7 October 2008
Errors make no mistake electro
When this Glasgow band first got together four years ago, they wanted to sound ‘a bit like New Order’. Either they were being modest, or maybe they really didn’t realise how far-reaching their take on electro would end up being. Continue reading
The Sunday Times
22 August 2004
The former Perrier award-winner Hardy gave up his life as a “bar-room hellraiser” to pursue a career in stand-up 20 years ago Continue reading
18 October 2007
Mitzi Szereto (Ed)
Sounding worryingly like a manual for angry Bobbitt types, this anthology of short stories looks at ways of serving up the cold dish of revenge.
Men don’t come out looking too rosy, and boors, cheaters, liars and leches are given just desserts by poison, sharp nail files or dogged scheming. Where it could sway into lemon-sucking spite, or a man-bashing orgy, the stories are tempered with a cheeky, wicked sense of humour that keeps the tone entertaining, rather than just plain embittered.
The range is enjoyable too, flipping from noir fiction to zombie fantasy. Umi Sinha’s thought-provoking floral prose in ‘Parvati’ takes the reader to post-colonial India where a maharajah gets jealous of a frisky monkey, and a few pages later, a downtrodden middle American married to a white trash slob is plotting ways of becoming a widow. This is an entertaining set of modern Tales of the Unexpected.
Getting Even: Revenge Stories (Serpent’s Tail)
8 May 2008
It’s safe to say this latest novel from Fifer John Burnside won’t be sparking a tourism boom on the east coast anytime soon. But his bleakly beautiful tale digs beneath the surface of the everyday to do what he does best, hunting out terrifying and comforting truths about what makes us tick. The fictional hell-hole of Innertown lives in the shadow of a disused chemical plant. It’s not clear what poisons were brewed up behind the factory walls, but the coastline is suffering a toxic hangover, where deformed animals and diseased humans crawl about their day-to-day existences. When schoolboys start disappearing, the local bobby seems suspiciously blasé, and a collective, paranoid finger is pointed at a reclusive weirdo hiding in the wasteland, writing love letters to a death row killer.
Burnside narrates his way around the grim backdrop of smalltown claustrophia and inertia through Leonard, a 15-year-old bookworm. A likeable, sensitive smartarse that knows exactly what it means when a teacher calls him a misanthrope, and quotes Molière right back at him, he’s full of the kind of precocious insight that makes him all the more aware of the nightmare life mapped out for him. Part coming-of-age drama, part sci-fi thriller, with a healthy dose of satisfyingly dark Scottish miserabilism, the themes of sin and redemption or death and the afterlife should make this as heavy as a wrecking ball, but Burnside’s too subtle and masterful with his language for that. In his hands, the doom and gloom becomes absorbing and eloquent.
Glister (Jonathan Cape)
- Carrie Maclennan and Clare Nicolson, photo by Justin Griffiths-Williams
The Sunday Times
12 October 2008
Cross-stitch and embroidery – with an added modern sense of fun – are a booming business, finds Claire Sawers
4 September 2008
Tyndale Corbett is worried that ‘do-gooding, over-forgiving softies’ have given religion a bad name. After stealing a friend’s identity and fleeing to Miami to escape his dead-end existence, he wants to con a congregation into believing he’s God. Decency and law-abiding got him nowhere, but his new role as a humble, yet hard-nosed vigilante, dishing out rough justice amongst South Beach’s crack dealers, bullshitters and blamers, leads him to unexpected enlightenment.
Tibor Fischer’s surreal morality tale is bullet-riddled with wisdom, but freed from worthiness thanks to his brilliantly dry, warped humour. Narrated by a washed-up loser who’s met one too many wiseguys, Fischer is fooling no one. He delivers the gospel according to a very intelligent, far from perfect man (a bit like his fantasy plot, which revisits common ground from his previous novels), and although he’d like us to believe Corbett’s a wrinkly old cynic, the black comedy lets slip his compassionate side.
Good to be God (Alma Books)
2 October 2008
Mark Doty’s talent has always been in bringing elegance to simple, normally very recognisable, snapshots from everyday life. The American poet starts out with a plain observation – some rude truck driver tearing up the NYC streets; his dog, Beau, wagging its tail; a bat leaving an ‘inky signature’ in the night sky – before using it as a springboard for exploring tender and profound truths, but in a very laidback way.
Doty’s eighth book is succinct and moving, mood-swinging gracefully through a 55-year-old’s frustrations, fears, grateful snatches of surprise or ‘unbridled joy’. Less grandiose or raw than previous books, where he dealt with the death of his partner or the aftermath of 9/11, the intensity of his grief and despair has been replaced by equally deeply-felt, only less tortured emotions, plus the occasional shoulder-shrug or eye-roll at the dilemmas life throws at him. Effortlessly done, condensing his soul-searching into neat and beautiful soundbites.
Theories and Apparitions (Jonathan Cape)