Review: A Universal History of Iniquity by Jorge Luis Borges

Perhaps I’m too underdone to appreciate this. Started reading it as part of Borge’s ‘Collected Ficciones,’ but could not persevere throughout the entire compilation. As I delved deeper into the collection and Borge’s aged, more and more self was given up to indulgence. Stolen stories then made up and into new things is a good self-description of this collection. I enjoyed it – but less than I expected in light of the mammoth reputation that Borge’s short fiction possesses.

Pirates and bandits, love and adventure and life and death live in these stories. On the surface at least. Peel it back and find yourself bemusedly spending time with a writer not wholly engaged with any of the aforementioned – examining them and dreaming them and, most importantly, writing them, but not bringing you with him to live them. It was an interesting experience to read writing that never forgot it was literature – that never peeled back the curtain and flung the reader directly into the story. Instead of immediacy – that metafictional framework. Reading a writer writing about a writer writing about what he’d read. Fictional historians of sometimes fictional, sometimes factual history – clever and engaging and stimulating.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: The Scar by China Mieville

Although in some ways this novel is better plotted than ‘Perdido Street Station,’ (which is not to say that it doesn’t drag in parts) I will always have a soft place in my heart for Mieville’s Bas Lag debut despite its comparative clunkiness. The Scar didn’t surprise me as much; the setting, whilst creative, didn’t have the same aura of discovery. I felt the same way that I feel after many of Mieville’s other works – that style is dominating substance (just a teensy bit).

Baroque and overwrought, prose vacillating from lumbering to evocative and used effectively to construct sword and sorcery monster of the week encounters (pew pew explosions what a badass type shenanigans) within a truly engaging setting with not so engaging characters. A mixture of pulp niche genres – steampunk, dark urban fantasy, Cthulhu-lite monstery fun – that gives a chunky sort of goodness somewhat lacking in nutrition.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones

A boy with nine lives walks through worlds, gets up to mischief and no good. Loses lives, makes friends and grows up a little. In doing so he becomes the Chrestomanci, guardian-enchanter-magician of the multiverse. Loved it.

A modern day fairy tale in an idyllic magical England. A twist on some common and not-so-common fantasy tropes framing a light-hearted coming of age story with a hint of prepubescent romance.

There are some things that you’re exposed to as a child that you end up carrying around with you for the rest of your life. The books I’ve read as I’ve gotten older do move me – but never in quite the same way.

The first time I read this novel in primary school I was still reeling from early exposure to Harry Potter. Diana Wynne Jones has a lighter touch than Rowling, more whimsical and strange. The sort of book I want to read to my children when I get around to having them.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Dubliners by James Joyce

Collected stories that speak with soul. Portraits of people, the small happenings in between life lived. More alliteration than I expected, but that’s the sort of thing that I find charming (although a friend from my high-school english days couldn’t bear to read it in my essays. Too cringe-inductive by far).

Traditional inspection and dissection of the lives of the common folk of Dublin. Tight woven stories worthy of the label ‘short,’ capture fleetingly in motion character and situation. Easy to read and without pretension or overwrought construction. Quietly moving. Surprising from the author of ‘Ulysses.’ He doesn’t feel the need to impress anybody with these stories, I would think. Passing time changes things.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

They awake to see the dream

They awake to see the dream. Cars driving by the closed window at an hour that most would be asleep, and all he does is watch by the bedside. He can see the flames from the nearby warehouse trickle up towards the clouded sky, and the dozing behemoth of the city claws awkwardly at the clouds.

It has been a long night, but his dreams pursue doggedly, denying sleep. The neon blast of the clock by the bedside glows in the quiet as sirens serenade the more unsavoury character of the outer suburbs. But it’s Perth – and all is quiet, really. Why the gloom?

At least, that’s what he tells himself. Tries to convince himself of the safety, to defuse the fear of discovery and pursula by those tha would harm him.

His love, the one that he wants to spend the rest of his life with, is grumopy. She finishes cleaning the bedroom and asks, “What are you doing? Are you writing” leaning over the couch, “real writing?” But it’s not a question that she really cares for the answer.

“Yeah, I suppose, I mean, did it look like I was just tapping the keys or something?” he says.

“No, I just wanted to know.” No more elaboration, but a quick retreat to the kitchen in their one-bedroom unit to wash dishes and clean benches before bed.

Music wafts through speakers – wailing voices and staccato drums. He can’t take it anymore – already pushed to breaking point by what in reality is nothing at all. All day at the hospital, talking to crazies, empathising and channeling a sense of companionship and brotherhood. Not really what he’s suited for (empathy yes, compassion not so much), so the strain of the work is stretching him thinner, thinner.

She screeches from the kitchen, sad because her cupcakes are flat and unfinished. But life is fine. Dancing begins, up and down at the knees. They’ve always played with each other like this, retreating into childishness. He thinks that it provides them some comfort, to act like children in a world that will no longer accept them as such.

Posted in Short Stories | Tagged | Leave a comment

Review: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Life is hard – particularly if you’re a young man or woman looking to grow up in a world (or even just a Japan) that doesn’t seem to give much of a shit. Eat, drink, sleep, fuck – if you’re lucky – and the cycle repeats. A beautiful anhedonia.

The story’s framing device – an older Toru looking back on his young life – doesn’t add much. Sludges the main character. Although I suppose that’s the point – Toru’s self obsession reflect his inability to grow past the point in his life where he lost Kizuki. As a whole the book lacks the hallucinatory, vital quality of ‘Kafka on the Shore.’ Keeps the aimless male protagonist and adds an unconvincing three-way between two papery manic-pixie-dream girls. The illusion is sustained somewhat more effectively in the written word than the moving picture.

The novel made me think of a friend of a friend. She killed herself the other day. I didn’t know her very well. I don’t think she knew herself all that well, either. The knowing makes that sort of thing much harder to go through with – how could you give up something that you’ve grown attached to? I feel like I want to say the novel is trite and constructed – but it knows youth, knows the struggle of growth and escape. A bildungsroman that doesn’t ever get so far out the front door. Murakami might have published this in 1987, but it feels like a millenial kind of a novel.

I’ve been left with a vague feeling of disgust – mostly at the somewhat mortifying degree to which I could identify with the characters. Young people suck. But ennui just feels so goddamned good I can’t bring myself to give it up.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A song

Production values are off the charts

Posted in Film, Music | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment