Private lives

30 08 2010

The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim by Jonathan Coe

From Amazon:

Maxwell Sim seems to have hit rock bottom. Estranged from his father, newly divorced, unable to communicate with his only daughter, he realizes that while he may have seventy-four friends on Facebook, there is nobody in the world with whom he can actually share his problems. Then a business proposition comes his way – a strange exercise in corporate PR that will require him to spend a week driving from London to a remote retail outlet on the Shetland Isles. Setting out with an open mind, good intentions and a friendly voice on his SatNav for company, Maxwell finds that this journey soon takes a more serious turn, and carries him not only to the furthest point of the United Kingdom, but into some of the deepest and darkest corners of his own past. In his sparkling and hugely enjoyable new book Jonathan Coe reinvents the picaresque novel for our time.

It is an amusing read yet painful and excruciating at times. Very enjoyable overall though and, as ever with Coe, extremely well written, carefully crafted and yet seemingly effortless in its delivery. Only minor let down is the really quite unnecessary post-modern authorial indulgence at the end. Highly recommended.

Islands in the Stream: Approximation of a playlist §50

24 08 2010

Nothing special for the half century I’m afraid. Same old, same old.

Songs or artists featuring islands

All Night Long – Lionel Richie
North Marine Drive – Ben Watt
Like A Virgin – Madonna
Up in the sky[e] – Oasis
S[c]illy Love Songs – Paul McCartney
Victoria – The Fall
South of the border – Robbie Williams
Mother And Child Reunion – Paul Simon
The Man Who Sold the World – Lulu
Driving Home For Christmas – Chris Rea
Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On – Jerry Lee Lewis
Take Me Home, Country Roads [Rhodes] – John Denver
Chanson D’amour – The Manhattan Transfer
Australia – Manic Street Preachers
Hong Kong Garden – Siouxsie & the Banshees
Mull Historical Society – Mull Historical Society
Funkin’ For Jamaica – Tom Browne
Barbados – Typically Tropical

Voice over

18 08 2010

Voices by Arnuladur Indridason

Detective Erlendur encounters memories of his troubled past in this gripping and award-winning continuation of the “Reykjavik Murder Mysteries”. At a grand Reykjavik hotel the doorman has been repeatedly stabbed in the dingy basement room he called home. It is only a few days before Christmas and he was preparing to appear as Santa Claus at a children’s party. The manager tries to keep the murder under wraps. A glum detective taking up residence in his hotel and an intrusive murder investigation are not what he needs. As Erlendur quietly surveys the cast of grotesques who populate the hotel, the web of malice, greed and corruption that lies beneath its surface reveals itself. Everyone has something to hide. But most shocking is the childhood secret of the dead man who, many years before, was the most famous child singer in the country: it turns out to be a brush with stardom which would ultimately cost him everything. As Christmas Day approaches Erlendur must delve deeply into the past to find the man’s killer.

Another fun-filled outing for Erlendur the grim Icelandic detective. It’s a pretty unhappy tale in which Erlendur’s dysfunctional family inevitably features too. Nevertheless, still pretty good stuff and well worth a go.

Burning Bright

11 08 2010

The Stars in the Bright Sky by Alan Warner

The Sopranos are back: out of school and out in the world, gathered in Gatwick to plan a super-cheap last-minute holiday to celebrate their reunion. Kay, Kylah, Manda, Rachel and Finn are joined by Finn’s equally gorgeous friend Ava – a half-French philosophy student – and are ready to go on the rampage. Just into their twenties and as wild as ever, they’ve added acrylic nails, pedicures, mobile phones and credit cards to their arsenal, but are still the same thirsty girls: their holiday bags packed with skimpy clothes and condoms, their hormones rampant. Will it be Benidorm or Magaluf, Paris or Las Vegas? One thing is certain: a great deal of fast-food will be eaten and gallons of Guinness will be drunk by the alpha-female Manda, and she will be matched by the others’ enthusiastic intake of Bacardi Breezers, vodkas and Red Bull. With Alan Warner’s pitch-perfect ear for dialogue, pinpoint characterisation and glorious set-pieces, this is a novel propelled by conversation through scenes of excess and debauchery, hilarity and sadness. Like the six young women at its centre, “The Stars in the Bright Sky” is vivid and brimming with life – in all its squalor, rage, tears and laughter – and presents an unforgettable story of female friendship.

Early Amazon reviewers are pretty split on this follow up to The Sopranos but after a bit of a slow start I have to say I thought it was pretty good. Not all of the characters have the depth and interest of Manda and Ava but still works well with these two at the centre of the maelstrom. There is a heavy dependence on the dialogue but it stays sharp and authentic throughout. Altogether pretty enjoyable.

(And if you were querying the title, they do have a debate about whether it is “bright” or “night” sky in Away in a Manger)

Double trouble: Approximation of a playlist §49

4 08 2010

Artists with repetitive names

Kiss Me – Stephen TinTin Duffy
Wild Boys – Duran Duran
I’m Used Now – Grab Grab The Haddock
Africa – Toto
Go Wild In The Country – Bow Wow Wow
Crash – Primitives (with, of course, Tracy Tracy on vocals)
Rubber Bullets – 10cc
(Do) The Hucklebuck – Coast To Coast

All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit – Half Man Half Biscuit
Teardrops – Womack & Womack
Gimme all your lovin’ – ZZ Top
Wordy Rappinghood – Tom Tom Club
The Man Who Sold the World – Lulu
Things That Make You Go Hmmm… – C & C Music Factory
Back to life – Soul II Soul
Talk Talk – Talk Talk
What I Am – Tin Tin Out Feat. Emma Bunton
The Beat(En) Generation – The The
Angel Eyes – Wet Wet Wet
Our Lips Are Sealed – The Go-Gos

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