( the facebook page - @MarkHaddonAuthor
is run by vintage books / doubleday
i don't have any input
and i don't see any of the comments...
predictably it has far more visitors )

  office chart 4

   

  

1) i'm cycling instead of running on account of dodgy back and had forgotten how glorious it is to be cranking up a big hill in the middle of nowhere. 2) the old arcadia byphilip sidney. an acquired taste perhaps. all readers, however, are allowed to skip the poetic eclogues. this book is not to be confused with the 'new' (longer, more complex, more 'moral') arcadia which has only ever been read in its entirety by 6 people. 3) woodstock road deli, home of the quality salad box to power the working novelist through the early afternoon. 4) quaristice by autechre. another acquired taste, perhaps, but i'm beginning to think this is a bit of a masterpiece. beep,squelch, boom, boom, squelch, beep etc. fantastic.

  5x15

 

next monday (that's 27 september) i'm doing a 5x15 event at union chapel in islington along with louise doughty, andrew parker, ruby wax and kate daudy, each person talking for 15 minutes, some using music and pictures, though i'll be flying by means of the human voice alone. the lucinda belle orchestra will be providing halftime entertainment, rather, i hope, like val doonican used to do in the middle of the two ronnies. doors open at 6:30. more info via links below.

incidentally, i shall be talking about this:

union chapel

5x15 stories

  some red house

he’d been looking forward to it for the last couple of weeks. a town of books. all this learning gathered in and offered up. trawling, browsing, leafing. but now that he was standing in the bowels of the cinema bookshop… that smell. what was it, precisely? glue? paper? the spores of some bibliophile lichen? catacombs of yellowing paper. every book unwanted, sold for pennies or carted from the houses of the dead. battersea books home. the authors earned nothing from the transaction. salaries less than binmen he’d read somewhere. he thought about their lives. no colleagues, no timetable, no security, the constant lure of daytime television. the formlessness of it all made him feel slightly ill, going to work in their dressing gowns. so much risk and so little adventure.

  c + spooner

this is wonderful, intelligent, hugely readable and containing some long bravura passages (the protagonist serge carrefax's time as an aerial observer in the first world was unputdownable). but mccarthy has always professed himself to be, and always professed his work to be, deliberately avant-garde and (post)modernist, against lyrical realism, against liberal humanism, against mcewan/amis/barnes and against depth-psychology (... [the illusion] that there is a self prior to anything that exists prior to anything who goes around emoting, experiencing and developing. this is what i hate...)

... except that this novel isn't really any of those thing. it contains all the furniture of classic pynchon: spies, secret codes, conspiracy theories, eccentric scientific theories. but it doesn't mess with that queasy boundary between what might or might not be real as pynchon does. the events in c feel as if they could well have happened (wireless stations in Egypt between the wars, private clubs in Soho where one can take heroin in the company of other upmarket users...), reality tweaked but not undermined. true, it has a recurring theme of flatness but it is hugely lyrical. true, serge carefax is weirdly affectless, but weirdly affectless people are as interesting psychologically as the most florid of schizophrenics. true, the language is sophisticated and seductive but it pushes no boundaries and is fundamentally no different from the language used in many other contemporary english novels.

none of which, i think, detracts from how good a novel it is. not least because whilst i found pynchon, robbe-grillet, foster wallace et al rather thrilling when i first read them, when i pick them up nowadays i'm often a little disappointed to find an emotional thinness below the baroque playfulness. and not necessarily because i'm turning into an old fart. i'm still hungry for good experimental fiction, just harder to satisfy.

apropos of which, after coming across his recent obituary, i belatedly read david markson's wittgentstein's daughter, a self-consciously experimental novel which is formally daring, anti-sentimental and anti-psychological. and whilst a part of me cheered at markson's daring i simply wasn't very gripped.

if any fiction is to last it has to possess some human warmth (tristram shandy is funny, the trial is heart-breaking). like it or not, the novel is a liberal humanist form. it's a conversation and like any conversation depends upon the reader's good will. and whilst having an avant-garde conversation is not impossible but it's a bloody hard trick to pull off.

joyce and woolf are still the (unsurpassed) benchmarks. a radical vision of the world that demands a profound restructuring of the novel and its language, the whole being underpinned and sustained by... this sounds way too greetings-card, but both joyce and woolf deeply in love with human beings. i suspect mccarthy is too, though admitting it is hard after ranting loudly against liberal humanists.

oh, and this great, too, though i'm only halfway through. pete dexter (paris trout, deadwood?) is scandalously overlooked in this country, which is plain stupid. the cover, sadly, gives no real idea of the novel's energy and intelligence and the seriousness which underlies the comedy. we may see it only in passing and the plot may not hinge upon it, but it also happens to be one of the very few books i've read recently in which a man has sex with a chicken.

 

  diggy takes his pick

i stumbled on this the other day and i can think of no good reason for sticking it here except that  i read it when i was a child, that i read very few picture books as a child which gives it a particular resonance, because it's still rather wonderful and therefore seemed to demand some small celebration. you're supposed to say that this kind of thing brings back all kinds of memories. but this doesn't bring back any memories at all. it just resurfaces, still shining, still gloriously itself.

and now, of course, i'm able to google racey helps.

http://www.raceyhelps.co.uk/

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