(1) In the past month I have managed to:
• break my computer and get it working again, sans pictures and email archive;
• dig my whole garden;
• have someone live in my house for three months who I didn't really know, which was awkward (but worked out okay);
• eat the entire chocolate output of Belize (approximate);
• fail to finish my ficathon assignment, though I am typing a desultory hundred words every couple of days and hoping for reinspiration;
• read more books this month than I did in the previous three;
• see more bad films than good ones (Pirates of the Caribbean I am looking at you);
• wallow in existential despair at my life;
• wallow in actual, non-specific despair at the state of the world;
• contemplate taking a flamethrower to my workplace;
• undercook a lamb moussaka with hi-larious consequences;
• go deaf – I SAID "GO DEAF" – in both ears at different times, one caused by who knows what, the other caused by a phenomenally boot-faced nurse who was all too free with powered jets of water;
• buy ten albums, four of them on a white wine-fuelled trawl of iTunes.
(2) Woe is me etc ::rends garments, eats ice cream::
(3) Is it just me or did fandom go completely insane this summer? More than usual, I mean. To the point were even spectating seemed uncomfortably unhealthy.
Just when I think we've reached a level of maximum batshit, someone turns it up to 11 with a whole new layer of guano. My favourite was watching someone who I had previously regarded as sane go totally fruitloop and start calling people fascists and imbeciles. I mean, even if people are stupid or insulting (and in this case they were neither) did anyone in the world *ever* look good going off on one like that?
(4) jood, leadensky, I miss your posts.
(5) The books thing is a bit of a cheat, as five of those books were chick-lit. Three were by Lisa Jewell ( Ralph's Party, Friend of the Family, Vince and Joy,) Lisa Jewell does not like women, fat people, anyone who is intellectual and this becomes more and more pronounced as you read through her work. Her male characters are pretty good but the women are often tissue thin rewards for nice guys. Also occasionally psycho. The books rely on coincidence and in one case a magical precognitive tattooed grebo who is about as sophisticated a plot device as "and then rocks fell on them and they died"
She's not a great writer at all -- I think she aspires to a state of Hornby but doesn't have the same insight that I think Nick Hornby has. What she has in spades is that pesky readability thing. I was really irritated by the books but damn it if I didn't keep reading to the end. I was annoyed by the books but read them anyway. In that respect I am the publishing industry's perfect mark.
Chicklit II: Life Swap by Jane Green. Which I got in return for the two Lisa Jewell books. Now Jane Green has been reading Fay Weldon and has decided that this style meshes perfectly with chicklit conventions. So what you get is the insipid single-girl cliche (getting older, works in the London meejah, healthy attitude to sex, can't stop trying to reform identikit alpha-bastard boyfriends); the unhappily married wife'n'mother in suburban Connecticut getting tired of keeping up with the bitchy snobs and a plot in which they swap lives.
Jane Green used to work in the London media and is presently a wife and mother in Connecticut. Shocker.
She copies the present tense, arch authorial voice of Fay Weldon but she doesn't have the guts to do the rest of it. She doesn't have the nous to make anyone really unhappy in the unsolvable ways that you get in real life. The husband isn't a wretch, or complicated in interesting ways; the heroines are, frankly, spoilt, and all the supporting characters are either lovely or modelled on the gang from Heathers 20 years on.
She takes 250 pages to get to the interesting bit, the big surprise is pants and it's badly set up and the novel ends abruptly when the author gets bored of it.
Geezerlit: The Crew by Margaret Mayhew. It's the kind of thing my aunt reads so I got it for her. It's set in the second world war, the characters are a Lancaster bomber crew, their relatives and girlfriends. The cover features an insipid WAAF twat in a tin hat. I think she's supposed to look anxious, sorrowful and brave, but she looks more like she's battling stress incontinence.
Also, the bitch killed the only character I gave a damn about in the penultimate chapter.
(5a) I would recommend without reservation The People's Act Of Love by James Meek. It's set mostly after the Russian revolution, as the Communists are taking over the whole country and has things to say about religious mania and terrorism that are weirdly.
Ostensibly a murder mystery set in a remote Siberian village, it's based on three historical facts: firstly, that Czech legions were trapped in northern Russia after the first world war; that up until as late as the 1960s, there was a secret Christian sect which advocated genital mutilation as a means of purification -- skoptsy -- and that escaping prisoners from Siberian gulags would induct a naive companion into their escape plots as a "cow", with the intent of eating him as they crossed the tundra.
