Tales From the Bitface (Posts about books 2007)https://devilgate.org/enContents © 2020 <a href=”mailto:martin@devilgate.org”>Martin McCallion</a> Thu, 11 Jun 2020 11:58:24 GMTNikola (getnikola.com)http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rssLucky Jim, by Kingsley Amis (Books 2007, 7)https://devilgate.org/blog/2007/12/19/lucky-jim-by-kingsley-amis-books-2007-7/Martin McCallion<div><p></p><p>I hadn’t read any Amis before (either of them), but I’ve wanted to try Kingsley for a while; mainly for his SF connections, but when I saw this in a second-hand bookshop I thought it might be a good place to start.</p> <p>This one isn’t SF, of course. Instead, it’s described as a “comic novel”.</p> <p>I have to say that I found very little in it to laugh at.</p> <p>Oh, the odd chortle, or wry grin, certainly; in particular there is a description of a hangover that has been quoted often enough that I recognised it in its entirety.</p> <p>But our national sense of humour must have changed since 1954, or something. Not to mention a great deal more about our society and the way we interact. At times in this novel I found it harder to understand the motivations of the characters than of the most alien of characters in SF (well, ok, not to the extent of <a href=”https://www.lexal.net/scifi/scifiction/classics/classics_archive/carr/carr1.html”>’The Dance of the Changer and the Three’</a>, say, but anything less than that).</p> <p>That’s no bad thing, but since it wasn’t the intent of the author, that sense of confusion or dislocation can leave you feeling lost. This is quite different from the effect you can get in good SF, where you’re thrown in at the deep end, not quite knowing what’s going on. There, you just hang on and enjoy the ride, trusting in the knowledge that it’ll become clear in time.</p> <p>In this case there’s no hope of an explanation, because Amis didn’t realise that the behaviour of his sexually stilted 1950s academics would be quite so opaque and mysterious to a reader in the zero-years of the 21st century (why didn’t they just go to bed, already?)</p> <p>Still, as a gentle rom-com, it wasn’t too bad.</p></div>Booksbooks 2007Kingsley AmisLucky Jimhttps://devilgate.org/blog/2007/12/19/lucky-jim-by-kingsley-amis-books-2007-7/Wed, 19 Dec 2007 11:05:00 GMTInk, by Hal Duncan (Books 2007, 3)https://devilgate.org/blog/2007/09/01/ink-by-hal-duncan-books-2007-3/Martin McCallion<div><p></p><p>So, <cite>The Book of All Hours</cite> is finished. And fine, fine stuff it is, too. This volume seems somehow more polished than <a href=”http://devilgate.org/blog/2006/12/11/book-notes-17-vellum-by-hal-duncan/”>the first</a> , but perhaps not as exciting, as <em>startling</em>.</p> <p>The story is brought to a conclusion of sorts, but as you might expect, it’s ambiguous, open to interpretation. This is, of course, not a bad thing: in fact, I thoroughly approve.</p> <p>I’m not, though, going to try to give any details of it, or to explain what it ls about; just read it: it’s great.</p></div>Booksbooks 2007Hal Duncaninksfthe book of all hoursvelumhttps://devilgate.org/blog/2007/09/01/ink-by-hal-duncan-books-2007-3/Sat, 01 Sep 2007 13:12:57 GMTWe Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver (Books 2007, 2)https://devilgate.org/blog/2007/07/19/we-need-to-talk-about-kevin-by-lionel-shriver-books-2007-2/Martin McCallion<div><p></p><p>Wow. This is an amazing piece of work. The mother of a high-school killer writes letters to her husband, describing Kevin’s life as she experienced it. I can’t write a lot about it without getting heavy on the spoilers, but I will just say this.</p> <p>When I was a few pages in I was getting a strong sense of this absence of a voice: the husband was not to be heard. But then I thought two things. First, <em>all</em> epistolary novels are like that to some extent; though it is possible for the letter-writer to refer to things their correspondent has written in return.</p> <p>Second, it occurred to me that Shriver, by excluding the man’s voice, might have been making a point about the relative exclusion of women’s voices in literature. In other words, the way I was feeling might be akin to how Jean Rhys <a href=”http://discussingbooks.cohprog.com/dbe/English/WideSargassoSea.htm”>must have felt</a> when she read <em>Jane Eyre</em>.