Tuesday 20 September 2016

Rossmore Road

Rossmore Road - Barry Andrews

"White and yellow lines and street signs"

A love song to a song.

Saturday 27 August 2016



This blog and the blogosphere in general has suffered some neglect recently as all my focus has been on tonight's gig in The Grand Social in Dublin. Somewhat more activity may start taking place next week...

It will the first Dublin gig in twenty years for The Knocking Shop and at the moment my nerves are making it feel a bit like Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum but I'm sure it'll be a great night.

There's an event page on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/events/1045545818885717/

and you can like the band page here - https://www.facebook.com/knockingshop/

Here's one of the songs we'll be playing, taken from our comeback gig in January in London. Hope some readers will make it along..

Tuesday 9 August 2016

The Knocking Shop to hit the Dublin Stage.

The Grand Social
The Knocking Shop to hit the Dublin Stage!

The revival of The Knocking Shop hits a high point with our return to the Dublin stage at The Grand Social  on August 27th

Friday 5 August 2016

The Literary Conference & An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter

The Literary Conference (translated by Katherine Silver) & An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter (translated by Chris Andrews) - by César Aira
"In my case nothing returns, everything races forward, savagely being pushed from behind by what keeps coming through that accursed valve. This image, brought to its peak of maturation in my vertiginous reflections, revealed to me the path of the solution, which I forcefully put into practice whenever I have time and feel like it. The solution is none other than the greatly overused (by me) "escape forward.""

Having started a long translated novel and lost interest as it seemed opaque to me (perhaps the original, perhaps the translation, perhaps just me) I decided that I would reread the César Aira novellas I had read and enjoyed last year but never made it to a blog post apart from a listing in my Books of the Year. This would allow me to contribute something further to SpanishLitMonth..

I started with The Literary Conference as it was the one that had left the greater trace. I had really enjoyed both books but neither had left as much of an impression as their companion in the three novella set I had purchased Ghosts. This may have a lot to do with the fact that I had posted on Ghosts. It is as if blogging has become an essential part of fully digesting a book I've read and committing it to memory.

Thursday 21 July 2016

Top 102 Albums, No Minus 16 - Suicide

Top 102 Albums, No Minus 16
Suicide - Suicide

"Frankie put the gun to his head
(Inarticulate visceral howling of demons)
Frankie's Dead"

The death of Suicide frontman Alan Vega has me listening to Suicide and remembering the key part they played in the development of my musical 'taste'. I first came across Suicide on a mixtape that was made for me when I was repeating the Leaving Certificate and which also included Patti Smith, The Velvet Underground and John Cale. I already knew The Velvets through my early Bowie obsession leading to Lou Reed and Patti Smith and John Cale I had vague intimations of. However, even if I had heard of Suicide I had not heard them and had never even imagined their pulsing, echoing, synth heavy rock 'n' roll.

Wednesday 13 July 2016


Tres - Roberto Bolaño
Translated by Laura Healy

Tres is a collection of three poems by Bolaño, although two could just as easily be called prose fragments. Indeed the first 'poem' is called Prose from Autumn in Gerona and the third "section" is called A Stroll Through Literature, a title that might seem more at home in a middlebrow essay collection. The central poem is called The Neochileans and centers on a tour by a band of that name. It is a short book, despite it's 170 plus pages, as many pages contain just one short paragraph and the facing pages feature the original Spanish texts.

What is surprising (or not) is that the work fits seamlessly into Bolaño's oeuvre, and readers who have read a number of his works will find themselves again in that large reverberating echo chamber which all his books seem to exist in. Partly it is that the writer's life is stitched into his work and partly the language and the fascination with geometry. Bolaño often seems to see the relationships between characters and the effect they have on each other in terms of a geometric theorems, as if a formula could be derived of the forces pulling the characters together, or apart. The word features in the very first paragraph of Prose from Autumn in Gerona.
"A woman - I ought to say a stranger - who caresses you, teases you, is sweet with you and brings you to the edge of a precipice. There, the protagonist gasps or goes pale. As if he were inside a kaleidoscope and caught sight of the eye watching him. Colours arranging themselves in a geometry far from anything you're prepared to accept as okay. And so begins autumn, between the Oñar river and the hill of las Pederas."

