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I Like Lists

Posted: December 27th, 2011, by Marceline Smith

Well, if Dr Proffitt is going to come out of retirement, I guess I should too. Especially since I had nothing better to do on Boxing Day after eating my breakfast pie.

RECORDS

Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will / Earth Division EP
Being one of those annoying people who always prefer the early stuff, Mogwai continue to be my favourite band for consistently releasing albums that are better than the last one. And 12″ EPs without filler.

Nicola Roberts – Cinderella’s Eyes
Always the Girl Aloud most likely to do something interesting, I was thrilled she went down the bonkers Scandinavian pop route, one of my favourite genres.

Annie – Don’t Stop
Slightly less bonker,s but actually Scandinavian, pop.

Wild Flag – Wild Flag
So hyped I was almost put off checking them out, but yeah, they are great.

 

FILMS

Arrietty
A year with a Ghibli movie is always a good year, and this was almost up to Miyazaki levels.

Super 8
So full of JJ Abrams cliches it’s hilarious, but the train crash scene is one the greatest things I saw on screen all year.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
I was sure this would be terrible but it stands up well and somehow managed to be even more ponderous in a couple of hours than the miniseries.

Upside Down – Creation Records thing
Nostalgia ahoy – so good!

Tintin
Tintin was a Big Thing in our house as children so I was never going to be happy with all the bizarre story changes/additions but it was at least fun.

 

BOOKS

A Dance With Dragons – George RR Martin
A bit flawed, but after a 5 year wait, I’m just happy to have more story. The TV show (Game of Thrones) was awesome though – at least that will keep us going for the next five.

The Celestial Cafe – Stuart Murdoch
A cross between a memoir and a Belle and Sebastian tour diary (and a love letter to Glasgow). I’d have liked this anyway, but it kept me entertained while sitting in A&E for 2 hours after slicing my hand open so extra props for that.

Nothing To See Here – Anne Ward
A guidebook to the unexpectedly interesting places of Scotland – if you’ve ever considered taking a detour on your journey after spotting a bizarre road sign then this is the book for you. Buy it here.

100 Tiny Moments From My Past, Present and Future – Edward Ross
Fantastic little book of comics, drawn every day for 100 days and documenting tiny everyday moments. Even greater are the little peeks into his past and his imagined future. Buy it here.

 

ZINES

Burn Collector #15 – Al Burian
One of my favourite ever zinesters, always managing to mix hilarity and melancholy in equal parts. The personal articles are my favourite but also includes some interesting stuff about Berlin, where he’s now based. Buy it here.

How To Be A Ghost – Neil Slorance & Campbell Miller
A cute little illustrated zine about what to do when you’re a ghost. It’s a great read and one of 5 zines inspired by my zine workshop last year – so cool. Buy it here.

The Various Things I Eat by Deth P Sun
Deth drew everything he ate every day for six months. Surprisingly interesting to look through, especially if you’re not American. What is all this stuff? Buy it here.

DIY Times
Packed full of interviews with people doing things the DIY way, whether that’s printing t-shirts, making tables or running Supersonic. Probably my favourite zine discovery this year. Buy it here.

Fire & Knives
Still the only magazine I spend £10 on and consider that a bargain. Great food writing and even better design and illustration. Buy it here.

 

EVENTS

Mogwai at the Grand Ole Opry, Glasgow
I hadn’t seen Mogwai for a couple of years so this was equal parts nostalgia and jaw dropping amazement at their new stuff. Plus the fun of watching Mogwai while sitting in the balcony of a tiny line dancing venue can’t really be overstated.

Errors at the Barras, Glasgow
It’s been even longer since I saw Errors and I kind of hate myself now. So so good. Their next album is going to be killer. They even upstaged Mogwai who they were supporting as Mogwai were (dare I say it?) TOO LOUD, to the point of distortion.

The Most Incredible Thing at Sadlers Wells, London
I have been getting into ballet lately, like the old person/teenage girl I am, so imagine my delight when the Pet Shop Boys staged a ballet. Possibly the only ballet to successfully combine Communist Russia, paper cutting, the X Factor and pop music, and do it perfectly seriously.

Eska at Stereo, Glasgow
What can I say? Like being transported back to 1998 for the evening, not to mention the minor diskant meet-up. Good times.

Anyone else?

