Benny B

Well-known member
Was just reading back through the Prynne and Cantos threads, cos I've picked up both of them up again recently, and feeling a bit melancholy. We were on a good roll back then for a while (just a few months ago), a few of us reading the same stuff and struggling over the difficulty of what we were reading but discovering together and saying some clever things along the way. Rare moments of synchronicity. You can't force it I suppose, seems like attempts at organised dissensus reading/listening clubs don't usually work, but I do miss it cos they are excellent threads.
 

HMGovt

Bamber Clatscoigne
I'm reading The Matter with Things by Prof. Iain McGilchrist. Rapidly becoming my favourite non fiction, breadth of his argument goes from horizon to horizon. Hemispheric asymmetry in the brain gives many clues to how the fabric of reality is composed, he contends. It's refreshing to read an Anglo book that gives proper weight to Bergson and Schelling on the one hand, neatly summarises quantum field theory and eastern philosophies on the other. Strong recommendation.

He's a luminous writer too.
 

woops

is not like other people
There’s a very good Backlisted podcast on her ghost stories which does much to reevaluate her as more than certain kind of English ‘lady’ novelist. And Amis is an odd one isn’t he? Apparently wracked into near paralysis with all kinds of fears in his later life - from that cocky young gun slinger of Lucky Jim to a craven old man that lived in his ex wife’s house cos he couldn’t bear going outdoors.
Well he could go to the pub. He couldn't stand being left alone in the house though and only took a plane once in his life
 

william_kent

Well-known member
I've been reading The John McAfee Tapes

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hilarious

brain the size of a planet explains why he is a total fuckup ( "daddy issues" )
 

you

Well-known member
Good to see @you back.
Just finished Homesickness - I really liked most of it but nothing quite reached the peaks of Young Skins which I re-read recently. I don’t know if you’ve read Wendy Erskine, a writer from Belfast - I’m a huge fan and have seen her read a few times. Both Sweet Home and the new collection Dance Move are great. I’m fact I think she got reviewed with Barrett in a couple of newspapers.

Homesickness is not as effective as Young Skins, for me. This is a terrible thing to say about a writer, but I felt with a number of the stories he was being too ambitious. I like the acute bleakness and hopelessness of Young Skins, as well as the brutality. It was something he did really well. But in Homesickness a number of the pieces bring in a comic aspect, and I don't feel it works. He also seemed to over-explain word choices and jokes. I recall a line about boys talking at girls being followed by the line. 'Talking at not to xxxx' he italicised, but even to have to explain detracted from the delicacy. There is also a very odd story about a poet, 'Anhedonia, here I come' where he inhabits the protagonists rather verbose and pretentious voice, but it felt like over-cooked American-baroque language-excess, and synthetic. The plainer stories e.g. the one about the wake, are more powerful and poignant.
 

jenks

thread death
Homesickness is not as effective as Young Skins, for me. This is a terrible thing to say about a writer, but I felt with a number of the stories he was being too ambitious. I like the acute bleakness and hopelessness of Young Skins, as well as the brutality. It was something he did really well. But in Homesickness a number of the pieces bring in a comic aspect, and I don't feel it works. He also seemed to over-explain word choices and jokes. I recall a line about boys talking at girls being followed by the line. 'Talking at not to xxxx' he italicised, but even to have to explain detracted from the delicacy. There is also a very odd story about a poet, 'Anhedonia, here I come' where he inhabits the protagonists rather verbose and pretentious voice, but it felt like over-cooked American-baroque language-excess, and synthetic. The plainer stories e.g. the one about the wake, are more powerful and poignant.
I was talking to a friend about the collection and we both felt like he’d set up some promising stuff - The Alps particularly and then he didn’t do anything with it.
What was interesting was this was the first collection that dealt with lockdown - again not 100% successfully but maybe a pointer to some of what to expect over the next couple of years. Finally, he’s moved out of his small Cork world for this and I think part of the power of Young Skins was the sensation these stories were all going on simultaneously in the world he was observing.
 
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you

Well-known member
@jenks Yes, 'The Low, Black, Shimmering Drone' addressed the dis-ease of lockdown and re-emergence very well. Although I felt the metaphor at the end was a touch clumsy and indelicate, just a bit too heavy. Maybe my tastes have changed.

I do miss the geographic specificity of Young Skins. I think that's what I miss. Which is either ironic or apposite for a book called Homesickness that has no real locational focus. That said, the Canadian influence re.snow and frost imagery provided some of the most memorable lines.

Another aspect of the book that didn't elicit much warmth in me was the writing about writers and writing scenes. I always feel this is a little over earnest and knowing, a little po-faced. I seldom buy into this. I'm probably being unfair to Barrett. Wanting a sequel detracting from my openness. It's a great collection, just not meeting my hopes.
 
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you

Well-known member
I've been enjoying the snooker over the past two weeks. I should really get a copy of Gordon Burn's Pocket Money
 

jenks

thread death
I've been enjoying the snooker over the past two weeks. I should really get a copy of Gordon Burn's Pocket Money
Well…everything by Gordon Burn probably. I re-read Fullalove not that long ago and it still is grimly brilliant.
 

catalog

Well-known member
I really like Gordon Burn, although not read fullalove. I made a start with alma Cogan and I couldn't get into it. But all his other "true crime" bits, the one about Fred and Rose West, the ripper one, the one about George best and Duncan Edwards, I've really enjoyed.

A snooker related Gordon burn sounds good. I loved how after the final, Ronnie said playing in the championship brought out the worst in him. You get this sense he is bowed down in hatred for thd game by the time he has won.
 

you

Well-known member
I've not read much by Burn. I adored Fullalove and Alma Cogan. Born Yesterday: The News as a Novel was the first I read. I've not dipped into his non-fiction though. I like a lot of the winners of the Gordon Burn prize, Dan Davies, David Keenan. Surprised one of Andrew O'Hagan's hasn't won - maybe too early.

