On Tuesday evening I read from my book Rainbows Suck at Dirty Dick’s, a pub in London. It was just like Midnight in Paris but with Periscope and space alien rainbows. The live video is below and, if you can’t hear a word of that, have a look afterwards at the video I made in the flat. I took along some postcards with a picture by my friend Steve and wrote little messages on the back for everyone.
While I was in Brick Lane The Vintage Basement told me they loved my clothes and took a photo of me for their social networks which was nice. I also took a picture for this post of the bracelet my friend made, because I think you’ll agree it’s really important.
Without further ado, let’s have a look at the word bags that have unzipped my brain these last few weeks…
1. The Four Gentlemen of the Apocalypse by Various.There’s no apocalypse here, but there are four wonderfully different gentlemen. Each has written a novelette (about ten thousand words) of accessible absurdist, bizarro fiction. It may be mind-meltingly weird but the stories are easy to follow and entertaining, so if you’re normally put off by intense oddity the chances are you’ll enjoy at least one of these.
They’re very different in tone so if you’re not keen on extreme comedic violence you might prefer poetic beauty, or a surreal fairy tale, or a man turning into a cat. It’s fun, you should give it a whirl. And if you don’t like it, well, we can all move on with our lives and avoid eye contact from here on.
2. Jigsaw Youth by Tiffany Scandal. This book is pretty exciting, and I don’t just mean because the author is also a Suicide Girl and a photographer. It manages to transcend the angry alternative person cliches by packing in enough strangeness and raw emotion to make the reader’s eyes fizz like sour sweets.
Essentially it’s the main character’s story of navigating her way through life as an impossibly cool girl, falling in love with the wrong women and playing in a band, but it’s a lot more than that. I love her descriptions, her turns of phrase and the way it really seems to come from the heart. Everybody’s been through heartbreak at some point but here it feels fresh and somehow beautiful.
3. Gutmouth by Gabino Iglesias. I started this book on a journey and had to put it down until I got home because I felt carsick. That doesn’t sound like a compliment but it is. One of my favourite genres is noir and the other is weird (is that a genre? It should be) and this is essentially a mix of the two.
After the world faces apocalyptic mutations one man has a mouth in his gut, a mouth with a British accent and unpleasant attitude. He is friends with a rat-man who tortures people for their pleasure. His girlfriend was a one-legged cyber prostitute whom he now wants dead and everyone is watched over by giant eyes. It’s grim and fun, all rolled into one. Just don’t read it in the car.
4. Cirque Du Mort Volume 1 by Anastasia Catris. A circus of the damned is certainly not a new idea, any self-respecting oddball is drawn to dark circuses, and that’s because they’re brilliant. I read this in the early hours after taking painkillers and it tapped right into the place that drew me to weirdness as a young ‘un.
This comic is a collection of short stories, beginning with a character picture, of how each Circus of the Dead performer met their sticky end. The pictures and words are very pretty and I’m looking forward to getting the next one.
5. Nothing Is Strange by Mike Russell. This is some high minded weirdness. Each story made me go ‘ooh’ and ponder the nature of the universe. I liked it a lot and found the concepts thought provoking. Don’t believe me? Have a peek at one of them for yourself, Dunce, that’s probably the best way of deciding if you’d like to read more.
I didn’t know who Kirk Cameron was before I started, perhaps because I’m British and he’s not so famous over here, but I got the gist. The more I read the more I was reminded of Georgian satire against royalty and political figures, which may not have been poetic but they succeeded in making the chosen figure look very silly. Plus there’s a Jesus made out of cheese! In fact, there’s several. It’s just a bit of fun and if you feel like a chuckle I suggest you have a look.
Well, that’s it! I put all these words into my face and they emerged from the back of my head as information. Yummy. See you next time!
Surely not? You say. Such a thing is impossible. I’ll leave you to judge. Can a book composed entirely of animated gifs really have a cohesive structure? Well…no. Is it scary? Only you can say. Some of them are very graphic and disturbing to look at, sure. Some of them are also very silly. However it’s probably the thought that counts, and the idea is definitely an intriguing one.
Today’s book pictures (me posing and pretending to read) are brought to you by The Glass House Tea Shop in Braintree, Essex. They gave my friend and I a small slice of free cake, which was wonderful by the way.
Phew it’s all happening in this one! Let’s begin.
