26 October 2001
[books] Out of the ordinary — Douglas Coupland has been touring England taking photo’s‘Coupland adores objects, and most of his book-tour photography has been of hotel rooms, shop windows, products, promotional displays. But why do it? “I’ve never taken pictures before and I said to myself, ‘Dammit, I’m going to learn how to do this. I don’t remember my dreams. Do you? No one does. But if you wake up and write them down straight away, you can look at it 15 years later and like, ‘I remember that dream perfectly.’ It’s the same with this 36 days, or 46 days, or whatever it has been, I really want to remember them. But your body tends to remember the airport and the train rumble, rumble, so I’m trying to remember the good stuff.”‘
24 October 2001
[books] Sue Townsend: You ask the questions‘[Q] Where do you see Adrian Mole aged 51? [A] Still trying to flog his abysmal novel, Lo! The Flat Hills of My Homeland, to a London publisher. He’ll almost certainly have early prostate trouble and I think he’ll be really strong on cardigans, in particular the Marks & Spencer zip-up range for men.’
21 October 2001
[books] All Authors are Pyschotic — interview with Douglas Coupland‘…when you look at the history of the smile in the photo… up until World War II most people in photographs had their normal faces. And then Kodak and other camera people and filmmakers always had their people smile, and then we entered this cult of the smile collectively. If you try not smiling when people are taking your picture they basically tell you to fuck off and start smiling.’ [Related: BBC News on Coupland, via Feeling Listless]
19 October 2001
[comment] The View From Smalltown, USA — Chuck Palahniuk on 9-11 … [via Barbelith Underground]

‘On television, the towers fall in slow motion. The same crowds of people stand around on the West Side Highway, observing. There’s the same jiggling, chaotic shot taken by some cameraman fleeing the cloud of dust. Watching this, David says: “This is worse than The Blair Witch Project.” Then he asks: “They ever find that intern, Chandra Levy??”‘

13 October 2001
[books] This is how it feels to me — Zadie Smith on what it’s like to be a writer at the moment…

‘We cannot be all the writers all the time. We can only be who we are. Which leads me to my second point: writers do not write what they want, they write what they can. When I was 21 I wanted to write like Kafka. But, unfortunately for me, I wrote like a script editor for The Simpsons who’d briefly joined a religious cult and then discovered Foucault. Such is life. And now, when I finish a long day of CNN-related fear and loathing mixed with eyeballing my own resolutely white screen, I do not crawl into bed with 500-page comic novels about (God help me, but it’s OK; I’m going to call on the safety of quote marks) “multicultural” London. I read Carver. Julio Cortázar. Amis’s essays. Baldwin. Lorrie Moore. Capote. Saramago. Larkin. Wodehouse. Anything, anything at all, that doesn’t sound like me.’

10 October 2001
[interview] You Ask The Questions: P. J. O’Rourke‘A title of one of your early books was Give War a Chance. In the light of recent events, do you still hold to this credo? “Credo” is as it may be. But “Give Communications Intercepts, Intelligence Agent Penetration of Terrorist Cells, Limited Special Forces Covert Actions and Suppression of Worldwide Money-Laundering Activities a Chance” will never be a book title.’
7 October 2001
[ubl] An Ernst Stavro Blofeld for our Times … article comparing Osama bin Laden with the Bond Villian. ‘Of course what the public craves in all this is a real-life James Bond to tackle him. Unfortunately, the secret service has changed since the days of 007. Out have gone the cocktails, the girls and the relentless innuendo, to be replaced by a new politically correct streak. The CIA, for example, has spent 20,000 man-hours in a year on “sensitivity training” and the sewing of quilts to celebrate cultural diversity.’

Kill bin Laden or risk catastrophe, says FBI‘Officials in the Justice Department and intelligence services believe that the bin Laden network, still operative in cells across the globe, would implode if he were beheaded. Investigators laid out two scenarios: “There’s a notion that if you behead the snake, another two crawl out of the swamp,” said one official. “This situation is the opposite: cut off the snake’s head and the body shrivels up. The important thing is to get the man”.’
6 October 2001
[books] Learning to Fly by Victoria Beckham — The Digested Read … ‘Brooklyn is literally the best baby in the entire universe and David and I just so love him to bits. We are just so at our happiest when it’s just the three of us together out shopping at Versace.’
