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Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gone Girl is an enjoyable thriller in the mould of Patricia Highsmith's fiction, and reminiscent of Lionel Shriver's "We Need To Talk About Kevin".

Nick and Amy Dunne are a New York couple with the kind of perfect relationship that annoys their Facebook friends. They are young, wealthy and good-looking, with media careers and a bit of fame (Amy's parents are the authors of a successful series of children's books.) So why has Amy disappeared on the morning of their fifth anniversary?

The disappearance unravels through Nick's account of the police investigation and the issuing media circus, and Amy's diary. But the novel is also about the breakdown of the American dream - how young couples like the Dunnes have to leave New York for the Midwest in search of work, how communities were ripped apart by the 2008 financial crash. The final twist is marmite-flavoured.

A film version is in production, with Rosamund Pike playing Amy (great casting) and Ben Affleck playing Nick (terrible decision.) To me, Nick should be played, ideally, by a young Mickey Rourke lookalike.

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Cutting for StoneCutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

They say "write what you know." So physician Abraham Verghese, born in Ethiopia from Indian parents, chose for his first novel a narrator born in Ethiopia that was raised by Indian parents and who eventually becomes a surgeon.

Cutting for Stone is an epic soap opera worthy of Sidney Sheldon's best. A nun traveling by ship from India to Ethiopia saves the life of a British doctor onboard. They later become colleagues in an Addis Ababa hospital, Missing, and silently fall in love with each other. The outcome is tragic - the nun gives birth to twins, Marion and Shiva, and dies in the process. The father, Dr Thomas Stone, is overcome with grief and abandons the babies to a pair of Indian doctors - Hema and Ghosh - to raise.

The twin boys grow under the shadows of Missing and experience some of Ethiopia's historical changes. Marion, the virginal and unremarkable twin, is the narrator. He's not as clever and seductive as his brother Shiva (who steals the girl he loves from under his nose), nor is he his adoptive mother's favourite. Fate eventually exiles him from Ethiopia, to a life in a poor hospital in New York where all doctors are foreigners, all patients are on Medicare and all corpses can expect to be organ harvested for rich Americans.

You can really see Ethiopia and its people in Verghese's novel and it is one of its few pleasures, alongside the look at the unfair healthcare system in America. But the plot - full of sentimental coincidences and love making worthy of a Bad Sex in Fiction Award - leaves a lot to be desired. Marion is an unlikeable narrator, but I don't think that was Verghese's intention. The writing only comes alive with the scenes of hospital proceedures, and although these come along quite often they are not enough to hold this long novel together.

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Trout Fishing In AmericaTrout Fishing In America by Richard Brautigan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Enjoyable quick, stream of consciousness writing, with chapters loosely connected to each other by a character/notion called Trout Fishing in America. I hear that a fan of this book actually changed his name to Trout Fishing in America and now teaches English in Japan. I hear that Brautigan has many fans and many followers, like the Beat Poets he slots so nicely alongside.

Like Burroughs' novels, it feels like you can read this in any order you like. Trout Fishing in America is equal parts hobo, traveling memories and acute poetical observations of the American North West. A lot of it seems to be inspired on Brautigan's personal life (he sadly took his own life years later.) It definitely needs more than one reading to give away its full power, but it has the potential of alienating some.

A book to be read by rivers.

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The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was expecting The Help to be a slightly insulting chicklit novel but before I knew it I was hooked. The novel is told through the point of view of three women living in a small town in Mississippi in the early 60s: two black women, Minny and Aibileen, who work as maids, and one young white woman, Skeeter, who dreams of becoming a published writer and exposing the hard life of black women.

Skeeter, indignant with the way her society treats black women, puts together a book of anonymous interviews of the town's maids, exposing the underbelly of 60's southern America. The gathering of these stories sets in motion incidents that put Minny and Aibileen's jobs in danger, maybe even their lives.

Full of good intentions, Stockett's novel is unintentionally campy, reminiscent at times of pulpy trash like The Valley of the Dolls. There's something drag queenish about Skeeter herself. Another character, the mantrap hillbilly Celia, who is shunned by small town society because she's too voluptuous, seems to have been created with an eye on a Marilyn Monroe postcard.

