Books Hell in a handcart

Get a brain! Morans*

This is wonderful: Amazon user reviews of Orwell’s 1984.

“If you like reading about old people think they are beating the system by saving a PAPERWEIGHT, then by all means…”

“You might like this book if you are interested in predicting the future and you can read lots of difficult words and know what they mean.”

“This is the second time I’ve been forced to read this book for aclass, and I have to ask, “What’s the point?” Maybe if you live in a country that’s a monarchy, this book’s worth reading, but this is *America*, ok? The whole reason we live in a democracy is so that we the people don’t have to worry about things like this.”

(Via Charles Arthur’s blog)

* One of the greatest internet cliches ever.


Things what I have bought and are good

  • The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. Bleak!
  • Lost Planet: Extreme Condition for the Xbox 360. Fun!
  • On The Wealth of Nations, by PJ O’Rourke. Witty!

This book is brilliant

I’d never read Joseph Wambaugh before, but a cover blurb from James Ellroy persuaded me to buy Hollywood Station. And it’s brilliant – like the best bits of NYPD Blue crammed into a single novel. Funny, too.



Dead trees

One of the great things about the Xmas holiday is that it gives you the chance to catch up on your reading. I finally got round to reading two books I’ve been meaning to get for ages: Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion and Michael Bywater’s Big Babies.

The former is an intemperate rant against religion, and while it’s biased – Dawkins doesn’t give religion any credit for anything – it contains some great argument fuel. Dawkins’ demolition of Intelligent Design is superb, and he does a great job of lambasting the stupidity of people who believe that every word of the Bible is true while cherry-picking the bits that suit them and ignoring the bits that don’t.

My favourite one, though, was Big Babies. Subtitled “Why Can’t We Just Grow Up?”, Bywater’s book has been billed as humourous but struck me as deadly serious. His argument is that our culture is utterly infantile, largely because Baby Boomers rule the world and won’t accept that they’re not teenagers any more. Where the Grumpy Old Men shows and books cover fairly predictable irritants (Young people can be ignorant! Celebrities are vacuous!), Big Babies does a much better job of nailing the various idiocies of our age from nanny-state legislation to iPods, shell suits, CCTV and quackery.



…has a new site, and it’s really rather lovely.

Not particularly interesting, but true.

Books Uncategorised

The perfect Christmas gift


Successful people are not addicted to the habit of masturbation simply because they spend their time in what is important for them and their loved ones and not in masturbation. Are you willing to take the action and stop the habit of masturbation which keeps you from success? or Will you allow this habit to destroy your life completely?

Link [Via Something Awful]

Books Music Uncategorised

Little thoughts

…none of which justifies an entire blog post:

* I traded in a bunch of 360 games at the weekend: PDZ (because it sucks), Ghost Recon (because it’s too difficult) and Far Cry: Predator (because I’ve already played it on Xbox and can’t be bothered with the new mission). Result? Nearly sixty quid, which I put to use by buying two pre-owned games. In the shiny, DRM-protected download future, I won’t be able to do that.

* Pirates of the Caribbean 2 is an hour too long, like every sodding film seems to be these days. At two and a half hours films stop being entertainment and become bladder abuse, with added numb-arse syndrome (and if you’re a smoker, thoughts of murder). As for the film itself, I was mildly entertained but can’t really remember anything about it. But – sad internet type that I am – I had to restrain myself from punching the air when the trailer for Snakes on a Plane appeared.

* There weren’t any anti-online-piracy ads before Pirates… a missed opportunity, not least because it would have been the first time I could have shouted “Yarrrrr” without being out of context.

* There were anti-fake-DVD ads though. At last they seem to have abandoned the “if you buy these, you’re funding Osama Bin Laden” approach and started stating the bleedin’ obvious: fake DVDs suck.

* Red Eye (Cillian Murphy film) is ace. And the DVD’s cheap.

* The new Thom Yorke and Muse albums are really rather good.

* Every time I hear Snow Patrol’s “Run”, I get really angry. I’ll come back to this soon.

* Prey (the game) is all right. If you like that sort of thing, it’s the sort of thing you’ll like.

* British men – me included – really can’t do summer clothes.

* Tim Dorsey has a new book out, The Big Bamboo. I’m halfway through it and it’s as demented as his other stuff.

Books Media

So you want to be a book cover artist?

One for the artistic types: a good look at the do’s and don’ts of creating artwork for SF and Fantasy books. It seems that spherical breasts and mullets are no-nos.

[Via MetaFilter]


I am Richard and Judy

Haven’t done this for a while – a quick round-up of reasonably interesting books that you may or may not like.


First up: A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil, by Christopher Brookmyre. He’s been described as the Scottish Carl Hiassen but up until now I’ve always smirked rather than belly laughed at his stories. This, though, is superb: it starts with some particularly inept criminals and then goes into flashback to talk about the characters’ schooldays. I suspect the school stuff is the book Brookmyre really wanted to write, because it’s incredibly well observed and “oh my god, my guts hurt” funny.

Next up: Lifeless, by Mark Billingham. He’s one of the UK crime pack’s current stars and while all the cliches are here – misunderstood, depressed cop; gritty urban setting; lots of violence – the story itself is clearly fuelled by anger. Unfortunately I can’t tell you what Billingham’s angry about without giving away a key plot point, so here’s the headline story instead: somebody’s kicking homeless people to death and DS Thorne goes undercover to catch the bugger…

Stuart MacBride is the latest Scot to join the crime pack, and his publisher clearly reckons Logan MacRae could be the next inspector Rebus. Cold Granite and Dying Light are both set in Aberdeen, and while they’re largely by-the-numbers police procedurals (no bad thing – I’m addicted to the things) with fairly chaotic and rushed endings, they stand out because of the spectacularly nasty nature of the crimes – especially in Dying Light, which is really, really nasty. Dying Light’s the better of the two, although I’m not sure it’ll make much sense if you haven’t read Cold Granite first: there’s not much character development in the second book.

There’s no neat way to segue into the next two: for no apparent reason I seem to be on a gender studies tip at the moment, so I’ve recently read Self Made Man by Norah Vincent and Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy. The former describes how Vincent spends a year disguised as a bloke to find out what makes us tick, and the latter is a look at the way “empowerment” has come to mean “pretending to be a porn star”. Self Made Man is a little cliched – one of the places Vincent goes is a strip club, which might reflect the lives of *some* men but certainly not all of them – and Female Chauvinist Pigs feels a little unfocused, but they throw up more than enough interesting ideas and arguments to make them worthwhile.

Books Media

So you want to be a novelist?

Fancy becoming an author? Then don’t give up the day job. BoingBoing links to this survey of novelists’ advances, and it’s clear that writing books is hardly a licence to print money:

The range was from $0-$40,000 for an advance on a first novel.

The average was $6363.

The median advance is $5000. The median figure is a better indicator of what most people consider ‘average.’