[comics] To be Precise, Tintin — another look at Michael Farr’s Tintin – The Complete Companion‘In a career of more than 50 years, Hergé produced only 24 Tintin books. Had he been less meticulous, he might well have been a lot more prolific, but I doubt he would have ended up being so widely loved and admired. Picking up a Tintin book the other day for the first time in many years, I found myself torn between a narrative-driven urge to race through the frames as quickly as possible and an impulse to linger and wallow amid the lovingly realised visual detail, the brilliant evocation of time and place. I don’t think there are any other books which made quite such an impact on my childhood imagination as Tintin.’
5 October 2001
[comment] Robert Anton Wilson on The War Against Some Terrorists‘Just as the War Against Drugs would make some kind of sense if they honestly called it a War Against Some Drugs, I regard Dubya’s current Kampf as a War Against Some Terrorists. I may remain wed to that horrid heresy until he bombs CIA headquarters in Langtry.’ [via Fark]
1 October 2001
[books] Adrian Mole — Monday, September 24‘I heard with alarm today that, due to the coming “Crusade” or “Infinite Justice” or “The Conflict” or “World War Three”, David Blunkett has warned that my civil liberties may be restricted in the future, and that I may have to carry an identity card with me at all times. Since I am constantly losing my Sainsbury’s Reward Card, the future looks dim for me. ‘
18 September 2001
[comment] Fear and Loathing — Martin Amis on 9-11 … ‘It was the advent of the second plane, sharking in low over the Statue of Liberty: that was the defining moment. Until then, America thought she was witnessing nothing more serious than the worst aviation disaster in history; now she had a sense of the fantastic vehemence ranged against her. I have never seen a generically familiar object so transformed by effect. That second plane looked eagerly alive, and galvanised with malice, and wholly alien. For those thousands in the south tower, the second plane meant the end of everything. For us, its glint was the worldflash of a coming future.’
[books] Bare Faced Messiah — an excellent out-of-print biography of L. Ron Hubbard complete on-line… ‘The glorification of “Ron”, superman and saviour, required a cavalier disregard for facts: thus it is that every biography of Hubbard published by the church is interwoven with lies, half-truths and ludicrous embellishments. The wondrous irony of this deception is that the true story of L. Ron Hubbard is much more bizarre, much more improbable, than any of the lies.’
16 September 2001
[comment] ‘We just have to stop being Americans for a little while’ — P. J. O’Rourke was in Washington… ‘The four of us walked to the Dubliner bar on North Capitol. “The Congressional leadership,” said the second staffer, “has been whisked off to ‘an undisclosed location’. As far as I’m concerned they can keep most of them there,” which touches on another theory of terrorism, that the organisation of society can be attacked by striking organisations; that we can’t organise things ourselves. “Four Guinnesses,” said the first senate staffer to the bartender. “Time to take sides,” said the second staffer. “Time to turn sand into glass,” said the first.’
15 September 2001
[nyc] Brightness fallsJay McInerney writes about the last few days in NYC … ‘Jeffrey lived in Jersey, and had no way to get home; he was going to look for a hotel room since all transit, all bridges and tunnels were closed. I told him to call me if he couldn’t find shelter, and Jeanine gave him my name and number. He looked at my name and asked me if I was the author of Bright Lights, Big City. “I just realised something,” he said. “Wasn’t the World Trade Centre on the cover of your book?” “My God,” I said, “I hadn’t thought of that.”‘
14 September 2001
[comment] Blake Morrison on the attack: ‘…there is the history and symbolism. America has just been violated as never before. We’ve seen the heart of the world’s greatest empire – its military brain and financial nerve centre – going up in smoke. None of us was there to see the siege of Troy, the fall of Constantinople, the burning of Rome, the Great Fire of London, but we’ve often wondered what they were like. This time there were cameras present.’
