Fancy settling down with a sassy novel in the run up for Christmas, or looking for some spirited chick lit as a present? Then comic tale The A-Z Guide to Arranged Marriages is the book for you.
I think it’s pretty safe to venture that anyone who opens an Irvine Welsh novel has a least the vaguest of notions of what to expect. In the decade since Trainspotting put him on the map (not to mention Babylon Heights, his recent play about the debauchery of Munchkins), drugs, sex, and rock ‘n’ roll (in that order) have been expected from Scotland’s most famous contemporary author.
Set in the lands of Inner Horner, Outer Horner, and Greater Keller, Phil satirizes democracy, war, and the media, drawing from Saunders’ previous themes of longing and loss. The prose is hard, clear, and proximal — by which I mean that it creates within its 130 pages a world as approximate to ours as is possible — the same but other.
Finishing the book I’m reading and placing it on the white plastic seat of my white porcelain toilet, I exhale loudly. I run my fingers through my damp hair, shake my face free of water, touch the sore on my lip, and stare at the book as if it were a fast-paddling and panicked beetle sharing my bath or a clutch of hairs left on the blue and white tiles by my girlfriend after her shower a few weeks ago.
Towelling myself dry, my skin flakes and spirals to the bathroom floor, I think of the slight shift in emphasis from Bounty, the last story in CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, to the title story of Pastoralia, Saunders’ second collection. This time, the theme/amusement park is caveman-based, disgruntled employees scrabbling and scratching for food and meaning. The paranoia here is gentle, the comedy an admixture of Freud and Benny Hill.
What I definitely will not be doing… What I definitely definitely will not be doing, not if I can help it, not if you tied me to a tree and propped open my eyelids using cocktail sticks and barbed wire, not if you kept me awake by playing Abba at ear-splitting eye-socket-gouging volume, not if you stroked my cock while whispering the words of the text in my pink and waxy shell-like. What I mean is, what I will not be doing is reading George Saunders’ new collection of short stories In Persuasion Nation. I won’t be reading it in the Riverhead Books edition nor the Bloomsbury edition, both of which I own. No, sir. No, ma’am. No, Mr Blunderbuss and Mrs Milquetoast. Nuh-uh. Ain’t gonna happen. No way. Not in a month of sorbets, not in a blue noon. You wanna know why? Huh? Well, I’ll tell you why. Here goes. Are you ready? My confession.
My friends give me bookmarks as gifts. I have a small collection: op-art cards with swirling hallucinogenic 3-D designs, portraits of authors (for some reason Virginia Woolf is a big hit with my female friends, who seem to think I’m a fan. I’m not really. I like To The Lighthouse, The Waves, and A Room of One’s Own, but that’s about it. Orlando is insufferable twaddle. So, if you want to buy me a postcard of a woman writer, make it Kathy Acker, Gertrude Stein, or Joan Didion). I have tens of bookmarks from bookshops. I find it impossible to go to an art gallery and not buy postcards to use as bookmarks, these appear between pages of unread or not-read-for-a-long-time-and-gathering-dust-and-insects books. Recently, I found a postcard of Francis Bacon holding beef carcasses in Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, one of Samuel Beckett looking like a crack-addicted heron in Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, and a trilogy of Warhol car-crash prints in Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey.
This three day escapade was riddled by a plethora of eccentricities: a stranglehold of imagery, ironies, gluttony, vice and vanity. Knowing Banksy, and having experienced or heard about his previous exhibitions, you would not find it surprising that his debut in Los Angeles incited many absurdisms, most notably — as you’ve probably already heard — a painted, roaming Indian elephant. Yes, Banksy once again has served us with an animal as metaphor, and this time it’s subject matter is the insoucience of the Western middle class.
Like Jean Baudrillard, the late Roland Barthes viewed the proliferation of news media in Western society, with its overloaded and misunderstood signs, as a symptom of late-stage capitalism. Like Baudrillard, Barthes was interested in seduction and in consciousness and value. And like Baudrillard, Barthes’ philosophy attracts and does battle with duality. Barthes’ writing, grounded in language theory, almost consumes itself as it is written; The Neutral is full of side notes, references, tables, graphs and quotes. In this, he is unlike Baudrillard, who writes the present as is; Barthes writes the past as if it will be, as if it were still being created, using anecdote and reference to advance his theory.
