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Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis

Predictable descent into
violence aside...
It's odd, but I think I've fallen out with Mr Ellis. Its not immediately apparent to me why (with luck I shall endeavour to extract said reason during the course of this exorcism), but I felt defeated by Imperial Bedrooms, in a way not unlike having shouted and begged and pleaded for a new toy only to find out that it's not really made of titanium and the wiggly bit that controls its movement falls off after only an hour. This in itself is odd, as I have been a loyal(ish) supporter of his work over a number of years. 

Okay, possible reason number one has just presented itself: I fondly recall being delighted by American Psycho, its visceral, gore soaked and thoroughly sociopathic pages were so entertaining that I was happy to skip over the passages about Phil Collins without feeling as though I had missed anything important. In doing so, I am content to admit that this means I did indeed miss out on some aspects of the the duality of the narrator to the extent that I cared not for his tortured sense that something should be done to stop him, that his frequent sweats and panics went unnoticed by peers and colleagues too absorbed in themselves and thus disengaged with any sense of community, a state of affairs fostered by the prevailing attitudes of this particular stratum and which allows such monstrosities to exist unchallenged. Plus I missed out on any mind-polluting praise of Phil Collins. So in context it is fair to say that any defence of Ellis' work is based on a half-reading of one of his books. For that is all that I have read, prior to this. I used to love pretending I'd read Glamorana or The Informers, but I'd already conceded that I would never read either of them, now that the time so to do had passed, and was not really planning to read this either. The sudden spate of showings of The Informers on TV (real or imagined) goaded an inner guilt about once again owning and never reading a book by any author, deservedly or not, into squinting along the shelves to pick it out, brush off the mildew, and open the slightly crinkly pages.

Thus, so it was that I was introduced to a group of characters of which I had no prior knowledge despite the setting (it's some years after the first book, whichever one that was, and the narrator - Clay? - is picking up the story after his book, the book first written X years past, was published etc and so bored blah) and in whom I had not previously invested any readerly emotion. Whether that makes a difference or not is open for debate (amongst yourselves), but to me it was already a drawback. Added to the setting - decadent and overly medicated Hollywood of the 80s? 90s? 00s? 10s? - which has become a tired and over used trope for all sorts of tired and over used allusion and allegory, and I was halfway to Boresville before we'd even begun. 

What a shocking twat I am though, to lay such jaded prejudice against a book so ill equipped to defend itself. Let the inner optimist shine through with some justifiable praise to offset the ill will and thus balance the score sheet.

No? Why not? Oh, because it's shit. I see.

Okay, it's not shit. It's just not very interesting, and Ellis of course runs full force into some extreme sexualised violence towards the end because he can and perhaps because it's expected of him, which somehow cheapens what is already a pretty cheap book. What a bitch. Anyway, the plot is turgid, the characters uninteresting (to me), the unreliable narrator predictable, the use of drugs and alcohol dulling only the mind of the reader and any sense of tension or drama leached away like the minerals from the bones of an opium addict by not really caring what happens or has happened. I am glad I've read it though, odd as that may seem. Not having read it would be like not having watched Hobo with a Shotgun - unthinkable, like missing a rite of passage or not having another piece of cake. 

So in conclusion, I have discovered that it was not quite such a mystery that I didn't like this book, and in fact I was suffering from a delusion of sorts that I liked Ellis as a writer from the start. I don't. I followed his tweets for a very little while. I didn't like them. So I stopped.

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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…