review will follow - bit hectic at the moment (in a good way)...
still haven't got time to do it justice, and had to take the books (this one and Winte...morereview will follow - bit hectic at the moment (in a good way)...
still haven't got time to do it justice, and had to take the books (this one and Winter's Bone) back to the library, so I'll try and sum up what I remember feeling about this book.
It is exquisitely written, full of nature - fish,sea, mountains, animals feature heavily. There is some humour but maybe the stories take themselves a little too seriously, and not normally my kind of stuff - a blind shell collector becomes a sought out healer, something miraculous perhaps. A woman feels the inner/past life of animals and humans by touching their dead bodies. Some are more straightforward, a holiday romance for a introverted girl which reminded me a bit of the Simpsons episode where the family are on holiday and Lisa becomes cool. Sometimes I didn't quite believe in the characters - the African refugee one (again that jumpy violent landscape of gangs taking over a war torn country and inflicting death and torture, like Akpan and others I've read recently), where he tries to bury his terrible past in the symbolic burial of the hearts of beached whales. Maybe. Fantastic descriptions of the whales (one bit I remember is the arteries - big enough for a 'housecat' to run through).
So good good writing, a little too heavy on the symbols and the characters are bent too much, now and then, to suit the story. But well worth a go. (less)
I remember this as a good female pov coming-of-age novel, set among the affluent surfing set in California - the usual drugs-and-boys, but well done I...moreI remember this as a good female pov coming-of-age novel, set among the affluent surfing set in California - the usual drugs-and-boys, but well done I thought. (It was about 8 years ago I read it).(less)
Meloy’s stories are flawless: the writing is clear and economic, the settings and ‘plot’ and characters conjured with minimum fuss. Altogether perfect...moreMeloy’s stories are flawless: the writing is clear and economic, the settings and ‘plot’ and characters conjured with minimum fuss. Altogether perfect pieces largely about adultery, and breaking marriages (or maybe not), but also about childhood incidents looming later, murder, rape, stalking and industrial accidents. The collection is aptly titled – the stories usually take the reader into a situation where a decision is about to be made, and often leave them with the outcome still in the balance. In ‘Girlfriend’ a surgeon’s wife complains about her husband who she suspects is having an affair to a friend who – of course – is the one hubby is seeing behind her back. The wife’s friend is expecting the husband to leave his wife and come live with her and the husband turns up as they are discussing his infidelities. At the end your sympathies slide from the wife to the friend and you’re not sure what will happen. Same is true for most pieces here. So if you’re looking for ‘closure’ you won’t like this book.
I’m not sure why I haven’t given it 5 stars but maybe it’s the New Yorker (where 3 were published) perfection, a sort of sheen is created, beautiful but maybe a little impenetrable. They certainly emotionally involve you but no flesh is torn in the process, no jagged edges rip into you. Which I like in a book: jagged edges I mean. I did really like the last one, which I think I read before (it was in Granta) 'O Tannenbaum' (a Christmas tree is involved) in which a family pick up two hitchhikers and first think they might be criminals (they’re called Bonnie and Clyde), then it ends up with the possibility of wife swapping, and the sexual tension is fantastic. Everett thought there must be a smell in the car from the kiss, an electricity. But the husband said nothing… All the while, Everett felt both the threat of disorder and the steady, thrumming promise of having everything he wanted, all at once.(less)
(this review kind of takes in 'A Good Man is Hard to Find' as well)
...been wallowing in Flannery O'Connor's world for a few days now, and in some ways...more(this review kind of takes in 'A Good Man is Hard to Find' as well)
...been wallowing in Flannery O'Connor's world for a few days now, and in some ways that has worked against the effectiveness of these great stories. Because it's a library book that's got to go back I was reading two or three stories a day and I think I will buy the collected stories and read them slowly, probably over a year or more and far apart again to fully savour O'Connordom. Complete mad worlds tilted with subtle heirarchies, an obsession with nearly all the characters to know where they stand, who is before whom on the road to heaven. Dominated overall by race, 'nigger' everywhere, and how to control them, get them to contribute/work for the white world, but prejudice and fear doesn't stop there, is extended to cover all foreigners, eg Polish refugees from WW2 (Europeans are 'full of crooked ways. They never have advanced or reformed. They got the same religion as a thousand years ago.' The Displaced Person).
