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The In-Betweeners

Nobody Move by
Denis Johnson
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 and safely onto the shelves before they were lost permanently.
Walk On, ostensibly
by Ronnie Whelan
Beginning at the beginning was always my preference but as always, my preferences are less important than countless other considerations; in this instance they are subject to my own recollections as to what exactly these books were about, and with the passing of (no matter how little) time, these are already dim at best. So perhaps the most obvious one would be to start with Ronnie, yet another Red Ledge with a handful of tuppenies to chuck about from his life in the dressing room. As always, you'll not get a very objective viewpoint from me on the quality of erstwhile Liverpool footballers' biographies, but as it does appear in the In-Betweeners pages, perhaps you could come to an understanding of its relative merits from things left unsaid. Otherwise, it's another blisteringly brilliant piece of ghost-writing from Tom Conlon, pulling together the uncollected thoughts of the great Red utility player who was no friend of Jacky Charlton to be sure. Lots of rumbling emotional turmoil brought about by the well-documented traumas of the past, and a few undocumented traumas suffered at the hands of the incomparable Souey, former friend turned big bad boss, and similarly, one Kenneth Dalglish. Lots to recommend it there, and it's a quick and enjoyable read to boot.


The Stranger's Woes
by Max Frei
Max Frei's rather slapstick namesake is someone who was destined to wind me up from the beginning. He was a tosser in his former life (i.e. in this dimension) and unfortunately, due to this irreverent attitude and charmingly confused naivety, is received as a king in his new world, that of the city of Echo - literally, as he somehow wangles a claim to the throne of the dung-eating peoples of the so-called Barren Lands. Plus, for some reason Gollancz thought that a direct comparison to Harry Potter on the front cover would attract readers rather than repel them. If you were to think Sergei Lukyanenko without the ability to pull a variety of plot strands together then you wouldn't be far off. Nonetheless, for some reason I still cared enough to finish it, and perhaps that is Frei's triumph after all. 

Lastly (but conversely, the first of the bunch), comes Denis Johnson, another victim of apathy to this point, rapidly proving that my own preconceptions are wildly inaccurate and that I should stop judging books by their covers / by their sales representatives' opinions / by the fact that proof copies were handed out like sweets. Johnson is an accomplished writer of fast-paced hard-boiled thriller romps, or so it would seem from Nobody Moves. The plot just boots along unrelentingly and characters are developed in situ and as required - if you don't need to know something, it ain't made known. Shit starts happening, stuff gets done to people, there's some scary dude in a hat and a wild cat drunk Native American lady with a viscous streak and an unhealthy attachment to someone else's money. You want something to read that'll take your mind off your bunions and make your tea go cold, then Denis Johnson might just suit. I may just take a punt at that proof of Tree of Smoke that I've studiously ignored for 4 years...

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How's about that then?

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; …