Guess who’s just got back from Hay-on-Wye.

Turns out I already had a copy of The Graduate, same cover and everything, so I advertised the spare on Twitter and my mate Dan from Worthing will be getting a little parcel of joy in the next few days.  Servant of the public, me.

Guess who’s just got back from Hay-on-Wye.

Turns out I already had a copy of The Graduate, same cover and everything, so I advertised the spare on Twitter and my mate Dan from Worthing will be getting a little parcel of joy in the next few days. Servant of the public, me.

--Tagged under: hay-on-wye--

The Thumb Galleries #5

There’s probably cause to rename this feature ‘Amazing Kurt Vonnegut Paperbacks’.  Here’s another eye-popper.  It’s a dude dressed as the Phantom of the Opera trying to catch a butterfly from within a giant steel head which has had its face torn away.

Let’s say that again.

It’s a dude dressed as the Phantom of the Opera trying to catch a butterfly from within a giant steel head which has had its face torn away.

Stunning.

Kurt Vonnegut - Player PianoPublication date: 1969Published by: Panther BooksPrice then: It says “5/-“. I don’t even know what that is. Shillings? Bob?Price now: £5.04Bought from: Ebay

From the synopsis: "World War Three and the Second Industrial Revolution have come and gone. Now machines and computers perform the routine manufacturing tasks. Those with redundant or non-existent skills are forced into the Army or the Reconstruction and Reclamation Corps - known bitterly as the ‘Reeks and Wrecks’."

The Thumb Galleries #5

There’s probably cause to rename this feature ‘Amazing Kurt Vonnegut Paperbacks’. Here’s another eye-popper. It’s a dude dressed as the Phantom of the Opera trying to catch a butterfly from within a giant steel head which has had its face torn away.

Let’s say that again.

It’s a dude dressed as the Phantom of the Opera trying to catch a butterfly from within a giant steel head which has had its face torn away.

Stunning.

Kurt Vonnegut - Player Piano
Publication date: 1969
Published by: Panther Books
Price then: It says “5/-“. I don’t even know what that is. Shillings? Bob?
Price now: £5.04
Bought from: Ebay

From the synopsis: "World War Three and the Second Industrial Revolution have come and gone. Now machines and computers perform the routine manufacturing tasks. Those with redundant or non-existent skills are forced into the Army or the Reconstruction and Reclamation Corps - known bitterly as the ‘Reeks and Wrecks’."

--Tagged under: the thumb galleries--

--Tagged under: kurt vonnegut--

I am moving bedrooms this weekend, so this afternoon I am piling all my books onto the floor of the landing in preparation.  It has taken about 45 seconds to become distracted from this task.  Yoko Ono did it.

PRESCRIPTION PIECE

Prescribe pills for goingthrough the wall and have onlythe hair come back.

1964 spring

PEA PIECE

Carry a bag of peas.Leave a pea wherever you go.

1960 winter

MENTAL.  I bought this book at Richard Booth’s at Hay-on-Wye when I seriously couldn’t afford to spend a tenner on one book.  So glad I did though.

I am moving bedrooms this weekend, so this afternoon I am piling all my books onto the floor of the landing in preparation. It has taken about 45 seconds to become distracted from this task. Yoko Ono did it.

PRESCRIPTION PIECE

Prescribe pills for going
through the wall and have only
the hair come back.

1964 spring

PEA PIECE

Carry a bag of peas.
Leave a pea wherever you go.

1960 winter

MENTAL. I bought this book at Richard Booth’s at Hay-on-Wye when I seriously couldn’t afford to spend a tenner on one book. So glad I did though.

--Tagged under: yoko ono--

Peter Carey - Oscar and Lucinda

When I think of the Booker Prize, I think of Peter Carey.  I loved his account of the Ned Kelly story, which in turn caused enormous disappointment when I saw the Heath Ledger biopic at the cinema.  Oscar and Lucinda is the kind of story that has ‘Booker’ written right through it like a stick of rock.

Firstly, the settings are beautifully imagined, from the Devon coastline of Oscar’s childhood through the the dark and smoldering glassworks that Lucinda buys in Sydney.  It has funny bits without either sarcasm or exclamation marks.  People get passionate about stuff, in this case God, glass and each other.  There is a twist.  Carey’s twist isn’t some big fantastical whatsit, like in Life Of Pi, but the final few pages do make you realise how much importance a book’s title has in forming our expectations.