Baudrillard has never been as willfully abstruse as Gilles Deleuze or Felix Guattari; he has never been as playful as Jacques Derrida; he has never been as rib-ticklingly laugh out loud as Michel Foucault, or as technologically perceptive as Paul Virilio. In Intelligence, he has decided to attempt a synthesis of his theories while challenging, incorporating, and having fun with those of his contemporaries.
Bruce Campbell, probably so often referred to as ‘That Ash guy from the Evil Dead films’, may be expected to have few life experiences that would spice up an autobiography. Could he really have more to tell beyond tales of endless appearances at cult movie conventions and a few guest spots acting? Thankfully, Campbell has been avoiding the dull and mundane track through life, even before setting out to make no-budget shocker Evil Dead (Sam Raimi, 1982) with his chums. If Chins Could Kill offers an amusing anecdotal approach to Campbell’s life story with enough insights into filmmaking, particularly from a decidedly never-in-demand-actor point of view, that it never fails to be an entertaining read. Old Bruce has never had it easy, but he sure seems to have enjoyed the ride so far.
In The Metamorphosis and A Hunger Artist, Kafka implements the presence of “unknown nourishment” as a means of addressing characteristics of both the human and animal worlds. The unknown nourishment in The Metamorphosis, Grete’s violin playing, defines Gregor’s most apparent ‘human’ quality amidst animal-like transformation. The hunger artist utilizes unknown nourishment or, rather, the lack of nourishment to position himself between human/animal worlds. Specifically, the unknown nourishment in both stories encompasses both the transgression between human/animal worlds and the intangible motif of existence seen throughout Kafka’s works.
Currently, the Getty’s biggest event is the largest collection of the Peter Paul Rubens and Jans Brueghel the Elder partnership ever to be shown, and it’s there to be viewed until the conception of Autumn. Aside from the Rubens/Brueghel collaborative works on show, there are individual pieces and some collaborations with other Flemish artists of the time.
He describes his work as “representational pictures of emotional situations” — a fitting way to sum up the often very personal titles such as “In Paris With You” and “Small Henry Moore at the Bottom of the Garden”. Through his bold, fluid brush strokes and the often dramatic impact of his sometimes limited colours you cannot help but feel through the sight of the abstract image the emotion within the painting.
The Salisbury International Arts Festival in England returns at the end of May with a host of arts events covering literature, film, theatre, music and more. The Festival’s main theme this year is ‘relate’ with an artistic focus on storytelling which is reflected across all the events. Here Zap! BANG! takes a look at the visual arts offerings.
The Salisbury International Arts Festival in England returns at the end of May with a host of arts events covering literature, film, theatre, music and more. The Festival’s main theme this year is ‘relate’ with an artistic focus on storytelling which is reflected across all the events. This, the first Zap! BANG! feature covering the festival, takes a look at who will be featuring in the literature section.
The contemporary state of cultural production has become stagnant, strangled and made impotent by the subjective quasi-conclusive spectacle of the parties involved. Art, the definitive explanation being left unmentioned, upholds inherently within its conceptual structure a formulaic expansion that can be molded and manipulated to fit any form.
What makes this current of inquiry distinct is not its concern with “existence” in general, but rather its claim that thinking about human existence requires new categories not found in the conceptual repertoire of ancient or modern thought; human beings can be understood neither as substances with fixed properties, nor as atomic subjects primarily interacting with a world of objects.
Red Mars is a wonderfully detailed account of the human effort to terraform Mars in the hope that one day man may freely populate its surface. It is the first book of a trilogy that has directly benefited from seventeen years of research by the author, Kim Stanley Robinson, coupled with a well thought out story line.
Bret Easton Ellis realized the apex of his writing genius within his third book, American Psycho, a truly bold attempt at a violent and shocking creation: a young American yuppie Patrick Bateman, whose solipsistic affliction cleverly exposes the putrid underbelly of consumerism.
The Frieze Art Fair — held annually in Regent’s Park, London — is one of the biggest showcases of contemporary art in the world today. Over 160 of the most dynamic and influential galleries in the world exhibit work, and it brings together people connected to the art world from all over.
Life of Pi
The Life of Pi is a fictional recollection of a young boys’ trans-oceanic venture in a boat with a bizarre collection of animals and a religious zeal to survive. Piscine Molitor Patel (named after a famous French swimming pool) is recounting the days when he was a thirteen year old Indian lad from a zoo in Pondicherry, India.
My allegorical compromise is grammatical contempt — the hyphen, the prefix, the copula: