Coal Black Mornings – Brett Anderson

Back in 1996 I fell in love with the pop rock album, Coming Up, by Suede, said music used to keep me company when working nights a few years ago (and also whilst writing this review).  Combining elements of bouncy pop, glam rock, and melancholy laden tracks, to give it a good balance, the album teeters between throwaway music and the poignant atmosphere of emptiness layered tunes.

Seeing this book in the shops, it was a matter of chance that I chose to idly browse through – as well as hum one of the tunes from yesteryear – whilst waiting for the missus to finish shopping for makeup. Owing to a lack of blurb, and viewing the usual positive quotes with suspicion, I was pleasantly surprised with the writing style and how Anderson conveyed his story.

Although Coal Black Mornings stops short of the those commercially popular times for the band, this is a still very much worth the read even for those who have never heard of the band.   Normally I wouldn’t pick up a book such as this but after having a brief peruse through, I was taken with the way Anderson expresses himself and his critical self-awareness.

The majority of the book is about the author’s early life which takes place in the poverty of a working-class English suburb.  The band only begins to form towards the end of the book so there is plenty of insight into Anderson’s childhood and the way his experiences would go on to inform his lyrics and musical style.

The way this is approached was very effective, with honesty, and a lack of manufactured drama that so many memoirs of this ilk provide.  I found it a compelling read due to its simplicity and erudite literary style.  Although it is fair to note that as this is a book written for his son to understand his father more, there is little reference to the more showbiz part of the story with all its assorted vices. Continue reading “Coal Black Mornings – Brett Anderson”

chuffa chuffa choo choo – Emma Garcia

Jump on board the little red train as it chugs along the seaside and through the forest. Can you count the noisy birds along the way?

When I think of widening my reading, this isn’t the first book that comes to mind but with a flair for the dramatic actions and voices – and a baby – this can be an incredibly fun book to engage with.

This came into my possession from a free reading pack given by the NHS, and so naturally I grabbed it for myself, curled up in a corner and took my time to savour the feel of the thick card pages and bright drawings.  It’s still my go to book for Amelia purely for selfish reasons.

There is plenty of colour and things to point out and talk about, as well as the number and type of birds, there is variety in the settings from city to farmyard, and Amelia and I often find ourselves going off on tangents such as which farmyard animal smells worse. Continue reading “chuffa chuffa choo choo – Emma Garcia”

The Snowman – Raymond Briggs

The cartoon version of The Snowman is a true Christmas tradition. Spying Briggs’ book version – and this being the season –  I had to borrow it from the library and see what the differences were.

The reader not familiar with this story is in for a wonderful, gentle journey told not with words but purely in images.  When a boy makes a snowman who magically comes to life, comical and exciting adventures are bound to happen.

A gently humorous adventure ideal for all ages, this is a fun and funny book.  The cartoon followed suit with the illustration style and the  pencil shading is still beautiful to look at today, as you can see at the end of the post.

An endearing and enduring tale which speaks – to me at least – of the shortness of life and the urgent need to enjoy the company of the people we have in the now.  This is a story that transcends cultural boundaries and can be enjoyed by anyone, not just those versed in English.

I do prefer the cartoon version still even after spending time with the book. The hunting quality of the music, especially, enhances the experience. The flying journey is also longer and more eventful in the cartoon, which I recommend to all!  If you have  a spare twenty-five minutes here it is in full HD.

Woken Up

I recently had a moan about all the meaningless (and prolific) ‘inspirational’ posts that clog my Facebook feed, when all I want to do is have a quick and peaceful nosy into what people are doing in their lives.  I’m sure some find such slogans helpful and positive but stop to give even a brief thought to the actual content and it quickly becomes irritating.

After posting a somewhat, ‘grumpy’ status about the situation, (and having no one really react which, perhaps, tells its own story) I came across another nettlesome post on Instagram, that was originally a Tweet.  I’m assuming some of you came across this statement over the last week or so,

You’re not well read if all you read is white authors. 

It didn’t take long to analyse the flaw in that statement.  Whilst it is probably (hopefully) a well-meaning encouragement to people to read widely, the stench of identity politics is overwhelming. Substitute the word white for fantasy, people of colour (or your group of choice), gay, women, or men, and the point could still be taken.