Friday 8 July 2016

But For the Lovers

But For the Lovers - Wilrido D. Nolledo
(Foreword by Robert Coover)
"You never actually bury a volcano. There's always a resurrection."

Last year I posed a question to Rise, meister of the wonderful in lieu of a field guide blog. What book by a Philippine author would he recommend? This was the book and you can read his better informed blog by clicking the link to his blog. it is a while since I read it and I could easily leave this patchy, unfinished post in my drafts folder but I have attempted to put some shape on it because I believe this novel deserves more attention. It deserves a better post but this, I hope, is better than nothing. I intend reading it again at some point in the future and maybe I can make a more coherent and considered case then.

Barring Rise's introduction this is not a novel or writer that I have encountered anywhere else, an obscurity that seems thoroughly undeserved and unfortunate. This is a sprawling; energetic; humourous; mysterious; sometime brutal; poetic book that brought to mind Kenzaburo Õe, Gravity's Rainbow, Juan Carlos Onetti and Julio Cortazar's Hopscotch, just for starters. And I haven't come across so much shapeshifting since reading Asturias, especially in the poetic, dreamlike opening section.

Saturday 2 July 2016

August 1914

August 1914 - Barbara Tuchman
"When at last it was over, the war had many diverse results and one single dominant one transcending all others: disillusion. 'All the great words were cancelled out' for that generation, wrote D.H. Lawrence..."

I have decided to try and finish this draft post today as #Brexit and the centenary of the Battle of the Somme attest to it's relevance in today's world. History can be misquoted to mean anything and the density of Tuchman's research and the way she manages to enter the deluded, prejudiced and overly privileged minds who led various countries and armies in the lead up to WW1 is still redolent with lessons for today.

The name Barbara Tuchman drew me to this book more than the subject matter. I read her masterful history of the fifteenth century A Distant Mirror many years ago and it is one of those books that comes to mind when I try to compile lists of favourite books. I may well read some more of her work after this for once again she makes distant history human, compelling and full of narrative drive and compelling characters.

Monday 20 June 2016

A Weekend With Claude

A Weekend With Claude - Beryl Bainbridge
(I read the revised 1981 issue of what was her first published novel.  The dust jacket describes it as "virtually a new book". Having not read the original I can make no comment on this.)

"With each circlet of grease I rubbed away one or more layer of romantic love and sat exposed with shiny nose and oily mouth, suburban, self-tormenting, waiting to be hurt."

I have been inspired to try to put together this post by the Beryl Bainbridge Reading Week (which ended yesterday). I participated in a previous iteration of this event in 2012 and have been gradually accumulating a number of posts on novels by Bainbridge, who has become firmly ensconced in my own personal canon over the lifetime of this blog. In it's original form A Weekend With Claude was Bainbridge's first published novel, but given that the rather brilliant Harriet Said had been written before meant this didn't dampen my expectations.

Friday 3 June 2016

Another mix of my Favourite Songs

Another Mix of my Favourite Songs

The last time I tried to put together a list of Favourite Songs it got out of control - One; Two; Three; Four. This time I was trying to put together a Top Five but that proved impossible so I expanded the parameters. Here are five songs from: Before 1950; the 1950's; 1960's; 1970's; 1980's; 1990's and the 21st Century.

The list is totally subjective and would be different if I did it again. For a couple of the decades I had alternate lists and simply 'pinned the tail on the donkey'. But I like it and hope that you do too.

Monday 16 May 2016

Signs Preceding The End of The World

Signs Preceding The End of The World
Yuri Herrera
(Translated by Lisa Dillman)

"The place was like a sleepwalker's bedroom: specific yet inexact, somehow unreal and yet vivid.."

The first two words of Signs are "I'm Dead" followed by a comma and qualifications that indicate that life is still present, as Makina, our heroine "flailed her feet frantically backward, each step mere inches from the sinkhole, until the precipice settled into a perfect circle and Makina was saved."

"Slippery bitch of a city, she said to herself. Always about to sink back into the cellar."

