Sunday, May 31, 2009

Song for Sunday

Patti Smith – Because the Night

1 Get a copy of Easter (look it's only £4.37!)
2 Get some good headphones
3 Turn the volume to just-about-too-loud-to-be-bearable
4 Hit play on track 3 (why are all the best songs on an album always track 3?)
5 Sit back and wait for the drums to kick in
6 Go to number 4 and repeat until the kids start complaining of starvation

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Song for Sunday

Gala – Faraway

Not enough Europop. As complaints about a country go it isn't really up there with military rule, corruption or bad coffee, but it is still a flaw. More or less serious depending on your point of view admittedly, but occasionally it does get to me. So, in a personal attempt to redress this lack in Australia's cultural landscape here is one of the finest exponents of the genre with a great example of what we are all missing. Just don't watch the video at work, unless you have a very understanding boss ...

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Japanese ghost stories. Not a genre that I have much knowledge of.

The quote by Brett Easton Ellis on the cover almost made me put it back on the shelf, but the review on the back cover promising a cross between 'Paul Auster at his best' and 'a very Japanese ghost story' swung it.

Yamada's fictional Tokyo has many similarities with Paul Auster's New York – the eery surreality of the setting and the self-contained absorption and focus of the central character could have come straight out of one of his early novels.

The ghostly elements of the story aren't particularly scary or shocking or surprising, but the grief and longing of the characters is beautifully rendered and there is a psychological depth to them that is surprisingly moving.

The American translation can be a bit annoying in places, but for the most part it is unobtrusive and the spooky detachment of the writing is allowed to take hold. I found myself swept along by the story, enjoying the weirdness and content to follow wherever it took me.

It reminded me of The Sixth Sense in some ways, and anyone looking for a bit of left-field fiction that keeps challenging you all the way through should find plenty to enjoy here.

My Revolutions

Born in the early fifties Chris Carver escapes his Ruislip roots to a place at the LSE where he progresses from student politics to full-blown radical.

Weaving back and forth between London in the late sixties/seventies and small town southern-England early in the twenty-first century we gradually discover why Chris has taken on the identity of Mike Frame (using the classic method outlined in Frederick Forysth's Day of the Jackal) and settled into a comfortable but tenuous middle-class existence.

The further back in time events and characters are, the more vivid and engrossing they are. The present day proceedings seem very flat and less engaging. This may be deliberate – the narrative is presented as the recollections of a man whose 50th birthday has arrived, and often sections begin in the present and travel backwards as memories are sparked.

These recollections are brilliantly constructed and the writing is wonderful, but there are too many holes in the plot and the core incident, on which so much of the action rests, turns out to be a complete anti-climax. Also the central character Miles doesn't ring true and the sub-plot about smearing a New Labour MP with ambitions for the position of Home Secretary seems plausible, but the details don't add up.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed this a lot, in fact an awful lot, but it is a pretty flawed novel. And just look at the cover. The mass-market paperback is very different – always a sure sign that the original design didn't hit the mark.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Song for Sunday

Bob Mould – See a Little Light

Bob Mould has a new album out, but this isn't on it. This song is from his first solo album Workbook. If you want a song from the new album here's one performed on acoustic.

It is always interesting watching your heroes grow older. Bob seems to have done a pretty good job. And if you think it looks like he's mellowed now that he's approaching 50 try having a look at any of the videos from his 2009 Coachella appearance ...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mobius Dick

Andrew Crumey's Sputnik Caledonia was one of my favourite books from 2008, so I was looking forward to this one. Billed as 'the only novel about quantum mechanics you could imagine reading while lying on the beach' and a 'blend of techno-thriller, historical fantasy, philosophy and farce' it seemed to have potential.

It was an interesting read and much of the narrative (the techno-thriller parts) is great, but the parallel universes and the tricksy connections across time and space put me off. Its not that the quantum mechanics gets in the way of the story, but it also doesn't actually add much. In the end you find yourself yearning for a bit of clarity and a character who keeps their own name and sticks around in his own universe for more than five minutes. I also found all the mental derangement and 'am I mad or is it everyone else?' schtick a bit hard to take.

The most interesting aspect for me was how some of this novel is like a precursor to Sputnik Caledonia and how Crumey's ideas and writing have developed from this book to the latest one. Not sure I need to go back any further into his backlist, but Mr Mee does look like it might be worth a go ...

Giro d'Italia 2009

First Grand Tour of the year and the build-up to July starts in earnest. As we did last year here are some semi-informed predictions about who might be on the podium in Rome ...

Maglia Rosa
1 Levi Leipheimer
2 Ivan Basso
3 Mauricio Soler
With Franco Pellizotti and Tom Danielson just behind.

Maglia Verde
Maricio Soler. Definitely this year.

Maglia Ciclamino
If Mark Cavendish gets to Rome he has a good chance, but I am going to go for a revitalised Alessandro Petacchi for the final sprinter's prize.

So, an American for the maglia rosa? The tifosi may not like it, but I think that Leipheimer is in amazing form and Astana certainly have the strength and the knowledge to take the top place. The time trial on the final Sunday in Rome will also play to his strengths. Basso is going to be disappointed I think, but he has prepared well and there are plenty of mountain top finishes so he may still delight the home crowd. I tipped him last year, and he crashed out, but hopefully Maricio Soler will have a bit more luck this year and pick up third and the climber's jersey.

And the other American? I think Lance might make the top ten, but probably not much higher than ninth or tenth ...