Tuesday, 31 August 2010

If you like this

... you may be interested in my new, sexy films blog. The plan is to post an entry each Monday until December, or so, about the films that currently shape what we see on our screens. Each movie is available on DVD, from Anatomy of Hell to Y tu mamá también - for a brief intro, see here.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Norman no mates

Overlooked seemingly everywhere bar his native USA (including Canada, where much of his work is set), I must recommend the latest novel by Howard Norman, author of The Bird Artist and The Museum Guard. What Is Left the Daughter shares many of Norman's favourite themes, including a boy left orphaned (Wyatt Hillyer's mother and father kill themselves on the same evening by jumping off different bridges after having affairs with the same woman), radios (a neighbour agrees to look after Wyatt's home if he can turn on his late mother's collection of 58 sets simultaneously one evening), and living in hotels. Oh, and murder, love and regret. It may be Norman's most successful work; the idea of characters scripting their own obituaries before their deaths tickled me, though I would have liked an appendix where they were printed out in full.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Brick by Brick Lane

If you walk up Fashion Street, E1, by Brick Lane, you'll find these beautiful buildings, whose restoration was finally unveiled earlier this year. What I love about them is that they seem to be a cultural, geographical and, now, temporal crossover, as they look very much like the Victorian edifices you might see in Karachi, Pakistan, (the grander ones are referred to as Venetian Gothic, such as Frere Hall) except in this case the vernacular has been brought back to Britain. Also on Brick Lane, I enjoyed this latest piece by Stik:

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

City lit: travel books with a difference

When I travel abroad I'll often try and take a novel with me set in the place I'm visiting, or by someone from that country. Living in London, we're fairly used to seeing our city represented in print (the same goes for the USA, especially in terms of cinema). It's so commonplace, it's rare to get a true feeling of identification; more usually, we'll notice when a glaring infelicity grates, or when we don't agree with a characterisation of our city.

In his novel The Family Arsenal, Paul Theroux notes that London always looks better in the rain. From the vantage point of a rather lovely summer I don't agree, and this observation has always slightly rankled. Perhaps it was of its time; and what about London in snow? Beautiful.

Travelling to Edinburgh and North Berwick recently I enjoyed Maggie O'Farrell's After You'd Gone on the recommendation of a friend. I'm about to reread Howard Norman's The Museum Guard having been to Amsterdam for the first time earlier this year and hope it captures something of that very fun city.

A trip to Prague was a lovely time to revisit Kafka, and seek out some of his sites in the city. There's a host of great Czech authors out there to enjoy and, I noted in a recent post, Penguin has just reissued some other notable Eastern European books to enjoy (fiction and non). Meanwhile, Arthur Phillips' Prague is a perfect fit for Budapest.

It need not necessarily be the work of a national: David Mitchell would seem a good fit for Japan if ever I manage to get there (I wouldn't want to visit the Tokyo of Ryu Murakami); I've written elsewhere about fictional depictions of Belgium by English-speaking writers. Heading to Denmark, I cheated and read a work by Icelander Halldor Laxness , but I couldn't see any other time when I'll read him. I was heartily recommended Aksel Sandemose while in Copenhagen and have yet to get round to him, perhaps another trip is in order.

As we know, it can work another way: I don't think I'll ever get to Australia, but I've read the marvellous Tim Winton so don't really feel I need to. And there are times when you might want to be a little circumspect about what you take with you: I wouldn't rush to Saudi Arabia with Rajaa Alsanea's Girls of Riyadh in your hand luggage. If you're off on your hols: happy reading!

Sunday, 1 August 2010