To be honest, this was a book that I read slowly, and not necessarily to savour it.  Every time I read it I swooned with how brilliantly written it was, but then I’d come to the end of a chapter and not really fancy reading on.  The story didn’t get under my skin and make me put other things aside like some books have, although I can’t put my finger on one single fault.  It’s a flawless book, and maybe I just like a few flaws.

Peter Carey - Oscar and LucindaPublication date: 1989Publisher: Faber & FaberPrice then: £7.99Price now: £3.00Bought from: Richard Booth’s Bookshop, Hay-On-Wye

Peter Carey - Oscar and Lucinda

When I think of the Booker Prize, I think of Peter Carey. I loved his account of the Ned Kelly story, which in turn caused enormous disappointment when I saw the Heath Ledger biopic at the cinema. Oscar and Lucinda is the kind of story that has ‘Booker’ written right through it like a stick of rock.

Firstly, the settings are beautifully imagined, from the Devon coastline of Oscar’s childhood through the the dark and smoldering glassworks that Lucinda buys in Sydney. It has funny bits without either sarcasm or exclamation marks. People get passionate about stuff, in this case God, glass and each other. There is a twist. Carey’s twist isn’t some big fantastical whatsit, like in Life Of Pi, but the final few pages do make you realise how much importance a book’s title has in forming our expectations.

To be honest, this was a book that I read slowly, and not necessarily to savour it. Every time I read it I swooned with how brilliantly written it was, but then I’d come to the end of a chapter and not really fancy reading on. The story didn’t get under my skin and make me put other things aside like some books have, although I can’t put my finger on one single fault. It’s a flawless book, and maybe I just like a few flaws.

Peter Carey - Oscar and Lucinda
Publication date: 1989
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Price then: £7.99
Price now: £3.00
Bought from: Richard Booth’s Bookshop, Hay-On-Wye

--Tagged under: peter carey--

Since I saw the posts about Marcel Proust on the new Days Of Reading blog, I found a cheap copy via one of the second-hand sellers on Amazon, and then their heinous, manipulative, capitalist algorithms recommended a book from Penguin’s same series of ‘Great Ideas’, Walter Benjamin’s The Work Of Art In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction.  Check out the front cover in my hastily-taken picture.

Marcel Proust - Days Of Reading (2008)

Walter Benjamin - The Work Of Art In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction (2008)

These were both listed as ‘used’ on Amazon, but they’re in pretty good nick.  What possible benefit could there be for listing a new book as second-hand?

Since I saw the posts about Marcel Proust on the new Days Of Reading blog, I found a cheap copy via one of the second-hand sellers on Amazon, and then their heinous, manipulative, capitalist algorithms recommended a book from Penguin’s same series of ‘Great Ideas’, Walter Benjamin’s The Work Of Art In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction. Check out the front cover in my hastily-taken picture.

Marcel Proust - Days Of Reading (2008)

Walter Benjamin - The Work Of Art In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction (2008)

These were both listed as ‘used’ on Amazon, but they’re in pretty good nick. What possible benefit could there be for listing a new book as second-hand?

--Tagged under: marcel proust--

--Tagged under: walter benjamin--

"In reading, friendship is suddenly brought back to its original purity. There is no false amiability with books. If we spend the evening with these friends, it is because we genuinely want to. We often take leave of them, at least, only with regret."

Marcel Proust, Days of Reading

(via daysofreading) This is a great new books blog on Tumblr. Hope they keep it up.
Oliver James - Affluenza

This is not the sort of book I normally read.  When it comes to non-fiction, I like biography and American history, and I’m an artsy type so some cultural commentary doesn’t go amiss, but pop psychology generally makes for a braindead state.  I don’t especially want to get a man who wants babies/get a man who isn’t emotionally unstable/get a man at all really, which counts me out of the audience for about 95% of these things, but Affluenza attracted me because my old debt problems probably still keep my parents up at night.

