Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

Archive for October 2008

‘The Rose In Twelve Petals’ by Theodora Goss

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I was ready to castigate ‘Twelve Petals’ for just being another alt history too – which it is – but it blends this with the fairytale of Sleeping Beauty to some effect. It is still a fairytale though and it would be nice to think there is more to slipstream than ironic folklore.

Quality: ***
Slipperiness:***

Part of Feeling Very Strange

Written by Martin

23 October 2008 at 18:12

The Ideal Falling Motion Of A Body

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It hit her hard when she first saw it, the day after, in the newspaper. The man headlong, the towers behind him. The mass of the towers filled the frame of the picture. The man falling, the towers continuous, she thought, behind him. The enormous soaring lines, the vertical column stripes. The man with blood on his shirt, she thought, or burn marks, and the effect of the columns behind him, the composition, she thought, darker stripes for the nearer tower, the north, lighter for the other, and the mass, the immensity of it all, and the man set set almost precisely between the rows of darker and lighter stripes. Headlong, free fall, she thought, and this picture burnt a hole in her mind and heart, dear God, he was a falling angel and his beauty was horrific.

Don DeLillo, Falling Man, 2007

DeLillo’s character is discussing Richard Drew’s infamous photo from which the novel takes its name. It is the obvious cover for the book but at the same time it is not the sort of image that you can slap text over and use a sales pitch. Instead the publishers have used a photo by Katy Day Weisberger which takes the opposite approach, moving back, rising up, relegating the Twin Towers themselves to the back cover. It is an equally fitting companion to the work DeLillo has produced. (The UK paperback cover also removes the clever but perhaps ill-judged typographical trick from the original cover.)

Written by Martin

23 October 2008 at 17:57

‘The Lions Are Asleep This Night’ by Howard Waldrop

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Well, at least it isn’t about Hitler winning the war. The only reason I can guess that this alt history was included is, er, because it has a love of 16th Century plays. Yeah.

Quality: **
Slipperiness:

Part of Feeling Very Strange

Written by Martin

22 October 2008 at 22:03

Yes, We Can

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I went to see Transports Exceptionnels in London Fields yesterday. It was a duet between man and digger.

Speaking of London Fields, I noticed the Keith Talent gallery for the first time last week. It isn’t actually in London Fields but Bethnal Green is a damn sight closer than Kings Cross.

Edit: The Guardian has some footage of the piece.

Written by Martin

19 October 2008 at 23:50

Kafkaesque

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Kafka is a mighty presence in ‘Bright Morning’. I was particularly amused by the opening section in which Jeffrey Ford talks of references to Kafka being foisted on his proxy’s work:

If there is one thing that distinguishes my work from others it is the fact that in the review blurbs that fill the back cover and the page that precedes the titel page inside, the name of “Kafka” appears no less than eight times. Kafka, Kafkaesque, Kafka-like, in the tradition of Kafka. Certainly more Kafka than one man deserves – a veritable embarassment of Kafka riches… At first glance, it would seem that any writer would be proud to have their work compared to that of one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers, but upon closer inspection it becomes evident that in today’s publishing world, when a novel does not fit a perscribed format, it is immediately labelled Kafkaesque. The hope is, of course, that this will be interpreted as meaning exotic, when, in fact, it translates to the book buying public as obscure. Kafka has become a place, a condition, a boundary to which it is perceived on the pretentious are drawn and only total lunatics will cross.

I was reminded of a similar tendency with respect to JG Ballard. I recently wrote a short piece about this with respect to James Miller and Will Ashon and the fact that critics and publishers seem keen to nail the term Ballardian anything that moves:

Ballard has now reached the point in his career – edgy elder statesman – where the shadow he casts is so long that if you are a young male British writer and your publisher doesn’t compare you to him you should probably be worried.

Written by Martin

18 October 2008 at 14:05

‘Bright Morning’ by Jeffrey Ford

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My novels are fantasy/adventure stories with a modicum of metaphsyical whim-wham that some find to be insightful and others have termed “overcooked navel gazing”. Granted, there are no elves or dragons or knights or wizards in these books, but they are still fantasies, none the less. I mean, if you have a flying head, a town with a panopticon that floats in the clouds, a monster that sucks the essense out of hapless victimes through their ears, what the hell else can you call it?

A unnamed writer who seems much like Jeffrey Ford is writing a story called ‘Bright Morning’, inspired by a lost Kafka of the same name. Later a writer called Jeffrey Ford does show up as the unnamed writer’s rival. With so recursive a plot it could easily have been overcooked nazel gazing but it is so perfectly controlled that it is actually the finest stories in the collection by some margin. Ford blends autobiography, writer’s memoir and literary criticism with an almost pulpish piece of modern folklore to produce a beautifully measured story that exists in the cracks of what is real and what is not.

This is how you should do it, Benjamin Rosenbaum.

Quality: *****
Slipperiness: ****

Ford on slipstream in an interview with Matt Cheney:

Fictional hybrids are always more powerful than genre purebreds — they are more resilient, they have the potential to surprise, the power to escape the gravitational attraction of tradition. Until, of course, they themselves become accredited purebreds, as is now happening with what some call “slipstream”.

Part of Feeling Very Strange

Written by Martin

18 October 2008 at 12:50

‘Exhibit H: Torn Pages Discovered In The Vest Pocket Of An Unidentified Tourist’ by Jeff Vandermeer

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Further evidence that Kessel and Kelly equate meta-fiction (and long titles) with slipstream. This is an enjoyable slice from Ambergris that feels pretty slight once divorced from the mosaic motherlode.

Quality: ***
Slipperiness: *

Part of Feeling Very Strange

Written by Martin

15 October 2008 at 15:34