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The 42b: Dark Journeys In Cardiff

Firstly, I would like to take a moment to congratulate the people behind We Are Cardiff for taking the brave first step into the publishing world, a process initiated, so Hana Johnson said at the launch in November, because no-one else was as invested in the outcome as they felt it merited. I was able to briefly attend the gathering at Porter's (another good place in a city of good places in which to relax with people who don't want to stab you) before my non-alcohol-alleviated social anxiety took hold and I ran out into the fireworks. It seems I've not met anyone new in twenty years without some level of intoxication being involved, so this was a new and terrifying experience. From a distance, everyone seemed very lovely and a good time was had by all. 
Buy yourself a copy, Tidy.

Secondly, I would love to know what was the initial creative brief of this collection of twelve related short stories. What emerged, fetchingly packaged in high contrast black and silver and punctuated by designs from at least one of the nine separate authors, is a thoughtful selection of somewhat absurd and disturbing stories, hung on the central conceit of a journey through Cardiff on the fictional titular bus route, with a number of recurring themes and devices. An old-school wrestler travels to his last and likely terminal bout; a man with a carrier bag of mystery meat hopes no-one notices the flap of skin with a tattoo on it which has flopped out; a spurned lover confronts his paranoia; a suicide gone wrong has to get a spare key from his car dealership in order to tidy up an accidental murder. Grotesque, bizarre, some stronger than others but all arresting, these stories showcase the breadth of talent that sometimes cuts unnoticed furrows about the city in groups like Rhyme and Real Ale, Roath Writers and Cardiff Writers (and the hundred other worthy creative collectives that no doubt inhabit other neighbourhoods in the city) and find sympathetic and supportive readership courtesy of brave champions like We Are Cardiff and local hero Christian Amodeo of I Loves The 'Diff

To find out more about We Are Cardiff, you can probably just click one of the various links on this page and you'll get there eventually, but I thought it was worth printing their mission statement as printed on the cover of the book:
We Are Cardiff Press is a small, non-profit community of writers and artists. We publish literature and art from creators in the city, crafting collectible, limited edition runs of beautiful books, from literature to photography, and illustration to personal storytelling.
Each book is created as a special piece of art that you'll want to read over and over again.
Hyperbole you might think, but it is a statement to respect and they do try to do as they say; suit the action to the word, the word to the action, as someone famous once said.

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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…