The gist of the book is, duh, that money doesn’t make you happy, and James draws upon a whole host of cartoonish millionaires to prove just what a bunch of miserable cunts they are.  So far, so predictable.  But then it gets more interesting, especially when he starts to explore the personality traits that appear to ‘vaccinate’ people in English-speaking capitalist nations against Affluenza.  He uses Tony Blair as an example of someone who shows sincerity (bad) rather than authenticity (good), and then there’s the fine line between vivacity and hyperactivity, with a great example that a hyperactive person might well be massively boring, but a vivacious person will engage totally with a subject.

On the whole, reading Affluenza has made me a bit smug, because it’s helped me realise how little I do compare myself unfavourably with others.  The chapters on academic pressure and motherhood were more thought-provoking though, because I’m a student who has to suppress, not disappointment exactly, but anger, whenever someone gets a better mark than me.  It’s difficult to know how much of that pressure comes from external places, and how much from within, but it’s definitely there.  And then James says repeatedly that motherhood is the most fulfilling thing that a woman will ever do, and that female emancipation has been hijacked by ‘selfish capitalism’ so that women feel their status can only come from earnings.  Kids don’t really appear on my future plan, and it’s worrying that that decision might come back to bite me on the arse.

This is about the time that I say all pop psychology books are bullshit, right?

Oliver James - AffluenzaPublication date: 2007Published by: VermillionPrice then: £8.99Price now: £4.99Bought from: Oxfam, Oldham Street, Manchester

From the synopsis: "In this eloquent account, James reveals how issues like consumerism, property fever and the battle of the sexes vary across societies with different values, beliefs and traditions.  Ands leads us to an avoidable and potentially life changing conclusion: that to ensure our mental health we can and must pursue our needs rather than our wants."

Oliver James - Affluenza

This is not the sort of book I normally read. When it comes to non-fiction, I like biography and American history, and I’m an artsy type so some cultural commentary doesn’t go amiss, but pop psychology generally makes for a braindead state. I don’t especially want to get a man who wants babies/get a man who isn’t emotionally unstable/get a man at all really, which counts me out of the audience for about 95% of these things, but Affluenza attracted me because my old debt problems probably still keep my parents up at night.

The gist of the book is, duh, that money doesn’t make you happy, and James draws upon a whole host of cartoonish millionaires to prove just what a bunch of miserable cunts they are. So far, so predictable. But then it gets more interesting, especially when he starts to explore the personality traits that appear to ‘vaccinate’ people in English-speaking capitalist nations against Affluenza. He uses Tony Blair as an example of someone who shows sincerity (bad) rather than authenticity (good), and then there’s the fine line between vivacity and hyperactivity, with a great example that a hyperactive person might well be massively boring, but a vivacious person will engage totally with a subject.

On the whole, reading Affluenza has made me a bit smug, because it’s helped me realise how little I do compare myself unfavourably with others. The chapters on academic pressure and motherhood were more thought-provoking though, because I’m a student who has to suppress, not disappointment exactly, but anger, whenever someone gets a better mark than me. It’s difficult to know how much of that pressure comes from external places, and how much from within, but it’s definitely there. And then James says repeatedly that motherhood is the most fulfilling thing that a woman will ever do, and that female emancipation has been hijacked by ‘selfish capitalism’ so that women feel their status can only come from earnings. Kids don’t really appear on my future plan, and it’s worrying that that decision might come back to bite me on the arse.

This is about the time that I say all pop psychology books are bullshit, right?

Oliver James - Affluenza
Publication date: 2007
Published by: Vermillion
Price then: £8.99
Price now: £4.99
Bought from: Oxfam, Oldham Street, Manchester

From the synopsis: "In this eloquent account, James reveals how issues like consumerism, property fever and the battle of the sexes vary across societies with different values, beliefs and traditions. Ands leads us to an avoidable and potentially life changing conclusion: that to ensure our mental health we can and must pursue our needs rather than our wants."

--Tagged under: oliver james--

Nick Hornby - Fever Pitch

The World Cup is on and my TV is broken and, let’s be honest here, even if it was working I probably wouldn’t give a shit.  Twitter goes down every time a striker even looks goalward, and I’m irritated by everyone talking about vuvuzelas, never mind having to listen to them.

