Skip to main content

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? 


How's about that then?

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…

Under The Dust by Jordi Coca

So, wheel of fortune, count to 29, pin the tail, freebies off of peeps on Twitter etc. etc. Whatever the methods sometimes employed to pick the next book in my intertextual experience, the one that brought me to Jordi Coca brought me to a whopping great slice of nostalgia. Before I'd even opened it, it brought to mind Richard Gwyn, himself a published poet, author, biographer, translator and course director of the MA Creative Writing course at Cardiff University, who I recall for some odd reason gently encouraging me to read this novel, and by whose own work I was quietly impressed at the time. He was also an advocate of Roberto Bolaño, another writer in whose work I can immerse myself but from which I emerge drained, as mentioned previously. Before that, though, there is this sticker on the front, declaring 'Signed by the Author at Waterstone's'. It is indeed signed by Jordi Coca, not adding any particular intrinsic value to the book, not for me anyway, but more impor…

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&#…

The Minotaur Takes A Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill

It might be twelve years since I first read this novel, drawn to it as I was at the time by the obvious and, I thought before reading it, gimcrack gimmick of having a mythical beast as the protagonist in a story about love, loss, rage, impotence, hope in the dust-bowl of Raymond Carver’s middle America. I picked it up again recently because of the confluence of two events – one, I found my first naive review of it in a stack of old clippings from a newspaper for which I wrote nearly ten years ago, and two, because of the unexpected loss of my friend’s brother, a man who despite his own issues, once pushed me to explore new horizons (both personal and chemical) and whose favourite novel, he told me in 2007, paraphrasing the microcosmic line “Maybe he sleeps, maybe he doesn’t”, was this very book.
It feels a very American novel, if I can put it thus and betray my own prejudices, given it borrows from European myth (M is not alone – there’s a nymph working in a truck stop, playing Ms Pacm…