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August 21, 2002
[sex] The Son Also Rises — amusing update on the 30th Aniversary edition of the The Joy of Sex

‘Even 30 years after it was first published, the Joy of Sex begs many questions. On pages 114-5 of the latest edition, for instance, there’s a man astride a woman’s buttocks with his hands pressed into her shoulders. The helpful description of what’s going on follows. “She kneels, hands clasped behind her neck, breasts and face on the bed. He kneels behind. She hooks her legs over his and pulls him to her with them.” With me so far? Let’s go to stage two. “He puts a hand on each of her shoulder-blades and presses down. Very deep position – apt to pump her full of air which escapes later in a disconcerting manner – otherwise excellent.” Intriguing stuff. Why would she be pumped full of air? Just how disconcerting is the escape of air? Should we have the emergency services on standby? What tools should they bring? ‘

August 19, 2002
[books] Meet the Parent — interview / profile of Tony Parsons. ‘…Man and Boy seems unstoppable – it does that very rare thing, it reaches people who don’t normally buy books. The trouble is that when Parsons talks about it, there is no glimmer of the vision thing – he sounds almost like Jeffrey Archer, harping on about his sales figures. So, back to my original suspicion. Did he sit down one day and see the Nick Hornby bandwagon rolling past and think ‘I’ll have some of that’? Did he decide, cynically, hackily, to switch from smartarse to sensitive?’
August 15, 2002
[books] Pullman Lays Down Moral Challenge for Writers — Philip Pullman discusses morality. ‘…his real bugbear was with the “propensity of human nature” to use politics or religion to set up one unquestionable truth – “it could be the Bible, it could be the Communist Manifesto” – and to then knock down all that went against it. “This is what I am against. Not Christianity, but every religion and fundamental organisation where there is one truth and they will kill you if you don’t believe it.”‘
August 14, 2002
[blogs] Tom reconstructs We’ve Got Blog‘If you were interested in reading – but uninterested in paying for – the collection of articles printed in the book We’ve got blog (which includes an introduction by the esteemed Rebecca Blood), you may be surprised to realise that almost all of the pieces within it are freely available on the interweb. And don’t worry – most of them are just as interesting online as they are squirted onto paper.’ [Related: We’ve Got Blog]
August 2, 2002
[books] Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest 2002 Results — competition to write the worst opening sentences to imaginary novels… [via Massive]

‘The professor looked down at his new young lover, who rested fitfully, lashed as she was with duct tape to the side of his stolen hovercraft, her head lolling gently in the breeze, and as they soared over the buildings of downtown St. Paul to his secret lair he mused that she was much like a sweet ripe juicy peach, except for her not being a fuzzy three-inch sphere produced by a tree with pink blossoms and that she had internal organs and could talk.’

July 30, 2002
[books] Fundamentally Unsound — Salon takes a look at Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind series … ‘Left Behind cloaks itself in the conventions of ordinary airport thrillers, but it does far more than just provide a Christian alternative to decadent mainstream entertainment. It creates a Christian theory of everything, one that slates current events into a master narrative in which the world is destroyed and then remade to evangelical specifications. It’s an alternate universe in which conservative Middle Americans are vindicated against everyone who doesn’t share their beliefs — especially liberals and Jews.’ [via Follow Me Here]
July 29, 2002
[911] Reach for the Sky — Salman Rushdie on 911 and what should happen on the site of the WTC … ‘At Ground Zero that November day, the hollow air seemed to gather and shape itself into those huge lost forms and soar upwards towards the memory of billowing fire. “That was where it happened,” I kept reminding myself, “not down here, but up there.” I tried to identify cubes of empty space “up there” that might correspond to the exact locations of the twin crimes, wanting, a little crazily, to repossess those spaces by the pure force of seeing. An aeroplane passed overhead and made me wince.’