[comment] Fear & Loathing in America … Hunter S. Thompson’s reaction. ‘This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed — for anyone, and certainly not for anyone as baffled as George W. Bush. All he knows is that his father started the war a long time ago, and that he, the goofy child-President, has been chosen by Fate and the global Oil industry to finish it Now.’ [via Dr. Menlo]
[comment] Ruin more beautiful than the building — The Times interviews Norman Mailer on the attacks. ‘… [He] said that the remaining steel prongs of the World Trade Centre would inevitably become a national monument. ‘It is more beautiful than the building was,” Mr Mailer, 78, who described the towers as ‘two huge buck teeth’ […] ‘I think they will keep it. If they have any sense they will. And politicians usually have exactly that kind of sense, if no other. I don’t disapprove of that. You’ve got that many people killed who’ve had nothing to do with bringing on their own death other than working in a monument to corporatism.”
8 September 2001
[books] Today, I’m mostly reading… Fast Food Nation by Eric Sclosser. Ray Kroc (one of the founders of McDonalds): ‘We have found out … that we cannot trust people who are nonconformists. We will make conformists out of them in a hurry … The organization cannot trust the individual; the individual must trust the organization.’ Fast-Food Nation: The True Cost Of America’s Diet [Part 1 | Part 2] … this is the original article on which the book was based … ‘A middle-aged woman in a lab coat handed me a paper plate full of premium extra longs, the type of french fries sold at McDonald’s, and a salt shaker and some ketchup. The fries on the plate looked so familiar yet wildly out of place in this laboratory setting, this food factory with its computer screens, digital readouts, shiny steel platforms and evacuation plans in case of ammonia-gas leaks. Despite all that, the french fries were delicious – crisp and golden brown, made from potatoes that had been in the ground that morning. I finished them and asked for some more.’
7 September 2001
[books] Dot.Bomb — first chapter of the book by David Kuo … ‘Winn’s goal was not just to sell a lot of one kind of stuff or another. He wanted to use the Internet to revolutionize every facet of retail, creating a one-stop Internet shopping site of unparalleled selection, product information, and efficiency. It would be for the Internet age what Harrods was for the entire British Empire at its height: the shopping source for all things. Winn knew it was an inspired – and possibly psychotically lucrative – vision.’
6 September 2001
[books] Hip to be square — interview with Douglas Coupland‘When I lived in Tokyo, on the subways everyone would be reading papers or manga, but now everyone sits there reading their phones. Every medium creates its desired form. It’s like AM radio created the two-and-a-half-minute song, then FM radio created art rock and the double album, and TV created the video and the 22.5-second news burst. It turns out that people want their printed information in three minutes; as long as they have three minutes’ worth of words, they’ll pay 100 yen. It’s scary. It’s the future.’
31 August 2001
[books] Extract from The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman … ‘Lee Scoresby looked not asleep, nor at peace; he looked as if he had died in battle; but he looked as if he knew that his fight had been successful. And because the Texan aeronaut was one of the very few humans Iorek had ever esteemed, he accepted the man’s last gift to him. With deft movements of his claws, he ripped aside the dead man’s clothes, opened the body with one slash, and began to feast on the flesh and blood of his old friend. It was his first meal for days, and he was hungry.’
28 August 2001
[books] Author angers the Bible Belt — article on the reaction to Philip Pullman’s books in America … ‘At their core, Pullman’s books are profoundly humanistic. Joan Slatterly calls them stories ‘about love, seizing the day and being alive’. ‘For all the qualities they have,’ says Pullman, ‘mine are ordinary children who come to realise that the world is a wonderful place whose destiny is not their birthright. There are no hereditary traditions or magic wands like in Harry Potter. There is the occult but not in the sense I see in other books. I don’t give people magical powers.”
