Thursday, 31 January 2008

Troubled times; Jake's Thing; Pistache

Well, it's been troubled times here in the Palace of the Dolphin Throne. An entirely avoidable plumbing disaster that has soiled my record collection, ruined my wall and shorted out the power to the whole building is just one part of it. Do I have to mention the friendship in tatters or the lack of motivation at work? I thought not.

Last night I finished Jake's Thing by Kingsley Amis. Very amusing. This is the story of 60-year old Jake Richardson, an Oxford don who is trying to regain his lost libido and ventures on a "modern" (late-70s) bout of psycho-sexual therapy. I feel that these days a few pills of Viagra would have done the trick, and Amis probably felt the same, given that he displays a great deal of anger towards the medical fraternity in this book. Can we also project Jake's misogyny onto Amis? Many people have, though I personally doubt it. I wouldn't know enough about the late author to even hazard a guess, although this article titled Philip Hensher: Amis was neither a misogynist nor a homophobe argues against the proposition. This isn't a book that I'd highly recommend unless you are already an Amis fan, but from the point of view of this Amis fan, it was well worth reading.

And just when you thought I would be all Amis-ed out, I was faced with the choice on my book pile of either Martin Amis' London Fields, or Pistache by Sebastian Faulks. I chose Pistache for a bit of light-hearted humour and was faced with the first two pieces being spoofs of none other than Kingsley and Martin Amis!

Pistache is a collection of short satirical parodies of various authors, apparently inspired by The Write Stuff on BBC's Radio 4. That doesn't mean much to an uncultured Aussie, but there you go. It is probably against copyright, but I feel that anybody who loves literature would want to buy this book anyway, so here I am going to share the wonderful parody of Martin Amis:

Martin Amis sends his lad to Hogwarts

      Primped and shining in the school's idea of a uniform - to which my success in the risibly straightforward scholarship exam had condemned me - I was presented to 'Professor' McGonagall, a chestless sexagenarian with halitosis that could have downed a wing of Lancasters; then to Dumbledore, the shuffling dotard of a headmaster, whose eyes appraised me with the unhurried insolence of the career pederast.
      He entrusted me to Hermione Granger, a smug little number with a row of coloured gel pens in the pocket of her Aertex shirt, an item given pleasing heft by the twin discs of her tumid little breasts. She was, I had already been told, rumoured to give hand jobs of Stakhanovite efficiency to the gods of the Quidditch team as they showered off the stardust of their sporting triumphs, lined up in engorged single file.
      The dormitory was a row of iron beds, purchased at some Gulag boot sale; the wanking opportunities, doubtless in breach of numerous human rights, looked about as promising as those in a lock-down facility for convicted Islamic pick-pockets.
      Next from that baleful twilight emerged 'Ron' Weasley, a spavined welterweight who reeked of chav, with his fucked-up bathmat of orange frizz and his eyes full of cancelled hope. In the bed next to mine was Harry Potter, a weapons-grade geek with a thunderbolt of acne through his candidly sebaceous forehead, who told me he lived in a cupboard for fuck's sake.
      Outside, I waved goodbye to my parents with sinister, noir-ish gestures, the sculpted rhomboids of my fingernails still glistening from the manicure they had received that morning from Renska, the tragically unmagnetic Pole in Hans 'n' Feat on Ken High Street, who had more or less begged me to let her go down on my, admittedly, triangulated groin.
      'Gosh,' said little Potter. 'I hope you'll be in Gryffindor.'
      'I think not,' I said, watching as the witch McGonagall embarked on some embarrassing hokum with an oldster's rug-covering into which she periodically plunged her veiny claw.
      I had been given the low-down on the houses by one Malfoy, an enthusiastic sodomite in the second year, whose parents knew mine through some unspeakable, almost certainly adulterous, connection of tennis and 'pot-luck' suppers, for which Mrs M favoured pleated white skirts of possibly illegal brevity, granting occasional glimpses of white cotton gash that had furnished material for an entire summer of jackhammer fantasy.
      And so it was that at the end of my first day, answering wearily to the call of my name, I pulled myself up to my full four feet eleven and sauntered through the porter's lodge to Slytherin, its turbid quadrangles, its simmering ante-rooms...

