Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Books I’ve read in sequence, and in brackets, how I’d rank them. Below that is a short spiel on each.
Hey Jack by Barry Hannah (20)
Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman (26)
Armies of the Night by Norman Mailer (1)
Norwood by Charles Portis (6)
Panama by Thomas McGuane (13)
Reinhardt in Love by Thomas Berger (2)
The Smoking Diaries by Simon Gray (26)
Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov (11)
The Loved One by Ev Waugh (29)
Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis (10)
Mao II by Don Delillo (28)
Couple of Comedians by Don Carpenter (14)
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail by Hunter S Thompson (16)
Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S Thompson (17)
Anagrams by Lorrie Moore (5)
Like Life by Lorrie Moore (18)
A Cool Million by Nathanael West (20)
CATCH 22 by Joseph Heller (22)
Ask the Dust by John Fante (12)
Born Standing Up by Steve Martin (24)
Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (4)
Ninety in the Shade by Thomas McGuane (3)
Josh Hartnett Definitely Wants to do This by Bruce Beresford (25)
Gulcher by Richard Meltzer (15)
Professor of Desire by Philip Roth (30)
The Summer he Didn’t Die by Jim Harrison (7)
The Boat by Nam Le (27)
This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff (8)
Keep the Change by Thomas McGuane (9)
Black Postcards by Dean Wareham (23)
A Good Day to Die by Jim Harrison (19)
Hey Jack by Barry Hannah
Very good novella about a doctor of questionable repute. Full of the trademark Hannah razzle-dazzle.
Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman
Didn’t finish it. Hell I lived it when I was 12.
Armies of the Night by Norman Mailer
Mailer, in incendiary 3rd person, takes in a Vietnam war demonstration. Causes a ruckus. Thrown in the slammer. Even more than Hunter S Thompson, Mailer dishes verbs like fists, and his furious prose cuts through diamonds. Exudes a heavyweight literary scholarship that doesn’t seem to exist anymore.
Norwood by Charles Portis
Angel of a book with a knucklehead charm.
Panama by Thomas McGuane
The crawling out of the ass of frozen elephants now behind him, ex punk star Chet Pomeroy retires to Key West with a coke-affected brain that forgets simple things like what his dog’s name is and whether or not his Daddy perished in a Michigan fire. Wasn’t as good the third time through; still a fav though.
Reinhardt in Love by Thomas Berger
Comic immortality, set in Cincinnati, among the bureaucrats, thieves, plagiarists and Black Panthers, a town Mark Twain said he’d like to be when the world ends because it’s twenty years behind. Standing heroically amongst it all: Carlo Reinhardt.
The Smoking Diaries by Simon Gray
Fascinating perspectives on life and art and getting old from the pen of the late playwright.
Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov
Slim and spellbinding. As I recall, the final scene in the dark is extraordinarily vivid and suspenseful.
The Loved One by Ev Waugh
Regrettable, as California must have been for Waugh.
Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis
Biblical in its delicious spearing of celebrity culture. Loved it.
Mao II by Don Delillo
Didn’t work for me at all.
Couple of Comedians by Don Carpenter
Funny borderline psychotic world of a platinum-selling comedy/singing duo. Narrator is the deadpan and his partner is the genius. Carraway to his Gatsby.
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’71 by Hunter S Thompson
Thompson’s last great book. Mighty.
Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S Thompson
Oral biography using Plimpton’s Paris Review technique (see also definitive books on Truman and Edie).
Anagrams by Lorrie Moore
Lorrie writes the best brainiest, wittiest single women around. This one shall we say has an active imagination. Tells a lot of elaborate jokes ad the strike rate is damn near 100 per cent. Has drawn comparisons to Sally Bowles and I can see that.
Like Life by Lorrie Moore
More stories about bracing wit as tonic for life’s eternal disappointments
A Cool Million by Nathanael West
Inventive whimsy of misfortune befalls main character in his quest for bourgeois respectability
CATCH 22 by Joseph Heller
A reader-friendly Gravity’s Rainbow
Ask the Dust by John Fante
Starving for literary prestige in Thirties L.A.
Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
Starving for stardom in Sixties L.A.
Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Devil descends or rather ascends on Moscow in early Twentieth Century, terrorising literary mag editors, theatregoers, and accountants with elements of the dark supernatural. Accompanied by a seven foot jockey and an enormously fat cat with a cold black heart made of shit. On the ‘Amazing Race’ a few weeks ago contestants went to Bulgakov’s apartment as part of their scavenger hunt.
Ninety in the Shade by Thomas McGuane
A second read of this ensured its entry into the echelon of my favourite books. Never would I have thought a novel about fishing guides could be so essential.
Josh Hartnett Definitely Wants to do This by Bruce Beresford
Reading this, I recall being struck by its similarity in style and thought to the Simon Gray diaries, only to discover, in these pages, that Beresford read it and hated it! Curiously indirect bit of self-loathing perhaps? This book is a classic.
Gulcher by Richard Meltzer
Series of short, random essays from one of my writing heroes.
Professor of Desire by Philip Roth
I hated this book!
The Summer He Didn’t Die by Jim Harrison
I loved this book!
The Boat by Nam Le
Auspicious debut. First story is the piece de resistance, though I’ve yet to finish the rest.
This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff
Keep the Change by Thomas McGuane
Wonderful book. The scene where Joe shows up to meet the lawyer covered in cologne samples and the reaction he gets is so priceless it had me laughing out loud on the tram. You really can’t ask for more than that first thing in the morning.
