Monday, December 25, 2017

Lean on Pete by Willy Vlautin (Harper Perennial 2010)

When I woke up that morning it was still pretty early. Summer had just begun and from where I lay in my sleeping bag I could see out the window. There were hardly any clouds and the sky was clear and blue. I looked at the Polaroid I had taped to the wall next to where I slept. It shows my aunt and me sitting by a river; she has on a swimsuit. She’s my dad’s sister and she looks like him, with black hair and blue eyes and she’s really thin. In the photo she’s holding a can of soda and smiling as I sit next to her. She has her arm around me. My hair’s wet and I’m smiling. That was when we all lived in Wyoming. But it had been four years since I’d seen her, and I didn’t even know where she lived anymore.

My dad and I had just moved to Portland, Oregon, and we’d been there for a week. We didn’t know anybody. Two days before my school year was done we packed the truck and moved out from Spokane. We brought our kitchen table and four chairs, dishes and pots and pans, our clothes and TV, and my dad’s bed. We left all the rest.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

All Backs Were Turned by Marek Hlasko (New Vessell Press 1964)

“Like I’ve always helped you.”

“Yes,” Israel said. “You always helped me.” Suddenly he put his face against Ursula’s breast. “Dov,” he said, “she’s alive. She’s breathing.”

He got up; Dov knelt next to Ursula’s body and placed his head on her breast. Israel held the stone ready in his hand; he had noticed it while kneeling by Ursula’s body, and he picked it up while pressing his face to her chest. He waited until he saw Dov begin to straighten up, then he hit him twice in quick succession; he circled the body to make sure Dov was really dead, then hit him a third time; only then did he toss the stone away.”

The Fallen: Life In and Out of Britain's Most Insane Group by Dave Simpson (Canongate 2008)

Like any classic long-running British soap opera, The Fall has minor characters and major characters, although even the latter can suddenly disappear and the saga just rolls on. In the bewildering Fall cast, few characters have made as much impact with their appearance and disappearance as Marc Riley – who has since gone on to other prominent roles but during his time in The Fall (June 1978 to December 1982) loomed as large over events and music as Ken Barlow in Coronation Street.

What I know about Riley is this: he joined after hanging around with The Fall and becoming one of their sporadic road crew. Thus, Riley replaced Eric the Ferret, who replaced Jonnie Brown, who replaced Tony Friel. He became the eleventh disciple to join in the first two years, his reign predating but outlasting Steve Davies. In the month he signed up, cricketer Ian Botham became the first man in the history of the game to score a century and take eight wickets in one innings of a Test match. Albums lining up against The Fall’s 1979 Live at the Witch Trials debut at the time included Prince’s debut For You, Dire Straits’ first eponymous album, Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town and X-Ray Spex’s punky, saxophoney Germfree Adolescents. Margaret Thatcher was in power. It seems a world away.

As does December 1982, the month he left, when Thatcher still had years ahead of her, but the pop landscape was changing. Manchester greats like The Smiths and New Order were edging towards Top of the Pops. Neil Kinnock was elected Labour leader and Michael Jackson’s Thriller rapidly became the biggest-selling album of all time. Riley’s five-year stint was a relative lifetime in The Wonderful and Frightening World but coincides with the beginnings of The Fall’s noble ascent from indie cultdom to national institution

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Same Shit, different year.

One of those Facebook thingies that one gets sucked into, surrendering all your personal data in the process. Was it worth it?