This was recommended to me by a friend and it took me ages to finally buy a copy. There wasn't any reluctance on my part, even though I was never theThis was recommended to me by a friend and it took me ages to finally buy a copy. There wasn't any reluctance on my part, even though I was never the biggest fan of disco music. I can't resist a great story (or stories), especially connected to music. I tracked down a cheap-ish used copy on eBay and dove in.
Disco, in it's popular form, still remains one of the most reviled genres in popular music. Hell, even progressive rock has seen a bit of a rehabilitation in the past ten years (with its own magazine and everything!). Shapiro's book takes a sort-of 'preaching to the choir' tone, as if he was sure that disco-phobes would studiously avoid it. He's probably correct in that assumption, but some of the pot-shots at rock-n-roll seemed unnecessary.
Shapiro was (is?) an occasional writer for 'The Wire' music magazine and it shows in the writing - he goes into detail about instruments used on recordings, release dates and band personnel. He manages to weave in cultural events and informative interviews with all of the anorak-y factoids, which really makes the book compelling. Whether it's the psychedelic house parties at The Loft, the hedonism at the Continental Baths, or even the glitter-ball sensationalism of Studio 54, he keeps everything grounded in stories of the people involved....more
One of the few instances of my seeing the film before reading the book. I thought the film was pretty good - I wanted to see if the book added anythinOne of the few instances of my seeing the film before reading the book. I thought the film was pretty good - I wanted to see if the book added anything that may have been left out of the film. There are some differences, a couple of bits that were dropped and a couple of bits swapped around. The only snag is that you picture the actors from the film while reading the book and you don't get to form your own characters in your mind.
Nesbo has a very cinematic style of writing anyway, so the plot moves along at a good pace. He throws in his usual flair for gore and twist-around set pieces. It all adds up to an entertaining read. If you like Scandi-noir, this one won't let you down. Check the film also - it's worth a watch....more
I found this in a charity shop and having read "The Magus", which I really enjoyed, I thought I'd check out some more of Fowles's work. I didn't realiI found this in a charity shop and having read "The Magus", which I really enjoyed, I thought I'd check out some more of Fowles's work. I didn't realise that it's not one novel, as I initially suspected, but five stories which don't inter-connect, though there may be a few themes running through the stories.
One of the themes may be generational clashes, as embodied in the title story, about a reclusive English painter living in France. He agrees to be interviewed by a younger artist for a retrospective book on his work. The younger man discovers the old painter lives with two young women, both art students and hippie-ish. There are heated discussions on art, furtive desire and philosophical musings. Fowles's prose never gets clunky and his character portraits are certainly believable. In the short story, "Poor Koko", an older writer is staying at the cottage of friends, when the cottage is robbed one night. The burglar is younger and much more working-class than the author. The burglar is also quite talkative and they end up discussing art and other topics while the robbery is in progress. I suspected that the author in the story was supposed to be much like Fowles himself, doing intellectual battle with 'da yoof'.
Another theme that seemed to crop up was chance encounters, sometimes leading to infidelity. David, the younger artist in "The Ebony Tower" falls for one of the young art students, but he is rebuffed before he gets adulterous. In "Eliduc", based on an ancient Celtic story, the knight of the title goes to help a king in England and falls for his daughter, scheming to bring her back to France and to leave his wife. His plan goes wrong as well. In the final story, "The Cloud", one of the characters, 'Peter' cheats on his girlfriend with 'Catherine', the sister of the hostess of the party.
I quite enjoyed the book, though some of it is very 'of its time', in terms of dialogue and setting. A very British middle-class exploration of the aftermath of the 1960s, particularly in the title story and "Poor Koko". I also liked the way the stories just wound down, without a big resolution or exposition - they left me wondering what would happen next. Particularly "The Cloud" - I read the last three or four pages a few times, but still couldn't quite work out what had happened to Catherine. Answers on a postcard, please......more
I read this through Scribd, as an eBook. Scribd has now become a pay service for certain titles, but I think I was able to finish it because I startedI read this through Scribd, as an eBook. Scribd has now become a pay service for certain titles, but I think I was able to finish it because I started it before the change-over. Physical copies are a bit pricey at the moment, so I opted for the eBook. Anyway, this is a great treatise on liberal philosophy, written in the 1950s. I suspect Parsons would be shocked to see how many freedoms have eroded since that time. Maybe not, though, as he seemed to have a good handle on how the government and the press were colluding, even then. It's nice-n-short, too, coming in at 30-odd pages....more
Maconie's second UK travel book concerns the much-used term "Middle England", which is generally meant to describe the small towns and villages. SometMaconie's second UK travel book concerns the much-used term "Middle England", which is generally meant to describe the small towns and villages. Sometimes used as a pejorative, describing the inhabitants of these places as racist and insular ("Daily Mail readers", in other words). He travels around the various Shires and samples food and walks around, noting interesting things about each place, except Grantham (Maggie Thatcher's birthplace) - he didn't seem to like it much.
