Browsing All Posts filed under »Reading«

An antic romp

May 29, 2009


All three musketeers are of the ranks of the Eurozone’s unemployed and unemployable. Unskilled and poorly educated, they bitterly lament their derailment to third world status. The construction jobs they once took for granted are now filled by migrant labor from North Africa and Albania. On a drunken picnic Reno, Danilo & Quattro Formaggi hatch a plot to steal an ATM machine as the means to temporary financial nirvana. If this sounds a tad depressing, it’s not. Jonathan Woods reviews Niccolo Ammaniti's The Crossroads.

Dead again

May 6, 2009


Bosch. Dante. Blake. Doré. Each had their own teeming and unique visions. For Flann O’Brien, it was a depressing rural village in Ireland where men slowly became bicycles. Will Self had the afterlife as simply a suburb of London. Darran Anderson reviews David Eagleman's Sum.

Sadness & death

April 1, 2009


With a preserved giants hand preserved as a relic in the villages abandoned church, a blind prostitute and a general store run by Judas you may be tempted to catalogue this in the literary category of magical realism. But this novel is much more than that. Here we are given the struggle of the villagers in the face of superior forces. Joe Phelan reviews Jose Luis Peixoto's Blank Gaze.

The past is never past

March 4, 2009


At last, Europa Editions has published the final novella in Carlo Lucarelli’s superb historical crime trilogy starring Commissario De Luca. These three linked tales [Carte Blanche, The Damned Season, Via delle Oche] are a great read, rich in atmosphere, sense of place, history and character. As an added bonus each book includes in its cast of characters a strong-willed sexy woman with whom De Luca fornicates heroically and without sentimentality. After the first encounter, in which a beautiful and busty fortuneteller with wavy red hair fucks De Luca’s brains out during an air raid, I knew I was hooked. Jonathan Woods reviews Carlo Lucarelli.

A Beatnik Stew: Kerouac & Burroughs

February 13, 2009


The flat, Vernacular (a term coined by Cyril Connolly) prose of Hippos is not markedly different from that in Junky or Queer, written in the years following, as Burroughs made his way from NYC to N.O. to the Rio Grande valley of Texas, on to Mexico City and finally the jungles of Ecuador in search of the telepathic drug Yage. Those two autobiographical narratives are far more intimate than Hippos, achieved through Burroughs' insertion of himself as the first person narrator Bill Lee. Burroughs is the junky, faggot hustler of Junky and Queer. At the same time these later books show a far darker vision than Hippos. Jonathan Woods reviews And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks.

Apollinaire for the digital age

December 15, 2008


“If one where to compare Henri Matisse’s work to something, it would have to be an orange,” so goes the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire’s memorable description of the great modernist’s work. I’ve always found Apollinaire’s collected criticism some of the most engaging, inventive words on the early years of modern art. Applying as he did the poet’s ability of verbal contortion in the face of the groundbreaking, neoteric tendencies of the day’s visual artists who were busy destroying the old guard’s perameters and familiar forms. In his introduction to his collected writings on contemporary art from Eastern Europe, Travis Jeppesen lays down his credence: What is at stake here is language and the ways in which it is deployed. The debates over the purpose of art criticism seem to ignore the simple, basic fact that the art of art criticism is in fact a literary act. John Holten reviews Travis Jeppesen's Disorientations.

All whirlwind, heat & flash

December 13, 2008


Sonic Youth are cool to the point of distraction. Everything about them was and remains terminally hip. The avant garde pretensions (Raymond Pettibon, Gerhard Richter and Richard Avedon record sleeves, the Fluxus and Outsider Art allusions as well as the whole feedback as sound art) rankle and inspire in equal measure but frankly if you produce intermittently stunning albums like Sister, Goo, Daydream Nation and Dirty you’ve earned the right to do whatever the fuck you like. How their hipster allure would translate into writing may not be immediately evident but it’s clear from the off that, like The Fall book Perverted by Language, the influence is a cyclical one: Sister being partially based on Philip K Dick’s ghost twin to say nothing of Lee Ranaldo’s prodigious literary output. Darran Anderson reviews The Empty Page.

Fuku versus zafa

April 18, 2008


Lots of bad luck and trouble out there, mostly attributable to fuku, a curse that attaches when least expected. But Junot Diaz has a major counterspell or zafa thing going these days. Born in the Dominican Republic, raised in Paterson, New Jersey within a crack vial’s throw of Nueva York, Diaz has found the ultimate writer’s niche: the Dominican literary hipster experience on the hard streets of a stateside barrio. Not a lot of competition there, the last time I looked. But who’s complaining, since Diaz has talent to burn. First Drown, a slim volume of street-heavy stories of misspent Dominic youth published to critical acclaim in 1996; now, eleven years later, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Jonathan Woods reviews The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Tales of the city

April 13, 2008


What I was hoping for when I opened 3:AM London, New York, Paris was a collection of well-written, interesting and enjoyable short stories from a group of writers that had been chosen by 3:AM Magazine, an institution I trust fairly well to do exactly that. And, thankfully, that is what I got. Just look at their first collection, The Edgier Waters, or anything from their site over the last six years and I’m sure you’ll agree that they know what makes good writing. But at no point in reading 3:AM London, New York, Paris was I ever considering the theme in any great depth. To be honest, while reading the stories that impressed me the most, I completely forgot that the collection even had a theme. Joe Roche reviews 3:AM London, New York, Paris.

The mirage & the water

April 11, 2008


Tangier’s legacy is in its literature, not only in the writings of the Western novelists – William Burroughs' Naked Lunch, Bowles' Let It Come Down – but also in that of its home-grown talent, Driss Charhadi's A Life Full of Holes and Mohamed Choukri's For Bread Alone, both of which Bowles enthusiastically transcribed and promoted. Choukri writes: “I did not see as much bread in Tangier as my mother had promised me I should. There was hunger even in Eden, but at least it was not hunger that killed.” Published in 1981, and banned in Morocco by King Hassan II until 2001, For Bread Alone chronicles teenage prostitution, sexual promiscuity, alcoholism and poverty, a harsh and cutting reality at the heart of Tangier; the city as a muse, albeit loose and unforgiving. Susan Tomaselli reviews Mohamed Choukri's Streetwise.