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My Goodreads reviews for 2017

Image from the cover of MASK: Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, Vol 1

My low logging rate on Goodreads for 2017 belies how much I read on a given day; it just doesn’t come from books. That’s not because I’m too distracted for the long form, more that I’ve been having trouble losing myself in the worlds that novels require. (Or wanting to; it’s easier to watch good films or great TV, after all.) So last year’s record, as little as I read in qualifying matter, fairly reflects that. More…


My Goodreads review of Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon

Reblogged from my Goodreads list:

The wry title makes things pretty clear: the book is about Kim Gordon, not the band that made her name, and rightly so.

For sure, Sonic Youth was an enormous part of her life, but she’s as multifaceted as any person, and she doesn’t shy away from her struggles in defining herself as an individual distinct from that all-consuming identity. Identity, image, marketing: between her unconventional adolescence, her complicated relationship with her older brother, and her adult life in the venn diagram of creative worlds, these concepts loom large, constantly intersecting and blurring lines. Gordon’s clear, candid writing cuts through a lot of it, unapologetic as she is about being an artist, a creator, a woman in a man’s world.

More…


My Goodreads review of Pro Wrestling Through The Power Slam Years: 1994-2014 by Findlay Martin

Reblogged from my Goodreads list:

Power Slam is truly missed – I never missed an issue from number 14 till the end last summer – and this compendium of editor/writer Findlay Martin’s insights on what was happening in wrestling’s major (and almost major) leagues over the last two decades beings back all those fond memories of poring over my monthly mag. I’m not sure if it’s appealing to anyone unfamiliar with Power Slam, as Martin also delves a fair amount into the nuts and bolts of production of the mag, but for me it’s like Christmas come early.


My Goodreads review of Yes!: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of WrestleMania by Daniel Brian & Craig Tello

Reblogged from my Goodreads list:

Yes! is a curiously slight volume considering Daniel Bryan’s storied career in the pro wrestling business, but being a WWE-sanctioned book it was bound to be fed through their filter, and cast his many years on the indie circuit and in Japan as mere preparatory work before hitting the ‘big time’. Sure, he’s allowed some leeway in his interpretation of events, because otherwise would make the exercise entirely pointless, but he’s an avowedly private and guarded individual, which doesn’t leave much space for a revelatory memoir on a par with Mick Foley’s Have A Nice Day. That’s not helped by a structure that interweaves Bryan’s memories leading up to WrestleMania XXX with WWE.com editor Craig Tello’s laboured ‘PR pretending to be a literary sportswriter’ prose, waffling on the behind-the-scenes happenings at that very event. With a more encouraging editor, there’s a better book in Bryan, I’m sure.


Blog all bookmarked pages: Notes (on the Making of Apocalypse Now) by Eleanor Coppola

I’ve had it for something like 15 or 16 years now — the pound sign on the Hodges Figgis price sticker is a giveaway — and I was in the mood for a memoir/diary-type book to read, so I relieved this one from its tsundoku status in my bedside locker a few months ago.

Was it worth reading before seeing Apocalypse Now? I think so. I mean I’ve seen most of the film, in parts, and I know the gist of the story; it’s just that I’ve never sat down and watched the whole thing through. With perspective, I don’t think I was ready for it before — I certainly didn’t have the patience for a three-hour treatise on war and existentialism the night I first saw (some of) it — but I feel primed for it now, having read Eleanor Coppola’s thoughts on and around its making.

More…


My Goodreads review of Andre the Giant: Life and Legend by Box Brown

Reblogged from my Goodreads list:

Box Brown’s remarkable manga-influenced sequential art biography of the wrestling legend lies somewhere at the intersection of the graphic novel as pioneered by Art Spiegelman, the confessional comics of Harvey Pekar and the illustrated reportage of Joe Sacco. Okay, that sounds as grandiose as a wrestling promo, but there’s truth in it. What we have here is a larger-than-life story that could be told in text alone, but it’s a tale that really benefits from being seen sketched out on the page to be believed – even if much of it’s a work in the end.


My Goodreads review of Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Reblogged from my Goodreads list:

Amy Poehler makes it clear from the start of this book that it’s not much of a memoir or autobiography, more a disjointed collection of essays, musings and reminiscences. And that’s exactly how Yes Please should be judged, especially as its later pages see her try to draw a portrait of herself beyond the comedic image that’s naturally earnest but, in my case, not much fun to read. It’s still worth a go anyway, because Poehler is an awesome person. And she doesn’t hold her cards as close to her chest as Tina Fey.