2010 catch-up: Fanzines & Magazines

Posted: January 4th, 2011, by Marceline Smith

Fire & Knives
I have been eyeing up this independent literary food magazine for a while, but at £9.50 an issue it’s not exactly an impulse buy. I finally picked up a copy of #4 at the ace Analogue Books in Edinburgh and realised it’s well worth the money. Proper interesting articles plus nice illustration and photography in a handy sized package. What more do you really want? Subscription now ordered. (Marceline Smith)

I’ve been reading Newsweek quite a bit this year – it’s better than Time. Also The New Yorker is bloody brilliant. (Stu Fowkes)

VICE MAGAZINE
I still have a subscription with Vice Magazine and visit their website daily. It continues to churn out interesting stuff while exhibiting stupid hairstyles. In March I found myself having cross words with them regarding missing issues before realizing I just allowed my subscription to lapse. For months I expected to see my emails in their letters page but happily they didn’t appear. The comedy and film issues were genuinely great, their best in years. (JGRAM)

Does anyone read paper magazines any more?  Here in the US they’re not much more than expensive advertisement-delivery tools anyway.  I did buy a copy of The Wire a few weeks ago, though.  Wanky as ever, I still kinda love it. (Alex McChesney)

Treasures of Sky Mall by Gemma Correll
I bought a lot of zines in 2010 (check out Etsy’s Zine section) but this was possibly my favourite. Anyone who’s ever spent time happily ridiculing catalogues like Sky Mall and Innovations will love this – some of the funniest/stupidest products as drawn in Gemma’s own style. Of course she goes mostly for the pet related items which makes things even funnier with her trademark cats and dogs looking slightly bemused by the madness. Seems to be sold out but check her shop for new zines. (Marceline Smith)

2010 catch-up: Books

Posted: January 4th, 2011, by Marceline Smith

Our favourite books of the year.

Tara Rodgers’ Pink Noises
A collection of interviews with women working in experimental / electronic music (I think based off of a website of the same name). It’s become an important correction to a problem I hadn’t thought existed – not just the under-representation of women artists (I expect that, without accepting it), but the way that the whole way of talking about electronic music has erased them. I’ve learned a lot even from the names on the Contents page. The interviews can be approachable, technical, gossipy and always interesting. The book shouldn’t have to exist, but I’m glad it does. (Stan Tontas)

Music, Society, Education – Christopher Small
Very dull title for a very interesting book. Singing in choirs makes me realise how ridiculously elevated you’re positioned in concerts, how incredibly formal the end-product of friendly weekly rehearsals aspires to be, and the depressingly frequent conversations with people who think they “could never sing”. An encouraging book for anyone interested in music’s role in education and the average person’s capabilities. (Pascal Ansell)

JONATHAN AMES – THE ALCOHOLIC
At one stage around October it felt like Jonathan Ames was everywhere I looked. It was listening to an interview with him on the highly recommended WTF podcast that really exposed me to what the man is about which appears to be David Sedaris crossed with Charles Bukowski via Woody Allen. Obviously being a writer he has been an alcoholic and after skimming through a couple of his short stories books this graphic novel of his boozy experiences really proved an incredible piece of work that left me in mixed minds but wholly in love with the guy. Of course Ames is currently best known for being behind HBO series Bored To Death which brings a life affirming fantasy life to being a writer. (JGRAM)

Stephen Batchelor – Confession of a Buddhist Atheist
A buddhist monk for many years, Batchelor became gradually disillusioned with the mystical aspects of the religion, and set out to strip the teachings on which it was based from the dogma they had accumulated over the centuries.  Equal parts memoir, travelogue and philosophical archaeology. (Alex McChesney)

A Man on the Moon by Andrew Chaikin
I got this for Christmas and it was all I could do not to sit sit down and read the whole thing from cover to cover, enormous though it is. As previously established, I’ve been a space nut since I was very small (wait, I am still very small) and this book is just a joy. It describes NASA’s Apollo program in great detail, going through each mission from the disastrous beginnings through to the six Moon landings. While sometimes bogged down by technical language and military customs, it does a great job of explaining how it all succeeded and introducing all the people who made it happen. The actual moon landings are exhilarating to read about and each mission comes with so many problems overcome that you can understand why we’ve never been back (yet), though reading about NASA’s plans at the time for moon bases and manned missions to Mars makes me so sad. The book is also the source material for HBO’s rather great TV series From the Earth to the Moon, which is well worth checking out. My only disappointment is that Chaikin hasn’t yet done a book about the Shuttle missions – come on man, get to it! (Marceline Smith)

Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha
The field of evolutionary psychology has taken a largely dark look at the biological roots of modern man’s behavior.  Why do men sleep around?  Because sleeping with 250 floozies does more to ensure the propagation of their genes than having a nurturing wholesome relationship with one woman.  Why are humans violent?  Because we’ve been programmed towards aggression by a millennia of survival of the fittest evolution. “Sex at Dawn,” by authors Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha, takes an alternate look at the school of evolutionary psychology.  They argue that for much of man’s history, hunter/gatherers lived relatively pleasant lives of limited threats, plentiful food and lots of lots of sex! It was the advent of agriculture, 10,000 years ago, that bloodied man’s behavior. And their arguments — based on historical studies, analysis of other primate cultures and the fact that there are observable hunter/gatherers still around — make a lot of sense! It should be said that “Sex at Dawn” is not simply a starry eyed laudation of the noble savage at the expense of modern man.  Hunter/gatherers had plenty of flaws, and their egalitarianism was more the result of environment than inner virtue.  But the book — easily approachable by nonscientific types — provides plenty to think about. I interviewed one of the authors for Acid Logic (Wil Forbis)

Been re-reading older stuff this year, so things like Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and The Outsider by Albert Camus have been lighting my fire, as it were. (Stuart Fowkes)

The third edition of Jeffery Zeldman’s ‘Designing With Web Standards’. It totally nails the point of creating websites in the correct way. It also explains things in a way that will convince people whodon’t see the point. (Exciting stuff, no?) (Simon Minter)

Karen Armstrong – A History of God
Interested in Sky Fairies? Ya psycho! Perhaps best read in long stretches – incredible introduction to one of the most problematic words I can imagine, and how culture has made God their own. (Pascal Ansell)

Mountaineering Holiday by JS Smythe
This year I have mostly been reading expedition and travel books, preferably rambling monologues by over-privileged English Gentlemen. This one is from 1939, just days before WW2 broke out and describes a, well, mountaineering holiday in the French/Italian Alps where Mr Smythe climbs various mountains and describes them pleasantly with breaks to pontificate on the horrors of motor cars, war, tourists, foreigners, people who climb too slowly, people who walk too fast and women in breeches. I especially enjoyed the parts where he describes other less experienced climbers they encounter and basically says, well, they’re going to die if the weather changes. Nice. Might look him up and see if someone eventually pushed him into a crevasse. It also contains an anecdote about a man caught smuggling drugs through customs under his top hat. You don’t get that kind of thing these days. (Marceline Smith)

John ‘Drumbo’ French: Through The Eyes Of Magic

Posted: March 27th, 2010, by Simon Minter

John ‘Drumbo’ French: Through The Eyes Of Magic review and interview

Here’s a review of John French’s recent Beefheart history opus Through The Eyes Of Magic and, what’s more, an exclusive interview with the man himself. Thanks to our guest contributor Stephen Toman for this!

Christmas Catch-up: Fanzines & Magazines

Posted: December 31st, 2009, by Marceline Smith

Vice Magazine
The film issue of Vice Magazine in September was its best issue in years and served as a rare reminder of how it can be a very good read when it wants to be. Like a mug I paid the £35 for a subscription as issues in shops became rarer and rarer but I don’t think I’ll be renewing it when it runs out. (JGRAM)

Sight & Sound
It’s so densely written that each issue lasts for ages! (Simon Minter)

Classic & Sportscar
I got back into cars with a vengeance this year so I will have to select Classic & Sportscar. I like Classic Cars too but it’s a little dry and although Octane has some good photography the journalism reads like a GCSE project. C&S is still the best and when I want to while away several hours in the bath pondering whether an Alfa 1750GTV would suit me more than a Lancia Fulvia then I know where to turn. (Chris Summerlin)

Burn Collector #14 by Al Burian
I haven’t even read this yet (saving it for my train journey Up North this Christmas) but it’s printed as a tiny book and has extra comics so if it’s not awesome, I will eat my furry bear hat. (Marceline Smith)

Christmas Catch-up: Books

Posted: December 29th, 2009, by Marceline Smith

Mix tape by Thurston Moore
An interesting little investigation into the world of the home-recorded mixtape – a quick read perhaps, but a nice looking book with contributions from many interesting people. I like seeing what mixtapes the great and good from music and art have given to eachother, and how they’ve been packaged. Even your favourite supercool rock star has cut and pasted a crappy-looking tape cover together at some point in the past; you’re not the only one. (Simon Minter)

