33: sad

RIP John Updike.

32: friends?

So in Manchester tonight there's the latest No Point In Not Being Friends event, doubling as a launch for Chris Killen's The Bird Room, with lots of other people reading stuff too, including Jenn Ashworth, whose book is out in March, and MJ Hyland who I love and will maybe meet someday please, and Blake Butler (via video) whose book Ever is on my sitting room floor yearning to be read. Go, go, go to this thing.

(Here I am, blurbing this, when I live in Birmingham and know these guys 'online' only and have never been to one of their events. What does this say about my social skillz? Don't answer that. I know flesh-people too. I swear. I'm going to go 'interact' with them right now. I really am.)

31: the bird room

Okay, I've just finished Chris Killen's novel, The Bird Room. It's not a very long book; I sped through it before, during, and after work today - but it is an interesting read, and so, fuelled by a cup of tea and half a mint-flavoured Terry's Chocolate Orange, for what it's worth, here's my immediate reaction in the form of variously-sized keywords:

alienation, sad, minimal, black, neurotic, cold, insightful, thoughful, distances, brief, jagged, claustrophobic, anxious, vivid, funny, bleak.

I thought the Will sections were more powerful than the Helen sections, probably because the projections of Will's social anxieties were almost tangible, and made me feel physically uncomfortable while reading, and Helen's sections, though well-rendered, weren't quite as immediately recognisable. (I also wasn't keen on the sister thing, particularly at the end, though I liked the possibilities that sprang up at that last point.)

I liked what I took to be the unreliability of Will's narration; his narration of his relationship with Alice seemed partial and clouded; the sex scenes were horribly bare and honest and miserable.

The most powerful sensation I brought away from my reading was that of alienation; Will's sensation of being a simulacrum or a copy of a real man; his urge to delete and restart his own life, to repeat and erase his life; to deselect people and episodes from existence.

The language is sparse and considered and acurate; even in the midst of misery and depression, there's nuggets of sharp black humour. Though the novel is short - I'd say more of a 'novella' - I think that this minimalist style, a collection of vignettes, bleak snippets of Will and Helen's lives, which read, for me, almost like an extended series of related short stories, is effective at portraying the fear and panic and pain that the characters experience without getting too involved and bogged down in heavy detail. The immediacy of the text is its strength.

Well - that's all I can eke out right now. I thought it was a great read, a real page-turner, and I'd definitely recommend it. Well done Chris, and bring on the next one.

29: films

I went to see The Wrestler this evening; not quite as much of a health warning attached to this one as Requiem For A Dream, but still very sad... And then afterwards I tried to do this film quiz and the longest run of correct answers I got was seven, which is kind of embarrassing seeing as I once studied film, plus I work with a bunch of film geeks, and you'd think the trivia would rub off. And it seems that I missed the joke attached to the talk I went to yesterday (see comments to previous post) - which makes me feel like something of a dumbass, but also makes me enjoy the whole thing even more in retrospect. Necronauts are Go!

Now I'm back to work tomorrow after a series of extended breaks - boo. Roll on the summer.

28: Necronauts

Today I got the train to London to go and see Tom McCarthy and Simon Critchley from the International Necronautical Society give a talk at the Tate Britain as part of the run-up to the fourth Tate Triennial, which kicks off in February. I reckoned that any society which has posts called Chief Philosopher and Head of Propaganda deserved a look-see. We had a hell of a time getting there as the underground was totally against us and we don't know the London buses at all, so we ended up running around like fools for forty-five minutes, circling out-of-action tube stations and failing to find any relevant bus and refusing to pay for a cab, but we got there in the end, and the talk, which was the INS's Joint Statement on Inauthenticity, was worth the hassle. They weren't really saying anything more than elucidating certain principles of post-modernism and attesting that they were still relevant today, but their presentation was slick and the Q&A was really entertaining and there was free wine afterwards, which, really, is what life's all about. I did get cornered by a nutcase who claimed to be an artist working in the areas of 'art, philosophy and science' and twisted round in her chair to talk at me for ages about obesity epidemics before the talk started, until I was ready to clout her over the head with my bag and do a little triumphant dance. Evasive action had to be deployed afterwards in case she caught up with us by the wine, and we had to hide behind a big pillar for a while. Stressful. On the train back I read Last Exit to Brooklyn and then came home and listened to Jenn Ashworth's interivew on the radio and had my dinner and mourned the fact that we've no tea in the house, and that's about where I am right at the moment. I want to read Jenn's book and I want a cup of tea NOW.

27: back!

Well, Lanzarote is alleged to have less rainfall per annum than the Sahara, and, hahaha, we got it all last week. All of it. But on the other hand, in the two or three sunny interludes, I did get to go into a volcanic crater, knacker my knee on a slide in a fantabulous water park, and - best - go on a camel! This brings the total of Animals I've Been On to four, also counting an elephant and, less exciting, various horses and a donkey. It could go to five if I counted numerous abortive attempts to get my dog to carry me around when I was about eleven, but I should probably leave that out of the official tally. Also on holidays I finished reading Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke, which was absolutely brilliant, and reread Sylvia Plath's Johnny Panic which was more disappointing that I remembered it being in university, and I hadn't really liked it then. That'll teach me to nostalgically buy random stuff from Oxfam and drag them halfway down the coast of Africa on a dodgy easyJet plane. While we were skulking about indoors in the resort we had to pay €1 for 20 measly internet minutes every two days or so to try and counteract the nasty no internet syndrome that sent me into a twitching gibbering wreck, and queues of people kept forming behind me as I was trying to read about 95 Google Reader updates in twelve minutes flat. But I'm back now and feeling calmer and more up-to-date. I've ordered Blake Butler's new book, Ever, and am pretty excited about that. And, and, I've also got a new story up on For Every Year, also to be found here as part of Crispin Best's latest publishing extravaganza. Go, go, go!

26: hiatus

Tomorrow I'm heading off to Lanzarote for a week of sunshine (or rain, if the weathermen are to be believed). They probably don't have the interwebs in our apartment, and though that scares me, I'm still going. So I'll be gone. Hahaha. But please read this thing instead, which is great, I think; also the Out Of Africa bit on here, which reminded me of the Mighty Boosh, which is good. Great. So happy week-I'm-in-Lanzarote-in-the-Canary-Rain.

25: look

I heart this.

23: 09

I've been out of the house twice this year - one for every day. Good start. My outing today was to the post office, where it cost me £8.44 to post two letters. WTF, I thought, and went straight to Oxfam to buy a book to counteract the pain. I got Last Exit To Brooklyn which probably won't be so cheerful. I find I keep forgetting what I've read so I think this year I'll try to keep a list. Look out for the list.