What is "Metaliterature"? It is literature about literature, in this case, views, reviews, and thoughts provoked by stuff I've read. I'm hoping this might be a chronicle of the brain of a life-long reader as guided by intertextual coincidence. If you like what you read, read what I like.
Currently domiciled in the Vale of Glamorgan.
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Absolute Pandemonium by Brian Blessed
I can see a dwarf, Terry! I can see a dwarf!
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 actual ear would add significant value to the experience. Nonetheless, it's still a humorous and enjoyable read, for all its faults. And there are a few.
First off, it's hard not to judge a book like this by its cover, and large, easy-to-read font, and publication date. There is something tawdry about the cult of celebrity that spews forth these memoirs just in time for Super Thursday and the early-gifting phase of retail bookselling. This is one of those. Regardless of my respect for the man, his work (what little I've seen I've enjoyed), and his beard, it's hard not to feel that this is written for a particular market, for people who enjoy reading the serialised scandals in tabloid newspapers, the 'secret' feuds of zed-listers, the back-stage shenanigans of the rich and fabulous. What I'm trying to say, in a way which hides the fact I'm a fucking great snob, is that I'm a fucking great snob and look down on the people to whom this is marketed. Secondly, it's very conversational, in that he wanders off topic and repeats himself, which is okay, and I imagine adds to its charms for some, but it's also a very self-aware memoir, looking to justify itself and its style by self-reference, and that feels a little artificial.
But then what can I say? Blessed is a one-off. He's also an enduring and instantly recognisable figure, and captures the hearts of most people; who am I to criticise his decision to publish another memoir while he's riding some sort of zeitgeist?. Also, bearing in mind I have one of the great Jim'll Paint It's canvas prints of the man punching a polar bear in the face–"Right in the fucking face!" (sadly an anecdote that didn't make it into this book)–I'd look a right chump being anything other than grateful it exists.
Many (many) years ago, when I first read War With The Newts, after scouring the Waterstones' internal database (whimsically named Ibid, and from which one could print the details of books onto the till roll in light- and so it seems, time-sensitive purple ink which, on the inches thick ream of leaves I printed for future perusal, faded within a few months rendering my catalogued wish list so much locker mulch) for authors with a suitably Czech-sounding name, having put away an entrée of my first slim Hrabal, a palate-cleansing Kundera and in need of a meaty Moravian main course, I think I might have completely and totally missed just how funny it was, bloated as I was by the doughy and Victorian-sounding translation and the rather unlikely ideation of the future political terroir of mankind and their unusual amphibian slaves and, latterly, sappers, the newts.
How's that for a sentence David Foster Wallace? INTERROBANG.
Well, there's no chance that Čapek's typically Czech…
Trav is back, still grieving the loss of some chickadee or other whose death almost knocked him off his game, but not too shook up to set himself up with a few more lucky lovelies whilst tripping his way through another overly complicated and rather sordidly underwhelming plot. This time, some bikers are making dirty movies with minors on the set of a future classic hot-air-balloon movie. Travis falls into the action because a rich old geyser carks it in unusual circumstances and it affects the trust fund of a former marina-mate. And hirsute intellectual Meyer wets his pants towards the end.
You may sense a fatigued, sardonic note in my precis. It's not that I don't still love John D., it's just that after embarking on the long game that is reading the entire Travis McGee oeuvre, I'm approaching the end and it feels long overdue. It's been fun, it's been enlightening, but it's also been a schlep. With the realisation I might now have fewer years left to me …
If there was a comfort-food version of a book for me, then this would be it. It's funny, touching, humanistic, and features so many quotable quotes that its trim 120 pages could be represented in its entirety on some such authors' quotations page.
We're introduced to Tiny on the occasion of his mother's death, lured into a treacherously fatal situation by, of all things, a duck, while her 4-year-old son sleeps in the car where he wakes to a terrifying solitude. Meanwhile, we're treated to a potted but entertaining history of Granddaddy Jake, Tiny's grandfather, into whose care by fair means or foul (no pun intended) he is finally placed. But the titular Fup duck comes along only once Tiny is fully grown (and how!). A lost and lonely duckling, much like Tiny, she's discovered shivering in a freshly dug post hole, which betrays the attention paid to it by Tiny's nemesis, a wild hog called Lockjaw, who enjoys tearing up Tiny's fences just as much as he …