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Showing posts from June, 2013

The Impossibly by Laird Hunt

The Percival Everett theme continues for the present. I'm so glad you're pleased to hear it! You may have read, buried deep in the bowels of another review, that I came across this book after searching the Kindle store for more by Everett. I shan't therefore bore you with a repeat, but will gently remind you that Everett provides the introduction to what is my own first taste of an author I could really get behind (in a William Shatner / Henry Rollins / Ben Folds musical production* sort-of sense). 

So what do we know about Laird Hunt (or @LairdHunt as the Twitterati would have it)? Answer - not much (that is not cribbed directly from his Wiki entry or his own website). It seems he used to work for the UN in a press-related capacity, occasionally contributes to McSweeney's (where did I read that? I can find no proof that this is true so if you prefer you may disregard) and has been a translator of things into languages other than that in which they were written. An essa…

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 History of the African-American People (proposed) by Strom Thurmond: As Told to Percival Everett & James Kincaid

I was very pleased to have remembered a fact about Senator Thurmond, probably gleaned from an NBC or CBS TV show such as the West Wing or The Good Wife, that set me in good stead for this rather entertaining if random "novel", if one wishes to call it such. In fact, although it might be fiction in form**  it could be read as a eviscerating if glib critique of academia, publishing, right-wing historical revisionism, senatorial aides and humans in general. But I was telling you about my fact, yes. Here it is:

At 24 hours and 18 minutes, Strom Thurmond holds the record for the longest filibuster by a single senator in US history.
A filibuster (first made popular*** by Cato the Younger in the Roman Senate), for those that care, is where a vote on a proposition, in a parliament or senate, is delayed or entirely obstructed by a member talking non-stop about anything he chooses. In this case, Senator Thurmond unsuccessfully attempted to block the Civil Rights Act of 1957. What a gase…

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

I wondered for a few years about reading this book. Had it not been free to download I may still be wondering. I've read all of Jules Verne and lots of H.G Wells (mostly pre-1900s stuff), and whilst their sci-fi output is, almost without fail, worthy of great praise, they bore the arse off me with their high Victorian style. Although this was written and published in the 1920s*, I was expecting a faithful rendering of Well's yawn-inspiring verbosity. Thankfully, florid subjectivist descriptions of colour aside, he does manage to produce what is a thoroughly readable dystopian novel.

An Old Bolshevik, Zamyatin, we're told, was deeply disturbed by the naughty goings on of Soviets post-1918. In retrospect he had good reason given the amount of Bolshies who died in mysterious circumstances or were shipped off to the Urals or Siberian Gulags by the even naughtier Stalinists. In fact, he himself was exiled twice, before successfully petitioning Stalin to allow him to voluntarily …

A revelation of sorts

Today, in writing a review of the completely brilliant Breece D'J Pancake's only published collection of stories, I had a minor revelation. Not only am I getting older, with less hair and so it would seem less brain matter (the punishment for youthful excess - and occasional middle-aged excess), but I am also accruing excuses, reasons why not today but maybe tomorrow. I can't look for a new job, I'm too tired to play football, I'll just have that last biscuit and work it off tomorrow, I'll write when I have something to write about. 

The last one has been bothering me for a while. I am not one of those compulsive writers that must write or expire from the pent up frustration. I am not one of those seized by genius and with a desire to show the world something new and amazing. I am one of those who writes because he is a little lonesome, a little bored, and is lacking in self-belief and needs the affirmation of strangers. Yeah, that cock. 

But what, I pondered, if…

The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake

I must say that, having bought this book in a moment of lunacy a few years back, when, secured for stock at my former place of work by a seriously lovely and well-informed geeky book-type pseudo-named Bert, I took an illogical shine to the author's name, I was perturbed by the strong, almost hyperbolic, recommendations adorning the cover, with comparisons to Hemingway, and not one but two - count 'em, two! - bookends from some heavyweight literary chappies. This was nothing like that which I expected of someone whose middle initials were liaised bizarrely* and whose surname made me think of maple syrup. I was probably reading Charles Portis or something equally surreal at the time, and was in the mood for more. Hence, Breece has survived the move (I was still hoping for silliness) but had been gathering dust (it's short stories after all).

Talk about astonishing**! I was astonished. 

There are two main reasons for this. One, I'd just rediscovered I Ain't Marching Any…

The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp by W.H. Davies

It's not often I get to wax hyperbolic about something with an intrinsic worthwhile-ness to it, especially something Welsh. Having under the belt the standard issue years of Welsh Education, comprising vague threats of crippling yearning for home wereI ever to leave the country (called for the uninitiated hiraeth), language lessons-by-rote with no attempt by the teacher to instill anything close to understanding, and stealthy practising until I could repeat Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch with sufficient prowess to impress... someone I have yet to meet, the value others, keen to keep our national "brand" alive and if not neck-and-neck with the success of the Irish, at least on the same strip of cinder, placed on Welshness has soured for me the pleasure of simply being from Wales.

However, the fine chaps at Parthian Books, along with some sterling  fellows at The Welsh Books Council, have done something of which I can say makes me proud to be lin…

A Fucked Up Life In Books by Anonymous

Perhaps this decline in ethical fortitude was inevitable; succumbing first to e-pub books on my new corporate-approved, bookshop-workforce-eviscerating Kindle, and then reviewing free (or near free) books published by people what I have done met on that there Twitter.

So much for principles, eh?
Take this book, called, accurately if somewhat tastelessly, A Fucked Up Life In Books; I’ve been mooching around book blogs for someone to recommend something great to read* for a number of years and have had my eye on this particular one, full of lip-chewing vulgarity and salt-of-the-earth honesty (if it is to be believed) for a time as a welcome resource of refreshing invective for those days where poncing about feigning airs and graces makes the sick rise up into my mouth. I found her on social media, and have quietly enjoyed her time line and blogging style for a few months. Then through complete accident** I found BookCunt had written a book, published by an old Waterstonesian colleague Sco…