Thursday, 18 March 2010

My Month in Novels (Feb)

OK, I’m rather late doing this reading rundown for February, but look at you – you’ve missed three buses today, and you haven’t even complimented me on my peacock hair negligee. So farts and ham to you.

I started the month reading John Barth’s 1960 epic
The Sot-Weed Factor – a shocking and brilliant take on the 18th C. adventure romp à la Henry Fielding. Now, to get the little accent above the à there, I had to go onto Wiktionary, so you’d better bloody well like this summary:

The book is centred, morally and literally, on the pretentious Poet of Maryland Ebenezer Cooke. In a word where everyone is swiving (erm . . . fucking) ladies of the night, deflowering virgins, and behaving like moral bankrupts, Ebenezer maintains his chastity, despite his love for the whore Joan Toast. A thoroughly bizarre and brilliant epic, despite how that sounds.

Man or Mango – A Lament is Lucy Ellmann’s third novel. Since my course tutor introduced me to Ellmann, I’ve had an instant psychic connection with the reclusive Anglo-American genius. Her approach to storytelling is so gleefully anarchic, her characters so blisteringly well-drawn, that to read her is to wax one’s soul. But better than that sounds. I also read her delicious debut Sweet Desserts.

Despite the naysayers, I like Alasdair Gray’s work. Yes, he might have fallen from the ranks of the postmodern greats, and yes, everyone in the Scottish literary community is expected to cuddle him senselss, but he is cuddly. And senseless. I read his short novel
McGrotty & Ludmilla. It’s like The Thick of It without the swearing or the humour.

I already reviewed David Shields’s
Reality Hunger: A Manifesto on the blog. So leave it, awright?

The trendy ginger scout from Canongate Francis Bickmore was in conversation with Stephen Hall a few weeks ago about his novel
The Raw Shark Texts. It’s refreshing to have a mainstream Scottish publisher taking on these exciting books, though it was depressing to hear him prattle on about selling the foreign rights and movie rights and so on.

Yes, publishing is commerce, but he positively relished the notion of making mega bucks overseas with the book, which is experimental and offbeat, but not immensely well-written.

Finally, I still like Nicola Barker, despite her petunia thefts.
Reversed Forecast is a weird, warped and wonderful novel with a climax that wipes the floor with 9½ Weeks.



  1. Very grateful for the tips, Mark. Thank you. :)

  2. Read Lucy Ellmann. Now. Now. Now. Now.

  3. i love doing a blog post this way :) Some interesting reads!

  4. true that ellman is a genius. untrue that bickmore is ginger. he is definitely blond. all over.

  5. He's ginger in my dreams. And only two people have ever read Ellmann, so which one are you?