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A Fucked Up Life In Books by Anonymous

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autobiography
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 Scott Pack and his The Friday Project crew – serendipitous destiny without question. 

Taking the Metaliterature creed to mean I can read things I find cruising the Internet when I’m bored, I immediately downloaded her book, told her all about it and entered into a foul-mouthed exchange with her so that she and her legions of admirers would know what a cultured and also uncouth chap I really am.

Exhibit A - gratuitous self-promotion


What happened to high brow? Where are the literary giants like Eco, and, er, um, ahem, the others?  Truth be told, contrary to my opening paragraph about the decline in standards, I’ve just realised that I don’t half read a load of old tosh. In the pantheon of great literary achievement, I suspect that John D. MacDonald and Marshall Karp weren’t even the people who washed the grapes before they were peeled for the Bacchanalia.

So much for a narrative conceit, eh?

“I can’t be fucking arsed with your blog shit” a good friend once said to me, “because you say fuck all about books and just go on and on about yourself. I get enough of that when you’re drunk as a bastard.” I like to remember this when I get two pages into a review and have yet to mention the book.

So much for a review, eh?

Back to “Anonymous” and her rather entertaining and revelatory review columns. In truth, books play almost no part in her story, other than to provide a chapter heading and give us all an insight into how well-read (or otherwise – book snobs get short thrift and often, so maybe you chaps give this one a miss, yeah?) she is. That she actively seeks time to squirrel herself away and read is rather endearing, and evokes nostalgia for my idealised youth (veracity notwithstanding) where I would often have my head in an Ed McBain or Stephen Donaldson whilst eating, watching TV or in the toilet. That books preface some horrifying tales of parental neglect and emotional abuse is slightly unpleasant for me as a bibliophile, but even the most flippant and facetious arse will appreciate the emotional attachments, the ghosts of memory that haunt the pages of some of our favourite or even least favourite books. But equal to the horror are the moments of balance, wherein her father features prominently, and her brother also (if we politely disregard the time she bounced his head off a brick wall), where beautiful people make life that little bit more tolerable. In fact, one such beautiful person looked to be aiming at a sun setting over the horizon happily-ever-after until, in what was to me the most wrenching trauma, he fucks off and makes it all smell rotten again. That is, of course, until she finds The Big Green Bookshop

I am a notorious if inadvertent MCP when it comes to books I choose to read, preferring the rants of male psychotics to any others (famous felines such as the Tomcat Murr notwithstanding), but I would probably burn someone’s bra (is that still a thing?) to get everyone to give this book a chance to impress. She’s not just about swearing and rage (although there’s lots of that in there) and her honesty is dazzling. Being cribbed from blog posts, I’d read quite a bit previously, so was probably ahead of the game, but when collected into a pseudo-narrative and competently proof-read****, it forms a genuinely readable, persuasively emotional chronicle of the life of someone who just wants to find a comfy chair, a good book, and, I infer, someone who quietly and patiently attends on her for tea & fags and provides a sympathetic  ear-hole into which she can rant. In fact, in retrospect, I can still clearly recollect several key moments where I completely ignored my wife’s pleas for help with the boy / screams of pain and carried on reading regardless, such was the spell I was under.

So much for being a cold-blooded sacred-cow slayer, eh?

To finish – the conclusion / sales pitch. If you want a book to read that has lots of swearing, especially by a “lady” then this is for you. If you want a book about books, no matter how tenuous the link may be, this is for you. If you want A Child Called It-style misery memoir to make yourself feel better about your shitty little life, this is for you. And lastly, if you want genuine, honest, hilarious stories about modern life, then I cannot praise BookCunt highly enough. And it’s only fucking £2.99*****! Bargain!


*   For “someone to recommend…” please infer “plotting intellectual theft”
**   Whilst “accidentally” reading*** Caroline Smailes’ own book-type blog
***   Please refer to note *
****   Competently, but not professionally – there were quite a few errors that slipped the net – but these are The Friday Project’s problem, not the authors’
*****   Price may be subject to change because Amazon are bastards.

Comments

How's about that then?

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…

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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&#…

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…

UnAmerican Activities by James Miller

I don't think I was asked to honour the old convention that a freebie necessitates an honest if gently favourable review (at least I can find no written proof). I will however, name-check the generous (and possibly over-optimistic) @TheWorkshyFop, editorial director of the independent British publisher, Dodo Ink, from whose proof boxes of new November lead titles this one arrived. Thank you, sir!
I recall James Miller, specifically Lost Boys, from the dim and distant past. It may have been a commission for Waterstones Books Quarterly, or perhaps I was doing a solid for the Little, Brown sales rep. Regardless, I remember nothing about the book except being underwhelmed. From reading old reviews, it seems it had the coat-tails of the contemporaneous zeitgeist in its teeth, but one slightly savage Guardian review* points out it was pretty badly done. This might explain why I remember very little, perhaps proving Auden's assertion that, "some books are undeservedly forgotten; …