But let if not be said that I am oblivious to the public consciousness.  I started reading Fever Pitch yesterday because the football reminded me that I had it in the first place, and two days later (albeit ones that involved greater than average train travel) I’m done.  Fucking loved it.  Largely because I was under the impression that it was overly-sentimental garbage-fiction thanks to the casting of Colin Firth in the film version - I breathed a genuine sigh of relief when Hornby’s introduction explained it was a memoir - but also because he made me consider aspects of football that had never previously crossed my mind.  The inevitability of the Hillsborough disaster, the gang violence, the fact that being a football fan is actually pretty miserable for 95% of the time.  

Fever Pitch was published in 1992 (I was 9) so not only have I never heard of any of the players (bar a few odd mentions of Gazza and Lineker, and people like Stanley Matthews from The Olden Days), but there’s no mention of the Premiership, of the New Year transfer window, of Sky Sports or of Van Persie, who I know is good because he got me some serious points in Fantasy Football at the start of last season.  Hornby’s assessments of the post-Hillsborough safety measures that were being enforced, or the way fans were treated after TV schedules started to play a part, or the statistical truths behind a club’s reputation for violence were of their time, and also pretty universal.  It’d be nice if he updated it one day, to talk about the encroachment of big business and the overseas buy-outs, and the fact that the rising ticket prices which paid for safer grounds now also sign the best players in the world to UK clubs.  It’d be nice to hear what he has to say on the social anomaly that, in however many hundreds of professional footballers playing today, apparently not one of them is gay.

Something else I liked about Fever Pitch, is the brief mention he gives to the depression that blighted his 20s; the feeling that Arsenal must have been to blame because he had no other explanation for being so directionless and miserable.  Being 9 years old at the time of publication, I can’t vouch for what the weekend broadsheets were talking about, but it seems that the fears and failures (and fear of failure) that 20-somethings experience are recognised now in a way that they possibly weren’t when Hornby was struggling to think of something to do with his life.  There’s a nice, if depressing, part of the book where he talks about how someone can have talent and purpose their whole lives, and yet still get absolutely nowhere simply because that’s the the way it goes.

Fever Pitch is brilliant, and I will be having some stern words with myself about why it has taken me so long to read it (Answer: Colin Firth), but I’m still not so bothered that the telly’s broken because, as usual, England are going to crash out of the World Cup in the quarter finals. On penalties.

Nick Hornby - Fever PitchPublication date: 2000Published by: PenguinPrice then: £7.99Price now: About £2 (I bought a whole load of stuff for £20)Bought from: The dude under the flyover on Oxford Road in Manchester

Nick Hornby - Fever Pitch

The World Cup is on and my TV is broken and, let’s be honest here, even if it was working I probably wouldn’t give a shit. Twitter goes down every time a striker even looks goalward, and I’m irritated by everyone talking about vuvuzelas, never mind having to listen to them.

But let if not be said that I am oblivious to the public consciousness. I started reading Fever Pitch yesterday because the football reminded me that I had it in the first place, and two days later (albeit ones that involved greater than average train travel) I’m done. Fucking loved it. Largely because I was under the impression that it was overly-sentimental garbage-fiction thanks to the casting of Colin Firth in the film version - I breathed a genuine sigh of relief when Hornby’s introduction explained it was a memoir - but also because he made me consider aspects of football that had never previously crossed my mind. The inevitability of the Hillsborough disaster, the gang violence, the fact that being a football fan is actually pretty miserable for 95% of the time.

Fever Pitch was published in 1992 (I was 9) so not only have I never heard of any of the players (bar a few odd mentions of Gazza and Lineker, and people like Stanley Matthews from The Olden Days), but there’s no mention of the Premiership, of the New Year transfer window, of Sky Sports or of Van Persie, who I know is good because he got me some serious points in Fantasy Football at the start of last season. Hornby’s assessments of the post-Hillsborough safety measures that were being enforced, or the way fans were treated after TV schedules started to play a part, or the statistical truths behind a club’s reputation for violence were of their time, and also pretty universal. It’d be nice if he updated it one day, to talk about the encroachment of big business and the overseas buy-outs, and the fact that the rising ticket prices which paid for safer grounds now also sign the best players in the world to UK clubs. It’d be nice to hear what he has to say on the social anomaly that, in however many hundreds of professional footballers playing today, apparently not one of them is gay.