As with "Pies & Prejudice", Maconie's 'cheeky Northern chappie' humour can grate a bit, but he crams in loads of detail and good-natured asides about shops and passers-by. Worth a read, if you're planning to visit Chipping Norton or Nuneaton....more
I can't remember why I initially bought this - more than likely, it was recommended by Robert Anton Wilson in an interview, or one of his books. I thiI can't remember why I initially bought this - more than likely, it was recommended by Robert Anton Wilson in an interview, or one of his books. I think he said something like "You're a human - it's good to read things that were created before 1970", then mentioned Ovid.
Essentially, "Metamorphoses" is an epic poem, starting with the creation of the world, taking in it's own version of the "Great Flood" story, loads and loads of Greek mythology and finally ending up just around Ovid's own time, in the midst of the Roman Empire.
The metre of the verses was unfamiliar to me, so I more or less read it as prose. In the introduction, the metre is explained, but I couldn't really get my head around it. I really enjoyed the poems and all subjects are covered. Some of them are quite gruesome and even shocking, but many concern love and kindness. If you're a Genesis fan, you'll learn the inspiration for "The Fountain Of Salmacis"....more
**spoiler alert** Michael Moorcock allegedly wrote this, or at a large chunk of it, in 1965. If that's true, then he had incredible foresight. The des**spoiler alert** Michael Moorcock allegedly wrote this, or at a large chunk of it, in 1965. If that's true, then he had incredible foresight. The descriptions of the London counter-culture of just a few years later seem spot-on. His dandified protagonist, Jerry Cornelius, coulda been part of the Rolling Stones entourage.
The story arc moves from Asia to England to France, then onto Sweden and back to England. In turns, it's a spy caper, fantasy quest, sex-n-rock'n'roll party scene (with a bit of drugs thrown in, for good measure) and apocalyptic thriller.
Moorcock populates the book with loads of characters, including a strong female foil for Cornelius, Miss Brunner. A lot of them don't get 'fleshed out' enough, which is about he only weakness of the book. Moorcock was cranking out about four books a year and spread himself far too thin.
For all that, though - it's a cracking sci-fi adventure, which chucks in a bit of philosophy, too. This one was made into a film, in 1972. Probably didn't do so well at the box office, I'd imagine. Moorcock's far too out-there for conventional films....more
**spoiler alert** "Crash" is a fully-formed novel based on a short-story that Ballard had included in "The Atrocity Exhibition", a collection of disjo**spoiler alert** "Crash" is a fully-formed novel based on a short-story that Ballard had included in "The Atrocity Exhibition", a collection of disjointed dystopian sci-fi, first published in 1972. It also, to me, forms a trilogy with "Concrete Island" and "High Rise" (further explorations of human interaction with technology and what happens when the thin veneer of 'civilisation' breaks down).
The story of the book centres around 'James Ballard', a director of television adverts. He gets into an auto collision and the passenger of the other car is killed. The driver of the other vehicle, a female doctor, is in the same hospital as Ballard and they eventually have sex near the scene of the accident, among many other places. He meets Robert Vaughan, a scientist who used to present a show about the auto and its role in society, as well as the destructiveness of crashes.
Sex and the automobile are the central features in the book. If you've read "The Atrocity Exhibition", you'll recognise Ballard's clinical descriptions of sex acts and of genitals. There's no 'cocks' or 'pussy' or 'he fucked her and she screamed with delight'. It's all 'pereniums' and 'his glans'. To me, it's not sex described for arousal, but described as if observing something alien between an unknown species. I got the feeling that Ballard's (the author) intent was describing alien sex acts involving humans and machines.
Ballard (the character) gets swept up into Vaughan's world of auto(mobile)-eroticism, though he admits early on in the book that he had been fascinated by car crashes and sex. After his accident, the obsession takes him over and Vaughan becomes a conduit for it. They drive around the fictional "London Airport" and hire prostitutes to fulfill their desires, often posturing the women in crash victim poses. Ballard and his wife, Catherine, are serial philanderers and she also has sex with Vaughan in the back of his car, while Ballard is driving.
Vaughan's master plan is to kill Elizabeth Taylor, the actress, in a stylised crash involving sex with her at the moment of the crash. He seems to have done his homework and arranged the meeting with Ballard because he knew of his job and possible proximity to Taylor. As the book goes on, Vaughan gets ever more unstable and more machine-like in his determination to carry out his plan. A stunt-man friend of Vaughan's, Seagrave, tries to sap the moment by killing himself in a crash, while dressed as Taylor, which further unravels Vaughan.
