Tuesday 25 August 2015


Gruts - Ivor Cutler

Although Ivor Cutler has long been a favourite of mine it has been of his recordings rather than the written versions of his work. When I saw this in the children's section of a local Oxfam store for €1.50 I had to have it. The pieces within it are the scripts for radio broadcasts from 1959 to 1963.

And I was not disappointed. These pieces work just as well, if not better, on the page. Cutler's quirky, sinister, humourous flights of fancy beguile in both formats.

No matter how strange these stories get, whether it is the cold potato man throwing his goods to a woman at a window on the twelfth floor or a man leading another to the top of a hill to show him the way, waving his arms and taking off, the stories all have a conspiratorial tone that seems to say "They won't believe it was like this, will they? But you and I know better."

Saturday 22 August 2015


Dublinesque - Enrique Vila-Matas
(Translated by Rosalind Harvey & Anne McLean)
"'Dublin?' she asks, surprised. 'And what are you going to do there? Start drinking again.'"

When #SpanishLitMonth was brought to my attention it was Bloomsday so this was an obvious choice, concerning, as it does, a visit to Dublin for June 16th to hold a funeral for "the Gutenburg Galaxy" - the world of the printed book. I was also eager to read more from Vila-Matas as I had enjoyed Bartleby & Co so much. This was also sitting on my shelves in three-dimensional, ink on paper form...

The central character is Samuel Riba, retired publisher, sober alcoholic. He "has published many of the great writers of his time" but, we learn, is not great with figures and his company went under. Drink almost pulled him under with the company and threatened to bring his marriage to a painful end. With little to fill his time Riba has developed an unhealthily close relationship with his computer screen and feels that he is becoming like the "hikikiomori, young Japanese people who suffer from IT autism, and who in order to avoid outside pressure react by withdrawing completely from society." I felt a certain fellow feeling...

Saturday 8 August 2015

The Mulatta & Mister Fly

The Mulatta & Mister Fly - Miguel Angel Asturias

As August has been united with July under the umbrella of #SpanishLitMonth (at Caravana De Recuerdos, WinstonsDad's Blog & on Twitter) it means that this post is not my usual #SpanishLateMonth. Although, as I'm now reading my fourth book there is plenty of time to be late yet...

This is the first novel I have read from the Nobel prize winner Asturias, and I have to say that it was not quite what I expected. The book is less a narrative than an incantation: an amalgam of myth, history, sex and politics that seems more closely related to the Joyce of Finnegans Wake, or William Burroughs, than to other South American writers I have read.

This isn't the whole picture, though. The book is soaked in the myth-story of South America and clearly draws on the same sources as Galeano's Memory of Fire. Indeed the author note in my copy says that Asturias "studied the philosophy and religion of the Mayan civilisation at the Sorbonne." This clearly gave Asturias the foundation upon which to build this strange world. At times the book heads into very weird terrain, as is shown this quote I scanned and posted on Twitter as I read.