Something else I liked about Fever Pitch, is the brief mention he gives to the depression that blighted his 20s; the feeling that Arsenal must have been to blame because he had no other explanation for being so directionless and miserable. Being 9 years old at the time of publication, I can’t vouch for what the weekend broadsheets were talking about, but it seems that the fears and failures (and fear of failure) that 20-somethings experience are recognised now in a way that they possibly weren’t when Hornby was struggling to think of something to do with his life. There’s a nice, if depressing, part of the book where he talks about how someone can have talent and purpose their whole lives, and yet still get absolutely nowhere simply because that’s the the way it goes.

Fever Pitch is brilliant, and I will be having some stern words with myself about why it has taken me so long to read it (Answer: Colin Firth), but I’m still not so bothered that the telly’s broken because, as usual, England are going to crash out of the World Cup in the quarter finals. On penalties.

Nick Hornby - Fever Pitch
Publication date: 2000
Published by: Penguin
Price then: £7.99
Price now: About £2 (I bought a whole load of stuff for £20)
Bought from: The dude under the flyover on Oxford Road in Manchester

--Tagged under: nick hornby--

Exploding helicopters #14

Douglas Coupland - The Gum Thief

I was tweeting about reading All Families Are Psychotic last week, and my friend Nathan said that this was one of his favourites by Coupland.  I’d had it in my to-read pile (which is more like a to-read bookshelf if I’m truthful) for ages, so I ignored my natural tendency to avoid reading two books by the same author in succession.

I don’t agree that it’s one of his best, mainly because the excerpts from the (terrible) novel being written by the main dude stop being amusing very early on.  He’s an old alcoholic loser who works in Staples and strikes up this bizarre pen pal arrangement with a young goth girl who also works there.  They take the piss out of creative writing classes by sending each other new interpretations of buttered toast - from the toast’s perspective.  As usual with Douglas Coupland, it was the bits about how life is utterly pointless that I liked the best, but there were some funny bits (not included here because I could just copy out entire chapters) about going to London and realising that the only food available is packaged sandwiches.

Life always kills you in the end, but first it prevents you from getting what you want.

"How did society ever function without you, little Sharpies? Your nibs have the precise amount of give to create a line quality with character, yet not so much character as to be smushy.  Thank you, little pens."

I read in a newspaper last week about this scientist who claims that the human race will, over the upcoming millennia, split into two distinct species.  One will be a superhuman race, the other, Gollum-like hunckbacked retards.  His argument is that selective breeding will produce an underclass that will then become a distinct race.  Scientists have already isolated part of our DNA that ‘intelligent,’ ‘sociable’ types have and others don’t.  I think these scientists should come into Staples and do some DNA swabbing.  I think we’ve already leapt into that future and the rest of humanity needs to catch up with us.

Douglas Coupland - The Gum ThiefPublication date: 2007Published by: BloomsburyPrice then: £10.99Price now: I wish I could remember. I’m the worst blogger ever.Bought from: Pretty sure it was Ebay, although it might have come from somewhere in Hay-on-Wye.

From the synopsis: "Coupland reminds us that love, death and eternal friendship can all occur where and when we least expect them and that, even after tragedy has hit, one can still find solace in the comedy and strange comforts of modern life."

Exploding helicopters #14

Douglas Coupland - The Gum Thief

I was tweeting about reading All Families Are Psychotic last week, and my friend Nathan said that this was one of his favourites by Coupland. I’d had it in my to-read pile (which is more like a to-read bookshelf if I’m truthful) for ages, so I ignored my natural tendency to avoid reading two books by the same author in succession.

I don’t agree that it’s one of his best, mainly because the excerpts from the (terrible) novel being written by the main dude stop being amusing very early on. He’s an old alcoholic loser who works in Staples and strikes up this bizarre pen pal arrangement with a young goth girl who also works there. They take the piss out of creative writing classes by sending each other new interpretations of buttered toast - from the toast’s perspective. As usual with Douglas Coupland, it was the bits about how life is utterly pointless that I liked the best, but there were some funny bits (not included here because I could just copy out entire chapters) about going to London and realising that the only food available is packaged sandwiches.