June 26, 2002
[science] Professor Brainstorm — another profile of Oliver Sacks… On Chemistry and School: ‘When I first saw the periodic table it filled me with a sense of revelation. These were the building blocks of the universe, and they have a wonderful mathematical order. Comforting? Immensely after the chaos, caprice and cruelty of boarding school. Human behaviour seemed to be very unpredictable, whereas chemistry was the opposite.’
June 10, 2002
[books] Strange ramblings in Woody Creek — interview with Hunter S. Thompson thirty years after Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas‘I have a photographic memory and a very visual way of working and thinking. Christ, the cops at the [narcotics and dangerous drugs] convention is a scene that will never leave me. And I somehow remember the [Mint] gun club and going out there [for the Mint 400]. I remember long boulevards and cruising them in those convertibles, really just looking for action. That’s what we were doing. When you’re working on a story, you don’t have to manufacture the action, but you look for it with a keen eye. You know, something that will strike a spark.’ [via WEF]
June 4, 2002
[books] Narnia books attacked as racist and sexist — Philip Pullman on C. S. Lewis, Narnia and the “Republic of Heaven” … ‘Asked about his concept of a republic of heaven, Pullman said: “When it was possible to have a belief about God and heaven, it represented something we all desired. It had a profound meaning in human life. But when it no longer became possible to believe, a lot of people felt despair. What was the meaning of life? It seems that our nature is so formed that we need a feeling of connectedness with the universe. If there is no longer a king, or a kingdom of heaven, it will have to be a republic in which we are free citizens. We ourselves as citizens have to build the republic of heaven.”‘
[comics] An interview with Neil Gaiman [Page 1] [Page 2] [Page 3] … On Sandman: ‘The point about Sandman is it’s the single largest body of work I’ve done. It was about 10 years of actual work. I started working on it in ’87, and finished it in ’96. That was a solid nine years, for eight of which it was coming out in the public, but for one of which was just me. Sandman’s 2,000 pages long. It was 4,000 pages of script. It was done over nine years and it came out every month. It’s still 10 volumes long. […] The only reason I survived Sandman, frankly, is that it was coming out every month.’ [via Sore Eyes]
May 19, 2002
[books] Philip Pullman resources on the Web from Robot WisdomPullman: ‘The rise of fundamentalist religion I think, is the most dangerous aspect of late twentieth-century life, whether it is intolerance among Christians or Muslims or Orthodox Jews. I think fundamentalist religion is one of the greatest dangers we have ever faced. And so if there is a source of wickedness in the book, you can place it there… What makes a religion fundamentalist is the insistence that because of some book of scriptures or some revelation given to the founder of the religion, that they alone possess the ‘truth’. And when anyone believes that, they’re wrong. I think my position would be that throughout human history, the greatest moral advances have been made by religious leaders such as Jesus and the Buddha. And the greatest moral wickedness has been perpetrated by their followers.’
May 14, 2002
[books] A Deadline Bandit’s Last Hurrah — A brief review of The Salmon of Doubt from Douglas Adams. ‘…as Robert MacFarlane has already noticed in The Observer, Adams is more plausibly ‘the Lewis Carroll of the twentieth century’, a writer who articulated painful, accidental truths behind a mask of foolery and who found in his parallel universe a happy release from the vanities of earth and the almost intolerable stress of everyday life.’
May 13, 2002
[schooldays] Sacks appeal — interview with Oliver Sacks‘[He did not know] as a very young child, that chemistry would end up saving his sanity. But in September 1939, with war breaking out, his London school was evacuated wholesale to the Northamptonshire village of Braefield, and he and Michael became boarders, while the school became, by his account, a jaw-droppingly brutal institution even by the standards of the time. He was repeatedly beaten by a headmaster “unhinged by his own power”, who once hit him so hard that his cane broke. The cost of replacing it was added to the Sacks family’s tuition bill.’
