Friday, 18 November 2022

Good Omens

 

Ah, loved this. 

Terry Pratchett was one of the first adult authors I tried to read as a kid. I turned up to my reading session aged ten with a copy of The Light Fantastic because I liked the woman with big boobs on the front. I think I was hoping to shock my teacher with the cover art and my ability to read out loud. Kind of worked. I had a very good vocabulary for my age, I was an avid reader, but I have to admit I had no real idea what was going on in the story. In my teens, I think I devoured almost all of the Discworld books, and I was privileged to get to see Pratchett speak at the Cheltenham Literature Festival in 2012. The guy was a legend, as is Neil Gaiman. Loved MirrorMask, The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch, The Graveyard Book, Sandman adaptation... what's not to love?

It's been years since I've read Pratchett though. I've heard so much about this one, so when it came up on Audible I went for it. It was just what you'd expect of a Pratchett-Gaiman collaboration. Wonderfully silly at every turn.

Satan (A Fallen Angel; the Adversary)

Beelzebub (A Likewise Fallen Angel and Prince of Hell)

Hastur (A Fallen Angel and Duke of Hell)

Ligur (Likewise a Fallen Angel and Duke of Hell)

Crowley (An Angel who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards)

*

They always are. That's the whole point. Two of them lurked in the ruined graveyard. Two shadowy figures, one hunched and squat, the other lean and menacing, both of them Olympic-grade lurkers. If Bruce Springsteen had ever recorded "Born to Lurk," these two would have been on the album cover.

*

At night, Nanny Ashtoreth sang nursery rhymes to Warlock.

Oh, the grand old Duke of York
He had Ten Thousand Men
He Marched them Up To The Top of The Hill
And Crushed all the nations of the world and brought them
under the rule of Satan our master.

*

It might have interested Newt to know that, of the thirty-nine thousand women tested with the pin during the centuries of witch-hunting, twenty-nine thousand said "ouch," nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine didn't feel anything because of the use of the aforesaid retractable pins, and one witch declared that it had miraculously cleared up the arthritis in her leg.

*

London was not designed for cars. Come to that, it wasn't designed for people. It just sort of happened. This created problems, and the solutions that were implemented became the next problems, five or ten or a hundred years down the line.

*

A screaming, glowing ribbon of pain and dark light. [NB: Not actually an oxymoron. It's the color past ultra-violet. The technical term for it is infra-black. It can be seen quite easily under experimental conditions. To perform the experiment simply select a healthy brick wall with a good run-up, and, lowering your head, charge. The color that flashes in bursts behind your eyes, behind the pain, just before you die, is infra-black.]

It is now my ambition to learn to lean like an attractive yawn on legs.

The only thing is, when you've been away from that type of wit for so long, it's so fast-paced you sometimes miss large chunks, especially as an audiobook. There's some clever wordplay and a pun every few sentences. Even though it's a comedy, it's not one of those you can easily drift in and out of and keep the thread, so maybe best in book format, though it was very well narrated. Really enjoyed it.

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

Women and Madness


Well, it's been a while. Bear with me. This is going to turn into a book review blog for a few weeks, then maybe I'll talk about other things. If you wan to see more regular posts by me, I'm over on YouTube more nowadays. That in itself is a whole other discussion and I will explain at a later date. Meanwhile, there's a heap of reading I haven't reviewed, so here goes.

I took a heap of notes during this one, and now I don't think I can comb back through them all, so I'm going to go off memory, which might be slightly hazy as I read it a few months back now. I truly have been shocking at keeping up with my blog.

The key points:

Most of what it covered wasn't a big surprise. It shone a light on how mental health has been used over the generations to repress women and twist them into believing that quite normal emotional reactions and desires are somehow wrong and warped. That they are hysterical, over-reacting, irrational and angry. As it quotes another author, Nzinga Shaka Zulu: 'therapists are often the soft police of the dominant culture.'

It refers a lot to Greek mythology, which I enjoyed. Looking at power dynamics and relations between mothers and their daughters. It reminded me a bit of Charlotte Keatley's play My Mother Said I Never Should, in that respect. She also goes into the mother/whore dichotomy.

There were many examples of how a predominantly male system, and male therapists, abused their power to elicit sex and other favours from female clients, often turning against them or casting them aside at a later date, yet strangely, both men and women generally prefer male therapists and spend longer seeing them. 

