December 11, 2000
[books] Interesting interview/profile of Zadie Smith in Books Unlimited. ‘White Teeth is a rich, sprawling domestic epic, about how families and people come together and fall apart in the most unlikely ways. It’s also very much a book about modern London, a city in which 40% of children are born to at least one black parent, a city in which the terms black and white become less and less relevant as we gradually meld into different shades of brown. White Teeth reflects a new generation for whom race is the backdrop to daily life rather than the defining characteristic of existence. Some people have said Smith is depoliticising race, removing it from its historical context, others say she’s ahead of her time, representing modern London as it really is for the first time.’
December 8, 2000
[books] From BooksUnlimited — Five minutes with Naomi Klein. ‘…in Britain I think there are a few things that have put the discussion around the difference between branding and advertising into the public discourse. One of those things has been the branding of Britain – the whole idea of very consciously building an identity around a country. I also think that having Richard Branson as a kind of rock star CEO (he’s basically the most well known CEO in Britain) has taught people in Britain a lot about what branding means. Here you have a company that is all brand, that is all about extending into new areas, about building these branded temples. It is really about selling an idea, selling a persona as opposed to selling products and that’s something that’s quite difficult to grasp. That’s why I think the discourse around branding is a lot more advanced in Britain than anywhere else.’
December 2, 2000
[books] Jorn from Robot Wisdom has a great list of links about Tom Wolfe. Here’s a chapter from The Bonfire of the Vanities. ‘Sherman leaned back in his chair and surveyed the bond trading room. The processions of phosphorescent green characters still skidded across the faces of the computer terminals, but the roar had subsided to something more like locker-room laughter. George Connor stood beside Vic Scaasi’s chair with his hands in his pockets, just chatting. Vic arched his back and rolled his shoulders and seemed about to yawn. There was Rawlie, reared back in his chair, talking on the telephone, grinning and running his hand over his bald pate. Victorious warriors after the fray . . . Masters of the Universe . . . And she has the gall to cause him grief over a telephone call!’
November 29, 2000
[plagiarism] Comparison of Glenn Brown’s The Loves of Shepherds 2000 and Tony Robert’s book cover Double Star.
November 28, 2000
[books] Books Unlimited has the first chapter of Naomi Klein’s No Logo available… ‘And so the wave of mergers in the corporate world over the last few years is a deceptive phenomenon: it only looks as if the giants, by joining forces, are getting bigger and bigger. The true key to understanding these shifts is to realize that in several crucial ways – not their profits, of course – these merged companies are actually shrinking. Their apparent bigness is simply the most effective route toward their real goal: divestment of the world of things.’
November 21, 2000
[quote] ‘Zola called it documentation, and his documenting expeditions to the slums, the coal mines, the races, the folies, department stores, wholesale food markets, newspaper offices, barnyards, railroad yards, and engine decks, notebook and pen in hand, became legendary. At this weak, pale, tabescent moment in the history of American literature we need a battalion, a brigade of Zolas to head out into this wild, bizarre, unpredictable, Hog-stomping Baroque country of ours and reclaim it as literary property.’ — Tom Wolfe, “Stalking the Billion-Footed Beast,” November 1989, Harper’s.
November 18, 2000
[reading] The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker. “My left shoelace has snapped just before lunch. At some earlier point in the morning, my left shoe had become untied, and as I had sat at my desk working on a memo, my foot had sensed its potential freedom and slipped out of the sauna of black cordovan to soothe itself with rhythmic movements over an area of wall-to-wall carpeting under my desk, which, unlike the tamped-down areas of public traffic, was still almost as soft and fibrous as it had been when first installed.”