After a while I knew in every story there'd be a woman in face cream and curlers or a seemingly well meaning patriarch who ignores his own child in favour of others, sometimes complete strangers. The Biblical themes are legion. I knew there would be some kind of physical attack, some - bull, gun, tractor - fatal, others life changing in other ways. The landscape would be the same - woods and water, a barn and a dusty road. All the characters would be deluded to some extent, nasty often, harshly listing the faults and flaws of the world and the people in it, or finding perfection where it doesn't exist. They're ratty, contradictory, crawling with desires or resentments, often in search of tenderness and connection (though they would deny it) but not getting it. A fine cruelty throughout.
But, no matter, truly rich stories, packed with memorable images that jump out - the eyes on Parker's back, the spectacles whittled in wood (brought to mind the billboard in Great Gatsby). A lot on eyes reflecting, or showing soemthing deeper. The other big motif throughout both books is the sun - always the stand in for God in the stories, relentless and powerful, making us see, or blinding us, adding beauty and mystery as it sets or rises. I'll never forget the glorious path to heaven that is shown in 'Revelation' She saw the streak as a vast swinging bridge extending upward from the earth through a field of living fire. Upon it a vast horde of souls were rumbling toward heaven. Or just before that when she shakes her fist with the hose in it and a watery snake appeared momentarily in the air. I'll never forget the horn garlanded bull in the moonlight, the tractor going into the tree, the shots in the woods.
None though seem as strong and cruel and shocking as A Good Man is Hard to Find, the first and still the best story of her's I've read. But I'm looking forward to the re-reading, the finding out if that will still be true when I can see them from more of a distance.(less)
a tautly written page turner: there's a suicide and disappearance in the first few pages and the plot unravels around those events. It's about a relig...morea tautly written page turner: there's a suicide and disappearance in the first few pages and the plot unravels around those events. It's about a religious cult and its devastating effect on a family. I loved the bits about the seventies, particularly the acid trips:
Words had turned to lizards in my mouth.. the tails were uncomfortable in my teeth..
Rang a few bells with me. In honour of this I've stuck a 1973 pic of me up - just for a bit...
Back to the book: yes good solid read, perhaps a bit too much explaining to do in the latter quarter to tie up all the loose ends.(less)
had a terrific review in the Guardian at the weekend, and I'd just got a copy out of the library (first to take it out, I love that)... Guardian review...morehad a terrific review in the Guardian at the weekend, and I'd just got a copy out of the library (first to take it out, I love that)... Guardian review link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/...
..loved it, beautiful book, gentle and warm and drunken and funny.. proper review will follow (honest Karen - and all the others)...
finally, finally: ...full of warmth and affection for its characters, without glossing over their faults, indeed in some ways celebrating their pecadilloes, and with a marvellous attention to the ordinary. Last time I read a book of such loveliness it was by Henry Green. From me that's the highest praise.