Samarin the would-be revolutionary pitches up in a village of eunuchs, where a lost Czech company has billeted itself. He says he is being pursued by a serial killer, the Mohican, who helped him escape a labour camp but only in order to use him as food on the journey. Samarin says he has given the Mohican the slip, but the killer cannot be far behind. That night, a Tungus shaman is murdered. Around this is a cast of intriguing characters -- the widow Anna Petrovna, who has brought her son to live with the Skoptsy; the genuinely decent Mutz, a Czech soldier who is victimised by his madman of a superior officer for being Jewish, who is in love with her. Balashov, the leader of the skoptsy, who has a troubled past, and of course, the mysterious Samarin.
It starts as a story of strands and other people telling seemingly tangential stories until these strands twine together more and more tightly until they are one fat skein taking you to the conclusion of the mystery. There are a couple of parts that seemed a little OTT but I forgave Meek.
What I would say is that under no circumstances should you read the reviews of this book on the internet. DO NOT READ THE REVIEWS. If you intend to read it, you should particularly avoid the review by Jane Stevenson on the Guardian/Observer site because these reviews give away all of the great twists. These are not shock twists by the way, you can almost see them coming but you can't quite believe Meek is going to do it. If you read the reviews, you'll be robbed of the moment when it clicks into place.
This is not a book you want to be spoiled for.
If fanfic-style warnings were required I reckon I'd warn for cruelty to horses, scenes of castration and a particularly eye-popping sex scene which I had the dubious pleasure of discussing with my boss.
(6) Last week, sophia_helix kindly gave me a letter so I could participate in the post-5-songs-beginning-with-the-letter..
(1) Joy by Lucinda Williams
This is a *fantastic* pissed off song, with stompy drums, slide guitar and a refrain of "you took my joy; I want it back".
(2) Joy by The Sundays
This is all right, featuring a hypnotic beat and some Johnny Marr-style guitar work, but the rest of the album Reading, Writing and Arithmetic is much better. I always hear the lyrics as "Lois Lane stole my wardrobe". This cannot be right.
(3) Jacques Your Body by Les Rythmes Digitales
This man went on to produce Confessions on the Dancefloor for Madonna but here is a very early track by Jacques Lu Cont (or Stuart Price as his mum calls him)
It was used in the Citroen C4 ad in which the new Citroen model turns into a transformer and starts dancing against the Vancouver skyline, thus earning the adoration of small boys everywhere. The choreography was done by the bloke who choreographs Justin Timberlake. You can see it via Yahoo video here. There was also a version where the car turns into a speed skater but it doesn't have the same visceral appeal to your inner eight-year-old.
(4) Jasmine Hoop by Kathryn Williams
This starts with an old-fashioned organ then a gentle drum pulse, then a lovely plaintive acoustic guitar. It's about a break-up and features the lyric "I'm going to tell you half the story so you'll come back".
(5) Jealous of the Moon by Nickel Creek
Nickel Creek at their most Crowded House-esque. I can think of no higher praise.
(6) Just One Smile by Gene Pitney
A real hairbrush-in-front-of-the-mirror song from the 1960s. One of Randy Newman's early efforts, made more famous by Dusty Springfield. I like this version better. It reminds me of my mum, who used to do the ironing while singing at the top of her voice to Gene Pitney records.
(7) Jimmy Mo Mhile Stor by The Chieftains and The Rankins
I don't what to say about this. I love it. I once played it about 17 times in a row. It's a bit candy-floss sweet. It's a traditional song. I dunno.
(7) I thought I'd post some tracks from Thea Gilmore's new album to whet the appetite of anyone who likes her music. The album is Harpo's Ghost, it came out this week and it's available here if you're in the UK, but only on import in the US so far, it would appear.
The single and a kind of prototypical fast stomp, but good nonetheless
Kathryn Williams is on backing vocals. It reminds me somewhat of Holding Your Hand
This reminded me of Kirsty MacColl, the chorus has some lovely harmonies, again with Kathryn Williams.
I'd planned to load up the track co-written with Mike Scott of the Waterboys but I like this one better
Call Me Your Darling
This starts with a roll of Dylanesque Sixties organ and then moves to handclappy, singalong goodness, an explosion of guitars and a harmonica solo. It sounds like someone had been listening to Highway 61 Revisited era Dylan and tried to capture everything that was good about it.
(8) And finally, just so I don't disturb the balance of the universe by ending on an odd number, some adverts which cheer me up
(a) Ewan MacGregor as a tomato and Dame Judi Dench as a lobster. In Trafalgar Square
(b) The frankly magnificent Channel 4 swearing advert from last year. Not *remotely* worksafe ::hearts Marianne Jean-Baptiste::
If you don't like that one, there are others from the series on the YouTube search page.