Sunday, 27 July 2014

Summer House With Swimming Pool - Herman Koch

'I am a doctor. My office hours are from eight-thirty in the morning to one in the afternoon.'

Marc Schlosser is a doctor and a cunt. He treats the rich and famous and gives them more time than your ten minute slot that you get down my local surgery with the NHS. He takes time to listen, while all the time being fucking repulsed at the people he is treating. I will say now, maybe don't read this if you've got an appointment at the docs where you're anticipating having to get all your gear off. It might make you feel somewhat self-conscious.

Some Billy Big Bollocks actor is the doc's most famous patient. When we start the book he is dead, and we're taken back to the beginning to work our way through the story.

This book is fucking dark, and properly sinister. It's also funny as fuck and so got my head a bit confused at times as to whether I should be laughing or fucking disgusted. It is a brilliantly twisted story, like with The Dinner (if you've read that, if you haven't then do - it's well good) where you don't know where to look, as it were, and whose side you should be on. It reveals a hideous side to human nature and as uncomfortable as it is at times, it's one of those that you won't want to put down.

Recommended if you're a bit fucked up and like reading stuff that a bit more fucked up that you so that you can feel less fucked up.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Meatspace - Nikesh Shukla

'The first and last thing I do everyday is see what strangers are saying about me.'

Kitab Balasubramanyam has had a bit of a shit time with things of late and is in a bit of a rut. He's struggling with real life a bit in this modern day and age, and so a lot of his contact and interactions with other people is done online. This makes sense to me. Since I started writing this blog I've checked Facebook five times. I like to know what people are doing. So does your man Kitab. We're one and the same.

Anyway. Kitab hangs out with his brother Aziz in their flat. He also tries really hard to be funny on Twitter and tries less hard to be a writer. He meets up with his Dad for dinner. He's fairly normal, as far as I'm concerned.

Then Aziz fucks off to go and find his doppelganger while Kitab's turns up on his doorstep. Aziz's encounter is blogged so we can keep up with it while we stay with Kitab in London and get irritated at his doppelganger.

Meatspace is very modern and quite clever. If you've been that person who is sucked up by social media then you'll identify. You'll particularly identify if Twitter has done your fucking nut in, and Facebook has made you want to fucking punch everyone, and although you kind of hate it all you can't let it go because you're a bit fucked up and really fucking lonely.

Recommended if you're one of these cool cunts on the internet. It's done an interesting thing.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Beastings - Benjamin Myers

'Rain fell like steel rivets.
It came down hard pile-driving into the ground.'

Have you heard of Benjamin Myers? I have. He wrote my favourite book of 2012. It is called Pig Iron and it knocked my fucking socks off. I was absolutely fucking delighted when Ben's people sent my people (I don't have any people, but didn't you think I was ever-so important there, just for a sec) his new book.

You've got four characters. The poacher. The girl. The baby. The priest. I'm always happy when there are no names and few characters. No one's got time for that shit. Hold it back, writers.

The girl has the baby. The poacher and the priest want to find the baby. What follows is a trek through Yorkshire like a game of hide and seek.

If you haven't read anything by Ben Myers, then do. Get your eyes round anything of his you can get your hands on and have a go at it. What I love about his writing is the simplicity of what is going on. There are no gadgets and bullshit. He writes like how he looks: a bearded, homely Northern man. The writing in Beastings, as with Pig Iron and the gorgeous novella Snorri and Frosti, is completely stripped back of any fancy pants bullshit and is primal and uninhibited. And, as with Myers' other writing, there are deliciously dark and fucked-up bits to contrast with the wholesome muckiness of people and the general disgustingness of survival.

I'm making this sound like a twat's book, I think. It's not. It's a fucking beauty. Give it a go.

Recommended if you like mud and love.

Monday, 14 July 2014

The Hunger - Lincoln Townley

'Drink. Coke. Cunt. Drink. Coke. Cunt. Drink. Coke. Cunt. Drink. Coke. Cunt. Drink. Coke. Cunt. Drink. Coke. Cunt. Drink. Coke. Cunt. Drink. Coke. Cunt. Drink. Coke. Cunt. Drink. Coke. Cunt. Drink. Coke. Cunt.'

Lincoln Towney is some business type marketing twat in central London. He's a self declared cunt, and addict. He's addicted to drink, coke and cunt.

We're told from the start that names and places have been changed a bit, but everything that is done in the book, was done. After reading the book I can confirm that this is both fucking disgusting and fucking incredible.