Maybe the subject matter sways me: a day in the life of an English pub, sharing its plotlines among several characters - the landlord Frank, a man with a sexual secret, his wife Dawn, ditto, their employee Darren, a gangly youth prone to misadventure, and their various customers including a completely tattooed man, quiz show freaks Alan and Jerry, 'Father' Thomas who lives in a religious community (when he's not in the pub). There's a till discrepancy and the brewery are sending a man round to check the books, there's a threat of closure which causes some tension; 'Father' is wondering how to mourn the death of a colleague; Dawn is reminded of her brother's death on a bicycle years before. Somehow though the day ends in mini-triumph for almost all the characters, unexpectedly. Darren gets a girlfriend, Frank comes to terms with himself and Dawn has an exhilerating adventure. A great book. (less)
yes this is my book but this is not the cover any more - I like this one but the new one is better...I'll post it when it goes 'live'. Have done so -...moreyes this is my book but this is not the cover any more - I like this one but the new one is better...I'll post it when it goes 'live'. Have done so - this is the cover of my book now! The other thing that is wrong here is the publication date: it says 2011, but in fact it should be out next month - launch is Sept 30th at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (UK) and everyone is welcome... PS - of course I had nothing to do with the blurb so apologies for the ray Carver bit..(less)
I first came across Alan Warner when a Scottish temp at work lent me Morvern Callar in 1995 (I lent her Kelman’s ‘How Late it Was, How Late’, and never got it back). It (MC) was one of those books that I just started and had to continue, while walking or eating etc, it was so absorbing: strange but rooted in supermarket- checkout-girl reality, amoral yet searching for truth, poetic and demotic. The strange detachment of Morvern is compelling because you don’t know how she’ll react to events (eg the suicide of her 30 year old novelist boyfriend). I have to admit to falling in love with her, as much as you can fall in love with a literary creation. I bought copies for my friends, and all the women remarked how well Warner had got inside the mind of a 21 year old woman. In fact as there was no biographical information on (or in) the book they were convinced that it was a woman writing under a pseudonym. It became a favourite (much more so than Irvine Welsh’s stuff who he was compared to, simply because he is also Scottish) in my little gang. Then later came ‘The Sopranos’, lighter in tone but equally impressive in its ability to enter the mind of females, this time six of them, schoolgirls, part of a choir who have a trip to Edinburgh for a choral competition and the plot follows their shenanigans as they behave in the wild, but also normal way of most girls that age, and that culture (small town/working class – although a couple are more middle class). Superbly funny and again quite densely poetic but also full of slang and wonderfully detailed observation.
Then along came this book. I had stopped reading Warner – just didn’t fancy his last two novels from the blurbs (although friends tell me they’re good), but had to read this because it’s a sequel to ‘The Sopranos’, and I had to find out what had happened to fat Guinness drinking Manda, and Finn and Chell and the rest. (I named one of my story characters after Manda.) Here they meet up at Gatwick airport to go an unbooked holiday (they are going to do the lastminute thing and book one there) in 2001 when they are just in their 20s. Orla has died, and a new character, Ava, a rich half French philosophy student (Finn is at Uni with her) takes her place. Well, they start to chat and have fun and get drunk and talk about their luggage – straighteners have been brought but not curling tongs, someone’s brought an iron, they get pissed talk about lads, one (Manda of course) loses her passport, so they can’t go and are stuck for another two nights there (in the airport hotels), they go for a trip to Hever castle (in nearby Kent), and finally book a trip to Las Vegas but.. well I’ll let you find out. Suffice to say they never leave the ground (literally that is).
Strictly speaking I should have given this 4 stars because even I got a little bored in one or two places with the incredible attention to the detail of the quotidian, of the TV programmes, eg Big Brother that they watch, the account of the VIP lounge in the home town’s one nightclub (Rascals), the difference in sizes between GAP and Topshop, but there are set pieces that are so funny, as well as true and a little poignant that all is forgiven. Manda on coke (not Coca Cola) watching porn in the hotel room for example, or their encounters with various men, eg the waiter at the airport or the groundsman at Hever Castle (men are much talked about but seldom appear). Ava too brings another dimension with her ability to sail through life as an aristocrat and themes of class, and philosophy are explored (the main theme though, as others have said, is loss of innocence). I probably would avoid this group had I met them in the airport (not that I go to airports much) or in the pub but Warner gives them their proper due, once again he has enthralled me.
Quotes are needed and will be forthcoming when I get home… Still at work, but managed to scribble this down in break, from a random page - Manda on Spain:‘Watch out for yon food they’re aye funnelling down your gullet. Pie-elle-yah it’s called. It’s minging. It’s bright yellow rice like yon you get with a carry out from The Light of India, but it’s got all sea monsters and stuff in and you try to lift a spoonful and it’s got the broke-off creeper pincer things of those sort of sea cockroaches mixed up in it. When all you want’s a good burger, eh?’