November 12, 2000
[reading] Jurrassic Park by Michael Crichton: ‘”But we have soothed ourselves into imagining sudden change as something that happens outside the normal order of things. An accident, like a car crash. Or beyond our control like a fatal illness. We do not concieve of sudden, radical, irrational change as built into the very fabric of existence. Yet it is. And chaos theory teaches us,” Malcolm said, “that straight linearity, which we have come to take for granted in everything from physics to fiction, simply does not exist. Linearity is an artificial way of viewing the world. Real life isn’t a series of interconnected events occurring one after another like beads strung on a necklace. Life is actually a series of encounters in which one event may change those that follow in a wholly unpredictable, even devastating way”. Malcolm sat back in his seat, looking towards the other Land Cruiser, a few yards ahead. “That’s a deep truth about the structure of our universe. But for some reason, we insist on behaving as if it were not true.”‘
November 10, 2000
[reading] Books Unlimited interviews Chuck Palahniuk. ‘For Palahniuk the male protagonists of Fight Club are human spirits in revolt against the deadening destinies society that allots them. Many of his friends are teachers and, like teachers here, they often com plain that education is increasingly about schooling children for niches rather than educating them to create their own place in the world: “They’re taught to accept the world the way it is. I felt that all of my schooling was to get me a good corporate job so I could be a good corporate citizen, pay my taxes, live politely and then die.”‘
November 8, 2000
[reading] Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Train ’72 by Hunter S. Thompson. ‘On page 39 of California Living magazine I found a hand-lettered ad from the McDonald’s Hamburger Corporation, one of Nixon’s big contributors in the ’72 presidential campaign: PRESS ON, it said. NOTHING IN THE WORLD CAN TAKE THE PLACE OF PERSISTENCE. TALENT WILL NOT: NOTHING IS MORE COMMON THAN UNSUCESSFUL MEN WITH TALENT. GENIUS WILL NOT: UNREWARDED GENIUS IS ALMOST A PROVERB. EDUCATION ALONE WILL NOT: THE WORLD IS FULL OF EDUCATED DERELICTS. PERSISTENCE AND DETERMINATION ALONE ARE OMNIPOTENT. I read it several times before I grasped the full meaning.’
November 5, 2000
My Dark Places Cover[reading] My Dark Places by James Ellroy. ‘It went bad from there. It went bad with self-destructive logic. It went bad slowly. The voices came and went. Inhalers let them in. Liquor and enforced sobriety stifled them. I understood the problem intellectually. Rational thought deserted me the second I popped those cotton wads in my mouth. Lloyds called the voices “amphetamine psychoses.” I called them a conspiracy. President Richard M. Nixon knew I murdered my parents and ordered people to stalk me. They hissed into microphones wired to my brain. I heard the voices. Nobody else did.’ [My Dark Places is by turns, a stunning, brilliant and above all a disturbing book. I read it first in 1998 and since then I’ve read it at least once a year… Certainly in the top five books I’ve ever read.]
November 2, 2000
[reading] Something Happened by Joseph Heller: ‘I get the willies when I see closed doors. Even at work, where I am doing so well now, the sight of a closed door is sometimes enough to make me dread that something horrible is happening behind it, something that is going to affect me adversely; if I am tired and dejected from a night of lies or booze or sex or just plain nerves and insomnia, I can almost smell the disaster mounting invisibly and flooding out towards me through the frosted glass panes. My hands may perspire, and my voice may come out strange. I wonder why. Something must have happened to me sometime.’ [I’ve attempted to read Something Happened many times in the past but always got smothered by Heller’s / Slocum’s prose. It’s just to much. I’m hoping that by posting this “recommendation” I’ll find the will to finish what I suspect is a brilliant book… ]
October 25, 2000
[royalty] Princess Diana and the Vibrator… not porn — actually a very amusing review of Shadows of a Princess by PD Jephson‘Diana, Jephson breathlessly confides, returned from Paris in 1992 sporting a souvenir – ‘a large, pink, battery-powered vibrator’. By now she knew she’d never get her hands on an orb or sceptre: this plastic knob would have to do. It had ‘the aim’, Jephson notes with courtly tact, ‘of raising royal morale at critical moments’. But he denies that it was actually aimed at the critical royal part, and insists it was ‘never used for its designed purpose’. Eventually Dodi assumed the role of royal morale-booster, which made the cheeky pink chap redundant.’ [via Beesley]
October 4, 2000
[king] Stephen King — the early years of bitter struggle‘Harry had hooks instead of hands as a result of a tumble into the sheet-mangler during the Second World War (he was dusting the beams above the machine and fell off). A comedian at heart, he would sometimes duck into the bathroom and run water from the cold tap over one hook and water from the hot tap over the other. Then he’d sneak up behind you while you were loading laundry and lay the steel hooks on the back of your neck. Rocky and I spent a fair amount of time speculating on how Harry accomplished certain bathroom clean-up activities. ‘Well,’ Rocky said one day while we were drinking our lunch in his car, ‘at least he doesn’t need to wash his hands.”