A lot of Stockett’s material was apparently taken from her own upbringing (from what she observed and understood later as a white woman from the American South). Characters are either good or bad, though, with no subtlety in between. More often than not the white ones are ignorant and evil while the black ones are good, kind and hardworking. A lot of emotion comes through as sentimentality, as if written with an eye for the Hallmark Channel’s movies. It’s a novel that portrays the 60s as we imagine it rather than what it was really like.

It's an enjoyable read nevertheless. Stockett conjures a fascist world that reminds me of the claustrophobia and horror of Atwood's Handmaid's Tale. It's a world we haven't completely left behind.

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The Silent History sounds like something just down my alley. Is this what fiction and literature will look like in the future? 

From what I understand, it's an app only for iPads or iPhones (but I may be wrong.) You download it and every day it gives you a new chapter on the story of children being born across the U.S. (the world?) who suffer from a mysterious condition where they are completely silent.  Each daily chapter is through the point of view of someone related to the epidemic - one of the main characters, doctors, parents, etc.

There's an additional feature, the Field Reports, which are GPS tagged and entered by the authors and readers - they can only be accessed when you are near them.  Which has, supposedly, led people to travel across the U.S., and now even to London, to unlock them (though they are not essential to the comprehension of the main story.) 

The story comes to an end one year after you download and start the app.


I've been thinking for some time now about storytelling that is interactive with social media and gadgets - in line with some of the stuff Secret Cinema does as well as other arts organisations in London.  My own idea revolves around a bus route in London and how different aspects of the story related to it can be unlocked/viewed if you: travel the route; visit certain houses near it; read certain newspapers; etc.

But my idea didn't include contributions from the public - it would be purely my creation and perhaps involve some film making with actors.  I like though The Silent History's use of the public's imagination - I'm tempted to download the app right now and start filing some of my own "Field Reports" around my neighbourhood, adding to The Silent History's "myth".

Imagine the implications for other genres... a horror story, for example!  You could unlock a segment of the story once you visit a church after sunset.  Or a walk through one of the "Magnificent Seven" cemeteries in London.  The possibilities are endless actually, and they can be used to comment on a load of things.  It could also be a wonderful way of teaching history, languages, social concern.

Very curious now about other apps/stories like The Silent History currently in development.

Blood Bath

Aug. 30th, 2012 08:46 am
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The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These are some of the things I was interested in as a teenager: large-scale disasters, getting the first kiss, popularity, avoiding sports, soap operas, avoiding bullies, sci-fi and horror. Nothing unusual for a teenager, so it's really no surprise that The Hunger Games is such a hit with young people: all these elements (and more) are part of its world.

Suzanne Collins has created a dystopia mirrored on Ancient Rome's gladiators and Ancient Greece's myths (the Minotaur), with doses of Margaret Atwood's worries on what's happening to our ecology (hybrid animals, scarce resources.) In the future, America has been destroyed and in its place now exists the small country of Panem - divided into 12 districts which are forced every year to compete against each other in the Hunger Games as punishment for once rebelling against the Capitol. This punishment comes in the form of one boy and one girl from each district being randomly selected to fight against each other in a booby trapped arena, until only 1 out of the 24 is left alive. The Hunger Games is also a reality TV show that all in Panem are forced by law to watch.

We are led into this world by Katniss, a strong and resourceful teenager from the poor district 12, "The Seam". She talks to the reader as if to a friend, taking her time to first introduce her family, her life, and her grievances with Panem, before disaster strikes: her 12-year-old sister is randomly picked to play the Games and Katniss sees no other alternative but volunteer in her place.

Because we are always following Katniss' voice, we don't know what the TV viewers can see, we don't know where her enemies in the Arena are hiding, we don't even know if she can trust the few people who offer a friendly hand. It's a narrative choice that lends the story a compulsive quality and makes the book a page turner. I also imagine that the pressure for her to make moral choices all the time, and fight against incredible odds, makes her a very appealing heroine for teenagers. Her journey is one of revelation: at the complexities of the adult world, at what it means to grow up, at what it means to love.

I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did, or for it to be so gory.

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After getting some new bespoke running shoes at Runner's Needs (thank you [livejournal.com profile] sparklielizard for the tip!) I've become a regular jogger in Victoria Park. I like to go in the mornings, with my iShuffle plugged in (dangling from some very expensive, neon Adidas running earphones I also got at the shop). I do one full circuit of the park - the equivalent of 5K - then follow it up with two days at the gym doing weight training.

