'"I sure am waiting for that Dylan album," Sam says. "I really want to know what Bob Dylan's got to say in 1975."'
Fadeout by Joseph Hansen
'She was facing him, standing. Her mouth sagged open. She looked the way people her age, his age, wish they didn't when they see themselves in the bathroom mirror first thing in the morning.'
The Book of Skulls by Robert Silverberg (1972) 'Look, I could say, it's necessary to make an act of faith, of mystic acceptance, to tell yourself that life isn't entirely made up of discotheques and subways and boutiques and classrooms. You must believe that inexplicable forces exist.'
Ongoingness by Sarah Manguso
(2015) 'Time punishes us by taking everything, but it also saves us - by taking everything.'
The End of Vandalism by Tom Drury
'"I don't consider myself a loser, and yet, I have lost things."'
So Nude, So Dead by Ed McBain
'There's a monkey on my back, a fifteen-pound monkey and his name is horse.'
Big Sur by Jack Kerouac
(1962) 'Marvelous opening moment in fact of the first afternoon I'm left alone in the cabin and I make my first meal, wash my first dishes, nap, and wake up to hear the rapturous ring of silence or Heaven even within and throughout the gurgle of the creek -- When you say AM ALONE and the cabin is suddenly home only because you made one meal and washed your firstmeal dishes -- Then nighfall, the religious vestal lighting of the beautiful kerosene lamp after careful washing of the mantle in the creek and carefuldrying with toilet paper, which spoils it by specking it so you again wash it in the creek this time just let themantle drip dry in the sun.'
Women by Chloe Caldwell
(2014) 'What I know for certian about this time: My pupils were expanding. I never did figure out if this was a symptom of falling in love or a side effect of the Chinese herbs my transgender friend Nathan was hooking me up with.'
The Wary Transgressor by James Hadley Chase
'I had her in me like a sickness, and there was nothing i could do about it. I knew i was crazy to go through with this. I could get outside myself and see how i was being ravaged by this girl. I could see myself twisting and squirming like an insect pierced by a pin, but i was too far gone to help myself.'
Solaris by Stanislaw Lem (1961) 'We have no need of other worlds. We need mirrors. We don't know what to do with other worlds. A single world, our own, suffices us; but we can't accept it for what it is.'
So when i picked this up in Troutmark i was drawn in by the glamorous 70's cover and the Italian setting, and was a little disappointed to find out it was from the 50's and would probably be less racy than i'd hoped. Luckily, this was a totally gripping pulp-thriller, with sweat-inducing tension and a brilliantly cruel climax that made me go WHAAAAT.
The Werewolf Principle by Clifford Simak
Great cubisty cover, kinda forgettable novel. I liked the idea of it, a genetically modified 'human' gets sent into space and assimilates the consciousness of the beings it encounters, ends up back on earth with amnesia, with a kind of harmonious schizophrenia, and gets chased by dogs and shit. I wasn't sold though folks.
A Meeting By The River by Christopher Isherwood
I really rate Isherwood, when he's good he's fully-all-the-way good...but this, his last novel, was one of his weaker moments. Still, it was short. Written with a deceptive lightness and authenticity - you do get a real sense of Isherwood's immersion in hinduism, the conflicts and doubts there - also, he nails the fraughtness of brother relationships. It was quite posh though.
The Underground Man by Ross Macdonald
Another beauty from Macdonald, near perfect.
The Tangier Diaries: 1962-1979 by John Hopkins
The diaries of a novelist i have not heard of, which really capture his experience as a twenty-something in Tangier, surrounded by the expatriate bohemians that lived there (William Buroughs, Jane & Paul Bowles, Tennessee Williams etc.) - wonderfully descriptive and cumulatively it had a kind of hypnotic, slow sense of profundity.
Vanishing Ladies by Ed MacBain
Easily wins best cover of the month. That's Blanche there on the bed in her purple dress, somehow she seems to have leaped 30 years and landed in the 1980's. That doesn't happen in the novel, by the way. She just slutty in the novel. So, i just noticed i went a whole month without reading a book by a woman. Shame on me. That's a catastrophic fail, which can't be defended by the fact i was reading gold like this.
