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Backlist - More stuff inappropriately appropriated

There is something intrinsically pleasing about Baker's work. Whilst this is not his best by a long way (for that you should pick up Box of Matches or The Fermata - pant-wettingly brilliant stuff), this transcript of a (CIA?) taped conversation between two friends in a Washington hotel room is something other, a novel that is social and political commentary, that is a stylistic adventure, that deviates from the norm without falling into the post-modern mosh pit of literature by the likes of John Barth or Mark Z. Danielewski. It's also damned funny. Until fairly recently I had no strong opinions on American politics, on the lust for scandal and the love of celebrity that saw the population elect, in the words of Jonathan Coulton "a sweating filthy liar" in Richard Nixon, and a slightly deranged cigarette spokesperson and cowboy in Ronald Regan. Of course, W changed all that, and Obama has helped somewhat, like a temporary salve on a wound that will only fester eventually. Baker just sticks it to the man, having lots of fun in the mean time. If you're looking for something conventional, perhaps this isn't for you, but for an hour on a train, or indeed on a bench outside the Lincoln Memorial, then this is the perfect tonic for the world-weary.

Perhaps if I hadn't known that Jasper Kent had written musicals, then I may have enjoyed this more than I did. As it stands, I was stuck between enjoying the premise and the gore of it all and being terribly annoyed by Kent's almost 19th century Russian novel style narrative, with long introspective passages more suited to a down moment in a Broadway show (with accompanying musical diminuendo) than a properly horrific horror novel. As Aleksei "struggles" to reconcile his enjoyment of the lovely prostitute with his "love" of his absent wife and child, I struggled with my desire to put this down and go rock climbing or kick boxing, something manly and dangerous that wouldn't rob me of my masculinity. Still, being the avid devotee of violence and bloodshed that only a child exposed to George A. Romero movies at a very early developmental stage can be (and I am very definitely NOT blaming zombie movies for my lack of social skills - that was deliberate on my part) I pushed on through the guff to get to the good bits, and there were just enough of those to keep it interesting.
In conclusion, this is good, but flawed, much like the best of us, and if he could temper his willingness to replicate his musical style or the long-winded rumination typical of those great (great meaning large or immense - I use it in the pejorative sense) Russian epics, then he could have a future as a writer of horror. If not, he better sharpen up on his show tunes.

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Damned If I Do by Percival Everett

Where I should be recovering from a particularly nasty stomach bug, rather I appear to be on a Percival Everett trip today - first Strom, now Damned - but he really is that good. Good as in read-everything-he's-written-now good. Good as in I'm writing this on my iPad never more than two meters from the nearest toilet good. That's good. 

Damned If I Do is short stories, yes. That I have a curious relationship with short fiction is undisputed, but there are some like Breece D'J Pancake and Haruki Murakami that just have to be read, objections or no. Thankfully, it appears Everett has inherited some of their ability to write convincing, understated and ultimately addictive snippets of prose. And snippets they are. Somewhere I read once a quote from China Mielville where he says he just loves it when writers don't show the reader the monster in its entirety, that leaving something of the horror to the imagination of his audience adds a level of engagement and makes the …

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…