book reviews

Book review: Novel with Cocaine

Novel with Cocaine by M. Ageyev.
My rating: four stars

This is a strange one. It’s a novel set in revolutionary Russia that only mentions the fact twice, and then at an angle. Its title refers to David Bowie’s chief ’70s bodily compound, but it’s only really introduced (or considered) in the last quarter of the work.

Oh yeah, and it’s written by a seemingly anonymous guy, who only wrote this thing, submitted it to a French magazine for Russian émigrés, and then disappeared into the woofle-dust of history.

(more…)

Book review: Fragments of Horror

Fragments of Horror by Junji Ito.
My rating: three stars

Junji Ito is known for being a bit, well, odd. I’ve reviewed some of his other works, and I’ve enjoyed them for the most part. This collection, however, didn’t seem to strike the same fantastic chord in me, and I’m still trying to decide whether it’s due to some duff stories, or because I’m a bit more tuned into his method of writing.

I know, but even I got out of bed this morning you LAZY HIKIKOMORI FUCK.
(more…)

Book review: War is a Racket

War is a Racket by Smedley D. Butler.
My rating: four stars.

Occasionally it’s nice to read something written by a bona-fide badass.

War is a Racket, a book written by a guy who won the Medal of Honor twice, certainly fits the bill. It’s also breathtakingly candid about the waste of war, something remarkable given its author’s exploits in the name of his country.

(more…)

Book review: A Humument

A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel (Final Edition) by Tom Phillips.
My rating: five stars.

Writing in books is not a big thing. I’ve got copies of texts from my schooldays where I’ve underlined portentous encounters, highlighted exam-worthy tidbits and scrawled “what the shit?” more than once.

Obviously this is a bit more involved than that.

It’s not something I do any more, largely because I’m not 15 any more. Tom Phillips didn’t get the memo about stopping, though, and the result is a singular piece of art which takes the reader on a journey through art and opera, though still features the odd cock-and-balls graffito.

(more…)

Book review: Falling Angel

Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

You know, there’s a lot to be said for pulps. Often, you’ll find wisdom or truth amongst the piles of bodies. Sometimes there’s moments of grace. Usually, there’s sex and violence. As far as brain-off reads go, pulps are a good way to defrag the mind after one too many volumes of Proust.

(If you’ve never tried it, you need to. Disregarding this type of lit is a loss, because everyone needs some dumb fun once in a while.)

(more…)

Book review: Printer’s Devil Court

Printer’s Devil Court by Susan Hill.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Doctors, eh?

They’re always up to no good. I mean, trying to save lives and learn about the body and bring people back to life. Where do they get off?

Well, at the last one, if Susan Hill’s story here is to be believed. Because it would seem that fucking with the line between life and death is not an endeavour that Ends Well. Especially if you’re a medical student with some overly inquisitive – and rather full of themselves – roomies.

(more…)

Book review: The Recognitions

The Recognitions by William Gaddis.
My rating: four stars.

It’s taken me a while to write this review because it’s taken a while to read its subject. The Recognitions is an undeniably skilful creation, a wellspring of erudition and multiple narratives, a thumbnail sketch of religion, of bums, of certain locales around the world at a certain juncture in time, as well as a meditation on falsity, on misdirection and true paths. But it’s also, for all its brilliance, often a sluggish read, and one that provides brilliantly polished vignettes at the cost – for me, at least – of overall coherence.

(more…)

Book review: The Wanderer

The Wanderer by Timothy J. Jarvis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

It took me a while to read The Wanderer and I’m not entirely sure why. It might’ve been this cursed year – hell, let’s blame that. But I certainly found that as much as I was entranced whenever I perused the book, I wasn’t quick to come back to it.

Curiously, this isn’t the bad thing that I had expected. It meant that each time I returned, I was surprised anew at how bizarre the thing is.

(more…)

Book review: Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom

Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom by Nik Cohn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

I came to this book as many did, I suspect, because it featured on that list of David Bowie’s 100 favourite books which circulated a couple of years ago. (The list also is explored in a podcast, if you’re interested.)

It makes sense that Bowie would be a fan of this work, given that it’s an enthusiastic, bitchy exploration of early rock. After all, the work is titled for Little Richard’s protean good-time yawp from ‘Tutti Fruitti’, the song that made Bowie “see God”.

And a lot of cocaine, I guess.

After a couple of years of looking, I found a copy replete with terrifying cover. It was written in 1968 and revised in 1972. Kit Lambert, erstwhile manager of The Who introduces the work and sets things rolling: the text covers a brief period in music, but one of supreme importance for everything rock-related that came afterwards. All that’s covered is the period from Bill Haley’s initial popularity until 1966 – that’s it.

(more…)