September 28, 2000
[random link dump] These links have been sitting around waiting for something to tag them to which never came along: Old Salon interview with Jay McInerney, Slashdot review of Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, Comics worth Reading and finally, Alan Moore — famous vegetarian!
[sci-fi] Guardian Unlimited interviews Arthur C. Clarke as he promotes his new book… ‘The book, with its vision of a relentlessly voyeuristic society, includes a memorable sex scene on a bench in 2041AD Rome. Who wrote the sex bits, I wonder? “I had an operation for prostate cancer 10 years ago,” Clarke says. “I haven’t the slightest interest in sex. But you have to keep up with reality.”‘
September 25, 2000
[books] Stephen King writes about the car accident that almost killed him…. ‘He and Bullet left the campground where they were staying, he later tells an investigator, because he wanted ‘some of those Marzes-bars they have up to the store’. When I hear this little detail some weeks later, it occurs to me that I have nearly been killed by a character right out of one of my own novels. It’s almost funny.’
September 23, 2000
[eugenics] Guardian Unlimited reports on a new book alleging that an American scientist infected thousands of South American Indians with a measles-like virus [in the process killing hundreds] to test a theory on the effects of natural selection on a primitive society. ‘Prof Turner says that Neel held the view that “natural” human society, as seen before the advent of large-scale agriculture, consists of small, genetically isolated groups in which dominant genes – specifically a gene he believed existed for “leadership” or “innate ability” – have a selective advantage. In such an environment, male carriers of this gene would gain access to a disproportionate number of females, reproducing their genes more frequently than less “innately able” males. The result would supposedly be a continual upgrading of the human genetic stock. He says Neel believed that in modern societies “superior leadership genes would be swamped by mass genetic mediocrity”.’
September 18, 2000
[books] Crime Magazine asks if In Cold Blood is a dishonest book. Interesting look at the story behind the creation of the book — but be warned… the page contains some disturbing images. ‘However, early on I’d like to raise the question of Capote’s basic honesty in writing this book. He set out to write a masterpiece, yet he took no notes. He recounts lengthy, complex conversations – sans notes. Capote told Plimpton that he had trained himself to do this – that, for a year and a half prior to embarking on the book, he had a friend read passages from a book to him, for an hour or two a day, then he would write down what he had heard – and in his estimation he had a unique facility for accurately remembering interviews, with an accuracy quotient of 95 percent. Which any newspaper reporter can tell you is horse feathers.’
September 17, 2000
In Cold Blood Cover[books] The Guardian’s original book review of In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. ‘The utter banality of the Clutter murder, the fact that it was resolved not through some acute feat of detection but by a facile indiscretion – one of the assassins had discussed the family with a cell-mate before leaving prison – make Truman Capote’s radical point. Looked at minutely enough, filtered through the lens of a highly professional recorder, caught by the tape recording ear in its every inflection and background noise, the most sordid, shapeless of incidents, take on a compelling truth. Exhaustively rendered, the fact is richer than any fiction.’ [Buy this Book: UK / US]
[horror] The Observer interviews Stephen King. ‘Stephen King paused, took a breath, he got stiffly to his feet, and smiled. ‘That’s not to say that there won’t always be a market for crap… Just look at Jeffrey Archer! He writes like old people fuck, doesn’t he?” [part of the Observer’s Stephen King Season]
September 14, 2000
[ellroy] Old Salon interview with James Ellroy… On his mother: ‘She gave me gifts — her death did. Those gifts have stood me in very good stead. I cannot go back and undo the past. I never even think of what might have happened had she lived. Would I be a writer? I had gone to great lengths in my life, in my career, to seek consciousness and get better and better. That eclipsed everything with me, everything in my subconscious.’
September 13, 2000
[censored] Guardian Unlimited covers the handling of Lady Chatterley’s Lover censorship case back in the 1960s. ‘Under the heading “Gratuitous filth”, the DPP’s office had tried to keep a running count of the offending words. It notes on page 204 a “bitch goddess of Success (coined by Henry James)”, a “fucking”, a “shit”, a “best bit of cunt left on earth” and “balls” (three times). On page 232 is found “arse” (twice), “arsed” and “slits” (twice), and so the file goes on. At the trial Griffith-Jones told the jury that the word “fuck” or “fucking” appeared no fewer than 30 times.’