Yesterday morning I noticed a group of short, skinny people doing sprints in the park... Olympic athletes! They were from Rwanda, I learnt later. Apparently they didn't feel like practicing in the Olympic stadium and asked if there were any nearby parks they could use. Victoria Park was the suggestion. I hope they enjoyed it as much as I do.

This London Olympics, which felt very British when it was first announced, has become progressively more "American" as the years have gone by (and especially under the Tories.) Do we really need the biggest McDonalds in Europe built right inside the Olympic park? With a ban on nearby businesses from selling french fries because McDonals has the sole permission to sell it? It's the next best thing to having a giant American flag waving in everyone's face. And by "American" I mean in this context profit-over-commonsense - that neoliberal idiocy that businesses ultimately choose what's best for everyone.

Still, despite all the weird stories surrounding the Olympics (from slum conditions for cleaners living near the park to graffiti artists being arrested), I felt a thrill of excitement at suddenly being so near to Olympic athletes in Victoria Park. My dance company is also involved - we performed as part of the Olympic Torch relay through London and many of our dancers are part of the opening and closing ceremonies.

On McDonalds related news, HBO Documentaries has made available online its recent "Weight of the Nation" series. You can check it out on YouTube. It's in 4 parts and quite compelling viewing, especially if you also recently saw the BBC's "The Man Who Made Us Fat". The series is often mawkish but has some eye-popping figures and graphs. It's made me go off soda drinks for life.
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Oohhh, exciting! The sequel to The Passage comes out this October!

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Do you follow any web series?  Are there any you'd like to recommend? I'm looking forward to [livejournal.com profile] oatmeal_texas' upcoming "Boyfriend Material", which he's just announced.  He helpfully linked to three other gay web series in his blog, which are all worth checking out.

Jack In A Box:



Two Jasperjohns:



It Gets Betterish:




Who needs television, eh?
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We Need To Talk About KevinWe Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This novel is the equivalent of driving by a fresh highway pile up. You go slowly past it, seeing all the bodies crushed inside, the blood on the cement, the sound of ambulances and police far off. You try to look away but you can't. You feel angry at yourself for choosing to drive on that particular time of the day, but later at night you think that maybe you've learned something from the experience.

The novel is made up of letters written by Eva, a successful businesswoman who gave up her career to raise a family, to her husband Franklin, about their young son Kevin who has been sentenced to prison for a killing spree at his school. They are written at the turn of the century, at the height of the epidemic of school shootings in America, just before the twin towers came down on 9/11. The first hundred pages were hard going, as Eva is quite wordy and adds, frankly, a lot of unnecessary padding to the story. But once you get used to her narrative voice, it becomes a compulsive read - a modern horror tale.

I'm not convinced though that it's as good as it's praised. It's popularity surely rests on its subject matter (mother fails to bond with son) rather than the story itself, which is quite tricksy and reliant on some unbelievable plot twists, though Shriver does have a fantastic way with words. It's hard to go into the story without giving things away, but suffice to say that I wasn't convinced Eva - in all her intelligence and perception - could have quietly stood by certain events in her life. Also, the novel's climax calls into question some of the novel's initial build up, making the behaviour of the neighbours towards Eva in the first hundred pages inexplicably bizarre.

I suppose that's the whole point of some horror - it's irrational and plays to the readers' fears. It gets its kicks from exploring our darkest imagination rather than trying to neatly tie things together. I do feel a little bit cheated out by Shriver, but I enjoyed the carnage nevertheless.

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At face value, Gremlins is a horror/comedy about a bunch of little monsters running amok in a nice little American town on Christmas eve. But I was watching it last night decades after the last time I'd seen it, and some things in the story made me wonder. It was the logo of the Pegasus in the town's gas station towards the end of the movie that reminded me of the book The Mythological Unconscious, and of how popular culture uses Jungian archetypes sometimes without realising it.

It struck me that a) Gremlins is about small town mass hysteria at the encroaching of urban, big city living; and b) it's about Chinese products versus American products, perhaps even in a prophetic way.