24 August 2001
[distraction] Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s public book reviews on Amazon. ‘Rogul’s book is a fascinating guide to the phenomenon of alien abduction, and as an abductee myself I was staggered by how similar my experiences were to the examples he cites in his book. I too was whisked up to the mothership where a group of 7 or 8 humanoids with enlarged craniums and black oval eyes subjected me to intense examination, lavishing particular scrutiny on my […], which they probed with a glass-like instrument which emitted a blue glow. ‘ [via Barbelith Underground]
[comics] Cartoon strip seeks to be first of the first books — Jimmy Corrigan in shortlist for this year’s Guardian First Book Award. ‘Ware has won rave reviews for his subtle, innovative book with its dark portrayal of alienated wage slaves and dysfunctional family relationships. The title character is an introverted office dogsbody whose awkward reunion with his long-lost father brings him further confusion and pain. The author is already being championed by last year’s First Book Award winner. “He should win immediately – I don’t even care what else is on it,” declared novelist Zadie Smith. “It’s a work of genius.” The author Nick Hornby is another fan, who said Jimmy Corrigan was “too beautiful to take anywhere”.’ [Related: Buy Jimmy Corrigan at Amazon, Chris Ware at Fantagraphics]
22 August 2001
[books] Kids’ stuff — Guardian interview with Philip Pullman … Pullman: ‘Traditionally, children are seen as beautiful, innocent beings; then comes adulthood and they become corrupt. That’s the CS Lewis view. My view is that the coming of experience and sexuality and self-consciousness is a thing to be welcomed, because it’s the beginning of true understanding, of wisdom. My book tells children that you’re going to grow up and it’s going to be painful but it’s going to be good too.’
20 August 2001
[books] Philip Pullman: A winner – if he gets his evil way — interesting profile of the childrens author … ‘His novel, The Amber Spyglass, is unusual. It’s a magnificent piece of storytelling that, unlike self-consciously difficult literary novels, is sinfully sweet to devour. Despite its bulk, it isn’t a stand-alone book, but the culmination of a trilogy. Most pertinently, it’s a novel for children, albeit one that can be enjoyed with equal intensity by adults, who are more likely to pick up on its allusions.’
16 August 2001
[books] You ask the questions: Peter Ackroyd. On genuinely disturbing parts of London: ‘There are a couple of spots of London that have always interested me. One of them is a small area known as Angel Street by the old wall of Newgate Prison, which has been a haunted spot for many centuries. It was here that the black dog of Newgate used to be seen in spectral form — certainly not a place for the faint hearted. Stew Lane is another spot. It’s a little-known alley that leads from the river upwards to Upper Thames Street. It’s dark and narrow — I’ve never known why it’s called Stew Lane or what happened there, but it is a curiously uncomfortable place.’
12 August 2001
[teeth] Something Rotten — William Leith on his teeth… an extract from his book British Teeth. ‘He put his drill down, picked up another tool, a hooked needle, and loomed over me again. He poked the new tool deep into the open roots of my tooth. He was looking at something. The wadding! He had found the wadding. Godzinski dipped the needle into the hole in my jaw. Then he removed the needle from my mouth and sniffed at it. Some of the purulent wadding was on the end of the needle. Godzinski offered the needle to his nurse, as if it were a special treat. “Smell that abscess,” he said.’
10 August 2001
[books] First chapter of Sonic Boom — a book about Napster, MP3’s and the future of music … ‘From that moment forward, Fanning would appear frequently dressed in a Metallica T-shirt, most famously as a presenter at the MTV Music Awards, where Ulrich sat in the audience looking sick. It was difficult to say whether the Beavis and Butthead like fashion statement was meant to be mocking or merely the honest expression of a fan laced with a little irony. Whatever the case, Ulrich made clear that, as far as he was concerned, being a Napster user and a Metallica fan were incompatible: on television and the Internet, he directly told fans who used Napster that the band didn’t want their types.’
[quote] Tinned Pineapple. ‘…I took the tin off myself, and hammered at it with the mast till I was worn out and sick at heart, whereupon Harris took it in hand. We beat it out flat; we beat it back square; we battered it into every form known to geometry – but we could not make a hole in it. Then George went at it, and knocked it into a shape, so strange, so weird, so unearthly in its wild hideousness, that he got frightened and threw away the mast.’ [Related: Project Gutenberg Etext of Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome]
8 August 2001
[70’s pulp fiction] Sextacular! — the Guardian profiles the life and books of Jacqueline Susann. ‘…The result was Valley of the Dolls, “the sensational truth about the glamour set on a pill kick”, a careening, gossipy, salacious ride of a read about three women trying to make it, hampered by cads and drugs. She satirised [Ethel] Merman as a blowsy has-been, and based an actress-singer battling with weight and drugs on Judy Garland. Thanks to years of listening at dressing-room doors, her dialogue was irresistible. Caked in kohl, tripping on hairspray (as well as sleeping pills, diet pills and amphetamines), in her Pucci print frocks and lacquered wigs, she rose at dawn to serve truck drivers breakfast – to make sure they’d get her books out in time – then schmoozed booksellers all day, and stayed up late partying with the glitterati.’
