You like to read about drugs? And the internet? Murder-for-hire? Inter-agency squabblings?
You’re probably not all that interested in the last of these, but they provide a lot of the forward thrust of Nick Bilton’s American Kingpin, a book about the rise – and eventual downfall – of the man behind The Silk Road, an online emporium that taunted law enforcement for years.
So Pulp, eh? Possibly – nah, probably – the best band to emerge from the Britpop years of hype and arse-smacking heroin chic.
The group – in existence since 1978, if you can believe it – weren’t typically sexy. I mean, there was an effort to evoke a certain PR sexiness from lyricist Jarvis Cocker’s gangly frame, but it wasn’t the body that made him sexy: it was the combination of his writing, and of sex itself.
Well, I did it. I survived In Search of Lost Time. Admittedly, this is probably easier to do in a year where chunks were spent in mandatory lockdown than in a year when you can do … I dunno, anything. But here we are.
This review of the final volume of the Modern Library edition will probably serve as a review of the piece as a whole, as it’s difficult to view them as anything except interlinked, because the individual books don’t stand on their own merits – it’s only as part of this elephantine endeavour that they can be appreciated.
The thing I suppose I needed most this year was a balls-out story of daring, legal piracy and hard-nosed colonialism in the service of personal riches and furthering the drug trade. Either that, or everything else going on was balls enough to make me believe that that kind of story would be great.
Enter James Clavell, from beyond the grave, holding a copy of his 1966 tome, wordlessly gesturing that I should get that into me.
This review’s going to be shorter than my other Proust ones, which is amusing because, even with everything else going on this year, this book was an enormous fucking slog. I mean you’d think there was more to write about it, but ensuring I maintained the will to live seems to have taken precedence.
No, really, it was. That’s the set-up for White’s novel, famously made – with some alterations – into The Spiral Staircase in 1946. The film has, it seems, driven many to seek out the novel to sup at the story’s source, though I’m coming at it from the position of a heathen non-watcher, which means I’m likely not as irritated by the material changes which some argue made the film.
So, this is volume four of Proust’s epic, and it marks the point of no return, or at least where the presence of the sunk cost fallacy begins to make itself felt.
(I must admit that it was at this point I began to question whether I’d actually finish the text. But having cut through the first couple of volumes, I figured the only way out was through, so ONWARDS.)
This is one of those books – like Infinite Jest or Manufacturing Consent that I would’ve been much better off reading when it came out, or when I was in my 20s. (Whichever was earlier.)
Reading it today, I can only think that my mind would’ve been blown a lot more comprehensively if I’d encountered the ideas within before precision-strike ads and ‘unbranded’ clothing were such a part of daily life.