1. Cannibals of Candyland by Carlton Mellick III. A good, fun read which doesn’t take too long as it’s quite short. A race of cannibals exists in a magic land under the city. The main character searches them out in revenge for leading his siblings away years ago with a hypnotic sweet scent, but things don’t go according to plan.
2. The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer. I’ve mentioned this book once before but I love it so much I’m mentioning it again. It has almost everyone you can think of: Neil Gaiman, Haruki Murakami, the short story of Don’t Look Now by Daphne Du Maurier, George R.R. Martin (wrote some books about thrones and games, I dunno), Franz Kafka, Clive Barker, Robert Aickman, Leonora Carrington (Max Ernst’s extra marital partner and a surreal painter and writer) and Saki, to name a few. Everyone should read more Saki, he was a genius. Basically, buy this book now or I’ll creep into your room at night and sniff your ear.
3. Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens edited by ? I could be incorrect but I believe there were ten of these short story issues gathered before they stopped. Perhaps they’ve moved to a new home (though they’ve left no explanation) or perhaps they vanished into a puff of kittens, either way have a look at the archive editions for a dose of true insanity.
Here’s what wikipedia says: Apocalypse Culture is a collection of articles, interviews, and documents that explore the various marginal aspects of culture. It explores aesthetic nihilism, destructive cults, extreme violence, sexual deviancy, conspiracy theory, extreme forms of nationalism, and other subjects. First published in 1987, it was reprinted in 1990 and 2001. In 2000 the sequel Apocalypse Culture II was released. The book has been widely campaigned against and has been banned in many countries.
What’s not to like?! Get buying!
Very well, thus concludes another session of Bizarre Book Club. May you not run weeping into the night. Or perhaps may you, depending on preferences. I’m not here to judge. Toodle pip!
On my travels today I stumbled upon (OK, someone uploaded to twitter) this helpful and amusing post on book outlining.
Go here, read, come on, what are you waiting for? Oh, you’re still here. Yes, that’s it, that door there. Phew, I know, now they’re gone we can say whatever we want about – oh hi! You’re still here. Er, no, we weren’t talking about anything…
Yesterday my friend Steve and I prank called my mum, who is a medium, saying “We’re dead, bye.” We thought it was funny. We are in our thirties.
Interesting post on book editing on the Limebird site today, original article here. And this is what the little pickles of joy had to say:
“So last night I was in London to meet up with a few friends from university, which we tend to do every couple of months. One of the things that came up during the times when the conversation was actually about writing, was editing. Or, more specifically, editing out bits that you want to keep but don’t actually need in your novel to tell the story.
The first example was from an as-of-yet unpublished children’s book, in which a girl wants her best friend to accompany her somewhere. She’s worried about her parents saying no, and then they say yes.
The point that my friend (who is an editor) made, was that; if there was not going to be an issue, then all you really need is for the friend to say she’s coming along. If you spend time with your main character worrying about something that isn’t going to be a problem then you’re just deviating away from the actual plot.
She brought up another example from an online course that she teaches, in which a student had said in his notes that “They went on a journey, nothing much happened – I’ll come back to that later.” If nothing much happens, then nothing else needs to be said.
I think that quite often when writing, you end up with a funny anecdote or an extra chapter, that you love, but that doesn’t actually add anything to the story, and it’s difficult to take it out. But the tighter your novel is, the more likely it is to get published. Supposedly. I’ve heard it said that the more successful you are, the less you’re edited, and the more you can get away with leaving those parts in.
The most obvious example is Harry Potter. Now I love Harry Potter, I do. But half of the books in the series could easily be used as door stops or murder weapons they’re so thick. If book six didn’t exist, you would still get to the end of the same story with just a few paragraphs of added explanation. And a large chunk of the last book was very similar to Frodo and Sam’s story in The Two Towers – They walked.
I read a fantasy book last year that was roughly 1000 pages long, and over half of it was spent with the main character wandering around in a subplot that had very little relevance to the main story, other than to prove he was amazing at everything he tried and an absolute genius. Something which we already knew because it had been said about a hundred times before. I actually gave up reading that book for about six months because it just wasn’t going anywhere.
So have you ever read a book that was full of unnecessary chapters? Ever written something that you loved but didn’t really need to be in your story?
It’s a difficult balance to get right; not enough extra detail and your writing will read like a list of events that get a character from A to B with no real depth or actual story. But too much and you end up losing the main plot in a tangle of little stories that don’t go anywhere but make you smile so much that you left them in anyway!”