The two key scenes for me, were the crowd watching the slow-motion film of a test-crash, all hynotised by the balletic nature of the horror of a crash. The other is the acid trip sequence toward the end of the book. Both Ballard and Vaughan eat LSD-soaked sugarcubes and drive around their familiar turf. Ballard (the character) nearly melds with the car as the tarmac and concrete ahead morphs into various beautiful visions. Ballard's (the author) writing in these parts is excellent and possibly some of his best and shows he deserves his reputation.
Vaughan attempts to kill Ballard as the acid wears off and a few weeks later, dies as his plan for Taylor fizzles. She emerges from her limousine unscathed, while Vaughan dies bleeding on the road, after being removed from his vehicle. Ballard and Catherine walk among crashed autos in a wreck yard and Ballard knows he will be involved in another crash.
I enjoyed "Crash", though not quite as much as "High Rise" or "Concrete Island". It wasn't the graphic nature of the writing or even the subject matter - I think maybe it was the characters. I didn't find any of them particularly interesting, aside from Vaughan and even he seemed more of a cyborg (maybe that was the point, though). I suppose that really, the cars were meant to be the main characters and the humans were meant to be in thrall to them. Whatever the case, "Crash" does seem a pretty twisted and transgressive book - even more amazing that it was published in 1973....more
**spoiler alert** This book was recommended to me by a couple of friends, one of whom lent me the book. The story concerns an older Ukranian man, Niko**spoiler alert** This book was recommended to me by a couple of friends, one of whom lent me the book. The story concerns an older Ukranian man, Nikolai, with two daughters, who meets a younger Ukranian woman. He decides he is madly in love with her and arranges for her and her young son to move over to England, where he can marry her and they can stay with him.
The daughters (the narrator of the book, "Nadia", is shown to be a sort-of leftie, hippie type - the older sister, Vera, is shown as a hard-nosed, no-nonsense Conservative) don't get on well, but both suspect "Valentina" of using their father for a sham marriage to get a UK visa. Surprise, surprise - their suspicions are correct, but it becomes much tougher to get rid of Valentina and her son, Stanislav, than they originally thought. Part of their problem is their father's reluctance to divorce Valentina, even after he suffers abuse at her hands.
The plot thickens when Valentina's Ukranian husband turns up, plus several other gents who've been hovering around. Valentina is found out to be pregnant, which complicates things further, as Nadia and Vera's father seems to think the baby is his. There's court proceedings and other confrontations and finally, Valentina and Stanislav and the new child (named after Margaret Thatcher...ugh!) go back to Ukraine with her original husband.
In between all of the drama, there are bits of family history from World War II, when Vera and the girls' mother had to live in a concentration camp. Nikolai was drafted into the Polish army, but deserts and is eventually caught. He tries to kill himself and eventually is reunited in the same camp with his wife and daughter. Vera steals cigarettes from a German officer and the entire family is sentenced to a part of the camp called the 'Correction Block', essentially a slaughterhouse. They survive when British soldiers liberate the camp.
There's also excerpts from a book Nikolai is writing about the history of tractors in farming. Some of these seem quite interesting, despite the somewhat dull subject matter.
I can't say I really enjoyed the book all that much. The characters all seemed a bit one-dimensional. Nadia's the 'caring' one, Vera's the 'tough' one, Nikolai is shown to be 'eccentric' with his book about tractors and seventeen inventions he's patented (he gives one of his patents to Valentina's husband when they leave for Ukraine). He's also depicted as a love-struck fool and stubborn in his refusal to let Valentina go, even when she's abusing him. There's the nosy neighbours and a sorta-sleazy car salesman who may or not be Valentina's lover on the side. She also takes up with a grubby pub-owner after formally being ejected from Nikolai's house. Seriously, it all started getting far too "Eastenders" after a while. Some may find the tug-of-war between the sisters and their eventual detente quite amusing - but to be honest, by the end - I hadn't grown to like any of them and was glad the book was finished....more
I found this in a used book shop and for the price, couldn't pass it up (hardback, too!). Heylin attempts to scale the monumental hype and legend surrI found this in a used book shop and for the price, couldn't pass it up (hardback, too!). Heylin attempts to scale the monumental hype and legend surrounding "Sgt Pepper's..." and cut it back a bit. Does he succeed? Well, yes and no. The guy clearly knows his stuff and there's loads of info on contemporary acts (The Pink Floyd - when they still used "The", The Beach Boys, Dylan, Cream, The Rolling Stones, etc.), who were creating their own 'far-out' albums around the same time The Fabs were tinkering in Abbey Road Studios. There's a helpful list of singles and albums from 1966 and 1967 that Heylin recommends listening to.
I found his writing style a bit smarmy and condescending, so that put me off of the book a bit (he refers to Meredith Hunter, the man killed at Altamont in 1969, as a 'coloured gentleman'...ouch!). If you can get by that, though, it's a worthwhile read about one of the most (depending on your view) important records of the 'rock and roll' era....more