I've recently discovered Marianne Wiggins and am in awe of her talent. You have to read Almost Heaven. Never mind the other books on your pile. It’s tI've recently discovered Marianne Wiggins and am in awe of her talent. You have to read Almost Heaven. Never mind the other books on your pile. It’s the best book by a female author I’ve read in years. Perhaps ever, in fact. I don’t know how she knows the things she does. Must have spent an awful lot of time listening or maybe she was just born like that. I has the most brilliant ending, reminiscent of The Fisher King “Can I miss her now?” I finished it last night and just thought fucking hell she’s just got it. That's about as eloquent as I was capable of being, so struck was I by the words. Gives me shivers just thinking about it. It’s the most incredible depiction of breakdown and the rebuilding of a person and creation of a relationship. I haven't read all her work yet - though I intend to - but The Shadow Catcher and Herself In Love are also remarkable pieces of writing. Every word she's written ought to be required reading for any creative writing course....more
Having had this recommended to me by a good friend, I so wanted to enjoy it but, though McCarthy's use of language and talent as a storyteller are supHaving had this recommended to me by a good friend, I so wanted to enjoy it but, though McCarthy's use of language and talent as a storyteller are superb, I found the unrelenting violence of the narrative too hard-going. If it really is a realistic depiction of that era in American history, I'm surprised there are any men left. If you're looking for a superb writer to study technique and craft then I recommend it, but if you'd prefer to read something for enjoyment, this isn't it....more
I bought this after reading an article by Kathy Lette in The Times about writing sex scenes. It's a collection of stories about sex by female authors,I bought this after reading an article by Kathy Lette in The Times about writing sex scenes. It's a collection of stories about sex by female authors, writing under the pseudonym of the name of their first pet and the street they live on. Some of the stories are great fun, others are sexy, some have a twist, and others could do with being a little less cliched and a little more inventive. I'd recommend it if you're looking for something, not always steamy, but a fun read....more
It’s possibly a common dream among mathematically gifted but socially challenged high school outcasts that traits for which they were shunned will somIt’s possibly a common dream among mathematically gifted but socially challenged high school outcasts that traits for which they were shunned will someday emerge as acclaimed talents. Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids is the tale of one such transformation. Dismissed as the weird fat kid, Jon Finkel discovers the card game, Magic: The Gathering, and quickly becomes world champion before turning to blackjack and poker. Re-named Jonny Magic, a couple of hundred pounds lighter and a few million better off, he’s still doing the rounds of card playing gigs.
His tale has enough troughs, breezy feel-good episodes, and moments of tension and excitement to make a good story, but Kushner has a habit of slowing the pace by labouring the misfit-loner-turned-superstar point with repeated references to Finkel’s former state. I was hoping to pick up some tips, but don’t think my days of playing poker for matchsticks are over just yet. ...more
I’m not especially knowledgeable about porn, but I’ve always assumed it is manufactured for men who think there is no more to sex than a Brazilian waxI’m not especially knowledgeable about porn, but I’ve always assumed it is manufactured for men who think there is no more to sex than a Brazilian wax and a hard-on. A clichéd view perhaps, but one Danny King’s fictional exposé of the girly porn mag industry disappointingly confirms.
It begins entertainingly enough with Godfrey’s almost endearingly self-deprecating humour. Soon, however, so repetitive is the macho posturing that it reads like a novel-length issue of Loaded until it is just one cliché after another: uniformly sex-mad models (at one point he is set upon by 12 such women); dialogue like pubescent chat; excruciating attempts to debunk feminism; endless nights spent wasted; all rounded off in a finale which transforms Godfrey from sexual ineptitude to stud.
Maybe if I were closer to ladette I’d get it, but if I ever hear the phrase, “take it up the arse”, again I’ll slap whoever utters it. ...more
Every so often, a collection of poems comes along which warrants closing the door, leaving emails unread and the phone unanswered to read it from coveEvery so often, a collection of poems comes along which warrants closing the door, leaving emails unread and the phone unanswered to read it from cover to cover. Book of Lives is one such book. As Scotland’s Makar, it’s pretty much expected that anything written by Edwin Morgan will be impressive, but this collection is far more than that. Tremendous in scope, it rampages through the bloodshed and battlefield of Bannockburn; drifts with delight through “the blue glow of starlight lapislazuliing the dust-grains” of the big bang; flies alongside Sputnik; laughs at the poet squatting over a hole-in-the-ground train toilet; manages to make the Scottish Parliament splendid; and listens in on a conversation in Palestine.
Sorrowful, playful, teasing, funny, and yearning, Love and a Life, with its startling tales of the everyday, is the most moving. Then, from the short and sweet Valentine Weather to the monumentally tragic Twin Towers, Morgan’s lives can almost be heard breathing as he brings to life their tales. Rimbaud lies in agony, longing for Verlaine while “poetry burned in him like radium”; Darwin is delighted by finches in the Galapagos; the citizens of Leningrad starve in the siege; Morgan is overjoyed at the removal of scaffolding outside his flat; Boethius waits for death in prison; a cancerous cell and a normal cell, Gorgo and Beau, converse; and an old woman delights in Drambuie and a duet on her 94th birthday.
I recommend you shut the door on your own world and immerse yourself in his. ...more
Amande’s Bed begins with a suicide and ends with a scattering of ashes. In between it moves swiftly through a few months in north-east 1950s ScotlandAmande’s Bed begins with a suicide and ends with a scattering of ashes. In between it moves swiftly through a few months in north-east 1950s Scotland with its attendant political and industrial unrest.
The book is as much an exploration of language as it is of 1950s Scotland. Aberdein’s writing is nuanced and playful: droplets of water become “brief pearls” and washing machines run a cycle of “affablack, stillaffablack, naeasblackasitwis, and stillnithinlikeclean”. It is at times surreal, but never incomprehensible: there is a temperance and control about his writing which give a sense that there is hardly a superfluous word.
Overwhelmingly, it is a book of grand dreams in little lives and of tragedy only a single breath from delight. Aberdein’s politics are never far from the surface, but with the humour and vibrancy of his characters, he has done far more than just make them personal: he has brought it to life. ...more
Originally published on photocopiers and distributed from the back of Knight’s car in mosque parking lots, The Taqwacores charts the attempts by YusefOriginally published on photocopiers and distributed from the back of Knight’s car in mosque parking lots, The Taqwacores charts the attempts by Yusef, a punk and convert to Islam at 16, to live entirely by Muslim principles and faith.
Were The Taqwacores a novella, Knight’s continual examinations of Islam and Punk would be interesting and energetic, but at 250 pages the repetitive conversations and contemplations slow the pace and largely supplant plot and character. Yusef prays five times a day hoping to find spiritual fulfilment and, at times, succour in Muslim teachings so it’s unsurprising that it shapes his life and character. However, when every party features religious debate, Yusef’s every waking moment appears taken up with prayer or reflections on his faith, and every page requires consultations of the glossary of Arabic words, the book’s themes become irksome. It’s an educational, though not entirely pleasurable, read. ...more