Monday, 28 December 2009

Naked Lunch

by William Burroughs.

Yes, enough of all this seasonal warmth and good cheer, let's have something scary, transgressional, fucked-up and apocalyptic.

Read it as a teenager, one of those rites of passage, experimental reads, the cover of which shows how big and clever you are when you open it on the bus. I was desperate to read this after Maddie at sixth form college mentioned it with a shudder. She'd had a visceral reaction to it. "Couldn't finish it" she explained "It made me puke."

To be honest, I can't remember much about it - it's his fevered, disjointed imaginings about the junkie milieu and is paranoid, conspiracy theory, hallucinatory stuff, but he was a genius, no question. He also got away with shooting his wife dead - they were playing William Tell, (as you do), and the bullet went astray.

The book that made more of an impression on me was called Queer, about the pains of getting over someone (whilst simultaneously trying to kick heroin.) Incredibly painful and raw. Nowadays I steer away from this kind of downbeat material - when you're younger I think you are more resilient about reading dark things, maybe because you have less experience of real darkness in the world.

Anyway, I'm way behind with leaving these on the tube, I keep forgetting. Any suggestions for others places I could leave them gratefully received...

Sunday, 6 December 2009

The Color Purple

Alice Walker

Why do you want to read all that... that Women's Studies bollocks? said one of my friends at Uni (who was strictly all about Modernism, Post Modernism, and doomy Russian novelists)'s so worthy. More on that later.

Bit of a wrench letting this one go, but recycling the ones that will always stay in print and are easy enough to get hold of, is the whole point of this anyway.

Worthy. Well... The book is about poverty, oppression, its heroine is a poor black woman. If that's something to sneer at, then yes, it is worthy. It's also about redemption and is fabulously optimistic and life-affirming. I love it that she quotes Stevie Wonder, rather than some high-falutin' literary quote at the beginning, to make her point "Show me how to do like you" - that you can refuse to be a victim and can transcend your circumstances, as long as you have someone to love and to inspire you.