Ahoy November! The days are getting darker and the leaves soggier and my converse browner, 2015 is getting sleeeepy...Things are starting to get all nostalgic and broody, this is the best time of the year. You get to watch old horror movies, eat soup, and lose yourself in really really long songs about wizards and space. Sian and i have been cosying up with sweetmilk, angel cards, and Ghost Hunters. It's lovely right here, right now. Here are a few things i've had on my walkman this week...
Stoneground Words by Melanie
From the album of the same name, which has just been reissued...i've loved Melanie ever since i was a pup, my Dad had the Candles In The Rain record, which i still have and hold dear, but Stoneground Words is a truly beautiful, powerful, great album that captures that whole back-to-the-earth, self-exploration of the early 70's, and i can't get enough of it right now.
It Brings A Tear by Audience
This gorgeous flutey goodness is off the Friend's Friend's Friends album, their second. Audience are definitely an underrated band, and this song is a deep mossy green delight.
La Serie Dei Numeri by Angelo Branduardi
I've just discovered Branduardi, and i gotta say, i am blown away by this dude, and not just because of his massive hair. This song is originally from the 1976 album Alla Fiera Dell'Est, which is absolutely my favourite Italian album of all time right now. So, this song translates as something like The Series of Numbers, unfortch i couldn't tell you what it's all about because gosh it's quite esoteric and mystical, but this live version is a total gem isn't it! Branduardi specialised in an almost Medieval canticle style, and in parts he reminds me of The Incredible String Band. This guy was clearly off the charts genius.
Pillars Of The Sky by Mondo Drag
I am loving Mondo Drag! This instrumental from their self-titled album is a dreamy psych beaut, which puts you somewhere in the middle of a vast kaleidoscopic desert on some distant planet. The album is a brilliant organ-heavy proggy riff-fest, kinda Deep Purpley, with enough hooks, imagination and ace musicianship to keep ya titillated through your entire acid trip, or *cough* your nice warm tea under a crochet blanket trip.
My bestie LOVED the Cazalet Chronicles by EJH, so Sian borrowed one and about 20 pages in was all like "this is so freakin' boring, fuck this shit.." (except that she would never use swears like that, she's a lady) which piqued my interest enough to try one of EJH's earlier (70's, obvs) novels. It was ace. A quietly devastating cat-scratch to the face of middle-class complacency, lush.
Great Granny Webster by Caroline Blackwood
An odd little novel about crazed aristocracy and the trauma of the lost generation...both worlds that Caroline Blackwood, heiress to the Guinness dynasty, writer, journalist, it-girl, knew well. I hate it when people are described as 'muses', ugh. I mean, this was excellent in every way and kind of reminded me of Franny & Zooey - it does so much with so few scenes.
Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein
What i liked most about this memoir was how un-rock n' roll it was, but when you think about it, the food allergies, panic-attacks, self-doubt, all that stuff, actually seems pretty rock n' roll - like, the true spirit of rebellion and survival and reinvention are all there.
Chilly Scenes Of Winter by Ann Beattie
Definitely my favourite book of the month! A whimsical, smart, New Yorky, 70's novel about absence and 20-somethings trying to find meaning and love. Beattie was touted as a bit of a voice of her generation it seems, and her debut feels fresh, beautifully self-conscious, and somehow full of warmth and heart despite all the post-60's dejection.
The Signalman by Charles Dickens
Read this on Halloween as a lil spooky bathtime read. The BBC version with Denholm Elliot is one of my absolute favourite things so when i spotted this at work i was all like "hallo below theeere!!" and it was great. Turns out Dickens wasn't always shit.
Wax by Ethel Lina White
This month I discovered Valancourt Books , a brilliant independent small press who publish some truly gush-worthy lost classics, and they do it beautifully with original cover art and everything. This little waxwork horror mystery from the 30's is slight but charming and cute, with some good sassy dialogue and some creepy smalltown Britishness. Riverpool, heh..