The conservative, small American town where boy-next-door goes out on prim and proper dates with girl-next-door, where mom spends her time making ginger bread men, where nice neighbours sing carol songs at your door, doesn't have any of the loose, depraved living that the Gremlins bring with them. No smoking, no partying, no raunchy laughter, no dirty jokes. Are the Gremlins the good people's repressed selves? How lustily does the hero's mother wield her knife when she stabs the Gremlins in her kitchen?  Then later, where does the surviving Gremlin run to and multiply into an army? The YMCA's pool!

There's this substory of the hero's father being a crap inventor, full of that American spirit to reach the Dream one day, then here comes along a Chinese "toy" that nearly wrecks the entire town's economy. A little bit like how America now buys everything from China but hardly exports anything.  There's also the hero's neighbour, who owns a tractor and complains of foreign cars and televisions, blaming imaginary Gremlins for their malfunction. And the movie concludes with a battle in the town's shopping mall...

The only two scenes that made me laugh involved the hero's girlfriend, who seems to be a bit of a depressive. The hero is trying to get the courage to ask her out and all she can think of is how some people slit their wrists during Christmas. We later learn she's referring to herself because when she was 9 her dad broke his neck falling down the chimney, dressed as Santa, and Christmas was ruined forever for her. These scenes meant for us to feel sorry for her and flesh her out but I was left wondering if the whole movie wasn't a nightmare in her head.  Because like any nightmare, Gremlins has some massive plot holes - the kind that only make sense when you are in it in your sleep, until you wake up and laugh. (Such as Gremlins multiplying like crazy if water drops on them, yet they spend their whole time running around on snow with no effect.)

The Gremlins theme song is now my ringtone for when [livejournal.com profile] wink_martindale calls me...
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Miranda July, The Future, 2011
I visited the Hackney Picture House with a couple of friends today for the first time , to see Miranda July's new film. Hackney Picture House is a lot like the Rich Mix near Brick Lane, but better laid out: it also has a stage for live music and literature nights, areas for art exhibitions, food and drinks for sale and plenty of sitting space. We were happily impressed by it.

This is the first time I see a Miranda July film (I've only known about her short stories.) I didn't know what to expect which helped me get into the movie (helped by the Picture House's extremely comfortable, reclining seats.) I'm not a big fan of American Quirk/Twee (i.e. Napoleon Dynamite), but The Future worked for me. It's not a film trying to be cool or win an indie audience; it's very centred on Miranda's background in literature, dance and art (some could think of some aspects of it as a little pretentious) but it had enough humour and darkness, I thought, to counterbalance it. Miranda, who wrote and directed it, plays one half of a couple living in L.A. who are on the brink of entering their mid-30s life crisis. There's a print of Escher's on the couple's wall which keeps reappearing in the movie, and it was a smart symbol of the story's structure and the characters' problems: they are stuck in these patterns they can't get out of, trying to make sense of their lives (find meaning and direction), but they keep returning to the same spots.  To which one of my friends added that, also like the Escher's print, their lives are sort of wonderful.

Every time I think American cinema is dead and there's nothing remotely interesting coming out of there, a film comes along to shut me up.

Maladjusted

Nov. 7th, 2011 12:37 pm
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Untitled by lilyrhoads
Untitled, a photo by lilyrhoads on Flickr.
There are certain technical words in the vocabulary of every academic discipline which tend to become stereotypes and cliches. Psychologists have a word which is probably used more frequently than any other word in modern psychology. It is the word “maladjusted.” This word is the ringing cry of the new child psychology.

Now in a sense all of us must live the well adjusted life in order to avoid neurotic and schizophemic personalities. But there are some things in our social system to which I am proud to be maladjusted and to which I suggest that you too ought to be maladjusted.

I never intend to adjust myself to the viciousness of mob-rule. I never intend to adjust myself to the evils of segregation and the crippling effects of discrimination. I never intend to adjust myself to the tragic inequalities of an economic system which take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I never intend to become adjusted to the madness of militarism and the self-defeating method of physical violence.

I call upon you to be maladjusted. The challenge to you is to be maladjusted—as maladjusted as the prophet Amos, who in the midst of the injustices of his day, could cry out in words that echo across the centuries, “Let judgment run down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream;” as maladjusted as Lincoln, who had the vision to see that this nation could not survive half slave and half free; as maladjusted as Jefferson, who in the midst of an age amazingly adjusted to slavery could cry out, in words lifted to cosmic proportions, “All men are created equal, and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the persuit of Happiness.” As maladjusted as Jesus who dared to dream a dream of the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of men. The world is in desperate need of such maladjustment.


