Sunday, May 4, 2014

April through my ears


My daughter likes music. She likes dancing. Which is cool. Her taste in music is questionable, though. Her favourite song right now is 'Hollaback Girl', which she calls the 'Nana' song (this shhh is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S).

My daughter is 16 months old.

In April her favourite song was Phil Collins' 'Sussudio', which she first heard while she and I were at the supermarket (Newtown Countdown has this peppy late80s/early90s vibe with is playlist: the other day I found myself singing along to 'Stop Draggin' My Heart Around'). She went on a real Phil Collins/Genesis/Peter Gabriel binge on Pandora after that. And I have to say, maybe some of those songs were kinda alright.

And me? I'm really into Future Islands' new album 'Singles' at the mo. Like, really into it.

Lia likes it too, but it's no Gwen Stefani.


Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (novel, audiobook)

Doomsday BookI was pretty keen on this novel in the early stages (as my March reading update attests). But the book tended to get caught up in trivial situations that just churned and churned for pages. What has the technician come down with? Why can’t Kivrin understand the ‘contemps’? Interesting enough plot points for a page or so, but stretch that to twenty and you’ve got a ponderous book.

As it went on, I found myself most excited by how stuffy and unfuturistic the novel's present (our future) was. The novel was written in 1991 but set in 2054/5. In almost every way except the fact historians can time travel (so just a minor thing, really), our 2014 is more futuristic than Willis’ 2054. They don’t have cellphones, let alone smartphones. The internet isn’t a thing (there's ‘the net’, but that refers to the method universities use to travel back in time).

There’s a quest to get into a locked office to get paper files (there are electronic files, but they don’t have the patient’s NHS number to access them)... 

Even the NHS is still intact (call me a sceptic by I can see it lasting another Tory government).

So often writers are guilty of over-predicting the level of change in the future. Flying cars. Android servants. Meals in pills. It was refreshing to see such an unassuming vision of the future and reminded me how much like a visitor from the stars I would have seemed if 31 year-old Craig appeared to 8 year-old Craig in 1991 with my iPod nano stocked with audiobooks, my iPad (presuming it could still connect to the 2014 version of the internet) and my android smartphone (just in case you think I’m an apple tragic!).

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Gal... who am I kidding?, JK Rowling (novel, audiobook)

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike)Speaking of the miracle of audiobooks, something odd happened with The Cuckoo’s Calling. I started listening to it over Easter while I carried out grounds maintenance at my estate (okay, so I pruned some trees... but it took ages!). 

The story started with what I thought was the prologue: a tired, injured detective observing the fall-out after solving a case. It seemed pretty standard way to start a crime novel, but as it progressed I got more excited by the level of detail of this dummy case and the depth of the relationships between detective and his office lady and a couple of the other characters. It felt complex and murky but totally alive. Then the narrator of the audiobook said, “That was The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, read by Robert Glenister”.

Turns out I’d been listening to the epilogue, which my iPod for  decided to play first some reason.

Before I could put down my hedge trimmer, the story moved onto the next track, which happened to be the prologue, which was much less exciting the epilogue.

So, ladies and gentlemen, a rule: if you must have a prologue, make it the epilogue from an unwritten book.

The problem with listening to the actual epilogue first is it drains so much of the mystery and tension from the book. While The Cuckoo’s Calling felt well-handled throughout, I couldn’t help being disappointed. I wanted the book that followed the epilogue, the unwritten one (or maybe it's The Silkworm) and that’s totally on me (or my mischievous iPod).

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (novel, audiobook)

Blood Meridian: Or, the Evening Redness in the West (Picador Books)I checked that I was about to listen to track one before pushing play this time. And wham, Richard Poe started talking to me in this florid, biblical polysyndetic prose. 

Vivid, violent, unhinged, mythic, vile, meandering, arch... Blood Meridian is an Elmore Leonard western written by the bastard love child of William S Burroughs and Henry Miller.

Now I get why people rave about CMcC and Blood Meridian in particular.


This year I've been taking TV seriously. Not live broadcast TV of course, but binge-style box set TV. First it was House of Cards (the US version... twas good, my only wish was that the Finchery text messages popping up on the screen from first 2 eps carried through the entire run). Then True Detective (so much promise, such a slack ending). 

Aside: mid-season of True Detective I entertained fantasies about writing a TV show next. Nic Pizzolatto published a short story collection, then a novel (just like me) before penning True Detective, I thought. Such fantasies have waned now.

At the moment I'm doing Breaking Bad. I never got on that ride at the time, so I'm still in Season One.

Then there's Season Four of Game of Thrones to catch-up on.

And finally, a shout-out to the local show, Step Dave, which I thought would be a bit of a cringe-fest. The set up, 24 year old bartender hooks up with 39 year old mother of 3, didn't sound like my kinda thing at all. But I gave the first episode a shot via TVNZ OnDemand and wound up watching the whole season, mostly while doing the dishes (normally Podcast time).