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Edgelands by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts

These fellas really like 
the Manchester Ship Canal...
Just what the hell am I doing, firstly listening to the literary opinions of a bus-owning former DJ who lives in Hull, and secondly buying books written by poets not filled with poetry but rather wistful elegies to the abandoned margins of the urban landscape? 

Ten points to the ghost at the back who shouted "drinking!"

It may have been indirectly drink-related: I might have been planning to drink and read and get misty-eyed and soulful. It may have been directly drink-related: it's possible I'd been sneaking Bombay Sapphire from Mrs MightyBuch's supplies, leading to guilty internet purchases of e-books I would then never read. It may have had nothing to do with drink, being rather a part of a larger movement towards appreciating the opinions of friends, sharing interests instead of deriding them, seeing what they see and feeling more engaged and compassionate and becoming a better friend as a result, a desire fuelled by disengagement and disenfranchisement brought about by the slow attrition of dreams and leakage of erstwhile potential via the quotidian pressures of life and of the perfidious self.

Ten more points to the phantom heckler with more shouts of "drinking!"

No, no drink was involved, and the truth, whilst irritatingly verbose to deflect attention from the deeper message therein, lies in the third way. I'm looking to improve myself (!) reading something beautifully written, intellectually stimulating and also piquant with nostalgia, articulating dimly remembered childhood experiences in prose which I am simply not able to use. Of course, this drive, like all drives to self improvement, didn't last very long - reference my most recent reading choices following this; more mental chewing gum and rampant escapism - but it lasted through a particularly enjoyable camping trip where reading this was not only hugely enhanced by liberal application of Guinness and Pembrokeshire artisan beers but which also when read aloud helped put my three year old to sleep when all he wanted to do was run around shouting 'bum' in his undercrackers.

The premise, in case you're still reading, is, clumsily put, this: that on the edges of our cities and towns are spaces where different rules apply, places through which you travel but rarely stop to visit, places inhabited by the ghosts of childhood imagination, curious beauty, random and incongruous landscapes. As denizens of Lancashire, lots of their experiences are centred on the north east of England, but the descriptions are instantly recognisable, indicative of the ubiquitousness of these 'edge lands', and they take the time, as advised by W. H. Davies, Super-tramp, to stop and stare, but also to record. And the record is important because, like poetry, what they capture is elusive, ephemeral, inconstant. It is always shifting, altering subtly and not-so-subtly, and for two poets to observe and reflect on it all is in retrospect a perfectly logical action. Of course, being as I am easily influenced by anything even slightly persuasive, you might wish to make up your own minds. Well, take my advice (and that of the Nottingham Forest supporting mouthpiece), and do make up your own mind. These two chaps could make you love the Manchester Ship Canal as much as they do.

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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…