White is the word that will get the most traction in terms of comments though and is most likely the reason behind the wording which will guarantee the fifteen minutes of internet viral fame so craved.  On reflection it strikes me as lazy, picking an easy target. Like Trump or George W. Bush jokes back in the day, for example, it lacks finesse and plays only to the easily pleased crowd. Continue reading “Woken Up”

Northern Light: Norway Past and Present, A Critical Analysis – Nils-Johan Jørgensen

Here is a new and challenging appraisal of Norway, the author’s country of birth, that redefines its history, culture and heritage -‘after Ibsen – and looks, with a degree of ominous foreboding, at its future and the future of Europe.  Ex-diplomat and widely published author Jørgensen explores an array of topics, from Norway’s Viking pat, its pursuit of independence, the German occupation, its politics and cultural heritage, the defence of NATO, the relationship with Europe, and the challenge of Russia, concluding with ‘self-image and reality’.  In Northern Light, the author challenges many existing perceptions and stereotypes, making this an essetial reference for anyone interested in Norway and its people, international affairs, European history and its cultural legacy.

Back with another book by blog favourite Nils-Johan Jørgensen, Northern Light, much like his other nonfiction books, An Image of the Times and Four Days in January, is an insightful look at his chosen topic, which in this case is a well-rounded, authoritative insight into his country of birth. One that is not too well known on the international stage, especially considering the dramatics of other countries, but is nonetheless worthy of thorough investigation.

After the Vikings, and the discovery of America, the history books tend to go quiet when it comes to Norway, and Scandinavia in general, up until the second world war in the case of the UK education system.  This book allows for the discovery, or rediscovery, of Norway’s role in such diverse events as the Napoleonic Wars and its relationship with Russia, a nation whose shadow looms large with aggression over the whole arctic region.

A country of mystery with the Aurora Borealis, the picturesque fjords, as well as its international exploration, and being the so-called best place to live, there is so much more to uncover.  Not least its inhabitants attitudes of both isolationism yet at the same time the wish to embrace the world. Continue reading “Northern Light: Norway Past and Present, A Critical Analysis – Nils-Johan Jørgensen”

Wholly Consistent Haul

last Sunday was Crissy’s birthday, and after e had lunch with my parents we hooked up with some good friends and ended up wandering around Southwell and having a look around the cathedral.  Disconcertingly, everyone noticed the books for sale at the back end of the building  before I did.

Unsurprisingly the books on offer all had a religious theme and most were of little interest to me, but I did manage to find a few books that tickled my fancy.  The technical side, so to speak, of faith really interests me, the arguments for and against, and three of those books fit the bill.

The fourth book has a wonderful title Modern Art and the Death of Culture, and of course its all doom and gloom hating on modern art whilst talking about the Christian way being the way forward as a potential to reverse the trend.  I think the premise is interesting and it sits forlornly on my work desk begging to be read as I go about my daytime work. Continue reading “Wholly Consistent Haul”

The Bridge of Little Jeremy – Indrajit Garai

Jeremy’s mother is about to go to prison for their debt to the State. He is trying everything within his means to save her, but his options are running out fast. Then Jeremy discovers a treasure under Paris. This discovery may save his mother, but it doesn’t come for free. And he has to ride over several obstacles for his plan to work. Meanwhile, something else is limiting his time…

After reading two volumes of Garai’s short stories this is the first novel by the author, once again the focus is on the troubled times of his characters, and how they respond to the problems presented.  The down to earth approach to telling a story gives it the edge over those authors that attempt to force an emotional response from the reader with unneeded flourishes.

Taking place in Paris – a source of artistic and literary inspiration for many throughout the ages – I was pleased to see that both made appearances within the story, whilst Garai’s eye for natural beauty – and degradation – in the often ignored urban areas helps layer a further feeling of the city’s atmosphere and depth.

The titular character Jeremy is interesting in his introspective, self-examining ways.  His solitary approach to life – somewhat enforced thanks to circumstances – gives him the drive to fix things, even if they don’t always work out in the way he intended. Continue reading “The Bridge of Little Jeremy – Indrajit Garai”