What is "Metaliterature"? It is literature about literature, in this case, views, reviews, and thoughts provoked by stuff I've read. I'm hoping this might be a chronicle of the brain of a life-long reader as guided by intertextual coincidence. If you like what you read, read what I like.
Currently domiciled in the Vale of Glamorgan.
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 Wheen, Christopher 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 dropped in the Thames.
So, I will mind-wipe their excellent reviews and pootle about with a few words of my own.
I have much time for the digested read. In my fast-paced yet strangely work-shy world, I don't have time to read lengthy critiques of cultural folly. Indeed, the soundtrack to my life is infuriatingly up-tempo. It's quite tiring. So thank the lord I can read a thoroughly enjoyable potted history of the blame game in an afternoon without other interests suffering. Both whimsical and serious, Campbell does a great job of making us laugh at ourselves whilst gently highlighting the propensity for scapegoating in even the more enlightened of societies - here I might make a point of saying that in the Buddhist view sin and suffering are not synonymous - and that it is not confined to the dusty annals of history. I can't help but chuckle at the image of Lord Mandy being soundly thrashed by Tony Blair in his incarnation as the Labour whipping boy. And one cannot help but find the reports of trials of animals, flies and even swords bemusing from a contemporary perspective. What the book lacks, and this is likely deliberate so can't be a criticism as such, is more - more of everything! I want to read more about the witch trials (especially in Britain), about the biblical scapegoat, about the etymology of the word and about the Jungian concept of the Shadow. But there isn't any more to be had.
No blame can be attached to Mr Campbell. Frankly it's probably a bit rich to expect it all in one handy volume. In this case (and this is rare so mark it in your diary) I can only blame myself for expecting too much. What is here is rather good - fun, illuminating and well written, Scapegoat is definitely worthy of a Wheen review. Perhaps in paperback or later print runs we could get a list of further reading, you know, to keep us going. Feel free to blame the editor if it doesn't come to pass.
Many (many) years ago, when I first read War With The Newts, after scouring the Waterstones' internal database (whimsically named Ibid, and from which one could print the details of books onto the till roll in light- and so it seems, time-sensitive purple ink which, on the inches thick ream of leaves I printed for future perusal, faded within a few months rendering my catalogued wish list so much locker mulch) for authors with a suitably Czech-sounding name, having put away an entrée of my first slim Hrabal, a palate-cleansing Kundera and in need of a meaty Moravian main course, I think I might have completely and totally missed just how funny it was, bloated as I was by the doughy and Victorian-sounding translation and the rather unlikely ideation of the future political terroir of mankind and their unusual amphibian slaves and, latterly, sappers, the newts.
How's that for a sentence David Foster Wallace? INTERROBANG.
Well, there's no chance that Čapek's typically Czech…
Trav is back, still grieving the loss of some chickadee or other whose death almost knocked him off his game, but not too shook up to set himself up with a few more lucky lovelies whilst tripping his way through another overly complicated and rather sordidly underwhelming plot. This time, some bikers are making dirty movies with minors on the set of a future classic hot-air-balloon movie. Travis falls into the action because a rich old geyser carks it in unusual circumstances and it affects the trust fund of a former marina-mate. And hirsute intellectual Meyer wets his pants towards the end.
You may sense a fatigued, sardonic note in my precis. It's not that I don't still love John D., it's just that after embarking on the long game that is reading the entire Travis McGee oeuvre, I'm approaching the end and it feels long overdue. It's been fun, it's been enlightening, but it's also been a schlep. With the realisation I might now have fewer years left to me …
If there was a comfort-food version of a book for me, then this would be it. It's funny, touching, humanistic, and features so many quotable quotes that its trim 120 pages could be represented in its entirety on some such authors' quotations page.
We're introduced to Tiny on the occasion of his mother's death, lured into a treacherously fatal situation by, of all things, a duck, while her 4-year-old son sleeps in the car where he wakes to a terrifying solitude. Meanwhile, we're treated to a potted but entertaining history of Granddaddy Jake, Tiny's grandfather, into whose care by fair means or foul (no pun intended) he is finally placed. But the titular Fup duck comes along only once Tiny is fully grown (and how!). A lost and lonely duckling, much like Tiny, she's discovered shivering in a freshly dug post hole, which betrays the attention paid to it by Tiny's nemesis, a wild hog called Lockjaw, who enjoys tearing up Tiny's fences just as much as he …