Sunday, 28 December 2008

Messiah Of Evil (1972; Dir: Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz)

A rather effective little creeper with an eerie atmosphere, weird happenings, some wonderfuly bizarre sets and just a little splash of gore here and there. The oddly-monickered Arletty, a Nico-esque blonde with a rather European accent goes to the town of Point Dune to find her father. Dad's an artist; he's retreated to Point Dune to paint, stopping now and then to send his daughter letters that have been getting stranger and stranger lately.

No less strange than his house in Point Dune, a gloriously eccentric artist's nook done up with some very creepy trompe de l'oil paintings of escalators going nowhere, crowds of vaguely menacing people and so on. Even stranger are his journals, which unfold a Lovecraftian tale of creeping horror and inhuman posession.

In fact, shades of Lovecraft loom large over the plot, which bears more than a passing resemblance to 'The Shadow Over Innsmouth'. Still, the treatment is quite different in tone and setting from a HPL tale, and despite occasional infelicities of dialogue and acting, this is a rather succesful horror flick. Just about the only thing that refuses to resolve into any sort of sense is the opening scene that bears no connection whatsoever to the rest of the movie. What was that all about? Maybe they just had some extra footage from a failed earlier project and decided to bung it in? Who knows!

***

Friday, 19 December 2008

I tried to listen to Chinese Democracy.
A few things got in the way.
The music. The lyrics. The vocals.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

in which he decides to be cryptic

I, the hanged man. The smile on my lips.



As far as I can piece it together, here's what I read this year, in no special order, and with a few especially good graphic novels thrown in:

  1. Station Island - Seamus Heaney ***
  2. The Collected Poetry of Alan Ginsberg ***
  3. Marcovaldo - Italo Calvino ****
  4. The Enigmatic Lett - Georges Simenon ***
  5. Love Of Seven Dolls - Paul Gallico ***
  6. Pictures Of Fidelman - Bernard Malamud ***
  7. On The Road - Jack Kerouack ****
  8. The Heart Of The Matter - Graham Greene *****
  9. Beowulf - Seamus Heaney Translation *****
  10. Lord Jim - Joseph Conrad ****
  11. A House For Mr Biswas - VS Naipaul ****
  12. The Power And The Glory - Graham Greene *****
  13. The Culture Industry - Theodor Adorno ****
  14. Mythologies - Roland Barthes *****
  15. Venus In Furs - Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch *****
  16. The Collected Father Brown - GK Chesterton *****
  17. The Pickwick Papers - Charles Dickens *****
  18. Nicholas Nickelby - Charles Dickens *****
  19. The Day Lasts More Than A Hundred Years - Chingiz Aitmatov ***
  20. The Magic Mountain - Thomas Mann *****
  21. Doktor Faustus - Thomas Mann *****
  22. Death In Venice and other stories - Thomas Mann *****
  23. Zot! - Scott McCloud *****
  24. Tomorrow In The Battle Think On Me - Javier Marias ****
  25. Written Lives - Javier Marias *****
  26. All Souls - Javier Marias ****
  27. Madam Crowl's Ghost And Other Short Stories - Sheridan Le Fanu ****
  28. Carmilla - Sheridan Le Fanu ****
  29. The Ceremonies - TED Klein **
  30. Shadowlands - Peter Straub ***
  31. Snow Country - Yasunari Kawabata *****
  32. Thousand Cranes - Yasunari Kawabata ***
  33. Austerlitz - WG Sebald ****
  34. Red Lights - Georges Simenon ****
  35. Maigret and the Ghost - Georges Simenon ****
  36. Nip The Buds, Shoot The Kids -Kenzaburo Oe ****
  37. Great Apes - Will Self ***
  38. My Idea Of Fun - Will Self ****
  39. The Book Of Disquiet - Fernando Pessoa *****
  40. St. Lucy's Home For Girls Raised By Wolves - Karen Russell **
  41. Goldberg: Variation - Gabriel Josipovici ***
  42. Mr. Norris Changes Trains - Christopher Isherwood *****
  43. Goodbye To Berlin - Christopher Isherwood ****
  44. The Lambs Of London - Peter Ackroyd ***
  45. The Eagle's Throne - Carlos Fuentes ***
  46. The Old Gringo - Carlos Fuentes **
  47. Sentimental Education - Gustave Flaubert *****
  48. Family Matters - Rohinton Mistry ***
  49. The People Of Paper - Salvador Plascencia **
  50. Gentlemen Of The Road - Michael Chabon ***
  51. The Virgin In The Ice - Ellis Peters ****
  52. The Solitaire Mystery - Jostein Gaarder *****
  53. The Black Dossier - Alan Moore and Kevin O' Neill *****
  54. The Rabbi's Cat 2 - Joann Sfar *****
  55. Klezmer 1 - Joann Sfar *****
  56. Onitsha - JMG Le Clezio *****
  57. A Life's Music - Andrei Malkine *****
  58. Ilium - Dan Simmons ****
  59. Good-bye - Yoshihiro Tatsumi ****
  60. The Street Of Crocodiles - Bruno Schulz *****
  61. Snake Catcher - Naiyer Masud *****
  62. Essays In Love - Alain De Botton **
  63. Written On The Body - Jeanette Winterson ***
  64. Kappa - Ryunosoke Akutagawa ***
  65. Three Men In A Boat - Jerome K Jerome ***
  66. Hot Water - PG Wodehouse ***
  67. Money For Nothing - PG Wodehouse ***
  68. The Illustrated Man - Ray Bradbury *****
  69. Inside Mr Enderby - Anthony Burgess *****
  70. Enderby Outside - Anthony Burgess *****
  71. Mozart And The Wolf Gang - Anthony Burgess *****
  72. The Magician - Somerset Maugham *****
  73. Sweeney Astray - Seamus Heaney ****
  74. Mysteries Of Winterthurn - Joyce Carol Oates ***
  75. Candide - Voltaire *****
  76. Zadig - Voltaire *****
  77. Seven Days At The Silberstein's - Etienne Leroux ***
  78. Selected Essays - John Berger ****
  79. The Legends Of Khasak - OV Vijayan ****
  80. Lock 14 - Georges Simenon ****
  81. A Man's Head - Georges Simenon *****
  82. The Collected Ghost Stories of MR James ******
  83. The Collected Poetry Of Cavafy ***

