An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Monday, January 26, 2009

Book Review: Moon Palace by Paul Auster

Moon Palace is novel of searching. When we discover that our hero's name is Marco Stanley Fogg the signpost is well and truly planted. Marco Polo, Henry Morton Stanley and Phileas Fogg could hardly be associated with much else. When we then discover that he refers to himself as MS we get the secondary reference: man as an unfinished book - writing himself as he goes. Now, given that M S Fogg is an orphan it is quite clear that we shall be having a story of a man seeking his father and his identity that will feature book quite heavily - Auster likes his heres literary where possible. And so it goes. Auster's twist here is that he finds not only his father but his father's lost father too. Auster is in love with the list of three and the trilogy as an idea so the fact that we end up with the father, the son, and the grandfather is no surprise. Auster takes us and his hero through adventures with books, adventures in the wild west, and adventures with his father to arrive at M S Fogg finding himself having lost his antecedents.

Paul Auster is a very good writer. I was going to refer in this review to two previous reviews that I have written of his works: New York Trilogy and Oracle Nights but it transpires that while I wrote the reviews (in my head - which is where my composition actually happens) I have never written them down or should that be written them out, or published them. Which is a shame but not a disaster. To summarise I loved New York Trilogy which is a trio of novellas and I felt that Oracle Nights while good would have been better as a set of novellas. The same criticism, if it is a criticism applies to Moon Palace. It is essentially three novellas telling what is essentially the same story. After 90 pages or so I felt that the point was made and the text complete. I could see the joins where Auster has glued the three stories "together" into a "novel" and I resented it as a a writer. I suspect that Auster's publishers encourage him to write novel length fiction when his real strength is the novella. Alternatively he has not come to terms with his own metier. By all means tell me the same tale 3 ways - I'm happy with that but don't gussy it up and tell me it's a traditional novel.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Oh ... Bah ... Humbug

The inauguration today of yet another american president is not an historic moment. The world has not changed. And nor will it - in any significant way.

We are told that he is to be the first black president of the US. He is not really black. He is of mixed race and as far as I can make out had he been born in his father's country and not his mother's (and Hawaii has only been in the US for two years when he was born) he could not have even run for president let alone been elected.

We are told that he is an inclusive politician but then that's what we were told about his predecessor the idiot George W Bush.

We are told that he is a new broom in the middle east despite his pledge to back Israel all the way during his campaign. He may be but do not kid yourself that he will change anything very significantly. He is just another politician made in the mould of all politicians and as such is simply the most recent mouthpiece of the forces that actually run the systems that punish us all daily.

So go on Obama prove me wrong - change the world significantly for the better. You have 4 years. If you get 8 years it means you will have failed - nobody gets a second term unless they have proven that they aren't going to do anything to damage the systems.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Book Review - The Bloomsday Dead by Adrian McKinty.

Adrian McKinty is great addition to the noir genre. This is apparently his fourth novel featuring Michael Forsythe a particularly unlikable fellow originally from Ireland but whom we find managing an hotel in Peru under the witness protection program. McKinty swiftly transport him, and us the readers, to a post-ceasefire Ireland on Bloomsday 2004 to find and recover the kidnapped daughter of an Irish American lady gang boss. So there you have the opening - fast and mobile - a great start to any book and especially a thriller.

Besides leaking more and more plot and background to us as we go along McKinty also tests our knowledge of modern Irish literature with his references to Flann O'Brien and reminds us on every page, with a subtle typographic device, of James Joyce. McKinty is knowing and knowledgeable, as is his anti-hero Forsythe, and one gets the impression that he is smiling to himself as he writes. I found myself smiling along with him.

Apart from a dreadfully contrived opening line that had me reaching for the sick bag I have only one quibble with McKinty and that has to do with the length of this novel - 50 or 60 pages shorter would have made it a much better book. He needs, in my opinion, to edit himself more harshly to get up there with the top flight.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Book Review: Nightmare in the Street by Derek Raymond


Derek Raymond was a great writer. Together with Colin Wilson, Derek Raymond invented British noir.  HIs books are beyond hardboiled. He takes the reader into deep and dark territory. The Factory Series that he wrote between 1984 and 1990 will enter the worldwide canon of noir novels and I Was Dora Suarez may go down as the acme of noir.

That said, Nightmare in The Street is awful. It is not just bad - it is terrible. But ... that is not Derek Raymond's fault, the typescript for this travesty was discovered after his death and in my humble opinion it should have been immediately destroyed. It is so clearly not a finished work - probably a first draft in fact - that it cannot be counted in his ouevre. The publishers do not even appear to have employed an editor familiar with his style. This text is so rough, so unpolished, so unpared that it is an insult to his memory and talent and a cynical moneymaking con on his readers. 

Read any other Derek Raymond novel but do not read this.