Friday, April 30, 2010

"Raavan:" Rathnam, Rahman, Bachchan(s)

Details here. A.R.R. songs available on iTunes.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Small audiences, indeed.

Tonight is the award ceremony for the Edgar, and I'm sure that many of you will be running right out to read the winner. (Just like you bought and savored "The City & The City", which won the Clarke Award-- announced the other night-- as well as the BSFA...)

The WSJ had a wonderful chart, which can give you a good sense of the size of the readership for literary mysteries. Without comment:

UPDATE: The winner is "The Last Child" by John Hart -- unknown to me, but apparently popular, this book blows away last year's nominees with a first hardcover printing of 175,000 and recent paperback reprinting


Sunday, April 25, 2010


“Your prose makes Raymond Chandler look clumsy.’’--Martin Amis to Elmore Leonard at the Writers Guild Theatre, Beverly Hills, 1998.

Road Dogs except.

“. . .nobody I’ve ever read sets up pace, mood and sound better than Elmore Leonard. . .[He] is the greatest living writer of crime fiction.”--Barry Gifford, New York Times Book Review


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Further to our discussions

Damien Walter, The Guardian's SF blogger, despite some discouraging words in a comment thread in Cinerati, is always an interesting look at mainstream reactions to the SF world. This week he discusses commercial and literary fantasy. As any good blogger does, he responds at length to interesting commenters, of which there are more than a few. From the comment thread:

Commenter Cromis:
In the case of Mieville and VanderMeer, they were chugging down a steady diet of Peake, Harrison and Moorcock.

Commenter Hudson P:
Using my own reading life as a yardstick, though, I only encountered Peake & Harrison because they were stacked on the shelves next to the dross that I happily and uncritically devoured.

Moorcock is almost a representation of entire genre in miniature, with brave and exciting works mixed in with pay-the-rent books of more humble achievements.

Today's high/epic fare is more akin to blockbuster publishing, whereas Moorcock was writing at the very arse end of the pulp era, when publishers were still chasing the cheap and cheerful market.

I see those Moorcock novels in the context of the Sphere Conan reprints and the stuff written in the sixities and seventies by, eg, L SPrague De Camp or Lin Carter, the jolly fantasy hacks of their day. (This point of view is is perhaps a symptom of what doctors call "getting old".)

One of the the things that makes those books appealing is brevity born of the commercial necessities of that era - hammer out 60k in a week, pick up cheque, pay rent. FWIW, Kim Newman wrote his Games Workshop novels of the 80s in the same way, and they are also under-appreciated gems.

These days, the commercial necessities are different, reflecting (one supposes) the desires of the contemporary audience. It's the LotR effect, that demands every new fantasy aspire to epochal granduer. While there has been some return to crunchier, pulpier roots (assuming pulp roots would be crucnhy, syneasthesia overload!) the heroic mode still seems to dominate in terms of form (ie, long series, world-changing events etc).

I still like some those L Sprague De Camp books - The Fallible Fiend still makes me smile!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"Jianyu Jiang-Hu"


Sunday, April 18, 2010


"Rilke praises Cézanne for not loving his apples. For going past love. But past love into what? Whose idea was it that there are a series of rooms and that the real room, the room of vision, is the one past love?"


"Sometimes the smallness of what I do shames me. I say to myself, the world needs people teaching poor children to read, dealing with disease in Africa ... Then I tell myself: but [painting] is what I do. And then I tell myself that it would be perfectly possible for a very bad painter to say the same thing to herself. In fact, they do it all the time.

"My only way out is to be interested in the process. Which gives me pleasure, the kind of pleasure I get from a good meal. To know I'm taking the risk of being ridiculous. The risk of self delusion. But to forget that in solving the problem."


"Praising myself, judging myself, would be like talking to myself on the street when I just want to shut up and walk. Or getting back to food, this kind of work is like making a tomato sauce or putting a salad together, it has that kind of plainness. You know what you're doing, and that it's going to be good, but you aren't saying, 'Aren't I marvelous?' You're just doing it.

"And the calm of that, the pleasure of that, that point of certainty carries me through anything that might be happening in the rest of my life."-- Mary Gordon. 1998. Spending pp. 80, 81, 272.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Jackson Brodie's Sad Country Women Playlist

The first online, as far as I can tell. Links are to videos for the specific songs cited in the Kate Atkinson novels, in order of appearance.

Case Histories
Allison Moorer

Trisha Yearwood

Lucinda Williams

Lee Ann Womack
Can't be entirely certain, because with the first two I'm scanning thr pages of books I've already read. But it appears there are no references at all to specific songs in the second Brodie novel One Good Turn. Just one passing reference:
"You like country music," Louise Monroe said doubtfully. "Good hearted women and bad-living men and all that stuff?"

"Well, it's not all like that."
One worries that at bottom Atkinson herself thinks it's all like that; that perhaps this conceit no longer seems interesting enough to her to be worth sustaining.