He spends his days and nights being a hotshot in the club in Soho where he works, drinking, and fucking an absolute shitting tonne of women. In all the holes, like a right fucking pro. There are a constant stream of them sleeping and fucking and doing line after line of cocaine at his flat, which just makes it all the easier for him to satisfy his addictions.

The fucking and drugs and drink descriptions are relentless. For this reason, they're not overdone. They're a constant, and a fucking good one too - the writing is really engaging, really unashamed and really fucking mental. I fucking adored it.

Recommended if you want to fall a little bit in love with a man that you should probably be repulsed by.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

After Me Comes The Flood - Sarah Perry

'I'm writing this in a stranger's room on a broken chair at an old school desk.'

John Cole's feeling a bit bored of it all, so he shuts up his shop, drives out in to the countryside and intends to leave all the shit behind him.

When he gets lost (where the fuck's your map, John. You've just come from a fucking bookshop) and goes looking for help, finding a big house where the residents seem to be expecting him, or someone very similar to him. And so in he goes to stay in this house with this bunch of strangers. (John, what the fuck.)

As time passes John finds himself drawn into the goings on of the place, and part of the lives of the people within, whatever their intentions may be. (WHAT DID YOU EXPECT, JOHN?)

This is one of those books that dangles a constant sense of foreboding over you, as you can probably tell from my brackets up there. It is written in such a calm and considered way that it just feels spooky. Do you know what I mean? You'd better do because that's all you're getting on the subject.

I did not latch on to this story and fall in to it. I thought it was a pleasant read, and very clever and thoughtful, but I am not very often in a think-y mood. The book felt like it needed a more think-y person to read it. That being said, it does make you want to read on to the end and find out what the fuck exactly is going on, so it does pull you along.

Recommended if you are a patient reader who likes a bit of lingering darkness and psychological turns.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Who Are You? - Elizabeth Forbes

'Juliet wanted their new house to be perfect; a new life, a fresh start.'

Alex and Juliet are married. They have a son named Ben. Alex used to be in the army but has been home for some time now doing a 'normal' job.

But, even though he's not directly involved anymore, Alex is not the man that he used to be. The army has fucked him up good and proper and Juliet doesn't recognise him as the man she fell in love with.

As the story goes on more and more of Alex's past manifests itself physically in his attitudes to his family. But it's not just the army that has fucked his head up, and he's not the only person who is struggling with the ghosts of their past.

What Elizabeth Forbes does really well is take a difficult subject write a completely fucked up and dark story to pour it in to. She did it in her last book - Nearest Thing To Crazy - and she'd done it again here, where you think you know what the fuck is going on, but little bits of doubt will creep into your mind the further along you go, and you'll start to question who exactly is the victim and who is the monster in this story.

It is one of those that once you're in that's it. You'll have to read the whole fucking lot and put your mind at rest. I was gripped from start to finish, and thought this was a fucking superb follow up to Nearest Thing To Crazy, which was one of my top reads of 2013, and a fucking hard act to follow.

Recommended if you like stories about fucked up people leading fucked up lives and trying to be normal. And if you like flipping between wondering whether a character is a raging cunt or simply a victim of circumstance. Bit of a headfuck, but I love it.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Randall - Jonathan Gibbs

'The first time I laid eyes on Ian Randall Timkins, better known to the world simply as Randall, ... was at the opening of his degree show at Goldsmiths, in the summer of 1989.'

Randall is an artist, and he's dead. He just died. The book opens with his pal of ten years Vincent, travelling to visit Justine - Vincent's ex girlfriend and Randall's widow. Vincent and Justine are both trustees and have some stuff that Randall has left behind to sort out - mainly some art that is probably not fit for public consumption.

The story then zooms back to the beginning, and your man Vincent tells you all about how he met Randall and how he knew his art and his life to be. It is one of those that is someone else's extraordinary life being recalled by someone who stood on the sidelines of their life and watched, enthralled.

Fuck me, this is a fucking good book. Aside from having the obvious perks of 'shit that I like to read about' (very few characters, mad thoughtful leading man, scandal, just being generally a bit fucked up) it is written so fucking beautifully that you feel like this man actually existed as you are dragged back in time to bohemian 90s London and shown the decadence and debauchery of an artist's life.

It mashes fact and fiction - places and people are often real, but just as often are not. When I finished reading I had to google a bunch of shit so that I knew where I was in my head, lest I start accidentally talking about Randall to people in the belief that he is real, or something stupid like that. (as if anyone ever talks to me about art. God.)

It is a very clever, very engaging, and very very fucking great achievement for Jonathan Gibbs and Galley Beggar Press. Nice one, chaps.

Recommended if you want to read a man telling you about another man's life - a simple idea, fantastically done.