April 25, 2002
[comics] Evan Dorkin’s Fisher-Price Theatre — Catcher In The Rye [Part 1 | Part 2] …

Evan Dorkin's Fisher-Price Theatre -- Catcher In The Rye

April 24, 2002
[books] The master of all he surveys — interview with Alexi Sayle. ‘…he reads “whatever my wife’s reading group is doing that month. I read it first and she never gets round to reading it.” He recently finished Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and is currently trying his best to get through Dickens’s Great Expectations . It’s a safe bet that he doesn’t read much by his fellow comedians. “I was the first alternative comic to write a novel,” he says with a sigh. “Fucking hell, it’s a terrible legacy . . .”‘
April 20, 2002
[books] McVicar’s crime against Jill Dando — review of John McVicar’s new book about the murder of Jill Dando‘[McVicar] believes that George did commit the murder – under, according to the theory he and Pell construct, the combined influence of Queen lyrics, Zoroastrianism, Ninjutsu, born-again Baptism and Highlander.’
April 19, 2002
[blogs] Douglas Rushkoff has a blog‘I’ve always resisted the polarity of a dialectic – those heated, two-sided debates. The process itself seems to entrench us further in specific reality tunnels. Academics and committed politicos hate me for it, but I really am committed, for the timebeing, to avoid getting too stuck in a singular, absolute way of seeing the world. Polar argumentation and the duality it promotes make this harder to do. And this is why fundamentalists enjoy things like the Middle East crisis so much. It throws even formerly “moderate” people back into the more extreme corners of their reality tunnels.’
April 18, 2002
[911] Jerry Pournelle’s reaction to 911 The Black September War

Kinda Biblical: ‘There shall be monuments, perpetual, large enough to be seen from the air, from space: monuments of desolation in each of those cities. A million square feet; let the company commanders measure each building before flattening it. Let it be recorded. And let salt be sown where those places stood. Let their refugees go where they will. And if that requires the Army fight its way into those places, then the devil take the hindmost. We have no lack of volunteers.’

Then Sci-Fi: ‘…build our monuments, but then put solar power receiving stations on them, and give about 800 megawatts of power to each of the cities in which we built those. The more I think on it, the more it grows on me. Of course I have been for building space solar power satellites without this incentive: to build SSPS will required a fleet of reusable space ships, and if we have those we automatically have Thor (non-nuclear orbital precision bombardment: tungsten telephone poles that can hit any target at about 15,000 fps velocity with an accuracy of about 10 feet CEP)’
April 17, 2002
[science] The Time Lord — profile of Stephen Jay Gould‘…in 1974, Gould – now with Harvard University – began writing a monthly column on ‘This View of Life’ (a phrase borrowed from Darwin’s The Origin of Species) for the US journal Natural History. It became a Western publishing phenomenon. For the next 26 years – he always vowed he would stop writing them in 2001 – Gould produced a stream of 10,000-word essays, uninterrupted even when he needed intense treatment for abdominal cancer, on subjects that have ranged from snails to the evolution of typewriters, from dinosaurs to Antoine Lavoisier, and from space travel to, of course, baseball. All were written with authority and verve, and very often an engaging dry wit. One, on the evolution of human sexual organs, he even tried to call ‘Clits and Tits’ but was blocked by his publishers.’
April 16, 2002
[blogs] Weblog Bookwatch — it searches recently updated weblogs for links to books on Amazon and compiles a list… ‘For recreational use only — please, no wagering.’ [via Scripting News]
April 15, 2002
[food] The Bitter Truth about Fast Food — edited extacts from Fast Food Nation‘Hundreds of millions of people buy fast food every day without giving it much thought, unaware of the subtle and not so subtle ramifications of their purchases. They rarely consider where this food came from, how it was made, what it is doing to the community around them. I think people should know what lies behind the shiny, happy surface of every fast food transaction. They should know what really lurks between those sesame-seed buns. As the old saying goes: You are what you eat.’ [thanks Phil]
[politics] Look Who’s Talking — Christopher Hitchens interviewed by Lynne Barber … ‘…recently he has amazed everyone – left, right, centre – by coming out firmly in support of Bush’s war on terrorism. This means that for the first time in his life he is in the unfamiliar position of swimming with the tide. But on the other hand it hasn’t made him revise his first impression of Dubya – ‘Eyes so close together he could use a monocle, abnormally unintelligent, could barely read at all, “rescued from the booze by Jesus” – and if there’s one sentence that would piss me off more than any other, that’s it. But one can look on the bright side and say it proves that anyone can be president.’ Is this a sign that he’s moving rightwards?’
