Hello, world. I’m MacDara Conroy, and this is my blog.

Category: Words

Book review — Sing Backwards And Weep, by Mark Lanegan

When I first learned what this story of Mark Lanegan’s early years in music would entail, I couldn’t help but think of Bob Mould’s own autobiography, See A Little Light, and all of its recriminations and petty swipes at his ex-bandmates in Hüsker Dü. But at least I can understand Mould’s bitterness, if not accept or agree with it, because it comes from a place of passion — a band that he and his former musical compadres wanted to be in, music they wanted to make, and then life and its complication sours the milk. More…

Book review — Art Sex Music, by Cosey Fanni Tutti

I felt like I wasn’t the only one tempted to google ‘Cosey Fanni Tutti transphobia’ after reading this memoir, but aside from this Jezebel interview which raises the question, it doesn’t seem to have provoked much discussion. Perhaps that’s because in this particular instance, the Genesis P-Orridge depicted here is an enormous arsehole who doesn’t deserve the respect of being appropriately gendered, though it still feels like some level of disrespect to the trans community. One would really have to ask trans people how they feel about that. More…

Penumbra’s New Fiction

A different approach to publishing stories, from the author of Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, only available as a limited-edition degradable print (a bit precious, that) or a PDF to print at home or read on your screen of choice (a bit limiting, when something that makes better use of HTML’s potential could be more rewarding). #link

Book review — Titan Shattered, by James Dixon

Despite my comments on this book’s predecessor, my distaste for this narrative (and its intermittent misogynist and homophobic sideswipes) grows with my conviction that all of us, the authors included, got worked. Big time. More…

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…

Book review — Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal and Grindcore, by Albert Mudrian

An easy, breezy read about the biggest bands that defined extreme metal, much of it in their own words. It’s focused on a select few names, which is both good and bad: good in that it doesn’t get bogged down in enyclopaedic details (it doesn’t pretend to be a comprehensive history) but bad in its Euro-American bias, more or less footnoting the contributions of bands and scenes in Asia and South America, not to mention lesser-known acts in the regions it does cover. Perhaps some of that is rectified in the updated edition (I read the original, from 2004) yet in any case, it leaves room for someone else to write that history unwritten here. More…

Book review — Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl: A Memoir, by Carrie Brownstein

Did I enjoy this memoir? Sure; Carrie Brownstein is an engaging storyteller, even if her prose tends to the overwrought. There’s an honesty that shines through as she relates her musical history with the kind of self-deprecation you’d expect from a friend, not a braggart. But again we have a life story that cuts out way before the end; Brownstein’s transmuting into a comedy writer/performer is all but ignored, save for an epilogue that makes fleeting reference to a Portlandia episode. I can imagine reasons for doing this, but they let the book down regardless. More…

The Stinging Fly: A Tingling Pleasure

Fantastic advice for writers, especially the parts about considering the reader (and the editor, who is also a reader, not just a butcher — and I mean butcher in the best craftsperson sense). #link

Jenny Odell: How to do nothing

Do take the time to read these various but connected musings on the value of ‘nothingness’, of removal from the noise and bustle of life — and the demands of Work with a capital W — for deeper reflection, within and without, to exist. It's cut with an endearing wit, as per her observation on birdwatching: “Actually, I’ve always found it weird that it’s called birdwatching, because half if not more of birdwatching is actually birdlistening. I personally think they should just rename it birdnoticing.” #link

How to design words

How writing appears is integral to its function. It’s depressing how many people can’t grasp that, even so-called ‘writers’. #link

Reader reviews aren’t all bad

A professional book critic recognises that the honest opinions of readers can and do often cut through a lot of the bullshit of canon and critical consensus and what have you. [c/o Infovore] #link

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.


BLDGBLOG: Books Received

Haven't been in the headspace for ideas this intersectional and transcendent for a long time, but this is worth linking for when I am. #link

Elsewhere: My Goodreads review of The War for Late Night by Bill Carter

Reblogged from my Goodreads list:

I can’t get enough of these behind-the-curtain exposes of the politics of US television, and this one comes with the added dimension of being a clash of cultures, in a fashion, between the established but shopworn success story and the edgier underdog getting his due. Granted I think you’d have to be a fan of Conan – or the machinations of late night TV – to get behind the thrust of what Bill Carter has crafted here, but I am so it’s like catnip to me.

Elsewhere: My Goodreads review of Sex, Lies, and Headlocks by Shaun Assael & Mike Mooneyham

Reblogged from my Goodreads list:

An initially engrossing report of the tawdry goings-on behind the curtain in the big-time pro wrestling business, Sex, Lies and Headlocks is let down by poor copyediting and shoddy fact-checking that undermines even those stories already widely known to be true (or true-ish, at least). Still, as it’s written with the brisk pace typical of experienced newspaper and magazine hands, it passes as pulpy dirt-dishing entertainment for wrestling fans with a suitable appetite.

Elsewhere: My Goodreads review of Voices of Wrestling NJPW 2014 Year in Review

Reblogged from my Goodreads list:

It seems a bit unfair to review what’s essentially a reference guide to and prospectus for New Japan Pro Wrestling. But it would be just as unfair not to recognise the Voices of Wrestling crew for their tireless, quality work in assembling this multi-purpose yearbook, at once a ‘who’s who’ guide for newbies and a deep-dive nerd-out for hardcore fans.

It’s as exhaustive a report on NJPW as you’re gonna find, even if I think applying statistical analysis to wrestling is a bit much (adopts Kevin Nash voice You know this shit’s fake, right?). It only really loses marks for the formatting: a serif font at a standard size (swapping out to a different book requires resizing the text) would be easier to read.

Elsewhere: My Goodreads review of My Life In Wrestling … With A Little Help From My Friends by Gary Hart

Reblogged from my Goodreads list:

“Now – I’m not down on wrestling fans, but fans don’t know what they want. They shouldn’t know. That’s not their job. Their job is to come and be entertained – and hopefully be tricked – so they’re elated with adrenaline rushing through their body.”

Now there’s a distinct whiff of bullshit from many of Gary Hart’s words in this memoir of his life and times as a wrestling manager in the territory days, and later in the Crockett/Turner NWA. It’s impossible to escape the notion that the reader is constantly being worked, as he contradicts himself from page to page as the circumstances demand.

But every now and then there’s a glimpse of wisdom that stands out for its crystal clarity. And it’s those, as well as the general entertainment value of reading Hart tell his stories no matter how much he might be kayfabing you, that make this worth seeking out for any dyed-in-the-wool wrestling fan.

From alright to zap: an A-Z of horrible words

Alright! This is great stuff, even if it's permissive of misheard word-manglings that annoy me so. But perhaps the bigger takeaway is that so much grammar pedantry seems to revolve around a general misapprehension of the concept of metaphors, or satire (take 'guesstimate', which I've always taken to be poking fun at the puffed-up, self-delusional business-world redefinition of a 'guess', whether educated or not, as an 'estimate', with all the mental labour rigour that implies.) #link