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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]

Marceline Smith

Marceline is the fierce, terrifying force behind diskant.net, laughing with disdain as she fires sharpened blades of sarcasm in all directions. Based in Scotland, her lexicon consists of words such as 'jings', 'aboot' and 'aye': our trained voice analysts are yet to decipher some of the relentless stream of genius uttered on a twenty-four hour basis. Marceline's hobbies include working too much and going out in bad weather.


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