Date Archives March 2009

On the Holloway Road on the Holloway Road

I went to do a stock signing at Blackwell’s on the Holloway Road last week. It was great to see the book on sale on the Holloway Road itself. The store manager Kevin Molloy was a really nice guy, too – he’s even reading the book himself. Walking down the Holloway Road made me think I should do a little photography project down there and put it on my blog. One day, soon, when I have the time…..

“The Savage Detectives” by Roberto Bolano

If I describe the plot of this book, it will sound incredibly boring. Even a brief summary is boring, unless of course you happen to be interested in the visceral realist poetry movement in Mexico City in the 1970s, apparently a satire of the real life infrarealistas of which Bolano himself was a member. Fortunately, the book is not really about visceral realism or Mexican poetry. At least, that’s not what I got from it. The structure of the book is confusing. The first 100 pages or so are narrated… Read More

My book is a bestseller*

* in Crouch End. Hey, it may not be the New York Times bestseller list, but it made me proud when I walked past my local bookshop, Prospero’s Books, and saw my book at #4 on the Bestsellers Chart. I even asked someone to take a photo. Come on, it’s probably the last time in my life that I will see my name next to Barack Obama’s 🙂

Ismail Kadare and dissent

Interesting piece in The Guardian recently about the Albanian writer Ismail Kadare and his alleged ties to the Hoxha regime. I went to see Ismail Kadare speak at the Southbank Centre in London last year, and he addressed this issue very effectively, I thought. He said that the people who tell him he should have spoken out are basically saying to him “You should have died.” That’s what dissent would have cost him in those days – the regime simply didn’t tolerate opposition. He would have been thrown in jail,… Read More

London Buses #1

One of the things I love about London is riding the double-decker buses. You see things differently from up there on the top deck. You notice things that you’d miss if you were just walking along the street. For example, this television dumped on the roof of a bus-stop. What’s the story behind that? A drunken bet, maybe? A vengeful spouse? Or just somebody who got really tired of reality TV?

“The Enchantress of Florence” by Salman Rushdie

I don’t quite know what to make of this book. There were so many storylines in so many countries at so many different times, all overlapping and sloshing around at the same time, that at times the book became overwhelming. The writing is beautiful, the concept fascinating, but somehow I didn’t find the book as compelling as I expected to. I went to see Salman Rushdie at the Southbank Centre in London last year and he read from the book and talked about it. It sounded fascinating – the main… Read More

New Kerouac novel

I was excited to read recently that Jack Kerouac’s unpublished first novel The Sea is my Brother is to be published next year. I thought Peter Townshend wrote an excellent piece about the event and its possible implications. One note of caution, though: I wonder why The Sea is my Brother has not been published before now. The stories I’ve read about it refer to it as Kerouac’s “lost” manuscript, but don’t explain where it was lost and how it was found. I’d love to discover a new Kerouac masterpiece,… Read More

“The Unconsoled” by Kazuo Ishiguro

Have you ever had one of those dreams where you are trying to get somewhere but things keep going wrong? You get on the wrong train, get off and go back in the other direction but it takes you somewhere else, then start walking but the streets don’t go where they’re supposed to? I’ve had those, mostly at times of stress, when I had a lot on my mind and my life felt out of control. This book is one of those dreams, described in detail for 500 pages. It… Read More

“The Anatomy of Prose” by Marjorie Boulton

This is a rigorous 1950s analysis of prose, seeking to classify different elements of prose as you would classify insects or flowers. From the broad divisions of types of prose (narrative, argumentative, dramatic, informative, contemplative), Boulton proceeds to smaller divisions and sub-divisions, for example listing and defining 36 different rhetorical devices. Despite the intense detail, it was an easy read – the writing, as you’d expect from an anatomist of prose, was quite stylish and always very clear. The part I found most interesting and useful was the chapter on… Read More