Alt-lit is like a rock band’s first album. Brimming with raw energy, uninhibited, ready to take on the world. The band’s second record gets professionally produced and is much more polished – critics usually proclaim the second or third album the best – and yet many fans will declare the initial, rough recording their favourite.
Alt novel Into the Vortex is more like a second album, written in effortless, self-assured prose with nary an awkward simile or clumsy wording as we expect when venturing away from Penguin.
I assumed this was not Brian’s first rodeo but was surprised to see that according to his website, this is his maiden book. Either he has precocious talent or a brilliant editor. Perhaps both.
[Edit: the website seems to have been suspended. Alt cred recognized.]
Review of Under the Nihil(pronounced like the river Nile), by Andy Nowicki.
Many saints are lunatics.
Catholic figures such as St Catherine of Siena seem driven by inner demons that combine with contemporary values. The same might be said of secular martyrs – soldiers who insist on doing ever more tours of duty in some unwinnable hellhole; Western doctors choosing to work in African war zones; animal shelter ladies. Julian Assange, Edward Snowden.
A normal person lives his life, tries to get a job, get married, raise kids and pay off the house. He might give twenty bucks to the Salvos at Christmas, help the odd beetle back onto its feet and consider himself a good sort. For the average person, it is enough to obey the law and not to be too obnoxious.
The protagonist of Under the Nihil decides at a young age to become a priest. He is troubled, socially awkward, unpopular. Religion gives him strength and direction. One day, he thinks, I’ll be a priest and everything will be okay. I’ll have a vocation helping others. He prays and waits for this release from his uneasy life.
There are some careers that inevitably push their people towards misanthropy. Cops, criminal lawyers, prison guards. Social workers.
Mather Schneider was a cab driver in Tucson, Arizona for 15 years. This is a collection of stories he collected along the way. A few make the spirit soar; most leave the spirit muddied and lying in the gutter. In a good way.
Thank you to everyone who picked up a copy of my book, The Poor Man’s Guide to Financial Freedom. I’ve sold quite a few now.
The lady pictured above said she got some great ideas from the book, though she neglected to make the cover visible in this shot. She did send some photos where the cover was visible, but other things were also visible so I can’t post those. You know I’m a gentleman. Very honest, too.
Unfortunately I don’t yet have any reviews for the book on Amazon. Reviews are vital because they let potential readers know that this is a legit book that others have read, and give them a sense of whether or not it’s what they’re looking for.
If you’ve read the book, please leave an honest review on Amazon or wherever you bought it. A thousand thanks.
And if you haven’t heard of this book I’m talking about, here it is:
Book review of The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu.
There was once an article in Return of Kings. I cannot remember the exact theme of it, and nor can anyone else, because it contained a single throwaway line that completely distracted everybody from the point and was the sole topic of discussion in the comments. The author had casually claimed that women with large dogs actually root them. With an assertion like that, any sensible arguments that may have been made in the article were immediately forgotten in the mayhem that ensued.
For me, The Tale of Genji was like that. The Prince, Genji, did many things – he seduced princesses, sometimes rather forcefully, won favour with the Emperor, was exiled by the new Emperor, was rehabilitated – but all of it kind of pales into insignificance when we consider that one thing that he did.
Reading other reviews, it seems that I’m the only one who’s so distracted by it. Other, more mature readers are able to accept that Read More
Mark Zolo always took things a bit too far. Back in the day I would check his site, Naughty Nomad, for its city reports before taking on a new international gig. I liked to know beforehand whether dating would be possible there, and whether this would get my head cut off.
I did minimum two year contracts. It’s a factor. Don’t come for me.
But when I went on a week-long trip somewhere, I really could not be bothered trying to pick up girls and find a place to take them in a hostel dormitory. The one time I went to Russia (Saik! I’m not Russian), I was far more interested in hiking and seeing historical sites than bedding local women. Between finding a place to stay, avoiding pros, and bringing along clothes suitable for a nightspot, it didn’t seem like it was worth it.
To Mark, it is always worth it.
For me, [traveling alone] meant doing just enough sight-seeing to stave off guilt, then bar hopping and chasing tail.
The places he’s been and the things he’s done to experience danger and pick up hoochimamas are astonishing. As a result, this is the most bizarre and extreme travel book you’ll ever read.
Book review of Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee, with reference to other books by him and some by Dostoevsky.
I have always felt that I ought to like Coetzee. Ever since I was in uni and the tutor pointed out that one bit in Foe where it seems like Character 1 is knocking on Character 2’s door but if you read carefully it’s the other way around, I’ve had an admiration for linguists like savage Papuans have for sorcerers. This led me to take Noam Chomsky seriously for too long.
There are very few books that I have read twice. One was The Lord of the Rings, which I read when I was eight and later when I was fifteen and actually understood it. The only other I can remember off the top of my head is this one. I happened to look something up for some reason, got distracted by the chapter on Sartre, and ended up reading the whole thing again. The antics of this intellectual crowd are highly entertaining. My favourite was the list of drunken injuries that befell Hemmingway, which stretches over three or four mirthful pages.
I thought about inserting here a check-table of intellectuals and their sins but concluded it would be too much work and you wouldn’t be that impressed anyway. So instead I will Read More
Poor old Marcki-poo. High-born and bookish, he wanted nothing more than to go to Athens and study philosophy. But duty called him to other things: in the age of the Five Good Emperors, starting with Hadrian, each new one was chosen for his virtues rather than because he was the son of the old one – though none of the previous four had had sons, so that was easily done. And Marcus Aurelius felt the unwanted tap on the shoulder.
He insisted, against the wishes of the elite, that his Read More
James Shirley (1596-1666) was certainly serious about this one when he wrote of the futility of pursuing empire when we all end up in the ground, anyway. And then the colonized people will winge and whine at you for CENTURIES, even if you wiped out cannibalism (PNG, Fiji etc.), widow sacrifice (India) or people (Ireland). Surely it’s not worth the trouble. Seriously.
It is interesting that Shirley wrote this just before Read More
I probably like writing reviews more than you like reading them. For me, it’s a way of getting my thoughts straight about what I read and consolidating in my memory whatever is most significant. It is not an assessment of how good a book is; if it were rubbish I would not bother writing about it at all. Rather, it is just whatever thoughts were inspired by it. This is why I often get sidetracked and end up talking about that girl with cerebral palsy who I totally failed to pick up and who was probably a lesbian anyway, or that metre-long shit I once did in the bathroom of an Indian restaurant in Shinjuku.
The problem is, I read a lot of good books – indeed, some outstanding and moving books – and yet I have nothing much to say about them. I could sum up my thoughts in a paragraph, so I haven’t bothered writing a review.
Now that I’m just finishing up the biggest reading period of my life, I feel like these books deserve some sort of recognition here at the People’s.
So here we go: my ultra-brief assessments of other good books I’ve read:
I promised very old English poems. Such poems ye shall have.
In fact, we shall begin by going all the way back to anonymous, traditional ballads, apparently Scottish.
In the following story, Lord William tries to ride off with Douglas’ dirty slut of a daughter, so Douglas and his seven sons go out to meet him in battle. William is injured, the couple escape and spend just one night together. By midnight he’s dead and by the next day she is, too. They bury William and a brier grows over his grave. And then . . .