‘Mistah Kurtz – he dead’: a book review of Apocalypse Chow, a novel by David Julian Wightman
The subtitle to Apocalypse Chow describes it as a ‘remix of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness’. Pastiche, parody, or whatever we wish to call it is a difficult art, made more difficult if the original is a pillar of the western literary canon of which many people have heard, but few have read. Conrad’s prose is too dense and allusive for contemporary tastes, the novel was written a long time ago, and one has to be prepared to work hard to get to grips with it.
Monkey on a Wire: a book review of 72 Raisins by Nikki Nash
72 Raisins tells the story of Scott Mullan, a Los Angeles-based comedy writer for The Late Enough Show, whose star is the diminutive Dylan Flynn. Scott is fifty and married to Rebecca. They have two children, both of whom are due to start college and are busy choosing – along with Rebecca – where to go. Scott is hoping for promotion to head writer on the show, but his ambitions and his marriage are thrown into turmoil when his agent asks him to read the typescript of a book called Seven Mythic Doorways to Freedom by Ben Doss, with a view to editing it, a suggestion that Scott fears indicates he will never get the job he covets.
Ribbon of Memories: a book review of Do the Wrong Thing, a novel by Malcolm van Delst
On several occasions, I was fortunate to hear Malcolm van Delst, a writer based in Vancouver, Canada, read aloud from a work-in-progress called Do the Wrong Thing. The extracts she read left me puzzled and intrigued: I was unable to grasp exactly what the book was meant to be about, and exactly what she aimed to achieve. Do the Wrong Thing seemed to consist principally of details and fragments – often, details of fragments – set down more or less at random, from the life of a young woman whom I took to be the author herself. Now that I have read book one of Do the Wrong Thing (others are yet to be published), I am still puzzled, but the mists have cleared enough for me to relish the journey even while the destination remains obscure.
Painted Ladies: A book review of A Thing of the Moment, a novel by Bruno Noble
The power ‘to see ourselves as others see us’ is described as a gift by Robert Burns, but it is easy also to imagine it a curse. Self-identity is an elusive and shifting construct; anyone with a penchant for introspection quickly finds themselves in a hall of mirrors that reflect different versions of who they are, depending on time and circumstance. Besides, are other people’s perceptions of ourselves any more accurate or any less imposed than our own? Perhaps it is better to be misunderstood from the inside than it is to be misperceived from the outside.
Rights and Wrongs: A book review of A Body’s Just as Dead, a novel by Cathy Adams
At the current dismal juncture of US social and political history, it is dismaying to witness the ignorance and prejudice, the violence and demagoguery, the greed and stupidity worn as a badge of honour by so many politicians and their supporters. Whence comes their rejection of truth, science and rationality? Why such disdain for intelligence, compassion and empathy? Why the obsession with guns?
Land of the Free: A book review of Welcome to Saint Angel, a novel by William Luvaas
Appropriately, this review of William Luvaas’s rollickingly farcical Welcome to Saint Angel was written in the swelter of a global heatwave that broke temperature records around the world, killed thousands and brought drought and disaster. The future, it seems, has already arrived, bearing in its arms the promised gifts of environmental Armageddon and political barbarism. Within the span of a few decades, humanity has moved from a vague awareness that something wicked this way comes, to a confrontation with Earth’s sixth great extinction. We need to relocate to a better place where the water is pure and the grass green, where we can breathe clean air and raise our families in peace. But there’s nowhere left to go.
Tale of Two Journals: A book review of The Journal, a novel by R. D. Stevens
There is a key moment in Robin Stevens’ The Journal when Ethan Willis, a young man who journeys to Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand in search of his missing sister, Charlotte, is confronted with the brute existence of Evil in the shape of S-21 in Phnom Penh. S-21 was a major Khmer Rouge torture chamber, where many thousands of people were murdered. Ethan gazes at the crude paintings made by former prisoners on the walls of their hell; sees the blood and the smiling onlookers depicted in the images. In the visitors’ book he reads the wholly inadequate responses of western tourists: ‘How terrible …’, ‘Give peace a chance.’ A tearful Cambodian woman says something to him he does not understand, touches him momentarily.