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Showing posts from April, 2016

Books of Note

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

Not surprisingly, like a lot of John Darnielle’s music, particularly those songs on the album The Sunset Tree (Pale Green Things springs to mind and is very much worth listening to), his writing only slowly reveals itself and its narrative direction. Not in any turgid or tedious fashion, but rather in an unhurried, gentler and more thoughtful way. Universal Harvester rolls gently along its path with only a few disconcerting and probably deliberate hiccups. It starts in Iowa in the 1990s with a young man, still living at home with his father but unable to leave because of the weight of his mother’s death, years before, in a car crash. The trauma tethers Jeremy and his father together like the gravitational pull of a dead star in a comfortable and predictable but numb orbit, but it’s never something that either of them can discuss openly.
Jeremy works at a VHS rental store, so we’re assuredly early-Worldwide Web era. His job is simple, repetitive, and keeps him and his father in entertai…

Absolute Pandemonium by Brian Blessed

As soon as I began reading this, I immediately regretted buying the hardback and not the audio book. Blessed starts with an instruction on how to read this, his sixth book and the first in twenty-two years that hasn't been about mountain-climbing, and it's to imagine sitting opposite Brian and having him yell his life story at you as a series of long, rambling but gently themed anecdotes. Which as I understand it was how this was written–James Hogg, Blessed's ghost-writer, must be a brave man of renowned endurance.
And it certainly helps to have this framework in mind when you read it. With his sonorous bass-baritone booming in your mind's ear you can't help but chuckle when he describes punching Harold Pinter, who was 'in a heightened state of celebration,' down some stairs, or telling his co-stars on The Trojan Women that rather than make love he'd prefer a big shit. I can't help but imagine that hearing him boom these tall tales directly into my a…

Indiana, Indiana by Laird Hunt

I was wondering the other day how it was I became aware of Laird Hunt, this former UN Press Officer with the discomfiting habit of subverting the familiar. In literature as in life I am always amazed at the fine filagreed networks that connect random events and protagonists. Tracing back, not an easy task given my trend towards nostalgic diversions and an inability to concentrate, it seems Laird Hunt came via Percival Everett, who penned the introduction to my copy of The Impossibly, who followed from Ralph Ellison (in my timeline but perhaps also indirectly in a literary sense), in whom I became interested after reading Chester Himes, an author brought to my attention by a sales rep for Canongate, whose crime classics series I'd stumbled across by virtue of the unexpected presence of the word 'custard' in a Charles Willeford novel, Willeford having crossed my path previously in the form of Miami Blues, one of the litany of crime novels I read (and amazingly remember) duri…