Martin Luther King, April 25, 1957
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Woods, Sun and Shade 
Woods, Sun and Shade, 2011
I'd never heard of Woods until this past Saturday, when my friends at the End of the Road Festival suggested we go listen to their set mid-afternoon.  We lay down on the grass in the Garden Stage, the sky blue and open above our heads, a few people standing at the front, most asleep on each others laps or chatting to friends.  They came on and the melodies took over.  A very mellow echo of the Mamas and Papas nostalgia, hints of Mercury Rev and Blind Melon, but the brew very much their own.  Something sad in the songs, like folk tunes for whatever is lost.  I would never have guessed they come from Brooklyn (and you shouldn't let that put you off.)  This whole album is perfect, from start to finish - perfect for this dead summer that never was.  It's warm in the sun, cool in the shade; it grows on you like love.

The album opens with Pushing Only; if you like this song, you'll like everything else.

[livejournal.com profile] dilvsy, I think you'll love this!  It's right up your street.
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Most Brasilians dream of one day visiting Portugal just as I imagine most Americans wish to eventually cross the ocean and take pictures of themselves outside Buckingham Palace. It's one of those things that is drilled into us from school: this is the country that discovered you, that you fought against to gain your independence, that you now have a special relationship with thanks to shared history and language.


Last week, at the height of the riots across the UK, [livejournal.com profile] wink_martindale and I hopped into a plane in Stanstead (terrified we'd encounter rioters as we took the No. 8 bus at 4am to the train station) and flew to Spain for 8 days of traveling down the Iberian coast to Lisbon. We visited Bilbao, Gijón, Ferrol and Galicia in Spain; and Braga, Aveiro, Lisbon and Porto in Portugal.


Spain and Portugal are very similar to France in the widespread restaurant and café culture, except that they mostly specialise in sea food. Alcohol is very cheap and the food is mostly excellent, sometimes really great. Watch out though for the bread and butter placed at your table without your request - if you eat from it, you pay for it.  We found the Spanish and Portuguese to be friendly and helpful.


The Portuguese are obsessed with that American reality show "The Biggest Loser" - they have marathons of it on the telly as well as their own version of it. In stores, you see all sorts of Wii games dedicated to the show. I'd always heard that their tellies were filled with Brasilian soaps but I didn't spot any. Fado was played in touristy restaurants, Arcade Fire in the ones used by residents.


I didn't like Lisbon very much: it was decadent, decrepid, dirty, crumbling, depressing and a little creepy. But I also saw loads of potential there for rejuvenation - it needs some kind of artist revival that breaks through the hashish haze and brings life and vibrancy back to the streets. This bit of urban art was sweet and inspiring, reminding me of projects here in London that involve community residents: it was an exhibition of photos of elderly residents that lived in the hills surrounding the city's castle; a sort of remembrance. We also saw some great graffiti, including this strange altar in a dead end alley. Sadly, there was also a lot of rubbish tagging that spoiled the beautiful, historical buildings.  Loads of grand homes that would be worth millions in London were completely abandoned, boarded up, trashed.



Porto was lovelier and I want to visit it again. Beautiful beaches that are close to town, loads to see - our day and a half there wasn't enough.  I'd like to go back for a week and have time to spend days on the beach, swim, discover all of Porto's bookshops and history.
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Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated CultureGeneration X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture by Douglas Coupland

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture is as relevant today as a Kenny G song. It's also as enjoyable as a read. If Brett Easton Ellis hadn't hit the big time with American Psycho, Coupland wouldn't have had anyone to mirror himself as he chased his own zeitgeist. I suppose he was in the right time and the right place, good fortune smiling down on him in the early 90s when the media picked up on his novel as emblematic of a generation. (Slow news day?)

There is no story in Generation X, nothing to hold on to. The characters are white privileged cardboard figures that ring hollow beneath their self-deprecation and unbelievable dialogue. They worry about the bomb, about their McJobs, about their navels. Some of Coupland's trademark trickiness is found at the bottom of the pages, with dictionary definitions of words meant to define this generation; but most of those words mean nothing today, if they ever meant anything.

