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Dress Her In Indigo by John D MacDonald

Knight errant or
misogynist pig?
Or both - who says
you have to choose?
One phrase struck me during the reading of this book, another in the 20-odd series featuring everybody's favourite sexual healer Travis McGee, that reminded me of the fantastic lashing John D MacD got at the hands of another reviewer, and if which I made copious use in a previous review. Another of Trav's mysteriously well-connected contacts puts him on to one Enelio Fuentes, whose comportment around women is degraded at best, and whose own sensibilities lead him to pimp out two typists to Trav and hirsute pal Meyer during their stay in Oaxaca, something to which neither of them object. 

Still there?

He repeatedly describes women as either crumpets or chicklets, and Meyer later relates that when he presses Fuentes for the distinction, it's beguilingly vague and horribly sexist at the same time - I'll leave that for you to find and enjoy.

So why do I persist in reading what some might describe as novels that demean the reader as well as the women (and men) portrayed therein? In short, because they're great fun. Even as MacDonald bucks the trend of the casual stereotyping of Mexicans as slovenly and untrustworthy with upwardly mobile and successful characters like the lovely chicklets / crumpets Elena, Lita and Margarita (one of whom Fuentes takes for himself) and Fuentes himself, a VW agency owner and member of an elite social club on the roof of some ghastly modern structure, he also appears to have a pretty tight grip on the reality of a particular time and place, of some pretty real human emotions, and an understanding of the fluidity of situations and encounters that never once leave you suspicious or mistrustful of what comes next. I often will myself to dislike his prose and to flare up the old snorts of derision at some trite or hackneyed narrative trope but find myself equally often unable so to do. MacDonald is a pretty damned good writer, even if he leaves a fur of bitter distaste on the tongues of many. And in ...Indigo MacDonald has a cracking story, about the disintegration of middle American ideals and the seeking of meaning in a Mexican pipe dream, as well as a tale of deceit and death that really does pull you in and sock you in the jaw. And the lovely Lady Rebecca? Just wow. That's all.

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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 …

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First off, being intelligent and perspicacious readers as I trust you all to be, you will no doubt have spotted the whole Godwin&#…

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(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…

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*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…