Echoes – Anagrams poem

Echoes

The deadened thud
Hit the headlines as I
Exclaimed in shades of Hysteria

Slowly, she ran down the stair
Moving like a force of nature, if
Earth stopped for delirium and hysteria
Looking down
Looking through you
She paused and cried out  o

O, she cried out, from on high
For everything profane and scenic

Waiting to inhale
And waiting before going
Nowhere to go, except for the great unknown
This is all I learnt, said Freud, wearing his pink Bikini
In defence, as the last brick was thrown out
Not knowing the great unknown
Gone, like their ancestors, to the notes of a Viola

Everything passes to dust now
Choose your safety before take-off
Houston won’t have a problem if you fly solo
Over and out, O Captain, My Captains

Until the last truths that we tell
Nowhere will seem like hell
And I will choose the cheapest truth over the most expensive lie
For the hope we have, might save us from doom
Remember, we are judged by our right, and not by our sins
And that is not safe, and I can offer no guarantee
I just have to hope that we can avoid each other’s wrath
Don’t hold on to your breath, cross your fingers, and don’t forget.

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Book Review – Emerald City by Jennifer Egan

The author Jennifer Egan made her name with a series of critically acclaimed, commercially successful novels, such as ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ and ‘The Invisible Circus’ so her story-telling talents have been honed by years of practice.

It is this facet of her talent that is allowed to shine the brightest in this small collection of eleven perfectly formed tales. We are let, for a short time into the lives of several characters, from the businessman in ‘Why China?’ Who sees the man who swindled him and countless other small firms out of money, and follows him, dragging his whole family in his wake. In ‘Sacred Heart’ self-harm bonds two disparate girls together, while in other stories we meet dissatisfied models, bankers, housewives, all looking for something to make their existences complete.

The book is a globe trotter’s delight, taking the reader from China to Bora Bora to life in big cities and small towns, places where everyone knows your names, to places where people don’t know their neighbours. It is a book about little lives, and big dreams, people wanting to escape, but trapped by the feeling of wanting to belong.

This is a beautiful collection, and if you enjoyed Egan’s other work, this is well worth a read.

 

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Book Review – CTRL-ALT-DELETE by Dave Lewis

Book Review  – CTRL-ALT-Delete by Dave Lewis

In CTRL-ALT-Delete Dave, Lewis has produced a modern thriller. It is full of contemporary technology, Facebook, murder, and that old standby, eroticism to tell its story of love gone wrong, stalking, and an open-ended final chapter, leaving room for a sequel, but not the resolution that the audience deserved to have. Central character Jenny Morris uses her Facebook profile to entice her former lover Hal to resume their relationship, but she does not realise that on the Internet, the whole world can see what you write, think and feel, and that something is better left unwritten. As the cover states, ‘In cyber-space, no-one can hear you scream’. Into this story, a seasoned newspaperman, looking for another big scoop to rehabilitate his career, a conceited, arrogant detective, and a weighty IT expert are required to hunt down the real danger on the internet. Along the way, the seamy underbelly of a sleepy Welsh village is revealed, as well as a posing a series of provocative questions. I felt that at times the book was sensationalist, some of the action would have been better left to the imagination. In a lot of cases, less is more, which certainly applies here. The plot bounds along, with a lot of short sentences, and chapters, spirited dialogue, and larger than life characterisations, and it is told in traditional thriller fashion, but if there are vicars or readers of a more nervous disposition, then this book may not be too suitable a choice for book groups.

 

Own Score  – 3 out of 5

Reader’s Group Score – 2 out of 5

 

Ben Macnair

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Book Review – Cold Caller by Jason Starr

Book review

Cold Caller by Jason Starr

Cold Caller is a novel about failed ambitions, chance encounters leading to unimagined crime, and an amoral, if charming protagonist in the form of Bill Moss.

This is a reprint of a novel that Jason Starr first published in 1998, and it could be described as the love child of American Psycho or any of Jim Thompson’s hard-boiled Noir Crime novels.

 

Cold Caller is described as White Collar Noir, and that is the right way in which to describe the book. Most of us have or have had uniquely uninspiring jobs, where we spent hours in the company of people we would generally cross the road to avoid, and some of us have probably thought about a murder at one time or another, but Moss takes things to a whole different level. His career is stagnating, as is his sex life with girlfriend Julie, who wishes he would convert religion, while her stuffy college friends are not to his taste, and his boss, a younger man with less talent, is riding him for all he is worth.

An encounter with a lady of the night, an embarrassing violent evening out with Julie and her friends, and then the hoped-for promotion is in fact redundancy, and Bill snaps, in a violent, and unexpected fashion, although as this inciting incident happens after more than a hundred pages of background and exposition, it is not as shocking as it could have been…..So, now he has a dead body, a lot of angry pimps, a bitter and scared girlfriend, and no job.