September 10, 2000
[80’s authors] Bright Lights, Big City — the Observer profiles Jay McInerney. “‘I think I’ve been trying to prove I’m a really bad guy for 20 years, that I’m not a mother’s boy. But part of me is stuck with being a Catholic boy who is slightly shocked by things.’ Part of him – but perhaps a decreasing part. He once admitted that, as a teenager, he was deeply influenced by the Playboy ‘Adviser’ section and he still retains that slightly tacky notion of sophistication – he really has to have a beautiful woman on his arm. And the emotional detritus is piling up.”
September 9, 2000
[adrian mole redux] Must…. not…. blog… Adrian Mole‘It’s time I found a sexual partner: a non-neurotic, childless, non-smoking, beautiful woman who enjoys literature, spotting Eddie Stobart lorries and housework would be ideal. Is it too much to ask that I should be allowed a little happiness?’
September 2, 2000
[more adrian mole] I’m repeating myself but I cannot live without a weekly dose of Adrian Mole. ‘Glenn’s romance is over before it began. Courtney has been “long promised” to her second cousin, a lad called Eli, who works on the whelks and cockle store on the quay. Things are certainly feudal down here. They are but simple folk – untouched by the sophisticated outside world. It is impossible to get a Leicester Mercury.’
August 29, 2000 cover[comics] BBC News takes a look at Ralph Steadman and his most recent work for children. ‘Steadman says his latest work has the same “wayward spirit” as Fear and Loathing – despite being aimed at a very different audience. “ is different because I’m not so malevolent in it,” he adds. “A children’s book is small world that is large enough for a child’s mind at bed-time.”‘ [Related Link:]
August 28, 2000
[books] News Unlimited wonders if Nick Hornby can write a sucessful new novel from a female point-of-view. ‘At his best, Hornby mines a seam that unites far more than it divides: the scary business of growing up, of putting away childish things, and of the struggle to become a fully-formed human being who can have relationships with parents, children, lovers, friends. So why is it any surprise when he decides to explore matters from a different angle in a work of fiction?’
August 27, 2000
[books] Guardian Unlimited interviews Luke Rhinehart aka George Cockcroft author of The Dice Man ‘Originally he had seen the dice as a way of breaking down some of the habitual stiffness he disliked in his own character: ‘I was a shy, uptight sort of guy in my teens and early twenties, and tremendously driven to succeed, get A grades and so on, and I did not like either of those characteristics one bit…’ He had the notion that by rolling a dice to make decisions, about what to read, where to go, how to react to people, he could bring risk into his life, which he otherwise seemed naturally indisposed toward. In this way, he hoped, he could turn himself into someone else.’
August 19, 2000
[books] A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers digested at Books Unlimited. ‘Toph is my laboratory. I can fill his head with my music, my books. He is one lucky, lucky guy. But he’s my problem, too. I mean, looking after your eight-year old brother is all very soulful, but how do you find the time to shag? When I’m not with him I worry someone’s hacking him to death and when I am, I just wish he’d fucking disappear and let me live my life.’
August 17, 2000
[Mailer] Norman Mailer on the sexual revolution. ‘The six times married Mailer, who stabbed his second wife Adele in 1960 after an all-night party, said the women’s movement has been “sold down the river for a mess of corporate pottage” and sympathised with President Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair. “Mon frere, I thought. I’d have done it myself.”‘
August 14, 2000
[interview] The New York Times profiles/interviews Stephen King. ‘If there is a single trait common to most of King’s writing, it is the reader’s feeling that the author is playing God. He can and will make really bad things happen to his beloved creations. He will then watch them confront this evil, occasionally offering aid. Finally, after they’ve been scared witless and have proved themselves worthy, they are welcomed back into His warm embrace, humble and grateful.’
August 11, 2000
[Mr Blue] Excellent Edward Bunker retrospective in Crime Time ‘But apart from his friendship with Louise Wallis, Bunker continued to hang-out with low lifes: pimps, whores, dope-addicts and boosters. He tried heroin and then began selling crudely-harvested marijuana. While out on a delivery a police pulled up alongside him, indicating him to stop. Bunker drove off but crashed into a car and a mail truck. Apprehended by the law, he was sent to LA county jail.’ [via Beesley]
August 8, 2000
[britney] Elizabeth Wurtzel talks about Britney Spears in GuardianUnlimited. ‘The signifier and the signified have gone their separate ways, as is always the case in current semiotic thinking. Men with long hair might vote for Tory MPs, guys with earrings – I mean in both ears – are usually not gay, Princess Zara has a tongue stud, Prince William wears an Eton vest meant to look like something out of Austin Powers, and a ring in the nose is a passing teenage fad that has nothing to do with worshipping Kali or Vishnu. There are hippie capitalists, there are millionaire computer programmers in Silicon Valley with purple hair. And so it has been for quite a while now. What, in this day and age, is really subversive?’