Hardcore – A Tribal History by Steven Blush
Honest and irreverent insight into a self-destructing scene and its glory years dating 1980-3. My prior knowledge of hardcore solely stemmed from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1,2,3 and 4. Blush done learned me. (Pascal Ansell)

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (Translated by Edith Bowman)
1000 initially daunting pages expertly given an accessible modern voice by Bowman.  I’ve still got a long way to go but the adventures of the man of la Mancha and his erstwhile squire are hugely entertaining to this day. (Alex McChesney)

The Death Of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave
No book this year proved as good as Bad Vibes by Luke Haines but that was my summer pick and I don’t want to repeat myself. The other book to leave a mark on me this year was unsurprisingly The Death Of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave. I don’t think I have ever seen a book get so much coverage in this way before and the manner in which it was presented to the public (hardback, seven disc atmospheric audiobook and iPhone application etc) really felt modern. The actual written content of the novel was OK, too self conscious but fun all the same. I’ve read Bukowski and in comparison Bunny Munro was almost a saint. The height of this book for me came when I attended a Q&A and reading hosted by David Peace and afterwards I managed to get Cave to sign my book who amongst other things told me that my old job sounded “fucking depressing.” It was a slice. (JGRAM)

The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
Having got bored waiting for George RR Martin to finish the next Fire & Ice book, I found a bunch of these in a charity shop and dug in, not entirely aware that there were 11 books in the series and it wasn’t even finished yet. Or that Robert Jordan had died, leaving notes for someone else to finish it. I’ve found myself enjoying these far too much despite the growing realisation that he could have told the story in at least half the pages, if someone had edited out all the repetition and characters endlessly ruminating on NOTHING. I’m on Book 8 now and about 3 things have happened in 600 pages. It’s your typical ‘farmboy discovers he’s the chosen one and has to save the world from the dark one’ tale, but there’s enough unexpected and cool stuff going (and zero elves and dwarves) on that I keep at it. At the very least, buying a load of these at 1p each from Amazon has saved me a lot of money in proper books this year. (Marceline Smith)

Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
I got this as a gift for my wife. We both loved the movie Everything Is Illuminated (based on the book written by Foer) and when I saw this in a bookstore I thought we should give it a shot. I didn’t know it was one of those “Post 9/11” things. But it was. Is. If I had known that, I might not have bought it. But I got over that pretty quickly. The first two pages of this book are the best opening pages in any book I’ve ever read (read ’em on Amazon). It captures the essence of the book and the main character so fully and it’s absolutely hilarious. It starts on a high note, putting you in a good mood, so that by the time you get to the epically dismal parts you can handle it without turning into a sobbing little baby. What really makes this, though, is Foer’s writing style. His sense of humor and flow and control, even the physical spacing of text on the pages make Extremely Loud instantly one of my favorite books of all time. (Justin Snow)

Inspector Rebus series by Iain Rankin
I’m going to pick a series of books and that’s the Inspector Rebus series by Iain Rankin. I love me a good, easy to read detective novel and I’ve ploughed through about 9 of these in as many weeks. Rankin treads a line between trashy lightness and a genuine multi-layered complexity and it makes for addictive reading. His novels are heavy on characters and seemingly-unconnected plotlines and he reminds me of James Ellroy in that you could often use a character index to remind yourself who is who but it’s gripping stuff. It’s almost irrelevant whodunnit as the ride along the way is so pleasurable. (Chris Summerlin)

The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Incredible thriller from the late Swedish writer deserves the massive attention it gets. Dodgy financial dealings, sinister happenings plus lots and lots of cups of coffee. I miss reading this so much, mostly the little things: the main character’s routine: the constant coffee drinking, the open sandwiches and little walks. There are mind-blowing characters in this one – look out for the film next March! (Pascal Ansell)

dumb/SULK trigg-er

Posted: August 24th, 2009, by Marceline Smith

Cast your mind back to the glory zine days of the late 1990s when pretty much everyone in the UK wrote a zine. You probably wrote one too, or at least stuck some pound coins in a SAE and posted it to some random stranger in the hope they’d send you back something awesome. Of course, diskant grew out of this zine scene – I first met all of the original diskanteers through zine-related shenanigans.

