DBC Pierre’s writing book is like his fiction – a bit bizarre, purplish, chaotic, and often brilliant. Release the Bats is inspirational, making it clear that anyone can be a writer regardless of circumstance, and that literature is all about the interplay of worlds (internal/external; the gap between chaos and the ideal). The book provides a welter of ideas and tools and does so in a surprisingly coherent manner. It’s surprising because the book has a tendency to ramble, philosophise in extended and often convoluted metaphors, explode into digression, and slide into memoir, with Pierre using his own experiences as an example of how and in what ways his tools work.
Most of the writers interviewed came across as incredibly generous, surprisingly humble, and warm and accessible. Wood allowed the writers to approve their interviews before they went to print, and the resulting transcripts are beautifully readable, smooth and lucid, without losing any of the candid nature of the conversations, or the intimacy. I felt, above all, that the information provided in these interviews was a tremendous act of generosity – not just in terms of authors sharing their best tricks, their struggles and their visions, but also because of the way these discussions draw the reader almost directly into the writing process.
Frugality is Howard-Johnson’s stock-in-trade, and since none of her suggestions involve a large outlay, I’d say that picking up a copy of this book is about the most frugal and valuable thing a new author can do in order to generate inexpensive and highly credible publicity. The book is easy to read, and rich with Howard-Johnson’s own considerable experience. Above all, I think the point that she makes about treating the acquiring of reviews, not as an ancillary activity, but an integral part of the promotional campaign and one that cannot be skimped on, is key.
Kone’s drawings are beautifully composed and are not without a healthy dollop of black humour (e.g. ‘I is for Ingrid who trusted her friends…’) but for the most part they are quirky and amusing rather than disquieting, as is almost always the case with Gorey. They will raise a wry smile, certainly, but they won’t put you on edge as Gorey’s drawings are wont to do.
Cemeteries are strange spaces, otherworldly (a gateway to the afterlife) yet of this world. You see an angel’s wings and, looking lost, a child’s teddy bear. That glint of sunlight piercing oblivion’s black veil is sacred, holy are those red and pink flowers laid by the earth in which the Dead are buried – not a uniquely human custom, for the Neanderthals buried their loved ones.
As a left-wing person raised to practise the Golden Rule, I have felt guilty about it, since, on at least one significant occasion, my life was transformed by someone who took a chance on me. The question of when to open one’s heart and when to close it is an ongoing one. Diane Schoemperlen’s experience with Shane casts light on this question and makes us feel less alone in the struggle. Her wry humour and way with words keep it from being maudlin.
The atomic bomb, that infamous masterpiece of twenty-century technology created by the allies’ best brains trust and costing two billion dollars, was almost brought undone due to military maintenance malfunctions. Craig Collie has skilfully put together a splendid chronological record of mankind’s most successful killing implement and the combined consequences of a double dose of its destruction.
This first full biography by Suzanne Falkiner of Julian Randolph Stow, known by those close to him as Mick, is thorough and engaging. I first encountered his novels at university twenty-five years ago, and was drawn to the mysterious Visitants, the subject of our study at the time, and later read The suburbs of hell, but it wasn’t until I first heard that this biography was being published that I read two more of his novels to remind myself of his depth and style.
These stories, which function to cast a dim aura to the otherwise miserable objects, are “Unerhörten” in the two sense of that German word: they are “unheard” and “unheard of”—unknown and outrageous, suppressed and surprising. But for the non-German speakers, this adjective carried a third meaning: it was impossible to hear them, because all the stories could only be read in German. Until now, that is. The 78 stories in the entire collection have been translated into English by You Nakai and Alexander Booth, assembled together following the order of their weight, and published as the official catalogue raisonné of the museum.
The Civil War, A Narrative exemplifies the awfulness, overtiredness, dirt and stench of war. It was a time of fading hope, misinterpretation, fundamental disquiet vis-à-vis the future and an anxiety that the war which everyone had hoped would end rapidly, would not. Notwithstanding the nearly 900 page enormity of the work, is an edition to be studied by serious scholars of history.