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The Unburied by Charles Palliser

Q. Gothic pastiche or
mawkish pasty?
A. Neither. Both are
stupid answers.
It is likely to upset the cultured reader, but I must begin by confessing that I was immediately disappointed that this novel was not a western.

Have all the cultured readers left? Okay, good. Further elaboration is probably necessary here, but you may already have guessed the unintentional link to The Unforgiven, that rather good horse opera with Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood a few years back. Imagine my surprise when I opened it and found what was in essence a verbose and in places stodgy pastiche of a Victorian murder mystery. 

I have a cunning plan...
Now, don't get me wrong, I like a good murder as much as the next guy, but this one was old before the action herein took place, and the additional contemporaneous murder happens rather towards the end of the novel, so rather than a gripping read, it felt more like an episode of Time Team (one of the ones where they intend to discover secret caches of lost Roman loot but end up digging through some water mains). 

The premise is that some moth-eaten fart, your typical self-important academic, is lured into a dark web of deceit by an erstwhile college chum, clottishly mincing about the cloistered halls of a fictional cathedral town and bumbling through social interaction with a host of social and political deviants, but accidentally uncovering the truth behind an historical murder mystery whilst also foiling the duplicitous motives of said former college friend, who happens to be a sodomite for good measure. And, as if this weren't enough, it is all presented as the "found" testimony of the aforementioned academic buffoon by the editor of the text, who gifts himself a brief role in the introductory passage confronting the mother / sister / aunt / daughter of one of the characters (I'm unclear here who she was again, as in all the fun, I lost track of the labyrinthine interconnections of the various participants) and introducing into evidence the all too important giant metal keys, without which none of the rest of the plot makes any sense, so Palliser would have you believe.

Whilst enjoyable in an odd way, this novel is not all that interesting. Whilst I would have preferred more Zane Gray and less Victorian guff, I was more interested in the rather dull sub-plot about new evidence of Alfred the Great than which gimpy mason killed another gimpy mason, and what the smell was in the Cathedral (I knew it was a dead body before I even understood where it was entombed). It did all seem to hang together, in so far as I can't remember any loose ends as such, but frankly, it would have been better if, a la Roger Ackroyd, the narrator had done "it", and certainly more surprising than the actual, tepid conclusion. All in all, I don't regret having read The Unburied. I just wish there were more horse chases and shoot-outs. And no-one said "I reckon" even once.


How's about that then?

Metaliterature - what meaning to have is this for meaning?

Not a review this time, more of a curiosity. It seems I'm receiving lots of hits from Russia (Здравствуйте России!) from people searching for the definition of "metaliterature". As such, it is something of a bespoke word, created to fit a need and probably not yet recognized outside literary theory / criticism circles (Merriam-Webster Online certainly don't like it). I was wondering what they typed in to end up here, so, for fun (it's not fun, sorry) I thought I'd bung it in Google Translate and see what came out. As it turns out, one needs a little hyphen for the rather ponderous machine to understand it, and even then only does half the job (meta seems to be meta in any language). 
Incidentally, below is, ironically, a Google Chrome Thesaurus definition* of "meta":

met·a Adjective/ˈmetə/
(of a creative work) Referring to itself or to the conventions of its genre; self-referentialInterestingly (not interesting, sorry) it says this for the full term, t…

Under The Dust by Jordi Coca

So, wheel of fortune, count to 29, pin the tail, freebies off of peeps on Twitter etc. etc. Whatever the methods sometimes employed to pick the next book in my intertextual experience, the one that brought me to Jordi Coca brought me to a whopping great slice of nostalgia. Before I'd even opened it, it brought to mind Richard Gwyn, himself a published poet, author, biographer, translator and course director of the MA Creative Writing course at Cardiff University, who I recall for some odd reason gently encouraging me to read this novel, and by whose own work I was quietly impressed at the time. He was also an advocate of Roberto Bolaño, another writer in whose work I can immerse myself but from which I emerge drained, as mentioned previously. Before that, though, there is this sticker on the front, declaring 'Signed by the Author at Waterstone's'. It is indeed signed by Jordi Coca, not adding any particular intrinsic value to the book, not for me anyway, but more impor…

Hereward: The Last Englishman by Peter Rex

By all accounts, Hereward was the guerrilla scourge of the invading Norman armies in eleventh century Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, famous for isolating and dismembering members of the Norman nobility who strayed too far from home, and also for trashing Peterborough and hiding on an island. Called variously (and often erroneously) The Wake, The Exile or The Outlaw, his infamy was such that families in search of noble English lineage have usurped his "heroism" for their own glory even until this very day. Rex delights in highlighting one author's particular folly, entitled Hereward, The Saxon Patriot, in which Lieutenant-General Harward attempts to run his antecedents right back to the loins of the eponymous gentleman-rogue. 

Having only read the introduction to Peter Rex's myth-busting (and often ill-edited) work, I was already struck by an initial thought which ran thus: if as Rex asserts Hereward was the son of Asketil Tokison, a descendant of a wealthy Danish family …

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&#…