Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Book #51

Sarah by J.T. Leroy

Cherry Vanilla, twelve years old with a penchant for short leather skirts and make-up, has one ambition: to become the most famous 'lot lizard', or truck stop whore, in the business. With his blonde curls and naked ambition he is determined to be more woman than most and to match his idol, rival and mother, Sarah - also working the lot. Cherry is recruited by Glad - the most sophisticated pimp there is. Glad dresses his boys in the finest silk from China, feeds them gourmet food and teaches them to tell what a trucker wants by the look in his eye. It is only when Sarah leaves Glad's protection that he discovers just how perilous his chosen profession can be.

I was so excited about reading this. It just seemed such an odd, sick kind of book, with a cult reputation - the kind that particularly appeals to me. I had read that it was a semi-autobiographical account of the author's life, and this spurred me into acquiring the book as quickly as I could. However, it seems that the author of this book is in actual fact a woman who has never experienced any of these things! How fraudulent. I even skipped this one past other books in my 'to be read' list just so I could dive into it as soon as I could. All this was a bit silly, though, because I've ended up severely disappointed.

The plot is compelling in places, but none of the characters are developed in any way. When characters from the beginning of the novel came back into the story at the end, I struggled to place them.

I'm confused as to how anyone could have considered the writing in this to be autobiographical. Nothing in this book rang true for me at all, it almost read like someone's memory of a dream they'd had months ago, where they fill in the parts they can't quite remember with sheer hyperbole.

It's easy enough to get through, and you are driven to read on by the complete oddities you are exposed to. However, it really feels to me like a waste of good reading time, and I wouldn't recommend this to anyone I liked, and I feel like a bit of an idiot for being excited about it in the first place. I should probably stop taking book recommendations from self-appointed cool kids.

If you're interested at all in the literary hoax that was J.T. Leroy, I found the literary article quite informative. But to be honest, the entire hoax is almost as boring as Sarah.

51 / 66 books. 77% done!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Book #50

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A father and his son walk alone through burned America, heading through the ravaged landscape to the coast. This is the profoundly moving story of their journey.

I loved it.

There is very, very little plot involved here. Hardly anything really happens, but you know what you're dealing with, and the fact that not much happens is almost a relief. The book is based almost entirely on father and son, and how much they love each other.

It's deeply moving as a whole. The dystopian setting of the novel brings us into a stark, grey world, depressing us right from the beginning. The only shining light we are given is the man's love for his son, which never falters.

The prose bothered me to begin with. The absence of punctuation is normally a deal-breaker for me, but I soon came to understand the need for skeletal prose. It quickly became beautiful to me, evoking the emotional weight of the journey and emphasising the starkness of their landscape incredibly well.

Although very, very dark and depressing, I really feel this is one that everyone should try at least once. The realism McCarthy gives to a post-apocalyptic world is absolutely something to be experienced.

50 / 66 books. 76% done!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Book #49

Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk

Carl Streator is a reporter investigating Sudden Infant Death Syndrome for a soft-news feature. After responding to several calls with paramedics, he notices that all the dead children were read the same poem from the same library book the night before they died. It's a 'culling song' - an ancient African spell for euthanizing sick or old people. Researching it, he meets a woman who killed her own child with it accidentally. He himself accidentally killed his own wife and child with the same poem twenty years earlier. Together, the man and the woman must find and destroy all copies of this book, and try not to kill every rude sonofabitch that gets in their way.

This was wonderful, as I expected it to be.

The premise originally borders on the ridiculous. Oh, a lullaby that can put people to sleep forever? How believable! If you have feelings along these lines as you begin to read this, they quickly evaporate. Palahniuk writes so well that the story turns into something that your mind can comprehend as something that could absolutely, without a doubt, happen to any one of us.

It gets frustrating and confusing about a third of the way in, with the plot twisting and writhing in all sorts of odd shapes, but perseverance is definitely the key here, and the loose ends tying up at the end is almost mouth-watering.

Palahniuk's comments about life's distractions were what I loved most of all. He berated all the things that cluster around us, preventing us from thinking properly, things like noise, television and marketing jingles. It really gives you something to think about. Whether that's in any way ironic or not, I couldn't say.

This is classic Palahniuk - he takes something truly disgusting and turns it into something you don't want to forget, something you'll continue to think about, and something that may make you question your morals. Call him over-hyped, call him the hipster prince, call him anything you like, I love him.

49 / 66 books. 74% done!

Monday, 12 July 2010

Book #48

The Acid House by Irvine Welsh

Two professors of philosophy turn pugilists; Leith removal men become the objects of desire for Hollywood goddesses; God turns Boab Coyle into a house-fly; and in the novella, 'A Smart Cunt', the drug-addled young hero spins off on a collision course with his past. The Acid House is a bizarre, disturbing and hilarious collection from one of the most uncompromising and original writers around.