July 4, 2000
[books] Have I ever said how much I like James Ellroy books?
July 3, 2000
[books] Quick interview with the great Scottish author Iain M. Banks. “Though it also strikes me that the Culture would only work with people who are nicer than us – less bigoted, less prone to violence and genocide. We don’t know to what extent aggression is necessary to achieve sentience, consciousness, space travel, a genuinely stable civilisation. We don’t know if we’re a particularly violent species or a relatively mild one – in which case you’d better hope we haven’t been discovered yet.”
June 30, 2000
[web] Douglas Rushkoff talks about the “social currency” of the media and internet. Social currency is like a good joke. When a bunch of friends sit around and tell jokes, what are they really doing? Entertaining one another? Sure, for a start. But they are also using content – mostly unoriginal content that they’ve heard elsewhere – in order to lubricate a social occasion. And what are most of us doing when we listen to a joke? Trying to memorise it so that we can bring it somewhere else. The joke itself is social currency. Interesting in regards to weblogs — I hope LinkMachineGo provide social currency in the form of interesting/useful links… [via Metafilter]
June 27, 2000
[books] Interesting interview with Alex Garland author of The Beach. Covers the story’s origins as a comic book… . “He had drawn a 60-page comic book, a noir-ish tale based on his experiences in the Far East. He had a go at translating it into a novel. The origins of The Beach, which is written like a sequence of discrete man-on-a-desert-island cartoons, remain apparent. Its comic-book blueprint helps to account for its storytelling pace, and why even in quite horrific and bloody scenes there is a Pulp Fiction element of slapstick.”
June 17, 2000
[books] Media Nugget of the Day covers Enders Game.
June 9, 2000
[books] newsUnlimited reports that christian apocalyptic fundamentalists set to knock Harry Potter off top of the book charts in the US. “In interviews, Mr LaHaye appears to be the more driven member of the successful duo, saying that the books’ message ‘is the greatest message of hope in the world’. Mr Jenkins, by contrast, seems more worldly. ‘There are some times when I think I was born for this project,’ he said recently. ‘Other times I think I was born to play golf.'”
May 26, 2000
[books] Media Nugget of the Day covers Michael Lewis’s Liar’s Poker.
[books] Experience in 400 words. “It is the late 1970s. The gross of condoms that Kingsley gave me and Phillip have long since been used.”
May 22, 2000
[books] More strange quotes from Barbara Cartland. “Men have always made a fuss of me. I still have several admirers who send me jewellery and chocolates. So I must be doing something right” – aged 96. [via Adorable]
[quote] The wisdom of Barbara Cartland: “The trouble with half the Socialists is they’re suffering from vitamin dificiency”
May 21, 2000
[news] Barbara Cartland is dead. The BBC has a tributes page — some of them sound… well, a little critical. I wonder why? “Perhaps her works were ignored by critics because they deserved to be ignored by critics. Dame Barbara blamed women for the permissive society. She blamed women for teen violence. She blamed women for – well, let’s face it: Dame Barbara blamed women for everything. Maybe that attitude was acceptable a century ago, but no longer. We women don’t need pampered millionaires scolding us for running our lives as we see fit. And we don’t need their implausible melodramas, either.”
May 20, 2000
[books] Surprisingly, Julie Burchill likes Kingsley Amis. Wierd!
May 19, 2000
[book] 253 a novel for the Internet about London Underground in seven cars and a crash
May 16, 2000
[interview] An interview with John Diamond [Text-Only] in the Observer. Diamond’s columns can be found at The Times Website. [Originally, I’d decided not to link to the John Diamond interview but it stuck in my mind for a couple of days, a friend mentioned it to me and I suddenly realised that columnists in newspapers and webloggers probably have a lot in common…]
May 14, 2000
[books] More profiles of Martin Amis: [BBC] The Martin Amis Experience [Sunday Times] Middle age is drawing the poison from his pen.
May 13, 2000
[books] Another Amis posting — the Digested Letters of Kingsley Amis.