Sunday, February 15, 2009

Heroes, Villians & Velodromes

It's a great story, well told. The rise of Team GB from the back markers of world track cycling to the all-conquering heroes of Beijing.

The subtitle on my copy is 'Chris Hoy and Britain's Track Cycling Revolution' and although Chris does feature prominently (even more so in the reprinted version below, hastily rushed out for Christmas gift sales) there is plenty about the other team members and also the back room staff who played such a key role in the transformation.

I was particularly happy to see so much prominence given to Craig MacLean and his achievements, which even though not quite up to three golds in one Olympics still helped to pave the way for Chris. My favourite story from the book concerns Craig and the opening of the Craig MacLean Leisure Centre in Grantown-on-Spey, near where I grew up:
MacLean was flattered. And after he cut the ribbon, he was presented with a large painting commissioned to mark the occasion, done by a local artist, who'd worked from a picture of MacLean in action. Or it was supposed to be MacLean. But as MacLean studied the painting he realized it wasn't. It was Chris Hoy. 'Typical,' says MacLean with a wry smile.
My only complaint is the US spelling used throughout and all the nasty 'z's (see quote above) that permeate the text. I am guessing that HarperCollins didn't choose this convention because they are expecting thousands of US sales and assume that it is standard policy across all their titles now. Oh well, my hatred of Rupert Murdoch had been waning recently so it's good to find yet another thing to add to his list of crimes ...

Song for Sunday

Tanya Donnelly – Keeping You

Happy Valentine's day my love!

Thursday, February 12, 2009


We guess is written by a woman (53%), however it's quite gender neutral.
Hmmm. Try it out on you favourite blogs here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

the Boat

the Boat is an interesting book and there's no doubt that Nam Le is a talented writer, who may well go on to great things. Unfortunately, the stories in this collection don't live up to all the hype and, for me, although there are some small precious gems within the book there are just too many gaps and holes for the writing to work.

He sets out his background and dilemma early on in the first story, Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice:
'It's hot,' a writing instructor told me at a bar. 'Ethnic literature's hot. And important too.'
And then on the next page his fictional friend tells him:
'You could totally exploit the Vietnamese thing. But instead you choose to write about lesbian vampires and Colombian assassins, and Hiroshima orphans – and New York painters with haemorrhoids.'
Sadly I didn't find the lesbian vampires, but all the other characters are present and correct. And that for me is the main problem. While the writing is virtuoso the stories aren't up to snuff. They all read like experiments for his creative writing course (that also crops up in the first story), and I am sure they got good marks, but most left me with a feeling that I only had tiny fragments of what was really happening in these imaginary worlds and these specks weren't enough to bring them into focus.

Even the heartbreaking final story about Vietnamese refugees trying to escape on a fishing boat that breaks down suffers from this problem. The description is superb and the situation is all too vivid, but the characters are obscured and they seem to richochet off each other rather than connecting as they should.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Song for Sunday

Buffalo Tom – Late at Night

Two of my favourite things: Buffalo Tom and My So Called Life. If you don't know either please (I'm asking nicely) go and get the DVD box set and Big Red Letter Day. You'll thank me later ...