The synopsis to this book is accurate & yet doesn't do it justice. This book is a tale redemption, but from what or why. It's message is of a dystoThe synopsis to this book is accurate & yet doesn't do it justice. This book is a tale redemption, but from what or why. It's message is of a dystopia so appalling that you'll want to look away, whilst between your fingers you peek at the sheer mundane nature of human depravity. As a story this is hard to write about without sticking alarms about spoilers partly because the story is so sparse that little happens, but within those parameters your heart will break heal & break again. So for my appraisal of this wonderful book I'm going to copy another reviewers idea & answer with a poem
Someone Whispered To Me In A Dream
Someone whispered to me in a dream that on this Earth, there’ll be no more water, only blood. We’ll drink each other’s blood as we have always done and won’t dream of it anymore. Over dried out springs, bones of dead animals and last humans will pile up. Young hyenas with our faces will titter and fight around their gnawed and dry remains. Novica Tadić...more
Got into these books rather late in the day, after collecting a fairly large pile of books on the subject of Whisk(e)y but have realised that anyone wGot into these books rather late in the day, after collecting a fairly large pile of books on the subject of Whisk(e)y but have realised that anyone with more than a vague interest in this subject needs these books in their shelves If you want to know the history, the politics, what's new or pretty much anything on Whisk(e)y wherever it comes from this is a great place to go to....more
My second DFW & it's been a long time coming, ever since I read Broom of the system, I've wanted to read more from this writer & although I haMy second DFW & it's been a long time coming, ever since I read Broom of the system, I've wanted to read more from this writer & although I have infinite jest I thought this would be a good place for a reintroduction. The Book is made up of 9 short stories & a novella & like Broom reinterpret American reality in a way that is both a homage to it & at the same point in time poking great big holes in all that is perceived wrong. He writes with an intelligence that could be scary were it not for the fact that it is also funny. The tales are
Little expressionless animals - which is set around the game show Jeopardy: this I enjoyed a lot.
Luckily the account representative knew CPR - which concerns an American salary man trying to save a company seniors life, but was a lot darker & more interesting one of my favourites
Girl with curious hair - This is described on the back cover as " terminal punk nihilism meets young Republicanism & that is a good starting point for a good story
Lyndon - a tale of LBJ but through the refracted lens of DFW
John Billy - an epic of a tale about an epic character although told through a vast quantity of hallucinogenic substances. loved this one
Here & There - A road tale & also a dissection of a relationship
My appearance - about an appearance on the David Letterman program & yet so much more, this was a great insight into a certain mindset.
Say Never - Another look into a relationship & also the grass is always greener elsewhere.
Everything is Green - this isn't so much a tale as a poem, in fact I read it twice to see if my initial reaction held true & it did this is my favourite
This just leaves the novella, Westward the course of the empire takes its way - a tale primarily about writing, this was my least favourite although it does give you a great insight into the mindset of someone who will go on to write books like Broom & Infinite....more
In this book Ian Buxton discusses a wonderful range of the possible, the rare, the almost mythical & the downright impossible to find whiskies. HeIn this book Ian Buxton discusses a wonderful range of the possible, the rare, the almost mythical & the downright impossible to find whiskies. He does this with a knowledge & insight that by being tempered by a wonderful sense of humour doesn't come across as all worthy, in fact it's like having a great discussion with someone knowledgeable & with a wicked sense of the absurd....more
This is a good place to start if your knowledge of the Bourbon scene is limited, it is also a quick reference & shield against the barroom bore whThis is a good place to start if your knowledge of the Bourbon scene is limited, it is also a quick reference & shield against the barroom bore who believes the font of all knowledge stems from the back of their throat - A prime example of this would the general & falsely held believe that for Bourbon to be bourbon it has to be made in Kentucky it doesn't it can be made anywhere in the United States....more
This book is the pub bore. You're sat at the bar with a favourite Whisky contemplating your life, the universe & your place within it when along cThis book is the pub bore. You're sat at the bar with a favourite Whisky contemplating your life, the universe & your place within it when along comes this individual who parks themselves beside you. They then proceed to start off the conversation you had with them 3 months ago - at the very same place, the very same word, the very same point you escaped them last time. They're full of information everyone knows, they've collated, corralled & possibly culled every loose fact caught wandering the internet & their mission in life is to pass it on. And yet there was that first time you wandered into their sphere & they regaled you with their knowledge, they appeared as though a conduit allowing you to piece together the small baubles of treasured information you had garnered & you & they glowed in they shared warmth of whisky & wisdom. So now as they make themselves comfortable on the stool beside you, turning with an almost perceivable mix of hope & despair you enter the conversation at the place, word, point you left it - waiting to see if .........more
I trampled ants on the quay at Dieppe, dawdling by the desk where theywouldn'ttake yes for an answer; yes, it was our name and spellThe French For Death
I trampled ants on the quay at Dieppe, dawdling by the desk where they wouldn't take yes for an answer; yes, it was our name and spelled just so – Dad repeated it in Oldham’s finest guttural, we shook our heads at Moor and Maud andMorden.
