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Showing posts from March, 2018

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…

Nocturnal Animals by Austin Wright

I've no clear memory of when, where and why I decided to obtain and read this novel. I make no claims therefore to its place in the intertextual flow of my life. In fact, I have begun to fear this record is simply so much vanity and fluff, given I've let it slip to such alarming degrees that I'm personally amazed it was all of four months ago that I read this. 
Regardless, I can clearly recall the novel itself, such was its effect. Reading an old Telegraph review, I was pleased to note their observation of echoes of David Lynch, something I had noticed but to which maybe I hadn't put a name at the time. In retrospect, it did leave me feeling like I did when binge-watching Twin Peaks last year before embarking on the new season. It is in parts creepy and unsettling, and in others eerily disturbing in its acute facility with the depressing lives of suburban Americans. 
The story goes that Susan, housewife and frustrated writer, given over to the quotidian boredom of keepin…

The Ambassador by Bragi Ólafsson

If we learn one thing from Bragi Ólafsson’s surly, sarcastic and epicurean narrator, it might be that the punishment does not always fit the crime. Indeed, reluctant poet Sturla Jón Jonsson (no, not that Sturla Jón; I mean the other, less well-known, non-peasant poet) manages to mostly get away with a number of minor misdemeanors, emerging relatively unscathed and unrepentant, and with a beautiful and intelligent woman on his arm to boot. For starters, although we don’t know this straight away, he’s stolen a large part of his latest collection of poetry, free from freedom, from his deceased cousin who, it turns out, became suicidal over the relationship he had with Sturla Jón’s own mother. He then writes a truly poisonous speculative article about the literary festival he has been invited to attend as an ambassador of Icelandic literary endeavor. Whilst in Lithuania (a country with an even smaller international literary tradition than Iceland and therefore, so Sturla Jón imagines, an …

The Southern Reach Trilogy: Annihilation, Authority and Acceptance, by Jeff VanderMeer

As I sit and contemplate the inclement weather currently freezing my car to the driveway, I reflect that it's not often I can claim to be ahead of the curve, whether by accident or design. And I still can't. However, it seems I found Jeff VanderMeer at an opportune moment.

A quick shout out here to indie bookshop Griffin Books of Penarth for getting all three volumes for me in record time. Good work team! 

I discovered the short trailer for Annihilation on Twitter (much better than the official one, with fewer 'monsters' and more suspense) and was instantly captivated by the visuals. Now, I don't and won't pay for Netflix, and am very annoyed with Paramount Studios for their rather mercenary short-sightedness over not releasing the film adaptation, written and directed by Alex Garland, into cinemas outside the US and China, but it did allow me to burn through the trilogy without fear of my own interpretation being corrupted by the cinematic filter of a big budget…