4 August 2001
[intersection] Adrian Mole and Big Brother 2‘I lay awake pondering yet again on the true nature of my sexuality. Did I vote for Brian out of gay solidarity or because he is a semi-erudite Irish eccentric? I garnered the evidence: a) I like Kylie Minogue; b) I sleep with a lavender pillow; c) I am no good at sex with women; d) I am very fussy about my sheets, pillowcases and towels.’
30 July 2001
[must read] Salon reviews James Ellroy’s The Cold Six Thousand‘Ellroy once called himself “the greatest crime novelist who ever lived,” and then wrote books like “The Black Dahlia,” “The Big Nowhere” and “L.A. Confidential” to prove it. Now he wants to sit with the grown-ups, and if they don’t make room at the table he’s going to tip it over. One way or another, he means to make it, and on his own terms. “Fuck being a crime novelist when you can be a flat-out great novelist,” he once told me — there never being a doubt in his mind that being either one was merely a matter of choice, of will. Ellroy took risks.’ [Related: Cold Six Thousand at Amazon]
29 July 2001
[profile] Prophet of the new child order — Sunday Times profile of Michael Lewis… ‘It seems a curious moment to introduce his theory that technological advance is rocketing ahead too fast for most of us. Virtual reality is mostly stuck in amusement arcades, e-mail use is declining, dotcom companies are still on the ropes and silicon chips report falling profits. All this is irrelevant to the changes that are taking place under our noses, he claims. “The profit-making potential of the internet has been overrated and the social effects of the internet were presumed to be overrated. But they weren’t.”‘ Thank God for the Internet — Another article on Lewis at Salon. On Bill Joy’s view of technological change: ‘…what bothered me was that he had a political interest in reining in this process. Stopping it. Stopping change. This just seemed the height of hypocrisy to me. This is a man whose status in the society derives entirely from the society’s willingness to be very liberal in its attitudes toward technology and change and development and now that he’s on top he wants to control it. It just reeked to me of status anxiety.’
17 July 2001
[tv] Jon Ronson’s web site has been vastly improved…. ‘One thing you quickly learn about [extremists] is that they really don’t like being called extremists. In fact they often tell me that we are the real extremists. They say that the western liberal cosmopolitan establishment is itself a fanatical, depraved belief system. I like it when they say this because it makes me feel as if I have a belief system.’
15 July 2001
[quote] ‘He was, in fact, characteristic of the best type of dominant male in the world at this time. He was fifty-five years old, tough, shrewd, unburdened by the complicated ethical ambiguities which puzzle intellectuals, and had long ago decided that the world was a mean son-of-a-bitch in which only the most cunning and ruthless can survive. He was also as kind as was possible for one holding that ultra-Darwinian philosophy; and he genuinely loved children and dogs, unless they were on the site of something that had to be bombed in the National Interest. He still retained some sense of humor, despite the burdens of his almost godly office, and, although he had been impotent with his wife for nearly ten years now, he generally achieved orgasm in the mouth of a skilled prostitute within 1.5 minutes. He took amphetamine pep pills to keep going on his grueling twenty-hour day, with the result that his vision of the world was somewhat skewed in a paranoid direction, and he took tranquilizers to keep from worrying too much, with the result that his detachment sometimes bordered on the schizophrenic; but most of the time his innate shrewdness gave him a fingernail grip on reality. In short, he was much like the rulers of Russia and China.’
13 July 2001
[comics] Another first chapter… The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. ‘In Sammy’s closet were stacked dozens of pads of coarse newsprint, filled with horses, Indians, football heroes, sentient apes, Fokkers, nymphs, moon rockets, buckaroos, Saracens, tropic jungles, grizzlies, studies of the folds in women’s clothing, the dents in men’s hats, the lights in human irises, clouds in the western sky. His grasp of perspective was tenuous, his knowledge of human anatomy dubious, his line often sketchy – but he was an enterprising thief. He clipped favorite pages and panels out of newspapers and comic books and pasted them into a fat notebook: a thousand different exemplary poses and styles. He had made extensive use of his bible of clippings in concocting a counterfeit Terry and the Pirates strip called South China Sea, drawn in faithful imitation of the great Caniff. He had knocked off Raymond in something he called Pimpernel of the Planets and Chester Gould in a lockjawed G-man strip called Knuckle Duster Doyle. He had tried swiping from Hogarth and Lee Falk, from George Herriman, Harold Gray, and Elzie Segar.’