Rope swung from the captain’s fist And lashed the water. I saw him shudder, Troubled by a vision of our crossing: Glower of thunder, the lurch and buckle Of the ferry. I looked him in the eye
and popped my bubblegum. Child from the underworld in red sandals and a Disney T-shirt, not yet ashamed by that curt syllable, not yet the girl who takes the worst route home, pauses
at the mouth of alleyways, or kisses strangers on the nameless pier; eyes open staring out to sea, as if in the distance there’s the spindle of a shipwreck, prow angled to a far country.
Carol Ann Duffy has described Helen Mort as “amongst the brightest stars in the sparkling new constellation of young British Poets” and, going on her Curriculum Vitae, so far you’d have to be brave or just plain stupid to dispute this statement. A quick check on-line and it turns out that she is a five times winner of the Foyle Young Poets award, has received an Eric Gregory Award from The Society of Authors (2007), won the Manchester Poetry Prize - Young Writer Prize - in (2008), and in 2010, became the youngest ever poet in residence at The Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere. She was also the Derbyshire Poet Laureate (2013-2015). Add to this that the poems featured in this post all come from her first full collection of poetry, which was shortlisted for both the T.S Eliot Prize and the Costa Prize (2013) and won the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize in 2014, she was also named as one of the Next Generation poets by the Poetry Book Society.
Blurb from back cover
“From the clash between striking miners and police to the delicate conflicts in personal relationships, Helen Mort’s stunning début is marked by distance and division. Named for a street in Sheffield, this is a collection that cherishes specificity: the particularity of names; the reflections the world throws back at us; the precise moment of a realisation. Distinctive and assured, these poems show us how, at the site of conflict, a moment of reconciliation can be born.”
Helen Mort, seems to have been raised within a similar landscape to Liz Berry, a poet I have previously posted on, Helen was born in Sheffield (South Yorkshire,) and raised Derbyshire which is in theMidlands, although east as opposed to Liz’s west. I mention this because Helen Mort has stated that “landscape is an important presence in her work”, in fact she composes many of her poems whilst walking or running on theCumbrian Fells and whereas I felt that the poetry in Liz Berry’s collection Black Country, used language and specifically dialect to place this region, it’s landscape and people on the map and in some way hark back to a specific time through the language used, I believe Helen Mort seems to me more precise, she picks out places, names and uses them as almost as though they were Cairns, boundary stones, pinpointing to what she is trying to communicate. I also felt that although Division Street harkens back to the past as did Black Country, it’s imagery was more overtly political, what I mean by this is that - in my opinion - Liz Berry may use the dialect as a political tool, as a way of highlighting the decline of industry and the effect that has on her region, Helen seems to use specific points in time, specific events such as the Miners Strike for her imagery, now for a lot of people, myself included, this was time of severe division & conflict, my stepfather was a sparkie (electrician) at one of the pits in Kent & for almost two years I worked at the same pit, before escaping to what for me was a hell-hole. I got out before the government at that time decided to curtail the power of the unions and do this by using the miners unions as an example and destroy them, this ended up ripping whole communities apart & leaving towns and villages with no purpose as they were set up to provide manpower for the mines.
Scab III (part of a 5 sectioned poem)
This is a reconstruction. Nobody will get hurt. There are miners playing coppers, ex-coppers shouting Maggie out. There are battle specialists, The Vikings and The Sealed Knot. There will be opportunities to leave, a handshake at the end. Please note the language used for authenticity: example – scab, example – cunt.