The airport with its alien landscape of beeping machines and franchises and huge black pipe work suspended from the ceiling, the moving walkways and Hoppa buses and ersatz ‘English pub’ is beautifully evoked: At the back of Macdonalds, the Game Grid amusement arcade was empty. The machines seemed to talk to themselves, like burbling, jungle canopy wildlife… The Ezzy Dancer stood hugely before them, eight feet tall when elevated, embedded disco lights on top of the large speakers. The lights obediently flashed, reminding both Finn and Ava of sad village hall discos long past. Above.. a mania of information scrolled up the large pulsating screen, then disappeared at the top.. The dance step arrows were flying upwards while an urging, wry, male American voice – like a cynical sergeant from the Marine Corps – imprecated and threateningly encouraged from the woofer speakers. ‘Excellent.’ ‘You could be a professional.’ The voice sneered towards phantom dancers who were not there, tempting observers to insert money, mount the platform and dance. (less)
Germaine Greer on a review programme that was looking at the Booker short listed novels complained that in this book there is little about the countri...moreGermaine Greer on a review programme that was looking at the Booker short listed novels complained that in this book there is little about the countries visited, even though it is a kind of travel book, more about the state of the mind of its main protagonist, a figure that slips from third person to first, sometimes in the course of a sentence, and is called 'Damon'. What struck her is its solipsism. She has a point. Often it is the gaps between destinations, the ennui of this type of travel (A large part of travelling consists purely in waiting...departure halls of airports, bus stations, lonely kerbsides in the heat) that comes over rather more strongly than the sights and sounds of the countries visited. 'Damon' is a loner always just missing in relationships, gay but not sure or strong about it, and, yes, self absorbed, but trying not to be: In his clearest moments he thinks that he has lost the ability to love, people or places or things, most of all the person and place and thing that he is. Without love nothing has value, nothing can be made to matter very much... In this state travel isn't celebration but a kind of mourning, a way of dissipating yourself. He travels because he is bored by the anguish of staying still.
So don't expect a lot of laughs. However I think Greer is wrong, you do get a 'flavour' of the places he visits, the long lakes of Malawi, the mountains of rural Lesotho, the beaches and plumbing of Goa, the customs offices and trains, the heat everywhere and the dust, or alternatively the primeval lightening.
Beautifully written all the way through, with overtones of Beckett - the following is dialogue (none of your boring punctuation though):
In one of your letters. Yes. You said you were looking forward to seeing me again. Yes. What did you mean by that. ...I don't know what I meant. You don't know what you meant. I was looking forward to seeing you. Nothing else. Not that I can think of.
The first two parts are more comtemplative, at arm's length (still absorbing), often just about walking: They walk and walk, all the motion latent in the vast curves of the earth somehow contracted into the dynamics of this movement, one leg swinging past the other, each foot planted and uprooted in turn, the whole surface of the world has been trodden down just like this over time. But the third part maybe involves the reader more because 'Damon' is a guardian to a mentally unstable woman who attempts suicide and a lot of the plot is caught up in his attempts to save her life, the messy bloody shitty details of her treatment and stay in the Indian hospital and the relationships he is forced to forge with others to keep her alive and himself sane.
Altogether a satisfying book, even if this bloke is definitely a 'half empty' sort: In fact he doesn't sleep much, the boat is lurching and the deck is hard and uncomfortable. Dangling above them is a huge metal hook on a crane and all his latent uneasiness becomes focused on this hook, what if it falls, he keeps waking from jagged dreams to see that dark shape punched out on the sky. The night is starry and huge, depsite this one concentration of dread at the very centre of it, above him.(less)
just reserved Warner's latest from the library, and noticed I hadn't added this one on GR. It is a kind of sequel to the great 'Morvern Callar' but no...morejust reserved Warner's latest from the library, and noticed I hadn't added this one on GR. It is a kind of sequel to the great 'Morvern Callar' but not anywhere near as good. It's been over ten years since I read it, but I remember finding it a bit bitty and contrived, but with great moments.(less)
I vowed to lay off Beatles books but this was in the library and couldn't resist. It was so much like the later 'Revolution in the Head' - going throu...moreI vowed to lay off Beatles books but this was in the library and couldn't resist. It was so much like the later 'Revolution in the Head' - going through song by song, that I didn't read from cover to cover, just picked favourite songs (eg Rain, And Your Bird Can Sing: the guitar solo is flourescent irony.. it glitters with supremacy.) and also read all the stuff on their solo careers (up to late 80s - George still alive). Again too dismissive of George I thought, saying of his wonderful 'All Too Much' points up everything that can go wrong.. subtleties are scattered.. a lack of immediacy, and not mentioning 'I Live for You', my favourite from 'All Things Must Pass'. Really rates Ringo though - as other reviews point out - quite properly.