I'll be reading the third book shortly. If Brodie has decided to drop C&W in favor of chamber music or modern jazz, that could be deal breaker.

When Will There Be Good News?
The Dixie Chicks
And that's it, apparently, a lapse that now seems trivial, in light of how good the book is. Brilliant "improvisational" plotting. The most fun I've had reading a crime novel since the final Stieg Larsson installment.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Nice folks...

Old Nosey said to Randall sharply: "Let me see your badge, young man. This young man had a whiskey breath on him t'other day. I ain't never rightly trusted him."

"I swan," I said.

Randall took a gold and blue enamel badge out of his pocket and showed it to her.

"Looks like real police all right," she admitted. "Well, ain't nothing happened over Sunday. She went out for liquor. Come back with two square bottles."

"Gin," I said. "That just gives you an idea. Nice folks don't drink gin."
-- Philip Marlowe, in Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely (1940).


At a screening in New York

Premiere on BBC America on Saturday...


Wednesday, April 14, 2010


C.I.: Nora Chute


From the Tulkinghorn playlist

Watching Lucinda Williams, below, made me painfully aware of how completely detached I am from popular music these days -- especially compared to my time in New York, where, usually comped in by a friend who wrote for the Village Voice, I would go to actual clubs and hear cool bands and drink and smoke......

Anyway, in the interest of full, and probably embarrassing, disclosure, I'll embed here a video from Joanna Newsom, who is the only current star whose records I've bought in about five years (My apologies to any of my old friends who might see this and despair of what all that tutelage has wrought..)

Oh... stick with it: it's cool.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My favorite review of the day

Stefan Beck, formerly of the New Criterion, reviews a commemorative edition of Naked Lunch for the invaluable Barnes and Noble Review:

Naked Lunch serves a very valuable and reliable purpose. Get to it early enough, somewhere between the Hardy Boys and Holden Caulfield, and the fatigue and tedium will inoculate you against all sorts of intellectual malfeasance. You'll never swallow the line that obscenity is a hallmark of genius, or that the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom (usually it leads to the palace of excess, except when it leads to the hovel of incomprehensibility). Dismiss Burroughs as a pull-my-finger bore and you're ready to dismiss Matthew Barney, Damien Hirst, the Chapman Brothers, Jonathan Littell, and a host of others too dull to mention.

"I am not an entertainer," Burroughs wrote in 1959. You can sure as hell say that again.


Monday, April 12, 2010

From the Jackson Brodie playlist...


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Skaz - from Twain to Leonard

Skaz is a rather appealing Russian word (suggesting "jazz" and "scat," as in "scat-singing") used to designate a type of first-person narration that has the characteristics of the spoken rather than the written word. In this kind of novel or story, the narrator is a character who refers to himself (or herself) as "I," and addresses the reader as "you." He or she uses vocabulary and syntax characteristic of colloquial speech, and appears to be relating the story spontaneously rather than delivering a carefully constructed and polished written account. We don't so much read it as listen to it, as to a talkative stranger encountered in a pub or railway carriage. Needless to say, this is an illusion, the product of much calculated effort and painstaking re-writing by the "real" author. ... For American novelists, skaz was an obvious way to free themselves from the inherited literary traditions of England and Europe. The crucial impetus was given by Mark Twain..."

-- David Lodge, The Art of Fiction (1992)
James Wood's notion of the "free indirect style, ” in which “we inhabit omniscience and partiality at once,” leaves open the possibility that writers who never use the first-person could also be skaz singers.


Das Unheimliche

A streetcar travels down Market Street in 1906 -- less than a week before the Earthquake. Makes me dizzy with awe and something like fear.

More prosaic is the following, from the Amazon blog where I saw this, tipped off by Glenn Reynolds:

Quite apart from its subject matter, this sequence has particular historical significance as the first film made in 35mm format. It was originally thought to be from 1905. The correct date was recently determined by historian David Kiehn of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, from clues such as old weather records and theater listings, the length and direction of shadows (from which you can determine the position of the sun in the sky, and the time of day), and the license plates on passing cars. Mr. Kiehn even ran the plate numbers and has the owner's name for all the cars.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Friday, April 9, 2010

Moderne enough for me...


Brotherhood of enthusiasm

It's not just us...

From a review of a couple of collections of essays by Michael Chabon: of the sweetest moments in Manhood for Amateurs occurs when he stupefies an English expatriate with his family's knowledge and deep appreciation of Doctor Who. The Englishman doesn't even know of the Russell T Davies reincarnation of the show. "'It's a pretty good show,' I said, but I knew that my tone and my posture and the wild fannish tenor of my voice were saying It's the greatest show ever in the history of television."


Busy Sunday? -- Rare event, on line!

One of the many reasons to be glad its not 1910.... Gathering small audiences together worldwide.