April 13, 2002
[politics] Statecraft by Margaret Thatcher — a Digested Read‘First and foremost, you cannot trust any foreigners apart from the Americans. Take Communism away from the Russians and the Eastern Bloc countries and you’re left with a bunch of gangsters and freeloaders. The Chinese think they’re superior and the Middle East is full of people who dress oddly and don’t go to church. Only the Americans have moral right. This is because they speak English, are devout Christians and are very, very big.’
April 12, 2002
[brain] The Fully Immersive Mind of Oliver Sacks — great profile from Wired Magazine … ‘The periodic grid of the elements first appeared in a dream to the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869. Before falling asleep at his desk, the white-bearded chemist played several rounds of solitaire, and his ordering scheme may have been influenced by the arrangement of suits in the game. The table in South Kensington was an unusual one, containing not only the atomic weight, number, and symbol for each element but also samples of the elements themselves sealed in jars, bequeathed to the museum by one of Napoléon’s heirs. To the young chemist and neurologist-to-be, this grand display was an irrefutable confirmation that there was order underlying the apparent chaos of the universe, and that the human mind had been keen enough to perceive it.’ [via Follow Me Here]
April 11, 2002
[food] Meat is murder — Nick Lezard reviews Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser‘The principles of uniformity turn out to be not only bad for the soul, a seedy Orwellian nightmare, but bad for people. Ray Kroc, one of the founders of McDonald’s, once memorably said of independent-minded franchisees: “We will make conformists out of them in a hurry…The organization cannot trust the individual; the individual must trust the organization.”‘
[wtf?] ‘X-Files’ star takes ‘Confidential’ Role — David Duchovny as James Ellroy? … ‘Ellroy, a burly, eccentric man was 46 at the time he began investigating his mother’s murder, and on the surface, Duchovny makes for an odd match. “It’s odd to see someone who doesn’t resemble me physically in the least playing me,” Ellroy acknowledged to Variety.’ [Related: Brief extract from My Dark Places, Buy My Dark Places at Amazon, link via WEF]
April 9, 2002
[books] The full text to Neal Stephenson’s The Big U online — it’s probably illegal so if you feel guilty you can buy yourself a copy here. ‘This is a history, in that it intends to describe what happened and suggest why. It is a work of the imagination in that by writing it I hope to purge the Big U from my system, and with it all my bitterness and contempt. I may have fooled around with a few facts. But I served as witness until as close to the end as anyone could have, and I knew enough of the major actors to learn about what I didn’t witness, and so there is not so much art in this as to make it irrelevant. What you are about to read is not an aberration: it can happen in your local university too. The Big U, simply, was a few years ahead of the rest. ‘ [via Jerry Kindall]
April 2, 2002
[books] White Frights — extracts from Michael Moore’s book Stupid White Men‘Yet as I look back on my life, a strange but unmistakable pattern seems to emerge. Every person who has ever harmed me in my lifetime – the boss who fired me, the teacher who flunked me, the principal who punished me, the kid who hit me in the eye with a rock, the executive who didn’t renew TV Nation, the guy who was stalking me for three years, the accountant who double-paid my taxes, the drunk who smashed into me, the burglar who stole my stereo, the contractor who overcharged me, the girlfriend who left me, the next girlfriend who left even sooner, the person in the office who stole cheques from my chequebook and wrote them out to himself for a total of $16,000 – every one of these individuals has been a white person. Coincidence? I think not.’
