Here's my update for the last week.
David Peace, 1983. Finally finished the Red Riding Quartet now: I anticipate the nightmares will stop in around 2013. It certainly alters your perceptions of the West Riding, that's for sure. Last month, I had to change trains at Wakefield Westgate on my way to Saddleworth and I couldn't wait to get out of the place.
I know I'm not the best at following complicated plots, but the RRQ has left me pretty muddled. My friend MW reckons you have to read it three or four times to 'get' it, but I'm usually of the opinion that as long as there are new books in the world to conquer one should avoid going back. I have made exceptions, of course. Anyway:
1 - Who killed everyone?
2 - What was all that about the priest who went round trepanning people?
3 - Did Hunter die at the end of 1980?
4 - How exactly did the conspiracy work?
5 - How the hell are they going to film that for TV without, er, watering it down?
George Orwell, Keep the Aspidistra Flying
I read this because I stayed up late one night last week and realised (with a slight sense of shame) that it was a significant gap in my mid-century repertoire. No point in 'reviewing' Orwell as such, is there? His novels always succeed at what they set out to do, good characterisation etc etc. Orwell's never big on subtlety, but I find that strangely commendable.
M. John Harrison, Climbers
Absolutely amazing. Don't think I'll get over this one for a while, and it's contributed to my ideas for future research (as has the RRQ, but you'd probably guessed that already). I'll write more about this when I'm sitting at home with some red wine, I think. I read The Course of the Heart a year or so back and it didn't grab me but I can go back to it properly now. This is the sort of thing that reminds you that contemporary fiction need not be a disgusting, narcissistic love-in between Sebastian Faulks, Phillip Hensher and Zadie Smith. Furthermore, it reminds you just how bad it is when mainstream authors attempt to co-opt sci-fi or fantasy to their cause: when, say, Martin Amis 'borrows' these genres it's as if there's always a big neon sign up saying 'Hey, I'm Martin Amis, and I know I'm above all this really.' With Harrison, as with Peace, there's a complete absence of framing: there's no trendy self-consciousness, no caveating metafiction. This is strange and unsettling in the way that fiction should be.
Gilbert Adair, The Holy Innocents
The complete opposite to the above. Self-consciously 'transgressive' arse from a journalist. I bought this in Oxfam when I picked up Climbers because I like novels which feature A) the 1960s, B) 'French people kissing French people' and C) lots of sex (don't we all). I'm glad it was only 99p, it's absolute bollocks. The characters are too achingly beatnik - handsome, incestuous (!), teenage cinephiles (but of course) - in Paris '68. This is one of those books where all the dustjacket props clearly come from friends of the author: it's just awfully badly written. Moreover, all the 'erotic' bits are lifts from Bataille's The Story of the Eye. Down with this sort of thing, as they say on Father Ted.
(On that note, I've just found an online bookstore selling this novel. Unfortunately, they seem to have got the author mixed up with another 'famous' Adair...)
Derek Raymond, The Crust on its Uppers
This is how you're supposed to write about the sixties. A bit of a surprise after reading some of Raymond's Factory novels (How the Dead Live; I Was Dora Suarez), but good all the same.
There you go, then: my novels of the week.
Listening...to not much really. The second CD of Stereolabs BBC Sessions has been on a few times, and Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works. But I'm always listening to that, anyway.