Makina will prove herself adept at keeping the ground under her feet and as tough as her imprecation to the city indicates. The city, and the world surrounding it, demands toughness to survive. It is not a cosy or trustworthy place.

Saturday 16 April 2016


Woodcutters - Thomas Bernhard
(translated by David McLintock)

"For twenty years I had not wanted to know anything about the Augsbergers; for twenty years I had not seen the Augsbergers, and in these twenty years the very mention of the name Augsberger had brought on third degree nausea, I thought, sitting in the wing chair."

Finally I have got around to Thomas Bernhard, and although late to the party, the cake still tastes fresh, or should that be refreshingly stale and crusty. Woodcutters is an internal monologue blasting away in the mind of the narrator who sits in a wing chair at a party to which he wishes he had never been invited.

It took me a while to get into the rhythm of this book but now that I have found Bernhard's voice I've a feeling I'll be returning soon. If only more people would discard their Bernhard's in Charity Shops. Maybe I just don't frequent Charity Shops in the right areas. Perhaps I need to return to the capital, perhaps frequent again the bars in the cultural quarters, the openings, the awards nights, the love-ins of the loveless narcissistic creatives desperately building charlatans into paper maché colossi so they can rub shoulders with giants.

Friday 1 April 2016

Why I no Longer Write Poetry

COW AND CALF, 1969. Louis le Brocquy 
Why I No Longer Write Poetry

I live for nonsense
and die by the truth
Pulling my ego
Out by the root

Scratches in pencil
Scratches in pain
I watch the words
Dissolve in the rain

I watch and grow weary
Of words and their thrust
Speeches and self-importance
Republics of dust

The bellow of a wounded cow
the screeching of a wren
Old patterns returning
Still meaningless


Saturday 19 March 2016

Memory of Fire: Faces and Masks & Century of the Wind

Faces and Masks; Century of the Wind - Eduardo Galeano
(Part 2 & 3 of the Memory of Fire trilogy.)

"History, the pink-veiled lady offering her lips to those who win, will have much to hide. She will feign absent-mindedness or sicken with fake amnesia; she will lie that the black slaves of Brazil were meek and resigned, even happy."

It took me quite a while to get around to the second and third books in Galeano's trilogy after finishing Genesis last year. Not because of quality but perhaps a reflection of the fact that I have been reading less and having difficulty getting through longer books. Mind you, that's nothing to the slow pace of my blogging. But I am making a last attempt to finish this for Richard's annual Literature of Doom over at Caravana De Recuerdos. And to take the chance to wish Richard good health for 2016. (It is months since I wrote this introduction. This time I am just going to post this as an idea toward a blog on books 2 & 3 in Galeano's trilogy without trying to 'finish' it...)

The trilogy as a whole is a towering achievement, poetic, revelatory and both harrowing and life affirming. Somehow the human sprit is what shines through all these examples of man's inhumanity. The strength to resist long after resistance has been proved to be less than futile, the re-emergence of traditions and cultures that had apparently long been eradicated and the very existence of this trilogy, the work in itself a testament to the human spirit and to Galeano's love of his subject and willingness to rummage in the dusty entrails of history to illustrate his thesis. "They were not wrong he said, in reading destinies in the entrails of the animals they sacrificed. In the entrails, he said. In the entrails, not the heads, because a prophet who loves is better than one who can reason."

Thursday 17 March 2016



I've had this story knocking around in my head since a friend told me the bones of it one night in a pub. He was great storyteller and at least some of the stories he told were true. He has passed on so there is no way of checking it out.

If there was any truth in what he told it's buried in the morass of my invention. I have thought of writing a book of variations as I have considered at least a dozen frameworks into which I could put the essential elements.

However, this one is the only version I've managed to make any progress with. And although I don't consider it finished (Is a short-story ever finished?), I consider it complete. And as I've never even managed to complete a first draft of anything else it's unlikely to find a suite of companion stories anytime soon.

Anyway, having recently reached the figure for 300,000 page views on this blog I thought I'd mark the event and spare myself the bother of collecting more rejections (at the rate I submit it would take years to reach a respectable number of rejections) and self-publish. Anyway, I've issued enough pronouncements on other people's writing. Now they can strike back.

