Skip to main content

Empire Of Booze by Henry Jeffreys

...the kind of pleasure-seeking individual
who could have provoked a puritan revolt
with a raised eyebrow.
When it comes to books from Unbound I am entirely likely to go easy on them, from a criticism-point-of-view. They are, after all, trying to do something amazing in the publishing world and I'm all for that, indubitably. That said, when I pledge for books whilst in thrall to drink, occasionally, when they do finally make it into print (if at all), they are not quite as amazing as I had drunkenly expected.

As an example, I proffer Empire Of Booze. I think I'd been at some sort of literary event, where someone or other was sloshing around either hedgerow cocktails or exciting, hipster 'craft' beers, and not only did I indulge myself both with the tasters on offer, I immediately bought their book, and I also chucked twenty or thirty quid at this, as it was sympathetic to my contemporaneous desire for more of the same.

Now, don't think that I'm saying this is a bad book; it is certainly not! Rather, it is informative, entertaining, enlightening, enjoyable and accessible. However, I could if I so choose level charges that it starts out feeling just a little too glib, limply whimsical, repetitive, and filled with the names of people and places (presumably through necessity) to the point of readerly exhaustion. I gave up following the families and chateaux and just let it all wash over me. It also reads like a series of collected newspaper articles in a Saturday supplement: neither ostensibly scholarly enough (though I don't doubt its accuracy given the extensive reading list at the back) to be a solid historical account of the British influence on alcoholic beverages, nor whimsical enough to be an amusing comedic stroll through the tastes of British intemperates down the ages.

After a slow start, it does gather momentum and interest however, and the latter chapters on whisky, particularly the effects of prohibition in America on Irish whiskey sales, are downright fascinating. I found myself enjoying it more and more after my initial and frankly quite mild disappointment. It just wasn't what I expected, although ironically the record of quite what that was has been lost in the fog of drunken enthusiasm. Still, I've certainly been drinking more since I read this and as a result, so if that isn't cause to celebrate* then I don't remember what I was saying.

*with a whisky and green ginger wine!


Comments

How's about that then?

Free Fall In Crimson by John D. MacDonald

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 …

Metaliterature - what meaning to have is this for meaning?

Not a review this time, more of a curiosity. It seems I'm receiving lots of hits from Russia (Здравствуйте России!) from people searching for the definition of "metaliterature". As such, it is something of a bespoke word, created to fit a need and probably not yet recognized outside literary theory / criticism circles (Merriam-Webster Online certainly don't like it). I was wondering what they typed in to end up here, so, for fun (it's not fun, sorry) I thought I'd bung it in Google Translate and see what came out. As it turns out, one needs a little hyphen for the rather ponderous machine to understand it, and even then only does half the job (meta seems to be meta in any language). 
Incidentally, below is, ironically, a Google Chrome Thesaurus definition* of "meta":

met·a Adjective/ˈmetə/
(of a creative work) Referring to itself or to the conventions of its genre; self-referentialInterestingly (not interesting, sorry) it says this for the full term, t…

The Lost Time Accidents by John Wray

Fup by Jim Dodge

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 …