Another wee collection of short stories! I'm really getting through these this year. I realised two stories into this that I had already read it as a teenager, but I'd forgotten almost everything that happened in the stories, so it wasn't a great loss.

In true Irvine Welsh fashion, everything about this collection is vile, dark, disturbing and vomit-inducing. It really is spit your dinner out material, but it grips you unbelievably hard.

Welsh explores a lot of different themes and styles here, it's a good expression of his various literary abilities. There were some particularly insane sections that did make me wonder for a while what actually goes on in that baldy head of his, but his style is intriguing more than anything else.

His characters are, as always, flawed and vicious, but mostly wonderful. I do love it when characters from Welsh's other novels make an appearance, this time Spud from Trainspotting cropping up in the novella A Smart Cunt.

Twisted as he may be, Welsh remains one of my favourite authors, and going back to some of his older works helps to remind me of this. I'd recommend this to anyone who can handle something that's on the wrong side of macabre.

48 / 66 books. 73% done!

Friday, 9 July 2010

Book #47

The Book With No Name by Anonymous

For many centuries the shelves of a library in South America held a terrible secret. Sitting on these shelves was a book with no name, written by an anonymous author. Everyone who ever read it ended up dead, yet the book always found it's way back to the library. In 2005 a special government investigator uncovered the truth about the book and it's link to the murders. Now available in paperback, you can discover for yourself the reason why no one ever read the book and lived, until now.

This book is insane.

I was drawn to it in the first instance because it was untitled, written by an anonymous author, and told me, "Whatever you do, don't read the book with no name". I am the type of person who, when told not to do something, will do exactly that. It's incredibly, incredibly complicated, with an array of very strange characters, very strange occurences, and some very strange plot twists.

It would be difficult to go into exactly what happens, but to summarise, each character is pursuing a precious stone called the Eye of the Moon. Each character's reasons for desiring the stone are different, yet vague, and nothing is revealed properly, or falls completely into place, until the very end. One character who is particularly determined to get his hands on the stone is the Bourbon Kid, who really has no qualms about who he blows away on his mission.

It's definitely not for the faint of heart. The violence and gore involved was quite intense, I even found myself cringing in places, which I never really do. It reminded me of Quentin Tarantino's films, and although I never really put a book down and think it'd make an excellent film, if Tarantino did this one I think it'd blow everyone away.

It packs in so many genres that I'm finding it quite difficult to choose one for it. It's a thriller, mystery, supernatural, crime, horror, and even a romance novel in places.

My favourite part was the author's use of a different character's point of view in each of the chapters. This allowed us to see everything as a whole, and sometimes to find things out before certain characters do, which I always enjoy in a sort of, "OMG DON'T GO IN THERE!" kind of way. It also added more suspense, as the author would switch to another character quickly while something exciting was just happening elsewhere. Although I hate using clich├ęd book review phrases, it was definitely a page-turner.

There is a sequel, called The Eye of the Moon, which I'm going to try and source immediately because I enjoyed this one so much. If you like a bit of violence and blood, give this one a go. I enjoy a good punching, and I loved this.

I'd also like to add a little something that people who have read, or who plan to read this, may have missed. I am a geek and looked at the publisher's notes at the front before I started reading this. Why? There is always a copyright note there with the author's name beside it. The copyright is c/o The Bourbon Kid.

47 / 66 books. 71% done!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Book #46

Somewhere To Lay My Head by Robert Douglas

This is the beginning of Robert Douglas's stirring memoir of growing from boy to man in the fast-changing Britain of the fifties and sixties. We follow him from the RAF Boys' Service to a Dickensian life down the pit, from there to slaving in a hotel, then back to Glasgow for work on the docks and a spell in a fearsome establishment for homeless men, before it is time to return to the forces for National Service.

I didn't realise when I first opened this book that it was actually an autobiography, nor did I realise that it was the second installment of a trilogy. I feel a bit odd now that I've discovered this as I hate reading things in the wrong order. However, I really enjoyed it.

I loved Douglas's writing style - it was really simple, yet somewhat comforting, and it times I almost felt like he was writing directly to me, as if he'd written all this in a letter.

There are some photographs peppered throughout the novel, too. I thought these were a great wee touch. They were mainly of Douglas's friends and family, but there was one in particular of Glasgow in the fifties, and I was mesmerised by it. It's amazing how you can instantly recognise an area you see almost every day, yet it's so different.

This was another reason for enjoying the novel - hearing about a familiar place in an unfamiliar time is something I really love. Douglas's descriptions of post-war Glasgow were gorgeous.

I'm going to try and get a hold of the first and third installments of this trilogy and try to catch up!

46 / 66 books. 70% done!