Everything Is Nice

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

Archive for December 2008

Beedle’s About

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There was once a not very good writer who got lucky. In the beginning, she realised her limitations, but then began to take herself very seriously and wrote a series of ever-longer and bigger books. For years she said she longed for her privacy, but once she had finished her seventh book she looked at the bestseller charts and thought how lonely she would feel if she wasn’t top by Christmas. So she knocked out a quick follow-up and said she would give the profits to charidee. The publisher was happy but the children weren’t interested in a dud spin-off so they didn’t buy it and lots of copies had to be remaindered. And the writer was very sad. The End.

John Crace’s digested version of The Tales of Beedle the Bard (and John Mullan’s more temperate review.)

Elsewhere in the paper there is another reaction to William Radice’s review and Matthew Norman eviscerates the re-launched Kettner’s.

Written by Martin

15 December 2008 at 11:09

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Klaatu Barada Nikto!

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I mentioned Todd Alcott when I wrote about the diabolical Steven Spielberg version of War Of The Worlds. He has now completed his analysis: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4. As I suggested, he is unfazed by implausibility and stupidity.

Elsewhere Peter Bradshaw reviews the remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still:

The alien is called Klaatu, and Keanu Reeves (whose first name doesn’t sound that much different) is perhaps the only plausible casting, given that David Bowie is now too advanced in years to fall to earth again without breaking something… As ever, Keanu’s speech patterns really only suit a non-Earthling role. There’s something in that halting, quizzical delivery – which for a second promises droll comedy, and in the next second delivers only a baffling blankness – which indicates that carbon-based life forms are not entirely his thing.

Written by Martin

12 December 2008 at 11:57

On Orientalism

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It is widely regarded as a good idea for authors not to respond to reviews of their books. Editors probably have a bit more leeway though. On balance they should probably keep their mouths shut too but when their responses are as devastating as Jeet Thayil’s reply to William Radice’s review of The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets it is hard to begrudge them:

Radice’s orientalism would be quaint enough to be endearing – if it weren’t so annoying. He tells the reader (breathlessly, I imagine) that my anthology lacks “the colours, the light, the heat, the skies, the crowds and the birds” of India, not to forget “family relationships”, “children” and groups of enthusiastic “Indian university students”. What a happy picture must be playing in Radice’s overheated 19th-century imagination! What elephants! What tigers! What heat and dust and palanquins!

His main objection to 400 pages of poetry is that it is too contemporaneously gloomy. He laments the fact that Nissim Ezekiel and Vikram Seth dared to write in iambics when they should have been using a “tabla beat”. “To any Indian poet in English I would say: close your eyes, think back to the songs and rhymes you heard on your mother’s or grandmother’s lap,” he says, managing to be both patronising and reductionist at the same time.

Written by Martin

11 December 2008 at 08:50

I Want To Tell The Story Again

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It was interesting to read Jeanette Winterson’s introduction to Weight not long after reading The Stone Gods:

My work is full of Cover Versions. I like to take stories we think we know and record them differently. In the re-telling comes a new emphasis or bias, and the new arrangement of the key elements demands that fresh material be injected into the existing text.

Autobiography is not important. Authenticity is important. The writer must fire herself through the text, be the molten stuff that welds together disparate elements. I believe there is always exposure, vulnerability, in the writing process, which is not to say it is confessional or memoir. Simply, it is real.

This is described as her introduction but by the nature of what she is writing it is part of the main text. It could be equally applied to The Stone Gods and the pair form a duet of theme and execution.

Weight is part of the Canongate Myths series. I’ve found other examples from Margaret Atwood and Ali Smith – two writers I admire greatly – disappointing but Winterson’s tale succeeds far beyond the publisher’s uninspiring goal of retelling a myth in “a contemporary and memorable way”.

Written by Martin

10 December 2008 at 13:27

Posted in books, quotes

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What A Difference A Day Makes

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A couple of years ago Chris Cleave published his debut novel, Incendiary, a thriller about a terrorist attack on the Emirates Stadium. It received a major marketing push, including adverts on the tube, but, unfortunately, happened to be published on the same day as the tube bombings.

I’ve not read the novel but by all accounts calling it a thriller is slightly misleading. The publisher was clearly happy to mislead though because the cover screams thriller. Just look at the typeface. So it was with considerable surprise that I came across the new paperback edition in Borders.

It is about as radical a change in design as you can imagine. They both directly relate to the contents of the novel but emphasise completely different aspects. It continues a re-positioning seen in the recent film adaptation, the audience the marketing is trying to attract has clearly shifted from men to women. This does make sense but it is still a startling contrast.

Written by Martin

8 December 2008 at 13:10

Posted in books, design, films

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A Discussion About The Ant King And Other Stories

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When I read ‘Biographical Notes to “A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Air-Planes,” by Benjamin Rosenbaum’ by Benjamin Rosenbaum as part of Feeling Very Strange I said I hoped to say more about Rosenbaum’s fiction. And now I have.

A Discussion About The Ant King And Other Stories between myself, Niall Harrison, Abigail Nussbaum and Dan Hartland has just been published at Torque Control.

Written by Martin

8 December 2008 at 09:48

This Is The News

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Happy news: The euphemistically named “Autumn” edition of Vector has just arrived. It contains a bumper crop of reviews including one by me of Exotic Excusions by Anthony Nanson. Hopefully this will be available online on the Vector website early next year.

Sad news: Andrew McKie, the Telegraph’s obituaries editor and SF critic, has been made redundant. Good luck to him.

Mind-boggling news: Subterranean Press have asked Patrick of Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist fame to edit an anthology of his favourite fantasy for them. I won’t snark too hard because some profits are going to charity but that is one collection I won’t be buying.

Written by Martin

3 December 2008 at 17:16