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.