This is just the start of Bill Moss’s problems. Will he get away with it? Does anyone at the office suspect him of the crime? What will be his punishment be? Of course, he does not get caught by the Police. The set-piece of the police being too inefficient to catch the criminals has been done to death and lets the book down slightly. Most good policemen would be able to tell a first time murderer when they met him from, from things such as body language, or other clues, but here there is none of that, and it is not until nearly the end of the novel that Bill gets any type of punishment, but like Double Indemnity it entirely fits for the crime.

However, the book is pretty much of its time. It is nearly twenty years since it was published, and the crime-fighting technology would have moved on in that time. We are meant to suspend our disbelief for a lot of the book. It is just best to read it is a rollercoaster ride, rather than point out some of the plot holes. The novel goes along at quite a lick, and at more than 250 pages it packs a lot in. Although the noir doesn’t come across in the same way that it does with Dashiel Hammet’s or Jim Thompson’s, it does have something of a dark, and seamy underbelly, but this is underscored by much of the humour that exists within the book.

It is a reasonable read that doesn’t outstay its welcome, but it has much of a first novel vibe within it, with Jason Starr wanting to impress the reader with his energy and ideas, and his writing and stories did mature and grow as his career progressed

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Book Review – Celestial Navigation by Ann Tyler

Celestial Navigation

Anne Tyler (Author)

Anne Tyler’s career has seen the talented, prolific writer tell stories about small details in more significant narratives, and Celestial Navigation looks at the little details that form the vast majority of everyday living. It looks at the life and career of Jeremy Pauling, an artist who makes a living from his sculptures made from odds and ends, who lives a settled, quiet life, a puzzle to his mother and both his sisters, but he life changes when his mother dies, and he has to take in a lodger. He has always struggled with human contact, and beautiful women, which Mary Tell, his lodger is. The book looks at their developing relationships, leading to marriage and family life, with their own children, and Mary’s children from a previous marriage. Tyler does several stylistic jumps within the course of the novel, with different characters relating events to the reader. This is an elegant, well-written book which will not disappoint Anne Tyler’s existing fans, or any newcomers to her widely varied, quality, and all too human work. There would be a lot for book groups to discuss in this novel, and I would highly recommend it.

 

Ben Macnair

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CD Review – Mark Knopfler – Down the Road Wherever

MARK KNOPFLER

DOWN THE ROAD WHEREVER

British Grove Records/Virgin EMI

The song-craft is the most telling aspect of this album, and as Knopfler approaches his 70th birthday, he is looking back over his life. There are still the exciting guitar interludes, but his characterful vocals and evocative storytelling are what take the focus here. Songs such as Trapper Man, Back on the Dance Floor, and Good on You Son are excellent rock songs, with different production tricks, and backing, particularly Guy Fletcher’s keyboards on Back on the Dance Floor. With his usual band and a telling addition of brass, this is also a far funkier album than we might have come to expect. Nobody Does That, Good on You Son, and Rear View Mirror features the type of brass parts we know from the Average Wind Band, while Saxophone solos from Nigel Hitchcock and Trumpet from Tom Walsh add new colours. The folk aspects are still there, in such songs as Drover’s Road, whilst the reverie that informs the bluesier numbers, such as Floating Away, or Slow Learner rely on the piano playing of Jim Cox to add colour, whilst the solo acoustic guitar and vocals of Matchstick Man, which closes the album looks at  Christmas Eve hitch-hiking from Penzance for a concert. Ever since the late 1970’s Knopfler has played the guitar and written songs that still feature on the radio, his signature Stratocaster tone has influenced thousands of guitarists around the world, and his talent has matured and developed over the years. As musicians get older, we are always aware that their next album might be the last, I hope that this is not the case here, but if it is this album, with its high quality of playing and writing is an elegant way to sign of from one of the more successful careers in the British music industry.

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BEN MACNAIR

 

 

 

 

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CD Review – Wax by KT Tunstall

KT TUNSTALL

WAX

Virgin EMI Records

More than fifteen years since coming to the public’s attention on Later With Jools Holland the singer-songwriter KT Tunstall still hasn’t run out of musical and lyrical ideas, as WAX shows. With a team of talented musicians and producers and a sound that is more rock and dance music orientated than her previous albums, the album takes Tunstall’s distinctive bluesy vocals and wraps them in different musical hues. Little Red Thread starts with punky guitar before a chorus changes the feel of the song, while The River begins with a trance influenced keyboard part, and high pitched vocals, and The Mountain takes minimalist keyboards, and drums to tell an evocative story. The ballad The Night That Bowie Died is a song that is designed for a live audience and light (or mobile phone) waving. Tiny Love, which closes the album starts with a swirly, highly processed guitar part, and delicate vocals to tell the story of a love lost. The collection is highly evocative listen, taking in both rock and almost ambient sounds. The eleven songs on this album all fit together and tell a story, and it is a testament to KT Tunstall’s talent as a singer, writer and musician that she and the band can move across these genres so effortlessly and continue to produce albums of this quality.

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