9 July 2001
[books] Stranger than fiction — interview from the Telegraph with Chuck Palahniuk. ‘”In the US we really don’t have a rite of passage from adolescence into adulthood,” he says, “except through acquiring accoutrements – your home, your car, your washer-dryer. That’s how you become an adult in America. There’s a quote in the book: ‘I’ve seen the strongest, smartest generation in all of human history, and they’re working in the service industry.’ And I just felt enormously disappointed in myself and most of my peers; despite all of the things we’d been raised with – good nutrition, good health, the best education – what had our lives amounted to? Pumping gas? Filing? Watching a computer screen? All of humanity has come to this point, and this is the best we can do with it? I just felt this enormous frustration around that.”‘
[books] The Face by Garry Bushell — a Digested Read… ‘Witless, plotless gangster pulp-fiction that manages to insult almost everyone, especially the readers.’
7 July 2001
[quote] ‘In London, where Southampton Row passes Russell Square, across from the British Museum in Bloomsbury, Leo Szilard waited irritably one gray Depression morning for the stoplight to change. A trace of rain had fallen during the night; Tuesday, September 12, 1933, dawned cool, humid and dull. Drizzling rain would begin in early afternoon. When Szilard told the story later he never mentioned his destination that morning. He may have had none; he often walked to think. In any case another destination intervened. The stoplight changed to green. Szilard stepped off the curb. As he crossed the street time cracked open before him and he saw a way to the future, death into the world and all our woe, the shape of things to come.’
6 July 2001
[books] Summer Reading Recommendations from…. Seething Hatred, Steps and Wherever You Are. Vaughan: ‘Therefore, that whole reading list may have been a pointless exercise, and a complete waste of time. Bloody hell, isn’t personal web publishing marvellous?’
2 July 2001
[books] Five books I’ve bought in charity shops recently…

  • Airport by Arthur Hailey. The novel which made George Kennedy’s career… and the template for every jet disaster movie ever… Classic back cover blurb: ‘AIRPORT. From traffic control to Customs hall, from airport manager’s office to the lay-over apartments in “Stewardesses Row”, the rooms are peopled with men and women whose private pressures and passions match the fury of the blizzard which sweeps the airfield… For seven suspense-filled hours, a blocked runway … suicide … pickets … an aerial stowaway … pregnancy … smuggling … mass demonstrations … and a psychotic with a home-made bomb, build to nail-biting climax…’
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Joins the tiny number of books I’ve never managed to get past the first page on… I read the opening sentence… “Who is John Galt?”, my brain reboots and I go and do something more interesting instead… like sit in a corner and stare at the wall. Purchased for a pound in Shepherds Bush.
  • Monte Cassino by Sven Hassel. The all-true (according to this FAQ, anyway) adventures of a German Penal Panzer Division (WTF?!) at Monte Cassino. Hassel’s books — like Richard Allen’s Skinhead series — are 70’s pulp classics well worth picking up if you can find them…. I suspect these have become collectable so you’ll be lucky to find them in charity shops. Another lucky purchase from a charity shop in Kilburn.
  • Raise the Titanic! by Clive Cussler. Faced with a difficult decision I often ask myself “What would Dirk Pitt do in this situation?” …the answer is always shoot a Russian between the eyes and seduce the nearest beautiful woman. The book was made into another crap film but it’s entertaining if you can pick it up for a pound.
  • The Detective by Roderick Thorpe. I’ve not managed to read this one yet…. but I recommend it mainly because of front-cover blurb…. ‘A Big-City Cop whose public life amid rape, robbery, perversion and murder becomes entangled with the problems of his wife and mistress.’ How can you resist that?

Next Week: Another book list I haven’t though of yet…. although I’m planning on doing a list of the worst books I’ve ever read at some point… Shaun Hutson novels will feature strongly.