March 15, 2002
[books] Salon interviews Jon Ronson about his book Them: Adventures with Extremists‘The way I portrayed the people is accurate. Because they’re human beings and we have a kind of wonderful capacity to be absurd and ridiculous. It would be easy to portray them as one-dimensional demons, but I wanted to do the opposite. Just because they’re buffoons it doesn’t mean they can’t fly planes into the World Trade Center. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.’ [via I Love Everything]
March 12, 2002
[books] Excellent oldish interview with James Ellroy from 1995 … Ellroy on Oliver Stone’s JFK: ‘I was just enthralled for an hour and twenty minutes. Bravuro moviemaking, wonderfully layered and dense and jazzy, and then Donald Sutherland arrives to posit this preposterous theory, and it goes downhill from there. I think organized crime, exile factions, and renegade CIA killed Jack the Haircut. I think your most objective researchers do as well. When Oliver Stone diverged from that to take in the rest of the world (Lyndon Johnson, the Joint Chiefs of Staff), I lost interest. I went out and bought a copy of the video and I watch it right up until Donald Sutherland appears, then I turn it off.’ [via Book Notes]
March 3, 2002
[books] Elizabeth Wurtzel went shopping… — review of More, Now, Again‘More, Now, Again is the real thing, Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Diary: Complete and Unabridged. This time she’s left absolutely nothing out. For instance, quite a large percentage of More, Now, Again is taken up with what Wurtzel happened to catch on television – and I mean between 10 and 15 per cent. On page 26 she “discovers” ER, while on page 41 we find her watching Saturday Night Live. Occasionally, she attempts something a little more demanding – on page 45 she dips into the latest issues of Vogue and Mademoiselle – but this doesn’t last long and by the time we get to page 47 she’s relapsed: “I watch more MSNBC.” I honestly had no idea that writers could sell this sort of material.’
March 1, 2002
[books] More, Now, Again by Elizabeth Wurtzel — the condensed version … ‘It’s December 1997 and I’m checking in to Silver Hill Clinic. There’s this guy there, Hank, who is fairly ugly but is the only one who’s remotely as clever as me. This is perfect as no way can we ever become lovers. Hank and I become lovers.’
February 28, 2002
[comics] Get Your Wurtzel On — reworking of Get Your War On‘…when you get naked on your own book cover and yet nobody gives a shit, the world must seem pretty cold!’ [via RACM]
February 26, 2002
[books] Snort Story — interview with Elizabeth Wurtzel … ‘Wurtzel was in New York on 11 September, and her apartment is close enough to the World Trade Centre that her windows blew in. But she remained in bed until the second plane hit – in spite of the frantic ringing of the phone – and to this day seems oddly calm about the whole experience. She told a Canadian journalist: “My main thought was: what a pain in the ass. I felt everyone was overreacting. People were going on about it. That part really annoyed me.” When I asked her how she felt about the attack, she said: “Hmm, I’m trying to remember. I was numb for quite a while. I was preoccupied with trying to get my cat out of my apartment. I treated it like a natural disaster not Armageddon.”‘
February 22, 2002
[books] Book-a-Minute Classics — ultra-condensed novels … Gravity’s Rainbow: ‘A screaming thing comes across the sky. It’s a V-2 rocket carrying twelve thousand pounds of symbolism, and it’s coming down on your poor, deluded, postmodern head.’ [via I Love Everything]
February 20, 2002
[books] Philip Pullman Q&A On Guardian Unlimited … On how booksellers should recommend his books to children: ‘I’d say: “You are forbidden to read these books. They’re too old for you, and they’re full of things you shouldn’t experience yet, like sex and violence and dangerous ideas about religion. I’m putting them up here, on this shelf, and I’m going out for an hour or so. You’re not to touch them.” ‘
February 17, 2002
[books] More, Now, Again — book extract. This time Elizabeth Wurtzel is on Ritalin… ‘Dr Singer suggests that I try cutting the pills in half with a sharp knife. So I get out a steak knife and cut a Ritalin pill in half. This is harder to do than I might have guessed, and it just splits into little pieces, crumbles like a biscuit, with powdery flakes all over the place. Eureka! Why had I not thought of this sooner? I swallow a couple of the chunks with water like I normally would, and the rest I chop up into even finer bits. I press on them with the knife and break them down until they’re a white powder. I snort up the Ritalin. It scratches and burns my nostrils a little bit, but it’s not too bad. And then I feel a tiny rush in my brain.’