This weekend an (almost) never to be repeated performance of Morton Feldman's String Quartet (II), which takes six hours without a break, will be broadcast live on the new music service of WQXR, called Q2. The many readers of this blog who insist that contemporary music can only express unease will be shocked at the beauty of Feldman's music -- and people who call Tiger Woods an athlete will be astonished at four people performing a complex and demanding piece of that length.


Thursday, April 8, 2010



Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Appearances aside....

... this man is not a poseur. He's China Mieville, the grand master of urban fantasy, whose wonderful book "The City and The City" has just won the British Science Fiction Award, and may well win the Hugo (since the convention is in England this year) and the Arthur C. Clarke award. The Guardian has the scoop.

"The City and The City" is a police procedural, set in Eastern Europe, in two cities that interpenetrate. It's a great gloomy procedural and an intricate fantasy.

Mieville, Alan Moore, Jeff Vandermeer, Iain Sinclair, Gene Wolfe, Michael Moorcock, Mark Helprin's Winters Tale, the Neil Gaiman book about the London Tube, even the Martin Scorsese of "Gangs of New York" -- they all write about labyrinthine cities of great age and wonder. I haven't found one I dislike yet, and am currently working through the first of Jeff Vandermeer's books about Ambergris, called "City of Saints and Madmen", which seems to be a collection of pamphlets, historical essays, short stories, and dictionaries.

A good place to start is Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast Trilogy, which is the primary source -- although if you haven't read Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun, you should. And Mieville's Perdido Street Station, or......

UPDATE: A brief rundown of the Hugo nominees is here. I loved this quote:

A quick Google search shows that only The City & The City has received plentiful mainstream review coverage, along with a few mentions of Canadian Robert J Sawyer's book in Canada. (Significantly, none have been mentioned in the New York Times.) As usual, this lack of coverage says more about the mainstream press than the books in question. Why Jonathan Safran Foer's decision to eat no meat or Ian McEwan's discovery that global warming may not be to the universal benefit of mankind should merit so many more column inches than these intriguing books is a question I can't answer …


More for readers dismayed by the cluttered minds of their idols...

I'm afraid it's bad news.

Key quote: "Her strengths lay in her unfettered mental fertility and her lack of system."


Health and fashion notes from the mysterious Orient

A tip from uber-traditional fashion hero, Hollister Hovey: Handmade cloth shoes from China. Cheap and handsome (although the markup from the original price in China must be savage). Jet Li wears them (as shown in the many Jet Li photos on the site).

I am suspicious of the health claims, however:

Many people work with computers always have bad skin condition and easily angry, ect., that's all because of static. Furthermore, the old people's skin is drier than the youth with the aging of cardiac, cerebral and vascular, that make old man more easily to be harmed by the static and cause cardiac, cerebral and vascular disease.

Our human body have a magnetic field inside,and we lived in the magnetic field of nature,once the balance of nature were altered or changed can cause ours uncomfortable feeling,so the best way is always wear shoes without a insulation soles,let the static get out our body easily and keep the balance between us and the nature.


Red band Hit-Girl



Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sorry if you're not a fan, but I can't help myself

Some completely right on reactions from the Guardian. (Quotes have been edited for spoilers, the linked article is not) BTW, the Guardian quite property calls this "Season 31"

There looks like being little Rose Tyler-style simpering here - Amy is another Moffat mad-women. 'Fiesty' is too easy a word for a woman who happens to have a personality – Amy is at once rather disturbed, gleefully impulsive and something of a bad girl.


Smith is a fan of Troughton, and he dances around the crotchety-loveable-mad axis from the off. Smith's age also turns out .... to be something of a non-issue. Moffat's line is that although the Doctor uses 900 as his stage-age, he can't have any idea how old he is: he's a Timelord, these things are wibbly-wobbly. And Smith carries off the youthful vigour of a new body and the ancient professorial wisdom with easy panache. The much-heralded 'recklessness' is there as well...

.................. feels like an absolute triumph. A whole new world of regulars is seamlessly introduced, the story has both pace and complexity, and it's refreshing not be in London again. The (spoiler) has to be one of the most beautiful design creations the Doctor Who teams have ever come up with. There's also a spot of proper scariness from the (spoilers) – and Moffat once again displays a mastery of childhood paranoias.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Bigger on the inside...



Saturday, April 3, 2010

Holy shit...


Friday, April 2, 2010

Moffat on Radio 4

Great interview on Front Row with Steven Moffat in advance of Saturday's premiere of the new Doctor. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and hit "Chapter 2" -- lasts about ten minutes.

Best quote:

Although our audience is not made up of eight and nine year olds, all our audience is watching as eight and nine year olds.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Without comment (although a date check might be in order)

From Locus, the science fiction trade magazine:

Today the estate of Ayn Rand announced that they had authorized science fiction writers Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow to write an official sequel to Rand's bestselling novel Atlas Shrugged.


Not writing, linking

Because somebody had to do it.