Snooker: have you read https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/03/30/follow-the-white-ball

I adore watching Snooker on BBC. The tension, the self-loathing, the nerves, the prolonged silent embarrassment of the chair. The commentators are idiosyncratic to the point of pathology. Hendry's thirst for breaks and pots. The passive aggressive judgements. The humble brags. It's wonderful. It'll be sad when this old crew no longer do it.
 
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catalog

Well-known member
Cheers, enjoyed that article. I knew his dad went to jail for murder but didn't knos about the sex shops.

Gordon burn has also done a book about/with Damien Hirst, although not one of his memorable one for me. I'll get hold of fullalove at some point.

Currently got I claudius (getting good, but very put downable) on hold again as the new jarett kobek has arrived, part 2 of his investigations into the zodiac murders.

In this one, he's closely following the published exploits, mostly in fanzine form, either through letters, classified ads or articles, of the guy he is fitting up as the zodiac. Despite his best intentions (he keeps saying he's trying to discount him), more and more things turn up which make him believe it is him.

It's very good, I love the way he writes. All over the place in some respects, but we'll researched and some good bits of poetry, where the insights work well.

Also got another short print on demand on the go, written by a guy I know a bit in Manchester. Sort of quirky inside look at life as a paid by the hour lecturer in an art school. It's very very funny, all about the mind numbing bureaucracy and one upmanship going on. I started reading in the garden yesterday and it made me want a beer. Very fast paced and happening in real time, like a decent sitcom or film.
 
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catalog

Well-known member
From blue to black arrived today and I've jumped into it, despite having four other books on the go, why not.

Yeah, so not quite as good as I was hoping ig would be, very clichéd lines so far, although hopefully that might change.

Very moody and lots of descriptions of eg the city at night, but nowt so far that has felt "on" to me in the same way as eg the kobek or the Steve Hanson or the pound.
 
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you

Well-known member
From blue to black arrived today and I've jumped into it, despite having four other books on the go, why not.

Yeah, so not quite as good as I was hoping ig would be, very clichéd lines so far, although hopefully that might change.

Very moody and lots of descriptions of eg the city at night, but nowt so far that has felt "on" to me in the same way as eg the kobek or the Steve Hanson or the pound.

I'm never really sure what we're talking about when we talk about 'good'. Nonetheless, it does seem that his short stories are more popular than his novels. I've only read two collections. He also published poetry.
 

you

Well-known member
... life as a paid by the hour lecturer in an art school (...) the mind numbing bureaucracy and one upmanship going on. (...) it made me want a beer.
ha! You really empathised! A cold lager and an apathetic job search. Yup.
 

shakahislop

Well-known member
read most of a book called sleveless by someone called natasha staff today. the closest point of reference i have for it is genuinely the brooklyn culture mafia thread. it's basically a kind of very loose commentary on....well on what it's like to be in the fashion and the media in america i guess. there are a few good bits, where she's pretty much just telling you what her life is like, the autobiographical bits, but there are also a lot of very long bits which are basically cultural analysis of things like influencer culture.

i've read a few things like this recently, where writers are trying to pick apart modern america in a way which combines quite freeform cultural theory, their own experiences, and a kind of experimental literary style. my overriding impression is that being a young middle-class american woman must be an incredibly contradictory experience, and quite a bleak one. in lots of ways but particularly in terms of ideas about what's right, wrong, and what they think they're supposed to be doing. they all seem so confused and unsure about anything (well the three books i've read in this vein are anyway). this natasha staff one has her working in the media and copywriting etc, but also ripping it apart, acknowledging this contradiction in the text, but also throwing out a load of status symbol, quite self-branding, conscious markers of her coolness as well. 'well then we went to clandestinos'. 'i was hanging out with this artist the other day'. i guess i get slightly wound up by some of this stuff, but then, i have just read almost the whole thing in one sitting, and that's probably not ideal.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
I don't know if I'm way off... but something about that description reminds me of I Love Dick - different generations obviously, but the bit about mixing experience and theory and a kind of mildly experimental style.
 

shakahislop

Well-known member
I don't know if I'm way off... but something about that description reminds me of I Love Dick - different generations obviously, but the bit about mixing experience and theory and a kind of mildly experimental style.
I still haven't read that (and might never read it I guess). It would make sense if there's a kind of lineage to all this stuff. It's an interesting style. I guess quite often the cultural analysis bits fall flat for me. But then, they're talking about America, and I'm very much on the outside looking in. This one I'm reading now has a whole long bit about the meaning of Abercrombie and Fitch, and its a bit lost on me coz....well my only relationship with that is that it's a shop I haven't been in
 

shakahislop

Well-known member
Then suddenly in the next paragraph with no explanation she's talking about being on the back of a motorbike going through the south or somewhere, and its not clear if this is something that happened to her or a story. Parts of the book are third person stories.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
Well ILD did not have so much of that, but it was something I picked up in a charity shop and knew nothing about so the mixture of criticism, biography and bullshit was both surprising and unique to me at the time. There were elements I really hated but at the time I thought it WAS arguably a new way of writing which has to be worth something, and fair enough some of it was good as well.

I suppose there is a limit to how far two people who have each only read one of a pair can get in terms of saying how similar they are to each other... I don't usually let that sort of thing stop me, but in this case I intend to demonstrate a newfound maturity and instead of continuing to speculate wildly I nominate @catalog or maybe @jenks to whizz through both books and answer with a simple yay or nay.
 
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