books

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…)

Goodreads review: Discovering Scarfolk

Discovering ScarfolkDiscovering Scarfolk by Richard Littler

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Scarfolk. That name! One to be uttered alongside Derry, Maine. Or R’lyeh. A place where that creepy clown from the television test pattern lives. A place where brutalist architecture never died, where clothing is all artificial material, everything has a fried egg in it, and the world is viewed through builders’ tea, smeared glasses and an obsidian doorway into another world. (more…)

Goodreads review: Babbling Corpse: Vaporwave and the Commodification of Ghosts

Babbling Corpse: Vaporwave and the Commodification of GhostsBabbling Corpse: Vaporwave and the Commodification of Ghosts by Grafton Tanner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Vaporwave! It’s a thing, still, even though it’s supposed to have been dead for a couple of years now.

What is vaporwave? If you don’t know, have some smooth, iconic jams. Essentially, it’s elevator music for some weirdly capitalist hellscape, and Grafton Tanner’s book exists to provide a bit of context with fewer bong-hits than you’d fine in online discussions of same. (more…)

Goodreads review: Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show BusinessAmusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

People will come to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

Well, this is all a bit depressing.

I mean, we’re all fairly acutely aware of the way the internet makes us all a little stupider, right? There was a lot of hoo-ha about Nicholas Carr’s Atlantic article “Is Google Making Us Stoopid? but in this brief book, Postman makes the same claims about television, something which by now appears benign in comparison to the dizzying chasm of timesink that defines most of our modern lives.

And he did it in 1985.

And then Roger Waters wrote an album about it.

I know, right?

Right. (more…)