Wednesday, 8 September 2021

I haven't had a chance to watch this yet, but I'm sure I am as silvertongued as ever as I discuss a book featuring a woman and her potato on the cover. Also features people who know what they're talking about:

Click through for a nice full-screen version!

Sunday, 29 August 2021

All the books

Some people have unwisely asked to see all my books. Have at it:

All the books? All the books. from Flyin Pasties on Vimeo.

Canadian Bear Sex

For all your Canadian bear sex novella needs:

Click through for a nice full-screen version!

Thursday, 5 August 2021

XX and Black Locomotives

 Looking back, apparently the longest book I've read this year so far is designer, artist and typographer Rian Hughes' wonderful XX.

US edition from Overlook

UK edition from Picador

It's a 1000-page novel about AI and First Contact and consciousness and memes and art and typography and a centuries-old conspiracy involving Hugh Walpole. It also has a reversible dustjacket...

..and various interpolated (fictional) documents like Wikipedia pages and album reviews and email exchanges and magazine extracts and an entire pulp SF novella...

..and lots of fun with typography: this is the output of an AI character reared on Futurism and Marinetti-style philosophy:

It's grand. Mine is the US edition--I don't _think_ the UK edition has the reversible jacket, but I may be wrong.

Hughes has a new novel out today, which I haven't got yet but have ordered: The Black Locomotive. I need it.

Friday, 30 July 2021

Gentle, Fierce, Self-Promotion, Dogs

 I am back on Shawn the Book Maniac's Youtube channel as the least of five people talking about recent readings. You can watch it here or over there. It features my dogs videobombing the talk...

..which in my case is about artist and writer Vanessa Berry's essay collection, Gentle and Fierce, for which she provided her own cover artwork.

Monday, 21 June 2021


(Going to attempt some semi-regular capsule reviews: let's see how it goes!)


Made by Sea and Wood, in Darkness: Alexandros Plasatis, 2021

A novel in stories that shifts and darts between voices and viewpoints, all centred at the Café Papaya on the Grecian coast, where Egyptian fisherman fight and argue with testosterone-crazed locals. In fact, unrestrained masculine foolishness is a recurring theme in the vivid tumbling parade of tall stories, misunderstandings, brief lusts and sweaty evenings. Unusual and worthwhile.

Detransition, Baby: Torrey Peters, 2021

Witty and clever and ultimately depressing, but also suffering from the bane of too many first novels in that it desperately needs pruning. Minutely detailed abusive relationships make up rather more of the book needs be, given their actual relevance to the plot (in which a trans woman is contacted by her detransitioned ex, now living as a man, because he has got someone pregnant and has an elaborate and ludicrous scheme whereby the two of them, plus the pregnant woman, will somehow form a family for the baby).

Warm Worlds and Otherwise: James Tiptree Jr, 1975

I have thoroughly enjoyed several other collections of Tiptree's (real name Alice Sheldon) genre-revivifying science-fiction, but I don't remember it being this datedly '70s to such an extent. Maybe one of those writers I shouldn't have revisited.

The Brainstorm: Jenny Turner, 2007

A weird one. A perfectly serviceable and enjoyable satire on working at a British newspaper in the 1990s, but with the title-giving conceit (a "brainstorm" that means the main character comes to at their desk at the opening of the book with no idea who they are or what they're meant to be doing) so half-arsed that it makes no internal sense and seems to be forgotten about for great stretches of the book. I would never suggest that the heaped praise from various British newspapers quoted on the front and back covers was a case of calling in the favours.

The Monkey and Other Stories: Miklós Bánffy (translated by Thomas Sneddon), 2021

The second of two Bánffy (1873-1950) short fiction collections published in a matter of months (after Len Rix's Enchanted Night selection), though luckily there are only around 50 pages of overlap. Widely varied in tone and setting, Bánffy's humanism and unusual worldview show through, as does his clear-eyed love for the Transylvanian countryside and history his life was steeped in. 

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

After the Ball

'After the Ball' or 'Jove Decadent', by Ramon Casas:

Popular on many, many book covers:

Sunday, 14 March 2021

Australian Literature Recommendations... LIVE

I invaded Shawn the Book Maniac's Youtube channel and really ruined the place, talking about Australian literature. You can watch a tiny windowed version of it here, or click through:

Books discussed:

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Radio Caustic

If you'd like to hear my dulcet tones blathering on about book design and recommending obscure books on the Australian national broadcaster, have at it

Or listen here:

(NB: To my knowledge I don't usually sound as though I'm 4 feet tall and trapped in a metal bucket)

For anyone looking for the awful, awful book covers (like that above) referenced in the interview, start here.

For 70 more obscure book recommendations, try here.

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Inside the Red Circle

Anyone who has spent any time in my presence will have been bored to tears by me going on about how much I love: 
  • novellas
  • translated fiction
  • beautifully designed books
so it should be no surprise that the Red Circle Minis series does it for me.

Red Circle is a small publishing house dedicated to bringing Japanese writers to the attention of English readers, and its opening salvo is a series of novellas. What is particularly interesting and commendable is that, though 5 of the first 6 six books are in translation, for all of the books this is their first publication anywhere.

The books themselves cover a wide variety of genres: science-fiction, historical fiction, reality TV satire, domestic crime and more. I initially bought several of them as ebooks due to me being a fool, because when I got hold of the physical books I found these really are beautifully designed objects. 

The books are all designed by Aiko Ishida, about whom I have been able to learn almost nothing. Her design work makes use of textures and patterns from traditional Japanese textiles, building materials and garden designs, against traditional paper textures, to give a consistent but timeless look to the series which is simple and elegant. The two books by Kanji Hanawa use the same elements with different colours and textures. You'll also note there's not a cliched cherry blossom to be seen.

Red Circle has more books planned, and it will be very interesting to see where this insider's guide to contemporary Japanese literature will take us.

The online magazine Red Circle publishes is a good guide to the company's ethos and interests. If you like good books or good design then you need to look at the work they're doing.