Seriously, how funny is that. It reads like something straight out of The Rachel Papers. As well as the two openers, this book holds parodies of Jane Austen, Enid Blyton, Dan Brown, Lewis Carroll, Geoffrey Chaucer, Agatha Christie and many more. It is well worth checking out.

Okay that's this very long post out of the way. I realise I should probably have split it into three parts, but seriously I couldn't be fucked, and it's not like I have any readers anyway, so who am I even talking to here??

bye bye,

Thursday, 17 January 2008

The Dolphin Throne

This was a gift, and I called the bluff by actually installing it:

oh my,

Saturday, 12 January 2008

The Dirty Beat - by Venero Armanno

Okay, this is one great read, especially if you're a Brisbanite who digs real music and a good tale. Dr Venero Armanno is a much-celebrated creative writing teacher and is in fact the Head of Creative Writing at the University of Queensland. I haven't read any of his previous novels, but I definitely want to now, because The Dirty Beat is an absolute cracker.

This is the tale of a rock and jazz drummer, Max, who has died at the age of 50 while dancing with a young girl at a rock gig. The narration is undertaken by Max's spirit as he observes his funeral, his friends and reflects on his past. He holds a dialogue with the characters of his past, sometimes one-way, sometimes two. This is an original (I think?) and clever writing device that allows Max to tell his life story in a very real, yet reflective and almost sentimental way. It works very well and adds an edge to the novel - an edge that gels very well with the world of music in Brisbane's underbelly in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Armanno has created a diverse array of interesting characters which is probably the most important factor in this kind of work.

This book brought tears to my eyes a number of times, because I truly felt it. Or maybe just because I'm an overly emotional freak. Anyway, I think this means that it is very well written! Anyway, there is more information including reviews, a note from Venero Armanno and a video trailer on the MySpace page. I wish I had been to the book launch...

Enough from me, except to say that I wish I was a good writer :(

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Ice Water - by Cat Power

I don't trust these lyrics much, but here you go...

Like I heard her

Backwards saying
I can take one thousand
And never be clean
Of course she lied away
She is ten times heavier
And Stronger, then you found
The grave
Or ever was
He's got it down name
You know what I need
Who doesn't lie?
You know what I mean
If I'm ever in
Doubt of you
Like you don't know
I am so, angry
I am so, at ease
I feel just like
Some great big disease
I think you need
Ice water
But the only thing that
You really hate
Is all its emptiness
Ah, you'll swim
And I will drink myself to
If I'm never in
Doubt of you
Like you don't know

My Exclusionist Philosophy

I've arrived at this after much deep contemplation, and I think it's a winner:

"don't let anybody in. they will hurt yr body or yr mind. look after yourself."

It's my new Guiding Principle.

I hope it helps lots of other people out there,

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Heaven's Net Is Wide

Heaven's net is wide, but its mesh is fine - Lao Tsu

It's the first day of 2008 and I've just finished reading the so-called "first" book in the Tales of the Otori, an historical fantasy set in a mythical version of Japan. These books are written by Australian Gillian Rubinstein under the pseudonym of Lian Hearn. The series began as the Otori Trilogy, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and was then continued with "The Last Book" (The Harsh Cry of the Heron) and now "The First Book" (Heaven's Net is Wide).

I've had bad experiences in the past when fantasy authors try to extend a successful series with "bookend" tales which seem to tell the same stories from different perspectives - for example the Eddings' Polgara the Sorceress and Belgarath the Sorcerer. And to be honest although The Harsh Cry of the Heron was covering new ground and did "need" to be told, I was over the series at that point and disappointed by it - despite crying at the end. Okay, so that's a very conflicted response. Let's just say it was hard going to get through it, but it was worth putting in the effort.

When I was walking through a bookshop and found The Heaven's Net Is Wide I bought it out of obligation, to complete my collection. I felt that this one truly was going over old ground, as it is The First Book, starting at the very beginning of the tale in events that had already been spoken of in the original series. And once again, it was a bit hard for me to get into this one, but about halfway through I found myself turning the pages faster and faster.

These doubts and gripes that I write about are possibly more a sign of my waning interest in and patience for the "fantasy" genre, rather than in any weakness in the books. This is a very strong and captivating series, and this final installment tells the prelude tale magnificently and finishes right where the series originally began, leaving me wanting to read the whole cycle again, to make up for my poor memory.

I won't do it though. Ten years ago I might have, but not now. Too many books, too little time.

Happy new year,