So what is Generation X about? Three young people are holed up in the desert (New Mexico?) and spend their time telling stories to each other of the lives and people they left behind. Little do they know that the world is glad to see the back of them.

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The past couple of days have been wonderfully long and enjoyable. It started on Friday with a talk on time travel at the British Museum as part of their current exhibition on Science Fiction, Out of this World. Audrey Niffenegger, who wrote The Time Traveller's Wife, was part of the panel as well as sci-fi novelist Stephen Baxter, some guy who writes for Dr Who, some other guy who writes on the science of time travel and a woman who works in publishing (and who chaired the talk.) Audrey was a cross between Margaret Atwood and Tori Amos, all deep husky voice and very funny down-to-earth comments. The audience had a few nutters who shot theirs arms straight up when it was question time. I spotted a few friends of [livejournal.com profile] hester 's in the audience but I couldn't remember their names or LJ handles.

Yesterday, I went to the garden's Summer Fair then met friends in the evening at Rich Mix for the documentary Senna. It's a wonderful film which is hard for me to be objective about. Because I'm brasilian, I grew up watching Senna race every Sunday, my family and friends filing my home with cheer for his victories or despair for his losses. Seeing his life played out on the big screen brought back nostalgic memories for me as well as some good laughs at how naff Brasil was in the 80s. Well, wasn't the whole planet?

Senna was to Brasil what Lady Diana was to Britain in their deaths: this outpouring of emotion that showed the true extent they had affected people's lives while alive. He was different from her though in how there was nothing contrived about him: he was pure talent, hard work and charisma. There was something about his eyes that was very beautiful, his smile too - that gave away how idealistic he was about Formula 1 and making a mark in the lives of the less fortunate in Brasil (I suppose similar in that sense to Diana).

Everyone in Brasil knows where they were when they heard he died (i.e. most were in front of the telly) just like everyone in Britain still remembers hearing of Di's accident in Paris.



Today, I woke up early to meet [livejournal.com profile] kirsten at Columbia Road market for breakfast. It was rainy, cold, grey and horrible. We had a look around the shops and found a table in Restaurant Espagnol, which has lovely coffee and breakfasts (chorizo on top of fried eggs and toast; why did I never think of this?!)

We then drove to Camden so she could get a piercing at Cold Steel. On the drive back home we blasted 2 Many DJs and talked about Salt-and-Peppa and what the hell happened to them. Weirdly enough, a few hours later I watched a documentary by Chris Rock called Good Hair, which featured interviews with them. It's a bit of a surreal documentary that falls under that subgenre "we all live on a crazy planet". It looks at the multi-billion dollar industry surrounding hair in America in the black community, and its consequences to themselves and other parts of the planet. Funny at parts, weird in others. Made me wonder what will happen to all those people who spend thousands of dollars on their hair if the American economy continues to slide into the hole. It's completely unsustainable, like a lot of other things in America...



Tonight, we are watching Soprano episodes while eating our dinner, reading old newspapers in bed and listening to classical music. Global warming feels like a dream when the typical grim British summer returns to chill our apartment and cover the city with rain.

P.S. More Gingerganza this way! (thank you [livejournal.com profile] kirsten for the link.)

Dog's Life

Mar. 6th, 2011 04:40 pm
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Paul Auster Timbuktu

Paul Auster, Timbuktu, 1998
This is a really disappointing novel.  It starts off well enough, with its road movie type story told through the eyes of a dog, Mr Bones, who faithfully follows around schizophrenic poet Willie.  They are in Baltimore searching for Willie's English teacher, the only person to ever believe in his writing talents when he was young.  Willie seems to be based on the artist Henry Darger, but that connection is never fully explored.  Mr Bones learned language but can't speak, thanks to the limitations of being a dog.  Mr Bones uses this skill to tell his story like a rambling Beat poet (perhaps from growing up with Willie), but he doesn't have the amphetamine to inject his adventures with excitement or the brains to see beyond the sidewalks and suburbs he ends up in.  Mr Bones can tell, but he can't show.  Mr Bones can name, but he can't describe.  Very quickly this short novel loses its point and, sadly, the reader's attention.  There's nothing to be learned from it, no memorable characters.  A big, ol' "what's the point?"

I'm willing to give Auster another try since this is the first thing I've read by him.  Recommendations welcome!

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