Life always kills you in the end, but first it prevents you from getting what you want.

"How did society ever function without you, little Sharpies? Your nibs have the precise amount of give to create a line quality with character, yet not so much character as to be smushy. Thank you, little pens."

I read in a newspaper last week about this scientist who claims that the human race will, over the upcoming millennia, split into two distinct species. One will be a superhuman race, the other, Gollum-like hunckbacked retards. His argument is that selective breeding will produce an underclass that will then become a distinct race. Scientists have already isolated part of our DNA that ‘intelligent,’ ‘sociable’ types have and others don’t. I think these scientists should come into Staples and do some DNA swabbing. I think we’ve already leapt into that future and the rest of humanity needs to catch up with us.

Douglas Coupland - The Gum Thief
Publication date: 2007
Published by: Bloomsbury
Price then: £10.99
Price now: I wish I could remember. I’m the worst blogger ever.
Bought from: Pretty sure it was Ebay, although it might have come from somewhere in Hay-on-Wye.

From the synopsis: "Coupland reminds us that love, death and eternal friendship can all occur where and when we least expect them and that, even after tragedy has hit, one can still find solace in the comedy and strange comforts of modern life."

--Tagged under: douglas coupland--

--Tagged under: exploding helicopters--

Douglas Coupland - All Families Are Psychotic

I decided to read some more Douglas Coupland after my disastrous experience with The Handmaid’s Tale.  I’ve had Miss Wyoming and The Gum Thief (next on the list) for a while, but All Families Are Psychotic jumped the queue when I picked it up in Brighton the other week, and it was fucking awesome.  I lapped it up, just the sheer ridiculousness of it.  A mother becomes HIV positive after her ex-husband shoots their son and the bullet passes through him and into her.  Their other son’s new girlfriend is planning to sell their baby to a couple who are actually only going to sell it on for further profit.  A pharmaceutical billionaire is willing to pay thousands of dollars for a letter written by Prince William to Princess Diana after her death, but gets it for free in exchange for curing Janet’s AIDS using a Ugandan prostitute who was raised in the diplomatic system and has a natural immunity to the virus.  Oh yeah, and her daughter is a child genius born without a hand due to Thalidomide who goes into space to procreate with her lover in zero gravity.

I know, AMAZING, right?

Douglas Coupland - All Families Are PsychoticPublication date: 2001Published by: FlamingoPrice then: £9.99Price now: £2.50Bought from: Rainbow Books, BrightonFrom the synopsis: "Even all-American astronauts have personal problems, and with Janet’s ex-husband and his trophy wife coming to town, Janet has the whole of this sultry Florida morning to contemplate her family, and where it all went wrong."

Douglas Coupland - All Families Are Psychotic

I decided to read some more Douglas Coupland after my disastrous experience with The Handmaid’s Tale. I’ve had Miss Wyoming and The Gum Thief (next on the list) for a while, but All Families Are Psychotic jumped the queue when I picked it up in Brighton the other week, and it was fucking awesome. I lapped it up, just the sheer ridiculousness of it. A mother becomes HIV positive after her ex-husband shoots their son and the bullet passes through him and into her. Their other son’s new girlfriend is planning to sell their baby to a couple who are actually only going to sell it on for further profit. A pharmaceutical billionaire is willing to pay thousands of dollars for a letter written by Prince William to Princess Diana after her death, but gets it for free in exchange for curing Janet’s AIDS using a Ugandan prostitute who was raised in the diplomatic system and has a natural immunity to the virus. Oh yeah, and her daughter is a child genius born without a hand due to Thalidomide who goes into space to procreate with her lover in zero gravity.

I know, AMAZING, right?

Douglas Coupland - All Families Are Psychotic
Publication date: 2001
Published by: Flamingo
Price then: £9.99
Price now: £2.50
Bought from: Rainbow Books, Brighton
From the synopsis: "Even all-American astronauts have personal problems, and with Janet’s ex-husband and his trophy wife coming to town, Janet has the whole of this sultry Florida morning to contemplate her family, and where it all went wrong."

--Tagged under: douglas coupland--

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