1 July 2001
[books] I should take a look at the Digested Read’s in the Guardian more often… One For My Baby: ‘”I’m planning a surprise birthday party for your father,” said my mum. “Surprise, surprise,” she shouted as the lights went on. And there was dad with his trousers round his ankles while Lena, the au pair, bobbed in front of him. Funny. I thought it was me she fancied. “I really love Lena,” muttered my dad as I helped him move his stuff out of the house. How do you live with loss? ‘ Nigella Bites: ‘I know that many of you may not have time for the table-laden breakfast, but even the sluttiest person can whip up muffins for 12. Just make the nanny get up at 5.30am to whip up some lumpy batter, spoon it into paper cases and cook for 20 minutes. You can hop out of the bath a couple of hours later and devour them with lashings of buerre de Normandie. By the way, get that nice little barman I once met in Hong Kong to make you a few Bloody Marys to wash it all down.’
26 June 2001
[books] LMG’s Summer Reading List… I’ve managed to ignore my vast collection of philosophy and come up with five books I’ve enjoyed reading and re-read all the time…

  • My Dark Places by James Ellroy. Ellroy writes about his life, his mother and her murder. Brilliant. [extract]
  • Different Seasons by Stephen King. One novel — four great stories. Contains one of the most disturbing stories I read as a teenager — Apt Pupil. Don’t turn your nose up at King… He’s a natural born storyteller and this book showcases his talent.
  • High Concept by Charles Fleming. This book attempts to answer the question of how low one man can go when provided with unlimited access to money, drugs, designer suits, fast cars and prostitutes… the answer is pretty fucking low. Poor reviews on Amazon but I’ve always found Simpson and his films fascinating…
  • Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. The first Hannibal Lecter novel and probably the best. You’ll be seeing copies of the Lecter novels in charity shops for decades to come… which is what any author should aspire to. I expect I’ll see dog-eared copies of Bridget Jones as I shuffle around Oxfam in 2040.
  • Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. Crap title, crap film, great book… The downfall of Sherman McCoy, self-styled “Master of the Universe” and a vivid description of New York in the ’80s. [extract]

Next Week: Five (good?) books you can find in charity shops in London in 2001.
25 June 2001
[books] Jez comes up with a Summer Reading List… and Mat points out why the novel is dead. ‘…the novel has become little more than an exclusionary and divisive instrument of repression, falsely condemning the non-fiction reading classes to submit to the belief that they will never and can never achieve the same level of spiritual, emotional or intellectual understanding as those who feed their emptiness by feasting on the fabricated lives of non-existent characters.’
24 June 2001
[books] Annoying, too clever by half summer reading lists… from Douglas Rushkoff and Zadie Smith. This made me think… what should the readers of LinkMachineGo be reading this summer? Let me know and I’ll post any suggestions and comments…
22 June 2001
[books] Another interview with Tony Parsons‘His son’s generation are incredibly wary of marriage and commitment, he says. Which may be no bad thing, given men’s perennial obsession with starting afresh on a new romantic path. “But men can feel that, and also feel a need for family and stability. The problem is that you can’t have both.” It’s funny, I say, that for women “having it all” is about the realities of family and career, while for men it’s about two conflicting dreams. “Having it all for women is a balancing act. It’s difficult, but it’s not impossible. For men [having it all] is impossible.”‘
21 June 2001
[books] The Parsons Tale — Interesting interview with Tony Parsons…. ‘Parsons’s mother died of cancer in 1999. Ever prepared to harvest the details of his life in the name of art, he has fictionalised her death in One for My Baby. He also wrote a column about her in the Mirror the day after she died. The headline was: goodbye mum and thanks for teaching me the meaning of love.Does he think now that column was a little mawkish? ‘If I had written it today, it would have been different, but it had a great impact at the time. I got literally hundreds of letters. Selfishly, it made things easier for me: a writer makes sense of the world by writing about it. I don’t think it was mawkish and sentimental so much as hysterical with emotion. The iMac was covered in tears when I wrote it.”
20 June 2001
[comics] NeilGaiman.Com goes live as his new book American Gods is released. His blog has relocated [t]here as well….