book reviews

Goodreads review: Post Everything: Outsider Rock and Roll

Post Everything: Outsider Rock and RollPost Everything: Outsider Rock and Roll by Luke Haines
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You know, there’s a lot of room in my life for books in which the creator of one of the best Britpop-umbrella bands details the life-and-death of his next project, writes a music featuring a Lord Lucan cameo, filches cash from a label even as they are dumping him, is told how to make decent scrambled eggs (low heat, folks, low heat) by a perhaps-imagined drug-addict cat, and receives album advice from dead rappers.

(Even though he’d hate the fucking Britpop bit.)

This is that book. (more…)

Goodreads review: The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You AreThe Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are by Alan W. Watts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alan Watts died in 1974, but he seems to be much more popular today than ever he was while alive. This book, The Book, was written on a Sausalito houseboat, and has been on my to-read list since I heard about it on a discussion forum years ago. I feel it might have been of more import to me had I read it when I was younger – it’s certainly a counterpoint to the “you’re all special!” mindset imparted by school – but I still found it quietly reassuring today.

(more…)

Goodreads review: Revival

Revival Revival by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So, I’m back on the King train. I’d fallen off it when I was in my early 20s – I feel his readership is probably most vehement about keeping up in its teens, as I was – and it had been years. I read From A Buick 8 some time ago and really enjoyed it. Since then, though, there’s been thirteen-odd books – four (including one out later this year) since the time Revival was written.

It’s hard to keep up, is what I’m saying. Also, I’m not sure I’d pick Revival as the book to jump back in on. (more…)

Goodreads review: Mahu: Or the Material

Mahu: Or the Material Mahu: Or the Material by Robert Pinget
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Well, I tried.

Previously, I’ve liked Pinget. I read The Inquisitory which, despite being often confusing or obscure, was at least remarkable in setting and in country-house weirdness, and is something I’ve reread and kept on my shelf for future examinations.

Not so much with Mahu: Or the Material.

Now, it’s described as being a sort of fellow-traveller with works such as At Swim-Two-Birds and while it does have a surreal sort of humour flowing through it, that’s where the comparison ends. Likewise the comparison of Pinget to Beckett: that seems a bit of a reduction – with Samuel at least there’s the idea of a plan behind the words, a meaning to the ranting. Not so here. (more…)

Goodreads review: Wrong About Japan

Wrong About JapanWrong About Japan by Peter Carey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am both a fan of Japan and a fan of Peter Carey, so one would think this book a no-brainer for me. I enjoyed it, sure, but I found my enthusiasms for both broader topics were greater than my enthusiasm for this book.

The book details a journey the writer (and his son, Charley) took to Japan. It’s an indulgent parental gesture – Carey’s son is a manga and anime fanatic, and the trip is suggested after the author observes the way his offspring enthusiastically consumes Japanese cultural exports. (School-mandated reading does not have a similar effect on the younger Carey.) (more…)

Goodreads review: The Serpent and the Rainbow

The Serpent and the RainbowThe Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Zombies! Death! Mystery! Haiti! THE UNKNOWABLE! All of these are perennially interesting to the whitest of the white – me, for example – and Davis’ book, a tale of the search for potions to make and unmake a zombie, is no exception. It’s interesting, but dryness (and occasional self-insertion) can make it tough going.

The cover of this edition is not a design which offers confidence in the book’s contents. It features a screaming Bill Pullman and a coffin, a tie-in with the frankly shithouse film of the same name. The film that’s loosely based on the source in the same way that I can loosely be called a virtuoso because I can play a three-chord banger as long as it doesn’t involve odd barre positions. (more…)

Goodreads review: Use Your Words: A Myth-Busting, No-Fear Approach to Writing

Use Your Words: A Myth-Busting, No-Fear Approach to WritingUse Your Words: A Myth-Busting, No-Fear Approach to Writing by Catherine Deveny
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Catherine Deveny is a writer, comic and general shit-stirrer. She’s a dyslexic atheist who sees CAPS LOCK as COCK SLAP and is by her own admission pretty lazy. She’s also authored a bunch of books, shows and columns, and manages to get shit done with alarming regularity. Use Your Words is an excellent distillation of her work ethic, and a rarity in the world of writing-help books: something that’s useful without being bone dry or coming across as some kind of pan-pipe backed recruitment ad for a writing cult. (more…)

Goodreads review: Frankenstein

FrankensteinFrankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s almost a fool’s errand to review Frankenstein. The book’s been so firmly ensconced in the literary canon for so long that it can’t be dislodged, and the story of its inception – spooky story competition with Byron, Percy Shelley, Polidori – is almost so doused in writerly name-dropping as to be something you couldn’t make up.

But hey, I’ve never shied away from a fool’s errand so away we go. (more…)

Goodreads review: Gardener to the King

Gardener to the KingGardener to the King by Frédéric Richaud
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In this brief work, Frédéric Richaud manages to encapsulate the world of the Sun King and the rising tide of discontent between the French classes by way of… gardening?

Versailles is the focal point of this work, an expression of Royal dominance over the land. There’s plenty of information about the place itself, and there’s a distinct feeling that the abode – we begin just prior to court moving there from the Louvre – is itself a character. It’s treated with as much authorial love as any of the major figures in the work. (more…)

Goodreads review: The Ladybird Book of the Zombie Apocalypse

The Ladybird Book of the Zombie ApocalypseThe Ladybird Book of the Zombie Apocalypse by Jason Hazeley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is going to be a short review, which is fitting as the book is short. An amuse l’œil, if you like.

It pretty much does what you’d expect from the title: it’s a pisstake of the Ladybird books, a series of books aimed at improving kids’ reading abilities. Widely used in the ’60s and ’70s, these books covered all sorts of topics and were illustrated in a very painterly manner. (more…)