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Showing posts from October, 2011

Metaliterature welcomes guests from the US of A

Hey friendly American types! I don't know what it is but you guys seem to be hitting my webpage pretty chuffin' hard - one third more hits come from the USA than from the UK, and honestly, I can't count more than four Yankee Doodles as friends (two of them are from America's Hat so shouldn't count anyway). It may be because I am hard-wired into reading classic and not-so-classic American fiction that my reviews pop up on your search engines, and if that gets in the way of your browsing I can only apologize. However, if you like what you read, and want more, let me know. I'm keen to have a little feedback from anyone who may read regularly, or just pops by occasionally, or stumbled across this by accident. I don't care who you are, what you do, or why you're here, but I do want you to go away with a positive impression of the place, and will take steps to make it a bit more user friendly. Tweet or message me @TheMightyBuch or you can just post comments u…

Scapegoat by Charlie Campbell

I have to be a little careful here for fear of treading on ground previously and better trodden upon by reviewers of deserved repute. By that I mean making it clear I've stolen the ideas of people paid to do this sort of thing and passing it off as my own. Francis WheenChristopher Bray and Frances Wilson have, in their own eminently imitable fashion, paid tribute to this entertaining Socratic examination of our tendency to offload guilt like an unwanted Christmas pullover on to the first likely charitable candidate, presented in a willowy thin volume of no little beauty. To this formidable array of talent I would be as an independent bookshop is to Amazon - of no concern, until I start stealing their copy for my own nefarious purposes. I know critics all meet up for gin slings and vol au vents at the Pigalle Club, so if one were to notice, then I'm certain all would quickly find out. And like Amazon crushing independent retailers, my fate would be sealed. In cement and dropp…

The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem

"Not all that crazy" was my rather insipid first impression of the previously imposing-looking Lethem. Quite what I had expected is now unclear, but there is an inkling of a memory of a semi-conscious association of the word fortress with the anticipation of a challenging read. Stupid me, I had completely missed the direct reference to Superman's arctic hideaway, and the pretty comprehensive blurb should have pointed out that in many respects this is a straight forward semi-autobiographical novel about growing up in Brooklyn. Straight forward except for the bits of Superman-esque flying, as well as invisibility, bestowed by the ring of a guy who lived on the roof tops of Brooklyn tenements and thought he could fly.
It's been a little while since I finished this, and perhaps that could explain why this review hasn't exactly exploded from the blocks. I recall wishing to drop what it was I was doing at any given point and go back to reading with a cup of tea or head …

Lost in the Funhouse by John Barth

Reading John Barth makes me feel a mixture of ignorance and pride - ignorance because many of the references, devices, tropes (and on and on) he uses are beyond my comprehension (or current reading level), and pride because I know which ones are which. In his appended introduction (not the one from 1966 where he blithely waffles on about listening to certain stories as recordings which don't actually exists per se) he talks about the need to get more John Barth on to the reading lists of creative writing courses across the great continent of North America. This was his attempt to add Barth to Borges, to get himself mentioned in the same breath as others who subvert the comfortable illusions of tale and teller. 


Hence the scratching of head and puffing of cheeks and regular stoppages of reading for a cup of tea or to see what the weather is like outside.


Most short stories take it out of me; all that emotional investment only to have it stop short of resolution, or to end abruptly, o…

The In-Betweeners

Not everything I read makes it onto the pages of this blog. Indeed, of some books it pains me to say I may well be slightly embarrassed to admit having read them, being slightly superior and a somewhat jaded critic of the popular milieu. However, what sort of chronicler of intertextual flow would I be if I were to omit those texts that fill the void between the titles carefully chosen by me to illustrate what an esoteric and highly educated reader I am? 
Therefore, I've chosen to humble myself by exposing those little items of brain candy that I occassionally treat myself to, behind closed doors of course. Those shavings of Occam's Razor I call, The In-Betweeners.


These little beauties all occurred at various points between Lethem and Barth, but considering that I haven't as yet gotten to either, and that my desk is slowly disappearing below miscellaneous unanswered correspondence, dust, and thoughtlessly discarded clothing I decided it was better to get them out of the way…

Eeeee Eee Eeee by Tao Lin

Having walked past Shoplifting from American Apparel (thanks to John Barth I've been reminded to italicize the names of complete works, among other things) for several months after it became a mainstay of the cult fiction display (hurrah for Bert!) of a local book chain, and dismissing it casually due to its self-confidently svelte appearance, I was finally convinced by a split-tongued straight-edger of the relative merits of Lin's oeuvre whilst he was chuckling his way through another, Richard Yates, and wondering aloud why Dakota Fanning wasn't being assaulted more often. At random, I poked blindly at the shelves around the letter L willing fate to procure a serendipitous gem and came up with a book the title of which I was unable to pronounce without some sort of context. That context is, less than quixotically, dolphins.
What Lin serves up as I was to find soon after is a tale of Karinthian (which is to say, Kafka-esque) absurdity populated by bears, moose, dolphins and…