This is a re-enactment. When I blow the whistle, charge But not before. On my instruction, Throw your missiles in the air. On my instruction, tackle him, Then kick him when he’s down, Kick him in the bollocks, boot him like a man in flames.Now harder, kick him till he doesn't know his name.
This is a reconstruction. It is important to film everything. Pickets chased on horseback into Asda, Running shirtless through the aisles of tins.
A lad who sprints through ginnels,* Gardens, up somebody’s stairs, into a room where two more miners hide beneath the bed, or else are lost – or left for dead.
*a narrow passage between buildings; an alley
Meaning that this collection of poetry has a lot of resonance for me, in fact I picked it up because of the front cover of this book, which shows an image from the Orgreave Miners strike. Although to make the claim that this is all the collection relates to would be doing it an injustice, even the part of the poem Scab, I placed here is part of a larger poem, that is more an exploration of betrayal in its many forms, the leaving of the home to go to university (Cambridge), with all the feelings raised relating to the family being left behind both physically & socially. In fact this collection explores relationships both on a personal level and a wider scale, on the individual as well as the community,meaning it deals with ideas of both loyalty and betrayal, it also hones in on all those grey areas, those points of conflict that can never be defined by the simple definition of black or white. So what started out for me as a collection raising some ghosts from a long forgotten past, raised more ghosts than I was expecting and in areas I wasn't.
An auditorium where nobody is clapping
you enter naked, breasts like two grey stones. You have to leave your things outside.
They will be counted, weighed, put back exactly as they weren't.
“We spent our lives down in the blackness……those bird brought us up to the light” – Jim Showell, Tumbling pigeons & the Black CouBirmingham Roller.
“We spent our lives down in the blackness……those bird brought us up to the light” – Jim Showell, Tumbling pigeons & the Black Country
Wench, yowm the colour of ower town: concrete, steel, oily rainbow of the cut.
Ower streets am in yer wings, ower factory chimdeys plumes on yer chest,
yer heart’s the china ower owd girls dust in their tranklement cabinets.
Bred to dazzlin in backyards by men whose onds grew soft as feathers
just to touch you, cradle you from egg through each jeth-defying tumble.
Little acrobats of the terraces, We’m winged when we gaze at you
Jimmucking the breeze, somersaulting through the white-breathed prayer of january
and rolling back up like a babby’s yo-yo caught by the open donny of the clouds.
(Tranklement/ ornaments (bits & Bobs): wench/affectionate name for a female: yowm/ you are: cut/ canal: onds/hands: jimmucking/ shaking: babby/ little child: donny/hand (child). )
Black Country is an area of the West Midlands metropolitan county in England, north and west of Birmingham. It includes parts of the boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton. During the Industrial Revolution, it became one of the most industrialised parts of Britain with coal mines, coking, iron foundries and steel mills producing a high level of air pollution. The region gained its name in the mid nineteenth century due to the smoke from the many thousands of ironworking foundries and forges plus also the working of the shallow and 30ft thick coal seams. Elihu Burritt, the American Consul to Birmingham in 1862, described the area 'Black by day and red by night'.
It mizzled the night you died but you’d already gone back to your owd mon’s garden with your yellow frock on. In the beds, goosegogs furred, peas climbed cane wigwams, your brothers shirt danced on the line. And you, thirteen again, sensing light above, raised your hand to shade your eyes from the sun.
(Mizzled/ rained: owd mon/ dad)
Liz Berry was born in this region & still lives there now (Birmingham), so it makes perfect sense for her debut collection of poetry to be set there as well, but what makes this collection stand out is the language used. Liz Berry has drawn on the dialect of the Black Country and by combining this with its history & her own has created an extraordinary collection of poetry rooted into the landscape and yet at that same instant somersaulting, turning as though a bird in flight. The words come off the page almost as if they were incantations as though by reciting the “owd words” you are not merely harking back to the past but raising it fully formed into the present, with the dialect forming a vital part of the poems not just as some form of tranklement, (love that word) but a way of placing this region its landscape and people on the map. This is not just a wonderful personal debut collection of poetry it’s a paean to a world that is changing, to a landscape that was carved out for a specific purpose, that now no longer exists. Liz Berry’s Black country, is like the region - there’s a darkness born out of the landscape, but there is also a humour, a tenderness that reflects it’s people and is there as a defence against all that the darkness represents