February 13, 2002
[comics] The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick — comic strip by Robert Crumb‘It is an interesting graphic interpretation of a series of events which happened to Dick in March of 1974. He spent the remaining years of his life trying to figure out what happened in those fateful months. You will find all 8 pages of this story here.’ [via Bitstream]
[books] The Hard-Boiled Bookshelf – James Ellroy‘His personal story has been relentlessly self exposed. He does 200 interviews a year and has written a quasi-autobiography in which he tells of his journey to “rediscover” his dead mother and to find out who killed her. He has examined, more completely and graphically than anyone (except perhaps himself) ever needed to learn about, his life as a druggie, shoplifter, petty criminal, peeper, B&E man, panty sniffer, white supremacist, and marathon masterbator.’
February 11, 2002
[reading] American Tabloid by James Ellroy … From the introduction: ‘The real trinity of Camelot was Look Good, Kick Ass, Get Laid. Jack Kennedy was the mythological front man for a particularly juicy slice of our history. He talked a slick line and wore a world class haircut. He was Bill Clinton minus pervasive media scrutiny and a few rolls of flab. Jack got whacked at the optimum moment to assure his sainthood. Lies continue to swirl around his eternal flame. Its time to dislodge his urn and cast light on a few men who attended his ascent and facilitated his fall. They were rogue cops and shakedown artists. They were wiretappers and soldiers of fortune and faggot lounge entertainers. Had one second of their lives deviated off course, American history would not exist as we know it.’
February 9, 2002
[books] What Should I Do With My Life? — preview of Po Bronson’s new book … ‘I wasn’t drawn to saints. We can worship saints, but we can’t emulate them. I would rather hear how the weak-of-will end up doing some good. The hesitant, all-too-human.’ [via Metafilter]
February 6, 2002
[books] Newsround kids ask Philip Pullman questions… What would his daemon be: ‘…I think my daemon probably is if I could guess would be one of those birds like a Jackdaw or a Magpie, nothing spectacular to look at but they steal bright things, whether it is a diamond ring or a bit of aluminium foil or whatever it is, an old tin can, if it is bright and shiny they go and pick it up. That is what story tellers do – we look for bright shiny interesting bits of gossip or bits of news or bits of information that reveal a character or something. And we collect them all and take them back to our nest, so that is what I think my daemon probably would be, but I can’t choose and I don’t know.’
February 5, 2002
[books] Machismo isn’t that easy to wear — interview with Norman Mailer … On America: ‘What would we think of someone who was seven-foot tall, weighed 350 pounds, was all muscle, and had to be reassured all the time? We would say that fella’s a mess!’
