Crimson (after White)

Everything in this world issues fully-formed from the loins of a benign monster called manufacture; a never-ending stream of objects - of graded quality, of perfect uniformity - from an orifice hidden behind veils of smoke.
Michel Faber, The Crimson Petal and the White
this isn't part of the chaos just yet (though it may well be in the future), but thanks to the first eighteen 'episodes' having been published as an online serial by the guardian, i've found it threatens to deform my rather malleable reading aesthetic, and may supplant one or two books from the current pending list...
only i find i'm not sure i'm *quite* in the mood for another doorstop to enter the list, what with Against the Day underneath it all...
right. 'work.'

Don't get soaked. Take a quick peek at the forecast
with theYahoo! Search weather shortcut.

unmelting, irrelevant

Two centimetres of snow since last year; not enough to wipe out our traces. No one left in a radius of four thousand kilometres, except for three Russians who are hibernating in the Vostok base. And us, of course, but how can we be counted?

Marie Darrieussecq, White

that's right. a fifth book has fallen into the chaos. but for now i've chosen to spend most of my time with Millennium People. at last, i think, i have a sequence of books i truly want to follow-through with, though i know the end of one must inevitably distort my perception, deform my plans.

nevermind. i'll gawk at that bridge when i get there.

meanwhile, Tom Waits has returned to my playlist with Alice, alternating with the manufactured comfort of Amos Lee's Supply and Demand.

When I'm dead in my grave
Set me adrift and I'm lost over there
And I must be insane
To go skating on your name
And by tracing it twice
I fell through the ice
Of Alice

Tom Waits, Alice


tourney season?

...it is by no means an easy thing to be promoted from the rank of 'visitor' to that of 'resident. It has been known to take many years. It is difficult to understand quite how the transference comes about. It is an almost mystical procedure and is, of course, in the hands of the natives - that basic layer in the triple sandwich of island life.

Mervyn Peake, Mr Pye

Tourism is the great soporific. It's a huge confidence trick, and gives people the dangerous idea that there's something interesting in their lives.

J.G.Ballard, Millennium People
while the Tournament of Books rages on elsewhere (thanks Paul), i, too, find myself coincidentally pitting several books, if not necessarily against each other, then in a chaotic, randomly rotating tag team.

of these, Mr Pye and Millennium People (incidentally, i don't know why the cover on amazon.co.uk is in grayscale. my copy has Richard Green's cover illustration against a field of sunset-y orange reminiscent of Liz Pyle's cover for Mother London) provide the most interesting contrast: one was written right smack in the middle of the twentieth century, the other not long after the end of it. both describe a kind of parochialism and/or the struggle against it - in the Sarnians of the former, the middle class revolutionaries of the latter - and identify (or identify with) the decadence of that period, and, in their own distinct ways, constitute a rebellion against it.

Peake, though considered a 'modernist', writes in prose that feels almost archaic: his sentences are lengthy, his diction colorful and vivid; Ballard's prose is stark, a sharp if typical example of the kind of prose found in postmodern surrealist fiction. (well, the sort i've encountered, at any rate, in books that have often, if not consistently, been labeled as such.)

Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day, i find, provides a nice bed for the other two to lie in, a sort of contemporary mongrel middle ground that resists categorization while nestling comfortably into either 'potential pigeonhole' (or foxhole, as we are, ostensibly, at war here.) and quite a few others, at that.

Lee Smolin's The Trouble with Physics fills a few unavoidable gaps in the fractured rule of my inner gestapo of 'taste'.

i've also been unable to stop myself from writing, providing a disingenuous sense of creative equilibrium.

oh, cool. The Office. and Donny Osmond, Kelly Holmes and David Baddiel on The Kumars at No 42.



the absurd answer

The middle class was the new proletariat, the victims of a centuries-old conspiracy, at last throwing off the chains of duty and civic responsibility.

For once, the absurd answer was probably the right one.

J.G.Ballard, Millennium People

i'd always found Ballard's premises brilliant, but somehow, inexplicaply, never felt a demand from any of his books to be read. not Concrete Island, not High Rise, not The Drowned World or Vermillion Sands or The Terminal Beach; not this book's predecessors, not even Empire of the Sun or Crash. but this middle class rebellion, this compellingly relevant if equally absurd anarchy, this comically tragic (or tragically comic) form of terrorism...how can i say no?


something like sark

...there she lay at full stretch upon the skyline, her attenuated and coruscated body reaching from north to south, the morning sunbeams playing along her spine and flickering upon the crests and ridges of her precipitous flanks.

Mervyn Peake, Mr Pye

of course, Sentosa's flanks aren't precipitous; they slope gently, their descent cushioned with thick green. however, surprised by finding myself confronted by her across the bay after having at last found a copy of Mervyn Peake's classic, how could i help but feel a certain kinship with the inestimable Mr Pye?

how perfect is that? what else could i ask for?

you know what else.



i turn the page and, suddenly, everything phosphoresces: all my insides wiped-out in a wash of substitute light, fallen from overexposure.

Everything is flat out here. No one drives themselves anymore.

M. John Harrison, Suicide Coast.

how can i help but feel this explains everything?



this past week: i've read a couple chapters of Justina Robson's Living Next-Door to the God of Love, about half of China Mieville's Un Lun Dun, a few pages of Geoff Ryman's The King's Last Song; spending more time than i should in various bookshops, i read bits of Geling Yan's The Uninvited, John Connely's The Book of Lost Things, Ryu Murakami's Piercings, David Mitchell's Ghostwritten and Black Swan Green, a sizable serving (yet barely a chunk) of Umberto Eco's The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana. i enjoyed some of these more than others; either way, i willingly subjected myself to their diversion, but was diverted only for as long as each book was in my hands.

i scrabbled from book to book, churning with a kind of placid desperation.

i'm no longer the voracious reader i used to be; i suppose i do still read for a sort of escape after all, but i no longer find it as satisfying to be so passive. i find it more and more difficult to be drawn into worlds painted for me, constructed entirely from another's imagination.

reading about magic and literal wonders has become, for me, wearisome: words are symbols, Alan Moore reminds us, and are thus themselves magical; the use of words to describe magic and literal wonders in the direct terms of comfortable fantasy and science fiction seems to me not only trite, but disinheriting, even unnecessary, as though one cannot help but undercut the power of the other.

and yet i cannot do without that strangeness...the weirdness of some of the more estranged books in the 'modern lit' shelves just isn't the same thing.

so what can i do? Elizabeth Hand, M. John Harrison; they seem to be the only ones in my library capable of making that translation, of successfully transcribing real wonders with as little entropy as possible.

i'm afraid they're the only ones who really do it for me these days.


China Mieville's Un Lun Dun

no, not a real-time review. not even, really, a review. of any sort.

every now and then, i read a line or a phrase from a book that makes me blink for its valuably trivially brilliant throwaway insight.

i remember how Neil Gaiman repeated the opening lines of Neuromancer in American Gods, making a keen observation concerning change from the odd vantage point of a living room sofa. and now, China Mieville:

'I wish I had my phone,' Deeba whispered to Zanna. 'I want to take a picture.' (Un Lun Dun, p. 90.)

i see the grey in my hair is actually starting to mean something.