Hjortsberg's only contribution to the morass of the Western literary tradition was 1978's frankly awesome Falling Angel, intriguingly brought to the big screen as Angel Heart in the 80s by Alan Parker with Mickey Rourke as Harry Angel (names not so awesome, admittedly) and convincingly evil Robert De Niro as Lucifer incarnate. Now, I learn that not only has he finally completed a monster biography of Richard Brautigan called Jubilee Hitchhiker (for more on my own personal love of Brautigan, shared via the brains of the world's most eccentrically lovely people, visit The Brautigan Book Club), but that he has also dabbled in sci-fi and been consistently dribbling other literary content onto the bib of public opinion for many years!
As a former bookstore manager, I should be ashamed. But you clearly don't know me if so you think, as I am not.
This, written in 1994, is a work that, more than just a little, put me in min…

The Stainless Steel Rat Omnibus by Harry Harrison

I don't really know what it is that draws me, apparently by chance but I suspect more by dint of character imbalance (mine) to books that I hope I will like, enjoy reading to a greater or lesser degree, depending on a variety of factors, not least being current mood, but then can't help but find flaws therein which, annoyingly for me as I'm quite keen on the romantic ideals of right or wrong, good or bad, still doesn't put me right off finishing and buying the next novel in the series. What's more frustrating for good old "Black'n'White" GBD is that this particular book, one I fished from a faulty returns crate  destined for the big book bin in the sky (actually Little, Brown publisher's incinerator) has a whole three chapters missing from the second installation of the tale of... damn. I can't remember the character's name. That is not a good sign. Still, as previously mentioned, it didn't stop me from gamelypushing on, reconstruc…