February 4, 2002
[books] Soap and the serious writer — interview with Philip Pullman … ‘Will and Lyra are a sort of Adam and Eve but, instead of reaffirming the Creation story, CS Lewis-style, they subvert it. Pullman is, actually, all for Eve listening to the serpent and trying the fruit. “I see it as a positive act,” he says. Because it shows curiosity, a willingness to embrace life? “Yes. Absolutely.” He says that if his book has any message, if readers go away feeling anything, he hopes it is that “this physical place, where we live, is a place of great beauty. We forget it as we grow up. We get so overlaid by habit. I want to say, open your eyes. Living is exciting, a source of amazing joy, and with that comes the responsibility to live it fully”. Oh, come on, I say. None of us can go round in a state of marvel all the time. Can you? “No. I do get tired and fed up, especially when I’m doing my VAT returns.”‘
January 28, 2002
[books] Dæmon Geezer — Robert McCrum profiles Philip Pullman … ‘Pullman himself makes an unlikely demon. In person, he is thoughtful, good-natured and passionately interested in what the world has to tell him. Like his admired predecessors, he is only giving back to his audience the stories it has already vouchsafed in a thousand unguarded moments. First and foremost a teller of tales, he acknowledges “the absolute preciousness” of reality in all its chaos and discomfort. “Here is where we are,” he told The Observer, “and now is where we live.”‘
[film] Jack the Rip-Off — Iain Sinclair looks at the From Hell movie … ‘What Moore proposes, and what the film necessarily refutes, is the belief that the past is unknowable. ‘In all our efforts to describe the past, to list the simple facts of history,’ he wrote in his introduction to the From Hell scripts, ‘we are involved in fiction.’ There can be no anachronisms when time is a plural concept. Nobody knows, or will ever know, or should know, who Jack the Ripper was. Jack is. Sustained and incubated by tour guides, crocodiles of sombre or giggling pilgrims processing around the locations where the bodies were found, the Ripper lives on. An invisible earner. A waxwork vampire.’
January 27, 2002
[books] A couple more Philip Pullman articles …

  • A wizard with Worlds — Interview with Pullman … ‘Earlier this year, he gave a remarkable speech called ‘The Republic of Heaven’ in which he succeeded in converting the words ‘God is dead’ into something positive. He refreshingly recruited Jane Eyre to his cause while giving Tolkien and C.S. Lewis the thumbs down for failing to salute the real world. He is not short of faith but it believes in humanity and in goodness, not in God. He believes we need this ‘thing which I’ve called joy’. His is an engaging moral optimism.’
  • Not for children — Robert McCrumb on Pullman … ‘…you can enumerate any number of qualities that separate Pullman from the herd, but at the end of the day, it’s because he grounds his fantasy in well-observed reality and is not afraid to acknowledge the importance of plot in his work. ‘When you are writing for children,’ he told the Bookseller in 1996, ‘the story is more important than you are. You can’t be self-conscious, you just have to get out of the way.’ Because it is easier to write description and dialogue than tell a good story, very many contemporary novelists write bad plots – bad plots that are full of inexplicable lacunae and wonky motivation. Pullman seems to know this. His writing has the hallmark of work that has been held up to the light and minutely inspected from every angle. Look at it where you like – it is seamless.’

January 25, 2002
[books] An honest American Psycho — Fay Weldon reviews American Pyscho in 1991 … ‘Our yuppie hero kills an abandoned dog, slices it with a knife, walks on. No one cares. Women get their kicks from bondage. Yuppie goes too far, the women get to bleed a bit, but they get paid. That’s enough for them. The whole world’s into bondage. Altzheimers or Armani, spermicidal lubricant or Ralph Lauren, everything on the same level. So he goes further. What’s the odds? Not a nice book, no, not at all, this portrait of psychotic America, psychotic us. Just enough to touch a dulled nerve or two, get an article or so written.’ [Related: Bio of Bret Easton Ellis, Geocities Fan Page]
January 24, 2002
[war] Back to hell — Mark Bowden – author of Black Hawk Down – on a possible US return to Somalia … ‘Because it is so wild, and because most of its residents are Muslims, Somalia seems a logical destination for al-Qaida and Taliban leaders fleeing the rout in Afghanistan. With the longest shoreline of any African nation, with its lack of government, navy, army or police, there is nothing to stop international outlaws from coming, provided they can run the international patrols in the Persian Gulf and Indian ocean. But once in Somalia, there is nothing to stop the US and its allies from coming after them. “We’ll go wherever we need to go in Somalia,” said one American general who asked not to be named. “It’s not likely that we’ll be asking permission.”‘