I appreciated that Chesler devotes quite a bit of time to discussing the difference in experience between straight and gay women, and between white and black women. All of the lesbians she interviewed had been classified as sick by therapists and psychiatrists, some given shock therapy. Chilling stuff, considering how very recent that history is. 

There were a few statements I didn't agree with, none of which I can remember offhand at the moment, but I think they generally revolved around slightly outdated stereotypes of women and their place in society. The book was originally written in the 70s, and it does have a bit of a didactic quality to it which niggled occasionally. 

I'm not entirely sure if this was the book itself or the audio narration. I have to say, I did struggle with this one as an audiobook. The only way to describe the tone of narration is sardonic. At first it feels a bit nudge-nudge, wink-wink, we're all in this together, aren't these people who hold such outdates views ridiculous, but after an hour or two it just starts to grate. You feel like saying, 'just talk to me like a normal person,' rather than trying to rile my outrage. I picture the narrator sitting in a leather-sofa library, narrating with a bourbon in hand and a cigarette in a foot-long holder, ruby-red lips curled in distain between puffs. The questions never come across as genuine questions but always rhetorical. 

That's not to say that the book isn't good or insightful, just to say, probably best get the tree copy. 

Monday, 17 October 2022

NSW Flood Song


My beautiful cousin Sali wrote this song during the NSW floods in Australia earlier this year. She's been helping out, especially with animal rescue. Show her some love.

Wednesday, 12 October 2022

 

The most fascinating record of how the London accent has developed from the 14th century to today. Very interesting, and I wish I could hear more about the lady in the pub. That's the start of a story if ever I heard one.

Monday, 26 September 2022

Patchwork Second-hand Bookshop


My lovely friend Maja, in Gisenyi, told be about a second-hand bookshop that has just opened in Kigali, so I decided to go and take a look. It turned out to be the most delightful place. Home-made fudge, big mug of coffee and hours of book-browsing on a rainy afternoon. If you're ever in Kigali, check it out.

Monday, 19 September 2022

The Secret Garden

Last week I went to visit my friend at Bugesera Nursery (Instagram) about an hour south of Kigali. She has quite an incredible garden, so I thought I'd share.

Wednesday, 14 September 2022

Whisper Down the Lane

 

I picked up a copy of this after seeing a Twitter recommendation.


Inspired by the McMartin preschool trials and the Satanic Panic of the ’80s, the critically acclaimed author of The Remaking delivers another pulse-pounding, true-crime-based horror novel.

Richard doesn’t have a past. For him, there is only the present: a new marriage to Tamara, a first chance at fatherhood to her son, Elijah, and a quiet but pleasant life as an art teacher at Elijah’s elementary school in Danvers, Virginia. Then the body of a rabbit, ritualistically murdered, appears on the school grounds with a birthday card for Richard tucked beneath it. Richard doesn’t have a birthday - but Sean does....

Sean is a five-year-old boy who has just moved to Greenfield, Virginia, with his mother. Like most mothers of the 1980s, she’s worried about bills, childcare, putting food on the table...and an encroaching threat to American life that can take the face of anyone: a politician, a friendly neighbor, or even a teacher. When Sean’s school sends a letter to the parents revealing that Sean’s favorite teacher is under investigation, a white lie from Sean lights a fire that engulfs the entire nation - and Sean and his mother are left holding the match.

Now, 30 years later, someone is here to remind Richard that they remember what Sean did. And though Sean doesn’t exist anymore, someone needs to pay the price for his lies.

A short review, but an appreciative one. I really enjoyed this atmospheric period horror.

They found Professor Howdy spread across the soccer field. What was left of him, anyway. His chest cavity had been carefully cracked open, his rib cage fanning back as if it were the glistening crimson trigger hairs on a Venus fly trap, patiently waiting for its prey to wander inside its gaping maw. The entirety of his intestines, large and small, had been gingerly unspooled to the end of their connective tissues across the lawn, in some sort of luminous pattern. 

*

His kids formed a ring on the floor, knees touching. Mr Woodhouse would ask his students to talk about their favourite part of the day and least-favourite part of the day. "What's your rose and what's your thorn?"


Its author, Clay McLeod Chapman, writes books and comics, described as, 'a horror-drunk storytelling virtuoso master idiot' by Time Out New York. Not much else to say than, if you like dark, Satan-worshiping psychological horror, this is worth picking up. It's good fun.