My Goodreads review of The Squared Circle by David Shoemaker

Reblogged from my Goodreads list:

David Shoemaker’s book-length adaptation of his ‘Dead Wrestler of the Week’ column for Deadspin could do with another pass by a copy editor more familiar with the subject matter (I wasn’t even looking out for them but there are at least two glaring timeline botches in the text). It also leans a little too heavily on the Barthes quotes to square a generally low-brow pursuit with a high-brown mindset. Still, as an intro aimed at the curious to explain why long-time fans like me still carry the torch, it does the job. In other words, you don’t need to be into wrestling to read it; in fact, it’s probably better if you aren’t.


My Goodreads review of Hawkeye Vol 3: LA Woman

Reblogged from my Goodreads list:

Kate Bishop’s west coast adventures are a little too sunny, a little too wacky to fit comfortably in the same series as Clint Barton’s relatively serious situation in Brooklyn. Annie Wu’s more conventional art style is fairly jarring compared to David Aja’s stylised look, too. The Kate issues work better separated out in this volume, though it’s far from perfect, with the story arc resolving itself awfully neatly. Still, the writing is witty enough to paper over those cracks for the most part.


My Goodreads review of How I Escaped My Certain Fate by Stewart Lee

Reblogged from my Goodreads list:

Stewart Lee’s autobiography of sorts is part memoir (only a fraction, really, more a summary than an in-depth examination of his life and career), part director’s commentary on three of his own extended stand-up sets (making up the bulk of this tome, and what really makes it worth reading). How you like it of course depends upon how you like his comedy, but I’ve been a fan of his (and of Richard Herring) since the TMWRNJ days so I’ve been primed for more than 15 years.


My Goodreads review of Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Reblogged from my Goodreads list:

I feel it’s premature to judge this on its own with two more parts of the trilogy (really one book split in three, since they’ve been published so close together) still to go. But I will say that it’s been a long time since I’ve read anything like this, and I look forward to seeing where Jeff VanderMeer takes the story.


My GoodReads review of Hatchet Job by Mark Kermode

Reblogged from my GoodReads list:

More a collection of columns loosely connected by Kermode’s overall thesis that film criticism (if not high-calibre criticism in general) is still necessary in this age of media democratisation. I mean I’m obviously sympathetic to that, being a writer on music and film myself and a blogger (on and off) of some 13 years’ standing. I think you have to be on board with that notion to get what he’s doing. Moreover, his structure allows him to meander around and away from the topic at hand to sometimes completely irrelevant places. But his style is fluid and fun for the most part, and some of his apparently scattershot musings do make more sense at the end.


Why people believe bullshit

From an interview with philosopher Stephen Law in New Scientist on his new book, Believing Bullshit:

Some things may be beyond our understanding, and sometimes it’s reasonable to appeal to mystery. If you have excellent evidence that water boils at 100°C, but on one occasion it appeared it didn’t, it’s reasonable to attribute that to some mysterious, unknown factor. It’s also reasonable, when we have a theory that works but we don’t know how it works, to say that this is currently a mystery. But the more we rely on mystery to get us out of intellectual trouble, or the more we use it as a carpet under which to sweep inconvenient facts, the more vulnerable we are to deceit, by others and by ourselves.


So many books…

[I had intended to post this comment on Markham’s new blog but he seems to be having some technical problems. So it’s going here instead. (I mean, what’s my weblog for if I don’t post on it every now and again?)]

So apparently bloggers like books, eh? What with all the reading and the writing and all, who woulda thunk it?

But enough of my sarcasm. I also share the bookish addiction. It’s not so bad that I can’t walk past a bookshop without being drawn inside by some mysterious magnetic force. But when I do pop into Waterstone’s or Hodges Figgis now and again, more often than not I can’t leave without having bought something. Damn those three for two offers!

As for reading the bloody things? I do tend to go through periods of not reading anything substantial, bar newspapers and magazines (and websites, natch), so the book pile has been growing steadily for some time. But I have been on a bit of a reading buzz lately.

Since my recent jaunt abroad I’ve read and enjoyed The State of Africa by Martin Meredith (highly recommended Markham, if you haven’t read it already); The Quarry by Damon Galgut; The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem; and am trying to make Peter Biskind’s Down and Dirty Pictures last as long as possible…

I also breezed through Haruki Murakami’s A Wild Sheep Chase, which had been sitting in my bag one-quarter read for the last six months, and I’ve just started A Crack in the Edge of the World by Simon Winchester, on the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, which I picked up for virtually nothing over Christmas downstairs at Eason’s.

And there are at least ten other books on the shelf just waiting to be delved into. Provided my current reading buzz lasts, that is. If not, they’ll just have to wait, and make room for the others I’ll undoubtedly add to the pile in the coming months.

(And by the way Markham, The Winding Stair is still open. Or at least it was when I was crossing the Ha’penny Bridge on Monday morning.)