Thursday, November 13, 2014

Reviews, Oh reviews, I've written a few....Here's three.

I admit I've never been that good at writing reviews. 
They trouble me. 
Who am I to talk about another person's work?

The thing is it makes me feel better than playing Bubble Witch Saga or Crushing Candy. 

The first one, I was in my early twenties and had this to say about William Burroughs' book Cities of The Red Night. Still my favorite book. Hands down.

I penned this in 2002. It was seven years before I'd had my own paid first short story credit.

I simply liked the book.

Burroughs, in Paris.
William Burroughs.
Cities of the Red Night.
Review on Amazon by me. 23 out of 23. Best review.

"Cities" affords a logical conclusion to the various literary techniques and experiments employed by Burroughs over three prolific if somewhat confused decades of work. The straight forward narrative style of his debut novel "Junky" is thankfully reinvented peppered with a Chandler type detective story which sets the early theme of the book. This overlaps a pirate story based on the apparently factual adventures of Captain Mission and his colony of Libertarians. The book develops to suggest an alternative history that satires the present in the same way as the outrageous comical routines of "Naked Lunch" attacked the America status quo. All the usual Burroughs themes are here, drugs, weapons, disease, virus control, hangings and sexual imagery. However, sparingly employing his controversial cut-up techniques interwoven with his various other writing styles Burroughs creates a prose, almost poetic in every line pulling together his masterpiece.

Then there was the review of the Gingerman by J.P. Donleavy. Written three years before my first short story was published.  63 out of 67. Yeah, best review, and included in a book somewhere, I forget the details. 

J.P Donleavy
The Gingerman
Amazon review by James Newman.

I became aware of this book after recently reading a Hunter S. Thompson biography, wherein it describes how Hunter discovered the book in New York, and did his best to imitate Dangerfield's lifestyle. After reading the Ginger Man it became apparent that Hunter had at last found a hard act to follow in terms of womanizing, alcohol abuse and empty promises.

Apparently the Ginger Man was turned down by something like 40 publishers before finding it's way to the mainly pornographic publishers Olympia Press in Paris. Despite turning out mostly smut, Olympia owner Maurice Girodias also published some early works by the likes of Samuel Beckett, William Burroughs, Henry Miller and Jean Genet among other rising literary talents of the time.

I mention the publication as it's interesting to note that Donleavy entered into 20 plus years of litigation with the publishing house. He eventually won the case and subsequently owns Olympia Press.

But anyway, the book. It is, for better or worse, very real. The "hero" Sebastian Dangerfield is a reluctant family man and a reluctant student of law. He just doesn't care about the things which we assume he should care about. He is constantly in a state of scheming his way into the next free drink, or getting into the knickers of an easily led girl. He has no morals, nor does he feel that he should have. He is banking on an inherited wealth which will be his once his sick father dies.

The style of the book is modern for the time of it's writing. Donleavy uses both the first person narrative and the third person narrative to illustrate his main character. This can be confusing at first, but I found that after a few chapters, it adds to the urgency/pace (first person) and the backgrounds (third person) as he switches between the two different types of narration. This could not be achieved by sticking to either one of the disciplines.

The plot is quite simple, as a character novel should be. The backdrop is Dublin and then later London. Both are described well.

The dialogue is at times simply brilliant. One of the few books where you find yourself laughing aloud, and re-reading passages in an attempt to recall lines and slip them into a conversation at some point in the future. It is so easy to see why this book has since been turned into a stage production. I would imagine that the theater would be in fits of giggles.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the development of modern literature. And for that matter anyone with an open mind and a good sense of humour. It is in many ways one of the best novels of the 20th century.

A short review of Bukowski's Post Office five years before I'd published a word. 
20 out of 23 people agreed with this.

Charles Bukowski
Post Office.
A review by James Newman. 

This book proves that Bukowski was at his best as a writer when he was down and out. Thankfully for the reader he was mostly down and out during his prolific career, a slave to beer and whiskey and low life friends.

He gave up working for the post office and wrote this book in a matter of days. He had to produce a great book and make some money and he did so by recording his time at the Post Office. Makes you want to give up the day job and do likewise. But who could do the job as well as Buk?

For me, Post Office is Buk's best work along with Ham on Rye, Factotum and the short story collections. Bukowski uses simple language which is understandable to everyone, but there is a deep underlying sense of acceptance of life imprinted in every page. He never asks for pity, although you know he really deserves it.

This novel makes you feel good as when you read it you understand things could be worse. You could be Buk. That said, this novel is far from being depressing, quite the opposite in fact it is at times so amusing you have to put it down and laugh aloud.

If you are feeling hard done by, buy this book and learn how to laugh in the face of failure like the great Bukowski


My advice to new writers? Read a little, review some books. Don't review books expecting a review in return. Review a book because you love reading. That is why you are writing, right?

Of course it is.

The Beat Goes On.

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