</p> <p>I don’t, now, think that she was particularly trying to do that, though the effect of the early chapters is still there.</p> <p>I’ll say no more for fear of spoilers, except: highly recommended.</p></div>Booksbooks 2007charlotte brontëepistolary novelsjane eyrelionel shrivershriverwe need to talk about kevinhttps://devilgate.org/blog/2007/07/19/we-need-to-talk-about-kevin-by-lionel-shriver-books-2007-2/Thu, 19 Jul 2007 21:39:25 GMTRedemption Song: the Definitive Biography of Joe Strummer, by Chris Salewicz (Books 2007, 1)https://devilgate.org/blog/2007/06/15/redemption-song-the-definitive-biography-of-joe-strummer-by-chris-salewicz-books-2007-1/Martin McCallion<div><p></p><p>Ah, Joe. I can hardly believe that it’s already four years since we lost him. I started reading this on Christmas day, and finished at about two in the morning on the 14th of January: exactly three weeks later. If I read a book every three weeks that would be seventeen in a year, which isn’t very many. Anyway, during that time I completely immersed myself in Strummeriana; as well as reading the book I listened to little music other than The Clash or Joe’s solo stuff, and I also put my bit in on the various Wikipedia articles.</p> <p>And none if it can make up for the fact that he’s gone.</p> <p>In fact, reading the book only makes it worse: it reinforces the sense of what we’ve lost. He was on a great creative upswing when he died, as the the posthumous <em>Streetcore</em> album showed. Its opening track, ‘Coma Girl’ (which, we learn, is about his daughter Lola) was the single best song he wrote since ‘Trash City’, at least.</p> <p>Alas, we’ll never hear anything new from him again.</p> <p>Or at least, not truly new: it seems from reading the book that there might be quite a few unreleased recordings out there, and he worked on more film soundtracks than I knew about.</p> <p>Most interestingly of all, perhaps, is this piece of information. Around the time that Joe and the Mescaleros were writing and recording <em>Global A Go-Go</em>, the second of the comeback albums after the wilderness years, he also sent a set of lyrics to Mick Jones. He seemed to be suggesting that he was considering an alternative to the Mescaleros album. Mick wrote tunes for them and sent them back, but heard no more about it. Some time later, after <em>Global A Go-Go</em> had been released, Mick asked what had happened to the songs. Joe said, “Those weren’t for <em>Global A Go-Go</em>; those were the next Clash album.”</p> <p>There’s no suggestion that he ever recorded any of them; but you never know: one day Mick might, when he’s not too busy with <a href=”http://www.carbonsiliconinc.com/”>Carbon/Silicon</a>.</p> <p>What of the book itself, though? Well, it’s certainly compelling reading (at least if you’re a fan like me). It is flawed in some ways, of course. It can be hard to follow the early sections about Joe’s family, without an actual family tree to clarify things, thought that’s not a big problem.</p> <p>Despite its size and comprehensive nature, there are parts that come across as too anecdotal and perhaps incomplete. Certainly there are places where I would have liked to have a lot more detail. But a book this size could be written about The Clash alone (several have, of course, but perhaps none quite the size of this one).</p> <p>Still, it’s totally a must-have for any Clash fan, or solo Joe fan (can you be the latter but not the former?)</p> <p>I wonder what it would have been like if The Clash had kept going and had become like U2 (who were heavily inspired by them)? In a good sense: I listened to an interview with Salewicz, where he pointed out that, though Joe didn’t like the distance from the audience at stadium gigs, he was very good at handling them. So imagine them doing something like the Zoo TV tour (indeed, when I saw footage of that, all the TVs as backdrop reminded me instantly of the Clash Mk II ‘Out of Control’ tour).</p></div>biographyBooksbooks 2007carbon/siliconjoe strummermusicpoliticssalewiczstrummerthe clashu2https://devilgate.org/blog/2007/06/15/redemption-song-the-definitive-biography-of-joe-strummer-by-chris-salewicz-books-2007-1/Fri, 15 Jun 2007 22:36:47 GMT