Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The Go-Away Bird

The Go-Away Bird - Muriel Spark

This collection of short stories shows Spark's range. The go-away bird of the title is 'the grey-crested lourie', a bird who's call seems to be "go'way, go'way". There are eleven stories in this collection, originally published in a variety of places and they are varied but with some recurring themes.

I really enjoyed this book -  it is full of energy and oddness. I have decided to post a little piece on each story rather than try to come up with a unified theory of everything.

Monday, 23 April 2012


Robinson - Muriel Spark
"I recall that Robinson had advised more than once 'Stick to facts.'"

On a small island called Robinson a group of survivors from a plane crash are rescued by the island's owner Robinson and his adopted son Miguel. The survivors are January Marlow, the narrator; Jimmie Waterford, a relative of Robinson who was, strangely, on his way to the island; and Tom Wells, publisher of "Your Future"* a hokey spiritualist type magazine and purveyor of lucky charms and other 'services'). There is no way to contact the outside world and they must simply wait for the arrival of a boat which will come to collect pomegranates in a few months. There is a map of the island at the beginning and it looks like the chalk outline of the victim at a murder scene. (see below) Who, or what, is the victim? Perhaps it is the novel itself. And who is guilty, and what are they guilty of?

Friday, 20 April 2012

New P.I.L. track - Lollipop Opera

Lollipop Opera
Here's a track from the new P.I.L. album, This is P.I.L. to be released May 28th. Good to hear John still in good voice.

The Mulching of America

The Mulching of America - Harry Crews

The recent death of Harry Crews inspired me to pick this out from my TBR pile. I was intending to read it soon anyway. It's not that often that I've seen his books on charity shop bookshelves so when I did I was looking forward to resuming reading his work. I had read a good few of his books in the nineties, and loved them. They were pretty unique, as if written by the offspring of a union between Flannery O'Connor and Nathanael West.

Although The Mulching of America is not one of Crews best it was still an enjoyable read. The main character Hickum Looney is forever destined to compete for the position of being Soaps for Life's second best salesman. The Boss is always the best, and always will be. That is, until Hickum meets Ida Mae and not alone does she buy but she takes him to her friends helps him to break the all time sales record for one day. The most powerful force in this sales drive is the fear of death. "She (Ida Mae) breathed on him and he smelled the old friendly and final odor of death. It had never bothered him. Actually he had come to enjoy it. Everybody's breath to one degree or another smelled of death to Hickum Looney. Most people couldn't smell it because they were afraid of the truth." Selling to people who are closer to death is therefore easier and "she had taken him through enclaves of men and women who were sick and dying from the same incurable disease: age.". What Ida Mae seems to buy is the idea that he has somehow helped her push death back, and this is what she sells "from one elderly village to the next elderly village."

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Little Dieter Wants to Fly

Little Dieter Wants to Fly - Werner Herzog

Dieter has a story. As a boy he watched fighter planes swoop over his small hometown in Germany. Seeing the pilot in a cockpit almost close enough to touch exploding into and out of his vision was an epiphany for him. He would fly.

Post war Germany is brought to life in a quick sketch - footage of sausages in a window being stared at by passers by accompanies Dieter's memory of seeing a sausage for the first time three years after the war ended - but nobody could afford it. It would have been better than boiled wallpaper though.

Monday, 9 April 2012

The Guermantes Way (Second Post)

The Guermantes Way (Second Post) - Marcel Proust

Well, so much for promises. (see first post) As Proust says, life is always a little different to our expectations of it. I fully intended posting a second post hot on the heels of my previous one but my ability to type (and read) is being severely compromised by an episode of back pain. On top of discomfort I am also in a fairly constant state of slight wooziness due to the painkillers. (This is of course to excuse in advance the fact that this post may make even less sense than usual.)

Monday, 2 April 2012

Travels in the Scriptorium

Travels in the Scriptorium - Paul Auster

It's been a while since I've read anything by Paul Auster (at least 10 years) but I won't leave it as long until the next time. Mazy games, precision and absolute imprecision, stories that may or may not be stories, it's familiar Auster territory to me.  Mr Blank, at times a stand in for Kafka's K(The Trial), at times Flann O'Brien's Mr Trellis(At Swim Two Birds), is in a room. He awakens without any memories of how he got there and cameras and microphones are recording his every twitch and fart. (sorry if that's a little rich(ard)) In fact the camera shoots one frame per second so we can visualize Mr Blank moving like a stop motion animation of a man, or like in an early silent film, perhaps starring Auster's hero Beckett's hero Buster Keaton.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

The Springs of Affection

Maeve Brennan / Holly Golightly?

The Springs of Affection - Maeve Brennan

This selection from the short stories of Maeve Brennan contains three suites of stories, each suite having the same characters. They almost work as episodic novellas, particularly the final suite of stories about the Bagots. I have already posted on the first two stories The Morning after the Big Fire and The Old Man and the Sea. 

Most of the stories take place on a road in Ranelagh identical to the one where Brennan spent her formative years. The houses are grey and the geography described within almost all the stories is very limited. Indeed the colour gray and the phrase dead end could be considered the watchwords of this collection.