Here's the link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3xRokQqsoEGaHZSTzNYdXkyU3c/view?usp=sharing

Love to hear your comments... (or would I?)

Wednesday 2 March 2016

Favourite Songs, Part Four

Favourite Songs, Part Four

This is the final part of my long, long shortlist of 'Favourite Songs'. This part includes the songs from five minutes onwards and includes a few each by Dylan, Bush and Morrison. To be long and remain essential takes an extra something.

Friday 26 February 2016

Favourite Songs, Part Three

Favourite Songs, Part Three

The songs are getting longer but the idea remains the same. These are the songs I dumped into a playlist as I thought about my favourite songs. Arranged in order of each songs duration it's basically four and a half hours of eclectic sonic genius. To me it is anyway.

Monday 22 February 2016

Favourite Songs, Part Two

Favourite Songs, Part Two

More of my personal aural comfort food. These are the songs from 3 to 4 minutes in length. There is no other organising principle.

Wednesday 17 February 2016

Favourite Songs, Part One

Favourite Songs, Part One
This is simply a selection of my favourite songs, arranged from the shortest to the longest. This first part covers the songs from nought to three minutes in length.

What song needs to be any longer?

List of songs below.

Monday 8 February 2016


I have a number of unfinished blog posts but I don't feel like returning to any of them at the moment. Rather I am wallowing in a period of self-obsession. I find these things come in patches. Sometimes it seems like the universe, or at least the little dusty corner of it that I inhabit, is speaking directly to me. Or that I am surrounded by a reverberation of echoes. Not surprising seeing as I watch and listen from my own seashell skull, tuned to the sound of my own waves.

Monday 1 February 2016

The Knocking Shop - Back Onstage after Twenty Years

The Knocking Shop - Back Onstage after Twenty Years

Here is some evidence that The Knocking Shop did actually return to live performance last week thanks to Ian Shirley of Record Collector Magazine. Thanks also to Emma and Tony for the images.

This is an updated version of the earlier post with much improved sound..

Thursday 14 January 2016

The Return of The Knocking Shop

The Return of The Knocking Shop

Caught in rehearsal, the engine room of The Knocking Shop sparking back into life after two decades!
Catch them on Tuesday 26th January in Corsica Studios, 4/5 Elephant Road, London, SE17 1LB
Also playing Final Hour; Triple Blind; Blindman's Rainbow
All bands feature on the Small Town Scenery album to be released this month by Record Collector Magazine.

You can now pre-order Small Town Scenery from Rough Trade, featuring the song Half Orphan from The Knocking Shop! Or you can wait and buy it from the next issue of Record Collector Magazine - due out on January 28th. http://www.roughtrade.com/albums/100250

Thursday 7 January 2016

Books of the Year 2015

Books of the Year 2015

As  I have lapsed somewhat into inactivity on the book blogging front I hope to use this post to quell those pangs of conscience that niggle in the back of my mind when I think of all the books I meant to post about but never have.
I have also been reading less, even with the extra time I should have had due to the lapse in blogging. However I took up running and managed to lose three stone in the first few months of the year and have not put much back on since. Also my band has risen from the ashes, at least briefly. I guess I have a tendency towards single-mindedness and that means that when one thing comes to the fore, another slips back into its wake.
Another possible reason was the revelatory re-read of Nathanael West's Miss Lonelyhearts, which rather than having it's edge blunted by the passage of time had the same impact as when it ravished me a few decades ago. It is my book of the year and re-calibrated my sense of the excitement a book should stir if it is to become a true favourite.

Friday 1 January 2016

Ship of Fools

Ship of Fools.

Yet another of my 'videos' for The Knocking Shop, with Douglas Fairbanks starring in this nautical romp over a song which seems somehow apt for the beginning of a new year, the one in which we will once more get on deck and brave the choppy waters of live performance.

So, Happy New Year to all who read this and I hope to post some of my more usual 'literary' posts in January as I have brought some draft posts close to completion. It's been a while.