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Of Godzilla, saline and other perversions

Crooked Little Vein'Crooked Little Vein' by Warren Ellis

Ellis, Warren

Harper Perennial

ISBN 978 0 06 125205 1

This book is just kind of beautiful.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s no classic of literature or anything, it’s not even really culty enough to be a cult classic.  But that’s almost part of the charm.  I mean, I only had an inkling that it might be good because of Ellis’ comic writing, and the fact that I read his blog and he had been banging on about his second novel, Gun Machine, for a while there.  Now, I know that being asked back to do another one is no guarantee of quality when it comes to writing… sometimes just the opposite.  But after reading this one, I can see why they asked him back.

It’s pretty compelling.  Okay, yes, I know, I have a weakness for the gross out, and there are bits in this book which are terminal gross out.  Weirdly, it’s been compared to the Chuck Palahniuk story Guts, but I can’t really see it.  I mean, Guts is almost medical-porn in its level of detail, and while there is a little of that in here, the whole motivation feels entirely different.  It’s almost like, Ellis is faking a world-weariness through the character of Michael McGill that is just a thin veneer over something romantically, comically unpleasant. Read the rest of this entry

Enter Confusion

The Atrocity Exhibition

Ballard, J. G.

Publisher: Harper Perennial

MNnnerrrgggh.  This book made my brain hurt.

I actually do think I may have sustained long-term damage to my brain cells.  Let me paint you a picture; I was aware of having an out of body experience while I read this tiny volume because I clearly remember watching my body sitting on the sofa smacking the open book against my head until the Lad asked me to stop.  Maybe that’s why my brain hurts, but I’m pretty much blaming it all on The Atrocity Exhibition.  Please don’t get me wrong though, the writing is genius, but it’s a little bit like the book version of that movie Mulholland Drive.  You get little snippets, literally, wee snips of story in no particular order that you have to wade through and even then you don’t know if you get the story, but you’re too scared that people will think you’re a moron if you say you didn’t like it.

Well, no more!  I’m standing up for morons everywhere.  I didn’t get it.  Which is not to say I didn’t like it, because by some miracle I did.  But I had to try and make sense of it by looking it up on the Internet, and you know that it’s a bad sign when you do stuff like that.  This book, according to the Internet, is a classic of underground literature.  It’s style is reminicent of William Burroughs, though that’s from the Internet too, because it’s been so long since I read any Burroughs that I couldn’t trust my memory of what his stuff is like.  He wrote the preface which is contained in this edition, so that was nice to read.

In retrospect, I should have started with something simplier.  We’ve had Ballard’s Empire of the Sun sitting in the bookshelf for a million years, but I read an interview recently with William Gibson where he talks about Ballard being a big influence on him.  And you know what a sucker I am for anything gruesome sounding.  And while parts of it are unnerving, and disturbing, and you end up searching for meaning which you’re not really sure is there, it is totally worth every second. Read the rest of this entry

Welcome to the Dark Ages

It would seem that the Golden Age of the Internet is over.

Well, not over, at least, not yet.  I was gettin’ my drama on a little bit there.  But I figured if a blackout was good enough for Wikipedia, then it’s good enough for me.

There are lots of reasons to rail against the SOPA (Stop Internet Piracy Act) and PIPA (PROTECT IP Act – the PROTECT bit stands for ‘preventing real online threats to economic creativity and thefts’ – it’s the ‘economic creativity’ bit that makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit).  Don’t get me wrong – I think that piracy on a major scale is not only dumb, but robs artists, writers and other creative and innovative types of some material reward for their endevours.   I understand people need to make money.  I really do.  It’s always nice to be able to feed ones family, keep the house warm, all that good shit. But in my view, the current way of doing things has come to the end of its cycle, and we need to develop a new paradigm.  I know I’m a bit of a starry eyed idealist, and to be honest, I think that there is a point to be made about better regulation of the internet.  But not at the expense of freedom of information, at the expense of community supported enterprises like Wikipedia.  What  I’m really quite worried about is the way that governments (not just the US government – it seems like the raison du jour for a lot of Westernised governments at the moment) are weighing in to protect the interests of privately owned companies, and by doing so undermining freedom of information.

If you are a US citizen, you can protest SOPA/PIPA; or hell, you can at least find out more about it.  Here in New Zealand, we have the TPPA (Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement), which I would urge not only all New Zealanders, but also Australians, and everyone from Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Japan, Canada and Mexico to find out more about too.  There are lots of ways that freedom of information is under threat, and it’s up to us as citizens of the new age to find out about it, get informed and decide what side we want to be on.

Citizens of the new age?  I think a hippy just invaded my brain.  But this shit is really important, so go find out more, go talk to people, and let’s get the knowledge before it’s too late!

Riding on the World’s Largest Carosel

American Gods is coming to HBO: In the name of Odin, why?  WHY?  Can’t they just leave books alone?

My friend sent me the link above, which I’m still hoping isn’t true, but I guess it was only a matter of time.  I’m totally unconvinced that even HBO can make a six-season series out of American Gods – which is a rad-sauce book, which obtains a new and shiny patina of splendidness if you know your Norse mythology – unless they crib material from Anansi Boys, and flat out make stuff up.  I’m sure they won’t get anything like my ‘ideal’ of either Wednesday or Shadow, and I’ll be really interested to see what they do with Low-Key Lyesmith/Mr World.  Gah!  I don’t know… part of me thinks its going to be an awful tragedy, part of me is a bit excited.  Though, most of me is thanking Bragi that Tom Hanks isn’t actually casting himself in it… his production company is just funding it.  Please don’t tell me if I read that wrong, I’d rather not know.

Kicking, and Kicking Again

  I’ve begun using Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh (1999, Vintage, ISBN:9780749336509) as a barometer of potential       friendships.  I have a friend who uses the series Black Books, which she loans to people she isn’t sure of to assess whether they’d be good friend material.  That seems to work well for her, so I have decided to use Trainspotting.  It might not be totally accurate, but like Sex Panther cologne, 60% of the time, it works 100% of the time.  And if you haven’t seen the film Anchorman, you really should, even if only to get that reference.  I’ve owned three copies of Trainspotting since I bought my first one when I was eighteen; not because I am such a fool as to go around flinging my money at publishers, but because I keep loaning it to people who leave it on buses.

Anyway, Trainspotting began life as a series of short stories in various publications.  Of course, most people know it from the movie, but honestly the movie does no justice at all to the depth of storytelling and character development in the work itself.  I guess the movie is pretty visceral in its way, but you’ve not experienced the amount of horror and humour which Welsh combines in the short stories.  Plus, they’re all told with different perspectives, with literally different voices, which is pretty amazing.  You can even hear in your minds’ ear the differences in accent between character, which proves to me that it’s not just a gimmick.  For example, Diane in the storyThe First Shag in Ages says ‘not’ when she’s talking to her parents (as in “Mark’s not interested in that”, at the bottom of page 147).  Other characters say ‘no’ and other variations as they see fit (it’s all the same word – to paraphrase Francis Begbie, can you not understand the Queens’ English?).  It’s real subtle and cleverly done, often to indicate stress, education level, all sorts of stuff.  My particular favourite example of this is when Renton is rabbiting on about Kirkegaard at the sentencing judge when he and Spud are being tried for stealing books – he goes all proper-sounding, and then flicks back to his usual ‘voice’ when they’re in the pub afterward. There’s even regional accent indications as well, with Mark Renton’s family from Glasgow written in their own vernacular to the main cast of Edinburghites.  Edinburghians?  Whatever, people from Edinburgh, already!  Sheesh!

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