Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Don't talk, put your head on my shoulder

This month I started a course at work. The induction required me to bring along an item that was "me".

I had about four months to consider this, and it wasn't until early August I actually decided on something. Some things were good items but not completely me: my trusty guitar (typically me, it's too awkward); running shoes (too recently me).

Eventually I picked my best of the Beach Boys lp (see image). I will have to talk about it, what follows are some of the things I might mention:
  • I have been listening to the Beach Boys since I was about six. I had two cassette tapes of Best Of volumes 1 and 2.
  • At primary school I was told that I shouldn't listen to 'old stuff' like the Beach Boys but popular current pop music. This warning didn't stop me.
  • Music has been a part of my life from a very early age. At most times of the day I will be thinking of a song lyric (my favourite lyric is included on one of tattoos) or melody. Most likely having said this either On The Radio or Fidelity by Regina Spektor have popped into my head.
  • When I proposed to my wife I used a series of song lyrics as my speech. For our wedding party my two brothers and I performed Beach Boys, Buddy Holly and Super Furry Animals covers under the name Super Furry Beach Buddies. They are three most favourite acts.
  • I collect vinyl. My original collect was destroyed in a flood in 2012, and the first replacement record was yellow vinyl issue of Yellow Submarine by the Beatles. Probably my favourite Beatles song is It's Only A Northern Song, written as a throw away song by George Harrison. The hardest records to replace seem to be lo-fi Glasgow band Urusei Yatsura.
  • I write a blog about finding book and record shops. I started it earlier in 2014 after spending a year experimenting with ideas.
  • I use music a lot when I run. I don't tend to listen to music but keep songs in my head. Pace wise, Autobahn by Kraftwek is a 9 minute mile, Gold Mother by James is 8 minutes 30 second mile, Peggy Sue by Buddy Holly is 8 minute mile, and No good For Me by Prodigy is a 7 minute 30 second mile pace. I haven't worked out either 7 minute mile pace or quicker.
  • When I think I can get away with it I will sing out aloud.
Postscript. Two weeks later and I still don't quite remember what I said.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

My reading habits...

In November I will be 38. My parents-in-law bought me a gift of a Reading Spa from Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights. Prior to attending I had to submit an email on my reading habits.

This is what I wrote:

I like well written, well thought out books. I tend to think of all fiction as speculative, I'm not a fan of genre as a means of picking books to read. I don't mind it being lengthy if the author wants to take me somewhere the long way around (Les Miserables, Night's Dawn trilogy, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell), though being concise is also appreciated (Georges Simenon, Richard Brautigan, Francois Sagan, the Foundation trilogy). I like unlikable characters if they are well thought out (Johannes Cabal, Walker Percy/Confederacy of Dunces). I also like writers who can make illogical narrative leaps which actually make perfect sense when they are explained (Richard Brautigan, Hunter S Thompson). I suppose one could say I prefer older crime (Maigret, Poirot as characters, John Dickson-Carr as a writer), though time of writing is no guarantee I'd enjoy reading it (Len Deighton and Harry Palmer are a turn-off, le Carre's Smiley on the other hand is rather approachable). I like speculation, escapism (some times in the guise of a Warhammer book or Alistair McClean, Peter Temple off the radio), though realism (Trainspotting) or autobiographical work is interesting (Moab Is My Washpot, Down and Out In London and Paris, Girl With A One Track Mind). I like horror, especially HP Lovecraft, and have recently started to enjoy more gothic novels and stories (Castle Otranto). Douglas Adams's Hitch Hikers Guide has to be one of my most read books (I probably quote/paraphrase from it daily). I read graphic novels (Judge Dredd, Usagi Yojimbo, Scott Pilgrim) though I am not looking for a recommendation. I like a bit of poetry though mostly this comes down to buying the Forward Prize every year. I read Wisden yearly. I am not a fan of overly promoted books, I am not likely to want to read something if a newspaper columnist says I 'have' to read it. I like intercontextuality, 'mash-ups', and pop culture references (as perfected in the Simpsons).

The premise of a reading spa is quite simple. One talks for about thirty minutes, an hour, about the books they have liked and the disliked, and one of the staff at Mr B's then goes off and picks some recommendations. The gift comes with a voucher for books, so you will leave the shop with new books to read.

And my, did I. I had six from Mr B's, I found another in Hay-on-Wye a couple of days later. I won't list the titled that were recommended, just say that going along to Mr B's Emporium is certainly an experience I would recommend.

Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights,
14/14 St John's Street, Bath

Postscript. Okay, I will talk about one book I was recommended. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer is a very good read, the first book of the Southern Reach trilogy. It is sketchy with the facts, the narrator is an unreliable witness, and there is a creeping dread with just about every single page turned. It is fantastic and imaginative, and I devoured it as if I was the vanguard of an alien invasion force. Or am I.