Worth reading for the bibliography alone, with some great biased comments. He says of DiLello's 'The longest Cocktail Party': Tattle-tales from an office boy whose job included rolling joints and sending out for barrels of apples for press conferences. Paperback writer becomes flesh. I love the chapter in Derek Taylor's 'As Time Goes By' about Paul's trip up north to work with a brass band and how, on acid, they stop in a village on the way back and Paul sings his new song 'Hey Jude' in the local pub, but Riley says the book has a fondness that verges on patronisation. He's probably right.
The edition I read wasn't the one portrayed above, but from 1988, the one above might have been updated. (less)
really I wanted to get hold of 'Kiss of the Unborn' as recommended by Karen, but the library didn't have it and amazon market place were charging 58 q...morereally I wanted to get hold of 'Kiss of the Unborn' as recommended by Karen, but the library didn't have it and amazon market place were charging 58 quid for a second hand copy. But this novel which sounds pretty good is available via the library so I'll reserve it instead.(less)
sent this by the author who has returned to Birmingham (UK) recently. He may be joining our group so I am biased. A beautiful book, as all LM edtions...moresent this by the author who has returned to Birmingham (UK) recently. He may be joining our group so I am biased. A beautiful book, as all LM edtions are, sturdy, high quality pages with nice print, and a lovely cover (I'll try and put up on GR). I think I may have read two or three of the stories as they appeared in London magazine as I was a subscriber from the 70s to about 2001...
I have read a couple before. Review soon (tomorrow I hope)..
..err not tomorrow, some time later: solid but slightly (and sometimes more than slightly) weird stories, old fashioned (public school, inheritances, the feel of a once 'great' family brought to near penury, brought to selling off property, eg The Last of the Lofts). The protagonist is usually a lonely crusty scholar type, deserted by wife and left to fester alone, this often has its funny side: (his landlady) had even complained about the smell of cooking in the kitchen; or they are schoolboys spending holidays with other friends or strange relatives. The stories are rooted in a heirarchy that seems feudal, almost. It is always cold, the central heating doesn't work, it rains or is misty; people eat badly or eat bad things, property is always crumbling (chewed paper to fill in the cracks in one story), with none of the comforts of family (in one story a boy spends his pocket money on bread, butter and cheese to re-create a family meal). But it is shot through with marvellous description and strange happenings and hinted at, obscure desires and actions, particularly in 'Treasure' and 'Greener Than Before'. The beauty and precision of the writing saves it from any heaviness - Wilkinson is a poet and this shows in his imagery, eg one protagonist lights all the gas rings, and all four blaze away like birthday cakes. He is particularly good on the weather: When he went outside again it was to find a country reverberant with the sound of falling water. It was as if, just below the surface, and using some undiscovered medium, a wild eyed composer worked, manipulating the strange electronic gurgle of water in the drains, arranging the the cut-glass laughter that crackled beneath the eaves, and, at the press of a button, filling each distant hill with white noise(less)
Another set of flawless stories (after 'Both Ways is the Only way I want It'). These are coolly written, poised pieces that worm into you slowly and -...moreAnother set of flawless stories (after 'Both Ways is the Only way I want It'). These are coolly written, poised pieces that worm into you slowly and - some of them at least - wring your heart a little at the fate of these often lonely characters. 'Kindness' the opening novella is probably the best piece here, but all are good. Top end of four stars.(less)