Milkman by Anna Burns (Books 2019, 10)

Anna Burns's Milkman alongside a lemon
Anna Burns’s Milkman alongside a lemon

This is not mainly a book about The Troubles; nor about religion or politics, though it is about all of those. It's a book, above all, about gossip and rumour and silence, and the harm that those can do to a person, to a society.

The unique approach — no-one is named, almost no proper names appear — I found quite endearing. And far from obfuscating things, it many ways it makes the story easier to follow. Instead of have to remember whether Mary, Margaret or Roisin is the oldest sister, it's “first sister.” “Oldest friend;” “maybe-boyfriend.” Honestly, all books should be like this. Relationships are important, after all.

Though you can also see it as a sly reference to the common complaint about living in small communities, that you're always someone's daughter, someone's brother — never yourself.

Anyway, Booker Prize winner, and all. Dead good.

Milkman by Anna Burns (Books 2019, 10)

Touch by Claire North (Books 2019, 8)

I enjoyed North's previous novel, with some reservations. This one was similar. I read it in a day — it's quite the page-turner — and it has a compelling plot trigger.

The first-person narrator is an entity who can jump into any human body from its current host, just by making skin-to-skin contact — the "touch" of the title. Male or female, young or old, it doesn't matter. The host doesn't know anything about it while they are possessed, and is left unharmed — unless, of course, something happens to their body while the possessor is in control.

Sounds pretty gruesome like that, so it's impressive that our sympathies are with the narrator throughout.

Good story, slightly flat ending. Hey-ho.

Touch by Claire North (Books 2019, 8)

In Dreams: A Unified Interpretation of Twin Peaks & Other Selected Works of David Lynch, by H Perry Horton (Books 2019, 7)


This is an incredible piece of work, about an incredible body of work.

I don’t recall how I heard about it. I think I saw a tweet, or something, thought it looked interesting, and instantly bought it because it was only a few quid on Kindle. It’s a huge book which tries — successfully, in my mind — to explain how the bulk of David Lynch’s creative works can be considered part of a single story, which Horton refers to as The Dream.

Now obviously Twin Peaks, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, and Twin Peaks: The Return are all part of the same story. As are the various spinoff books: Jennifer Lynch’s The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer and Scott Frost’s The Autobiography of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper: My LIfe, My Tapes, from back around the time of the original broadcast; and Mark Frost’s more recent The Secret History of Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier, which I’ve written about here.

But Horton argues that the whole story gets kicked off in Eraserhead, and that Blue Velvet, Lost Highway, Mulholland Dr and Inland Empire are side stories related to the main branch. The overall story being about an eternal being, The Dreamer, who dreams reality into existence, and also creates another being, known as Jowday, or Judy, who becomes his adversary. BOB, the possessing spirit of the original Twin Peaks, is a creation of this entity, and the Black and White Lodges are the vanguards in the battle between the two beings.

Sure, on one level it’s just good vs evil, heaven & hell — “just,” I say, as if that wasn’t enough. But the sheer scope of it is astonishing. The eighteen hours of The Return has been hailed as an incredible masterpiece of visual storytelling. But when you include all that I’ve listed above, and three of Lynch’s paintings to boot — it must be one of the greatest — in terms of size, at least — creative works by a single visionary. True, it’s far from being by a single creator, but the vision behind it is solely or primarily Lynch’s, or that of Lynch and Mark Frost.

And even if the connections to the other films are just in Horton’s head (and, to be fair, those of others whose work he acknowledges): the obviously-connected stuff is still amazing, and the current work, Horton’s book that I’m writing about, is something a of a creative triumph itself.

One that is slightly marred by its self-published nature and obvious lack of an editor — there are a lot of typos — but a hugely impressive one nonetheless.

Though obviously it’s only for the very serious Twin Peaks fan.

In Dreams: A Unified Interpretation of Twin Peaks & Other Selected Works of David Lynch, by H Perry Horton (Books 2019, 7)

Rational? Twitter, Micro.blog and Social Engagement

I had vaguely seen references to “ratios,” and was aware it was something to do with engagement on Twitter and elsewhere. But I hadn’t understood what exactly people meant by it. Then last night I saw a tweet in which someone said, “I accept I’ve been ratiod.” (Should the verb form rather be “ratioed”? Hard to say. Neither looks quite right.)

A search for understanding led me to this article on Know Your Meme. It tells us:

The Ratio refers to an unofficial Twitter law which states that if the amount of replies to a tweet greatly outnumbers the amount of retweets and likes, then the tweet is bad

and goes into some detail about the origin of the term.

It makes me sad to read that. Imagine an interaction system where, if people reply to something you say, that’s bad. Well, it seems we don’t have to imagine it: we can see it right here on the “social” web.

I like to get replies on Twitter or elsewhere. A reply means, to me, that someone has read what I’ve written, thought about it, and found it worth responding to. I’m aware that I speak from a position of some privilege, in that I’m not in a group that is likely to experience the mass abuse that many do. But something has broken down in our systems of interaction if getting replies mean what you said “is bad.”

I’m far from the first to have made that observation, of course.

But consider Micro.blog, the still-young social network based on blogs that I’ve written abut before. Micro.blog has replies, but it doesn’t even have the concept of likes or retweets/reblogs. If you read a post and want to say something about it — even just that you like it — you have to reply. With words, in human language.

It’s a much friendlier place than Twitter.

This conversation from the last day or two gives a good flavour of the kind of thing you can expect.

If you clicked through that link you’ll have seen that it appears to be — and is — on the blog of the user who made the original post. The responses appear as blog comments. But while every Micro.blog user has a blog, you don’t have to interact with it as a blog if you don’t want to. You can do it all through the Micro.blog app or one of the third-party clients, or just the Micro.blog website, where you can see the same conversation.

Similarly, you can see all my posts here, as well as at their natural home.

It’s well worth a try if you’re looking for a less toxic social-media environment.

Rational? Twitter, Micro.blog and Social Engagement

You should be watching Russel T Davies’s Years and Years. This thread nails it:

It’s scary because life is scary sometimes. People are brilliant, maddening, contradictory, and full of love.

and:

I’m dying to find out what happened, but scared to watch at the same time.

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So it’s quite clear: UKIP/Brexit Party on much the same as five years ago. Many switching from Tories and Labour to Lib Dems and Greens. Change UK have, at best, split the remain vote.

Not the big swing some are making out. #EuropeElects

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