Culture Club: Episode 3

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October 17, 2014 by Wayne.

Previous Culture Club episodes can be found here

Books

Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard Book

What an achievement this is from Gaiman. Clever, tender, and absolutely enchanting. And it’s all tautly wound up in his characteristic prose that zooms at breakneck speed without sacrificing tension or the rich development of characters.

Nominally a children’s book, yes, but who’s to say adults can’t enjoy it too?

Benjamin Hale – The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore

An absolute blinder of a debut novel. As disquieting as it is brash, with a deeply-flawed protagonist as much in love with the human concept of I as he is with the language at large. And what language, at that. Plenty of wondrous turn of phrases here – some so wondrous that they’re unwittingly repeated, matched only by the slightly groanworthy amount of overly convoluted, pompous prose.

The book does wind on for a good deal too long, though I’d mostly chalk that down to the very erratic pace employed. DFW-like descriptions of apartment plans, for instance, ran on and on, and felt hilariously out-of-place within the larger context. And for all that length, the novel never explores much else other than, well, the evolution of Bruno Littlemore. A conceited blowhard who moralizes his conceit, a chimp seduced by the grand lies of humanity, and ultimately a person trapped by his biological constraints (like a certain other female character towards the end), screaming and gnashing to be let free, but: “If we think of the whole world as a prison, then there’s no such thing as a cage-free animal.”

Oh, Bruno. Excessive and abrasive, just like the book itself. And, also like the book, curiously compelling.

If Bruno is the mirror of humanity at large, it is a very disturbing and profoundly complex face that looks back.

Terry Pratchett – Guards! Guards!

A true-to-form hilarious tale revolving around the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. What else is there to say about Discworld books? Especially these earlier ones. They’re all great fun to read, and the satire stays fresh and surprising without ever being overly incisive. I tend to refer to Pratchett and Wodehouse books as palette cleansers, which can come across as dismissive of their literary value – not the case, I assure you, dear (and solitary) reader. It’s nice to have books that don’t rely on emotionally bludgeoning you to death.

Music

A Hawk and a Hacksaw – Darkness at Noon

A fascinating (largely) instrumental album from a band led by the Neutral Milk Hotel drummer that somehow comes across as a spiritual sister of Tinariwen. The album alternates between a frenzied pastiche of folk-jazz, and solemn, thoughtful pieces that toe the delicate line between pathos and affectation.

Is it a great album. though? Not really, no. But it’s a genuinely refreshing one that isn’t too aurally challenging, or too self-absorbed with introspective contemplation.

A Picture of Her – C

The font cracks me up every time I look at it. And the low-quality cover in general too, but that’s a bit harder to make out, at least.

Anyway, this is the latest (at the time of writing) album from this fantastic Japanese four-piece band. As an instrumental outfit that relies greatly on creating lush, atmospheric soundscapes, it’s easy to dismiss them as yet another generic crescendo-core post-rock band. They’re really much more than that, though. The genre’s stereotypical sustained, tremolo-ed notes are replaced here with snippets of math-rock and even shoegaze. The band draws very liberally from various genres, and the result is a beautiful album that stands up to many repeated listens.

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