Musical Chairs by Kinky Friedman
We went to End Of The Road Festival in Sept, and so much fun we had, and I bought this from the Rough Trade tent. My first Kinky (actually number 5 in the series, nerds). If you're into detective fiction, outlaw country, cats, and 70's counterculture I guarantee you'll enjoy this as much as I did.
Confidentially Yours by Charles Williams
A highly regarded pulpster, I've read one other Charles Williams (can't remember it's name right now but it's on Hard Case Crime) and it was a good'en, and Confidentially Yours is too. Dude finds himself in the usual ungetoutable situation, the police are at his heels, stylish, snappy, short...Barbara (his secretary) was totally the highlight for me, probably deserved her own series if the genre wasn't so MAN.
Solaris by Stanislaw Lem
Brilliant, you should all go read this. Has absolutely not dated at all, and remains a profound, troubling, sad thing about humanity and its limitations in the face of the truly alien.
This Was Ivor Trent by Claude Houghton
I'm still flummoxed by this one, and feel like I want to read more Houghton who was a bestselling author in his day but sadly quite forgotten now. Does the whole rainy late-night London of the 30's so well, but also in some ways felt dated and ungraspable. An odd narrative about a reclusive writer (Ivor) and a series of meetings and connections made by the people in his life after he is confronted by a man from the future and goes into convalescence. Yep, this was somehow a bestseller in the 30's... Also, a whole lotta Nietzsche goin' on...(oh, and this is from Valancourt Books also).
Got this second-hand from Troutmark, it sounded promising and i was attracted by that alluring sperm-esque front cover. Aside from one inexplicably homophobic passage, it was an enjoyably dour 70's slice of fishy sci-fi.
The Book of Skulls by Robert Silverberg
Silverberg fucking rules, and this is him at his mid-70's best. A jivey, countercultural soup of mythology, mysticism, and cynical post-60's comedown. College kids in search of immortality in the desert. Seriously, Silverberg is truly the Laphroaig of writers.
Ongoingness by Sarah Manguso
Loved this short investigation into the nature of writing as documentation, and Sarah Manguso's own obsessive relationship with her own diary. This was so strong and meticulous, and unafraid, Manguso makes you look at your own concepts of self and time and mortaliy, all the terrifying shit and see them starkly, as impermanent but, y'know, beautiful maybe.
1982, Janine by Alasdair Gray
A novel about drinking and wanking that plays around with text and storytelling and then somehow turns into a straight-up novel that'll break your heart. Power and powerlessness, guilt, sexuality, politics, and a whole shit-heap of regret, you want to throw accusations of misogyny at it but you'd be way off. Brilliantly conceived joyful thing.
So Nude, So Dead by Ed McBain
I absolutely loved this slab of prime Fifties pulp. Junkie wakes up next to a dead filly, who killed her and WHERE'S THE HORSE?
Red Hot Ice by Frank Kane
A fast-paced little detective caper with an out of control blonde lush. Not bad.
A Lost Lady by Willa Cather
In some ways this felt quite slight, but people, there is so much depth here. A melancholy, sparse character-study of a mercurial woman and an elegy for passing time, lost illusions and the Old West. Willa Cather can do no wrong.
The Whole Shot: Collected Interviews with Gregory Corso
Corso will always hold a special place in this tender heart (I did my dissertation on him at uni). What a brilliant cantakerous bastard he was. And though he was possibly drunk and repeated himself quite a bit in some of these interviews, you get the FULL FORCE of his mind and spirit, the last of his gang to hold true to the Beat ideology and the streets he grew up in.
Day of the Ram by William Campbell Gault
Jock-noir!! OhYeah, really enjoyed this, another one from the Fifties, with an ex-American football player-turned-Private Eye investigating the murder of an L.A. Ram. The Los Angeles setting really notched it up a level and gave it a bunch of period-charm.