Bit of a slow year, but I'm learning to accept that my pace of reading has slown down a bit with all the tribulations of adult life and whatnot.

I think it was pretty cool, and not really unwarranted, the way that bloke threw those shoes at that fellow. And it's a fucking shame they had to break his bones in retaliation.

Go on, report me to the police.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

ILIUM by Dan Simmons

Most excellent.

I like SF, and I like much of what gets lumped under the rather stuffy title 'classic literature'. Clearly, so does Dan Simmons. Set in a very distant future, long after both AI and posthumans have emerged, this novel contains three main storylines, all of which eventually intersect.

First, there's a group of languid, pleasure-seeking old-style humans living on old earth, all their needs taken care of by mechanical servitors left for them, presumably, by the posthumans. Upon completing a century of life, they are supposed to ascend to the orbital rings where the posthumans reside, and join them. A small group of old-style humans decides to find out what's really going on in those orbital rings. Which, as it turns out, involves Prospero and Caliban from Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'.

Simultaneously, a group of AI robots left to pursue their own ends in the Jupiter moon system note anomalous amounts of quantum acitivity on Mars, and launch a mission to find out what is going on. Among them are Mahnmut, who is obsessed with Shakespeare's sonnets, and his friend Orphu, who prefers Proust.

Oh, and there's the Olympian gods too, who have all the powers ascribed to them in Greek myth. Only, it seems they can't see the future, so they've brough back a bunch of scholars from the future to confirm if the events taking place as they observe and interfere in the Trojan war correspond with Homer's account.

Simmons has pulled off quite a coup here. His novel bristles with the up-to-the-minute hard sf concerns about posthumanism, quantum science, AI and so on. At the same time, he's found a way to bring in heroes from antiquity and great works of literature from our past and use them illuminate what our future might be like.

ILIUM is the first part of a duology. The second is OLYMPOS, which I'm currently reading. There is so much left over to be tied up in the first book that I think the two would best be considered as one long story split into two books.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

oh dear

“Buying books would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them in: but as a rule the purchase of books is mistaken for the appropriation of their contents.” — Arthur Schopenhauer

Monday, 8 December 2008

Another delectable look at Jewish life by Joann Sfar. 'The Rabbi's Cat' books concentrate on the experiences of north African jews, this book looks at jews and other outcasts in pre-WW2 Europe. A rag-tag group of runaways, outcasts and wanderers fall in together and become a klezmer band, playing Jewish folk music. The usual understated explorations of big topics, and Sfar's gloriously free-flowing line. There's a delightful afterword. Can't wait for the sequel!
Delectable is perhaps the last word I'd use here. Haunting, more like, or disturbing. This third collection of Tatsumi's work show both his art and his stories become more incisive and telling. The first story, 'Hell' tackles the demons of Hiroshima - and they're not the demons you'd expect. The title story is another highlight, if the term can be applied to anything so bleak and sordid. Elsewhere, the mood can get a bit too heavy and the stories a trifle repetitive, but when it works it's brilliant - a scathing portrait of humanity's urban misadventure.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

things that don't happen

Why is it easier for the Batman to defeat the entire JLA than the Joker? Discuss amongst yourselves quietly.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

So a bunch of people on the face books want the corporates to start a leaderless movement. Other than mass overconsumption, that is.

Monday, 1 December 2008

As usual, now is a very good time to read this.