Black Postcards by Dean Wareham.
Like I needed an excuse to pull out my Galaxie 500 and Luna albums. As good as the Steve Martin book (another honest book about the implications of being an urbane artist), or any of Dean’s musical achievements.
A Good Day to Die by Jim Harrison
Hillbilly rewrite of Jules & Jim. Narrated by cultured, reckless feller. Disturbing and heartbreaking.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Albums I reviewed for Plan B this year, in order of preference, accompanied by tantalising review extract.
“Creedence is Creedence is Creedence, Man! Shall I continue? Sure!” (And by golly he did..)
Softboiled Eggies, Try it Again
“Floating on a galaxy of warm, downbeat poly-rhythms, crush-worthy singer Janet does Mari Elliot dub reggae, Raincoats’ covers and tears up future dance parties with a triumph called Can You Send Blame? “
Flavour Crystals, Ambergris
“At first I wanted the songs to slide off the rails a bit, but not anymore. I’m cold. I don’t want to be surprised. Just soothed.”
Yellow Moon Band, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World
“Needs a sticker on it that says, ‘Now you’re jammin’!”
Inner Space Soundtrack, Sven Libaek
“Wes Anderson plucked this rare pearl from the clamshell of soundtrack obscurity and plugged a few cuts into his Steve Zissou picture where they fit like an old pair of flippers.”
Destroyer, Trouble in Dreams
“The mood is caterwaul casual and the message is the world is fucked.”
“Pronounce Bitches like a louche Mexican and there you have it: Beaches, a stone-cold classic.”
Atlas Sound, Let the blind lead those who can see but cannot feel
“The tall, skinny deer caught in the strobe lights of Deerhunter’s dazzling art-rock, singer Bradford Cox brings seven layers of stoned noise to this, his official debut under Atlas Sound (a name he’s recorded with since he was 12).”
Boyracer, Flickering B+W
“Like the motto stencilled on Charley Varrick’s van, Boyracer are one of ‘the last of the independents’.”
Pivot, O Soundtrack my Heart
“A stunning assault on the John Carpenter precinct of electronic rock...minimalism so absolute they named a vodka after it.”
The Lord Dog Bird, The Lord Dog Bird
“When done this well, 4-tracks speak truer to our messed-up existence than any other method — additional tracks just seem superfluous.”
Taman Shud, Goolutionites and the Real People
“Give some top grade acid to an environmentally-conscious hard rock band whose name means ‘The Ultimate End’ and suddenly all they want to do is save trees.”
Castanets, In the Vines
“Ringing guitar tones hang in the air like vultures in some weird burrito western.”
Part Wild Horses Mane on Both Sides, Bataille de Battle
“The ‘War and Peace’ of scorching flute skronks.”
Gable, 7 Guitars with a Cloud of Milk (Loaf)
“Attention Deficit Twee (ADT) from Paree, sporting a deadpan melancholee.”
“You won't find any Neu-inflected space trance here, only an earthy Mike Rudd imploring you to 'Do the Crab' (from the ten-minute, four part 'Sideways Saga') with a humour that’s hard to decode.”
“It's like Raymond Carver without Gordon Lish. He needs an editor.”
Star Spangled Banger
“Often likened to Bonzo Dog Band, who, if I’m not mistaken, are today’s musical equivalent of a stop sign no one pays any attention to.”
“She said it sounds like The Blow on a bad day, I said it's not that good.”
Grand Salvo, Death
“A neat concept from Down Under about a bear, a bird, a rat, a rabbit and a hunter. Still it’s hard to care about a dying rat. And why no marsupials?”
The Bronx, The Bronx
“Angus Youngish riffs, but more relentless than AC/DC ever were. Gives me a reason to be unhappy about a lot of stuff I should care a lot less about.”
The Condors, Wait for it
“That band from that seaside bar who you kept begging to play Two Tickets to Paradise the night you got totally shitfaced and busy with the Mother of your ex-girlfriend's fiancé, who walked in and saw you all over Mother with a bottle of beer foaming in your hand.”
The All New Adventures of Us, Best Loved Goodnight Tales
“Northampton’s very own Friends. The Ross of the group mourns a world gone sad (“Does anyone remember laughter?”) and makes dreadful admissions (“I know a girl with two grazed knees and I like her”), while the others marshal a fearlessly militant twee.”
Alberta Cross, The Thief & The Heartbreaker
“My advice is dump those shitty Ryan Adams’ records in the river and try on some Tom Petty (but don’t whiten your teeth!).”
Friday, December 12, 2008
Only I don’t know it yet. When I go outside for a walk I will attempt to put my iPOD in my breast pocket and I will discover there’s no breast pocket nor is there an alligator insignia down the front. That is when I will realise that my shirt is on backwards. I will quickly duck down a secluded side street and remedy the situation. Then I’ll ask myself why not one person had alerted me to this fact. I will wonder, am I that unworthy of people’s attention. A solitary tear will drop from my eye.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Literary-minded, musically-spineless and the singers are usually these awfully tedious people who feel superior because they’ve read all of F Scott Fitzgerald’s books. Oscar Wilde said people are either charming or tedious. So basically what I’m saying is you have Jarvis Cocker at one end and some wispy dude in spectacles with a trenchant head cold giving cardigans a band name on the other. Their fans are interchangeable so a night out can be a humourless soul-sucking disaster. I imagine them to be very good at trivia. Twee has become a pejorative for mediocre bands of a certain style that royally suck. Probably the best example of twee is a Melbourne band named after a seasonal mammal.