And it’s not just rose-tinted nostalgia speaking here – those zines were AWESOME. I still have 3 boxes of the things which I re-read on occasion and every so often I get a little sad about all the zines I never owned or knew about at the time. Sometimes people like Al Burian or Cometbus get a book compilation of their zines but, for the most part, these zines are only available to the handful of people who bought them at the time. This is a sad state of affairs.

Luckily, enterprising folks like Roger Simian still exist. Roger was in weirdo-mentalist band Dawn of the Replicants and also co-ran the much-missed Scottish magazine Sun Zoom Spark as well as writing his own zine dumb/SULK trigg-er. He now runs his own label Shark Batter while playing in new band The Stark Palace and has just put out a compilation of the best bits of his zines and writings. This is great news for me, as my sister was the one who bought all the original zines, so I haven’t read them in ten years.

It’s still all good stuff – long interviews with Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth, Lisa Carver and Traci Lords, fiction, a letters page featuring half the UK zine scene (and our own JGRAM)  and one of my favourite articles ever, where Roger goes to a Prolapse gig in Glasgow and hassles every minor lo-fi scenester of the time with a dictaphone. Nostalgia ahoy. You also get a tiny minizine and a free mixtape CD featuring The Stark Palace and their favourite songs.

I have no idea how much Roger wants for this but I’m sure it’s a bargain. Hit him up on sharkbatter AT googlemail  DOT com and tell him diskant sent you!

And if everyone else who ever wrote a zine could do a compilation of the best bits and send it to me, that would be great, thanks.

Summer catch-up 2009: Zines

Posted: July 28th, 2009, by Marceline Smith

Vice Magazine
I don’t know, in many ways this magazine is truly despicable but with it no less entertaining. I have pretty much absolutely nothing in common with anybody or anything featured in this publication but with it being something of a tastemaker amongst the funny haircuts of East London wearing their big stupid glasses at the 32 (almost 33) I feel by reading and owning this magazine I am still cool and cutting edge. I am, aren’t I? [JGRAM]

Shindig
I’m still enjoying Shindig as a bi-monthly injection of 1960s psychedelia/garage punk/R&B knowledge into my wearied brain. Each new issue brings with it a new set of additions to my list of must-buy records… [Simon Minter]

Please Be Brave
Whenever I have some spare cash, I have a zine splurge. I’m still waiting for this cute Japanese zine to arrive but I’ve been happily occupied with Deth P Sun‘s latest zine. There’s virtually no text but I can look at his drawings for hours. He has a Ghibli-esque style – lots of spooky but cute things – and this zine has a page of ideas for an illustrated Dracula with cats. Most of all, his work is always a nice reminder that sketchbooks are for fun and it’s okay to draw the same things over and over and to make mistakes (and fix them!). I need to make some new zines, pronto. [Marceline Smith]

Time
I’ve been really enjoying Time recently – some really good international coverage, and really high quality journalism. And their website’s come on leaps and bounds. [Stuart Fowkes]

Summer catch-up 2009: Books

Posted: July 21st, 2009, by Marceline Smith

Bad Vibes by Luke Haines
I never fully got into The Auteurs but I knew people who did and with this book it has become obvious why they were. Perhaps taking a few liberties with the truth, in a way he appears to be claiming a larger grasp on his influence on Britpop but with such hyperbole and self depreciation you are happy to give him the benefit of the doubt when his undermining of bloated bands and inflated egos of that scene/movement are so scathing and spot on. Reminding me somewhat of Kill Yr Friends by Jon Niven last year this is a really accurate description of how agonising and difficult it is to deal with the machinations of the music industry and ultimately how fake and backstabbing it is. More power to him for attempting to be himself and do things his own way even if it did involve often purposely acting like an arse. In the process of puncturing egos during the course of the book it does feel as if he is acting on the side of good and representing any reader that has ever giving any aspect of music a go. When it comes to the descriptions of recording with Steve Albini at Abbey Road he pretty confirms everything you had always hoped about the man and experience and as the book ends with Haines still the butt of the joke you can’t help but feel like applauding his existence in it all. Meanwhile I continue to bang my head against the wall painfully trying to complete my second book “Gestures And Expressions.” [JGRAM]

12 Cities by John Gunther
Since quitting my job last year for a life of freelance fun, I get through an horrific amount of books. Thank god for Bookmooch. My current obsession is for out of print travel books, where some dusty academic or Oxford-educated goon wanders off on some random epic journey in the 1950s. 12 Cities was a joy to discover and I’m still dipping into it. Featuring essays on, well, 12 cities in the world, it includes such chapters as “Matters of government and such in London’, ‘Entertainment in Hamburg and Vienna’, Moscow – a few prime sights’ and ‘A sheaf of Israeli personalities’. I certainly now know a hell of a lot more about London council history than I ever expected to. [Marceline Smith]

