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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
First things first: this book is great and you should read it. I found it deeply enjoyable and odd in a a manner reminiscent of Fitzcarraldo: a story of absolutely genius/idiotic zeal.
Second things second: if you don’t read this review, at least read the Wikipedia description of the book because if it doesn’t make you want to read it, I just don’t know what to say to you.
Imperium is a 2012 satiric novel by the Swiss writer Christian Kracht. It recounts the story of August Engelhardt, a German who in the early 20th century founded a religious order in German New Guinea based on nudism and a diet consisting solely of coconuts. The fictionalized narrative is an ironic pastiche.
When I was a kid, I remember a lot was made of what-ifs. What if you could be invisible? What would you do? Where would you go? Where would you sneak to, in order to see things you weren’t supposed to.
Honestly, I don’t like to watch some things human beings do. But as you can imagine there’s no roof nor wall nor duck blind nor sheet nor wile that stands in the way of a god; unfortunately I must put up with all of it.
Take that idea, add an alpha and omega and you’ve got I Am God, a novel which features a God who, when He’s not reminding the reader of how powerful he is, spends his time observing a pigtailed atheist microbiologist who somehow has attracted His notice, despite Himself.
This is not a fun read. The novel, I mean. This review may be a fun read depending on how low your humour threshold is, but the novel definitely isn’t, in much the same way that Christos Tsiolkas’ The Jesus Man isn’t. That book sent me into a weeks-long depression after reading it, because I’d spent so much time in the company of thoroughly unlikeable characters. Same thing here.
Gerald Kersh is someone I’d wanted to read for a while. Harlan Ellison and Michael Moorcock were and are both fans, and the author seems to be one of those, like Poe or Dickens, who managed a hack’s volume, but also kept a remarkable quality.
As with previous years, I’ve started 2021 with a list of things I’d like to read.
I learned last year that it’s apparently impossible to get the pads I used to write these lists on, so I’ve had to trade up. A new page size called for a new approach, and so we have the, uh, copious preparation you see above.