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Showing posts from January, 2019

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…

How To Rule The World by Tibor Fischer

Fischer was once my favourite British author. Back in the day when The Collector Collector was better than any other comic novel I’d read, certainly better than contemporary fiction by people like Jonathan Coe and less smutty than Tom Sharp, I would rush out to buy his next book, or to put it on my Amazon wish list or whatever it was that existed back then that bears comparison. And then, in 2003, it all went to shit. After Voyage To The End Of The Room I lost the taste for his work, and I actively shunned his new books. It took quite a while for me to find my way back again and only then because he was published by Unbound.
Even now I’m not sure it was worth the effort. This book, a bit of an onanistic rant about the media industry, the decline in journalistic standards, and an old favourite sacred cow, the state of the city of London, feels strained. I’m not too proud to admit I did chuckle out loud at some of Baxter Stone’s acerbic observations, but the plot lurches around like a dr…

Tatterdemalion by Sylvia V. Linsteadt

Tatterdemalion is anything but ragged and unkempt. Dispassionately speaking, one could wax lyrical over its superlative production; it looks, feels and smells gorgeous. Unbound have made another beautiful book.
However (you knew it was coming)…
… Passionately, or whatever the antonym of dispassionate might be (biased?), I’m not much enamoured with the design or the paintings.
The story goes that author and certified animal tracker Sylvia Lindsteadt wrote these interconnected post-apocalyptic fables in reaction to the paintings of Rima Staines. To my eye, the paintings/prints are crude, evocative of an anachronistic style (which is likely the point), and trouble me with their impressionistic perspective, and cut-aways to show children growing inside wheeled elephants / trees / fish and so on.
I am absolutely not saying they are bad paintings. They capture the spirit of that which they inspire, which is a very good thing. They are objectively both pretty and bizarre, which would normally li…