She Came To Stay by Simone de Beauvoir
Because it evokes 1920s Paris amazingly, and is also a fabulously bitter tale of relationships gone wrong, not even thinly veiled as aimed at Jean-Paul Sartre. [Stuart Fowkes]

The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth
I haven’t finished it yet but The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth is great stuff. A novel in verse, Eugene Onegin style. All about love lives in San Francisco. Not too difficult to read either. Oh and the last Harry Potter book! I’m currently OD’ing on the films and am taking refuge in my early adolescence. Fine if you want to be all cool and “I’m too sexy for the wonderful adventures of Harry, Ron and Hermione” but then again I really hope you go and flush your own head down a public toilet. Are you being Sirius!? (chuckle…) The Deathly Hallows rocked! The third film ruled! And Rupert Grint (Ron) has bought his own ice cream van! Can’t argue with that – big slap on the back Rowling. Thanks for geeking up my teens so I didn’t have to. [Pascal Ansell]

The Spirit Level
Mostly non-fiction stuff. The Spirit Level brings together years of research into health inequalities to argue that abolishing inequality is a health necessity, not a moral choice. Essential (if a bit dry) reading. [Stan Tontas]

E.H. Gombrich – “A Little History of the World”
The scope of this book is incredible. Written by a German scientist back in 1935, he tried to create a book that covered the entire history of humankind in as succinct but engaging a manner as possible so that it could be read to or by children wanting to learn more about the world. I’ve never come across a book that so satisfyingly achieves its aims and is as informative (and witty) at the same time. It answers questions you never even thought to ponder or others that you were afraid of asking; all the time creating a calm and detached viewpoint on the incredible achievements (and brutality) of men and women since such a thing evolved. Even better is the fascinating worldview of a humanist German just before National  Socialism swept across his country and Hitler banned it for being too pacifistic. Everyone should read this, if only for some perspective of their place in history. [Dave Stockwell]

“Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro
I dare say I’m the last person in the English-speaking world to have read this by now, such is the praise that has been heaped on it.  I’ve only read two other books by Ishiguro.  “The Remains of the Day” was a delight.  “The Unconsoled” was a horrible chore that I’m prepared to admit I just didn’t get.  “Never Let Me Go” is very much closer to the former book, and like it the narrative voice is so strong as to disguise the author almost completely. [Alex McChesney]

Marc Masters – No Wave
Working through Marc Masters’ No Wave book and enjoying it greatly, for filling in the blanks with a ‘scene’ that didn’t really exist for more than ten minutes. It’s full of excellent photographs too, and evokes late-70s/early-80s New York with piercing clarity. [Simon Minter]

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
Like most people, I don’t read as much as I’d like to. So it’s a sad day when I finish a book and am anything less than enthusiastic about it. Such was the case with The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. The first half was great. Very strange story with all sorts of surreal events and personalities that reminded me a lot of the movie Wristcutters (which I love). But the second half/last quarter ended up diverging too much from the main story, going into things that I mostly wasn’t interested in (the exception being the one about Boris The Manskinner, that was awesome. A horrifyingly disgusting telling of somebody watching their fellow soldier being skinned alive.). I would still give it a generally positive review and would recommend it to friends, but I guess I just wish I hadn’t spent so much time with it. [Justin Snow]

The Blind Owl by Sadeq Hadeyat

Posted: May 3rd, 2009, by Stan Tontas

The flipside of my unsuccessful “random culture” experiment with En la ciudad de Sylvie was picking up this strange, nightmarish book from the library. My whim was rewarded by a dense, multilayered and disjointed journey that sticks in the mind long enough to repay repeat readings. There are passages that recall Edgar Allan Poe and if you have any expectations ofa 70-year-old Persian novella, it would overturn them.

(Surreal and nightmarish must be the most over- and ill-used adjectives in the critical vocabulary but I have to use them here.)

I can’t say I knew exactly what was going on, I’m reluctant to summarise the little I know of the plot in case it dilutes the jaw-dropping weirdness of the shifts. I can say that it’s a great book in a minor way. Save it for 3AM and it has the heady bite of a vintage wine laced with cobra venom. Loved it.