Friday 26 February 2016


That’s what the blurb says, and yes it would be funny if it weren’t so sad, and maybe eating the pages of a book is a bizarre way of digesting content, but otherwise it sounded pretty realistic (that is, familiar) to me:
  • Silence. I had the feeling he wanted to say something more, and I raised my eyebrows for him to go ahead. I waited, watching the muscle in his jaw poke out as he clamped the words down, and for another few seconds we stood there, trapped inside the rising pressure of his silence.
  • All kinds of crazy. A long line of crazies and quacks, people with circuits loose and chips on their should, people living in the moral and mental gray, twisted but functional, not committable, delinquent and duplicitous, shameless and shifty.
  • The news. The original horror story, the one that leaves us stuck in the murky landscape of fear and uncertainty…Every night we return for the latest installment, eager for new twists, different angles, fresh hints and allegation – the facts dubious, the rumours tempting, the silences damning…the newscasters, those clean and attractive mannequins sitting complicit and exempt at once, a placid skyline behind them.

Friday 19 February 2016


Well, re-reading it, but this is one of the most quotable novels ever  -- disgustingly glib, but undeniably witty.
  • The moment one sits down to think, one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or something horrid.
  • The ugly and stupid live s we all should live, undisturbed, indifferent, and without disquiet.
  • Passion is a useful thing to get your book published. Nowadays a broken heart will run to many editions.
  • Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly.
  • What they call loyalty, I call either the lethargy of custom or their lack of imagination.
  • Is insincerity such a terrible thing? Not at all. It is merely a method by which we can multiply our personalities.

Monday 15 February 2016


A novella of the absurd and yet familiar.
My parents used to pass evenings reminiscing about the early years of their marriage. Their talk consisted of a string of names loosely connected by events – like this:
The daughter of…what was her name? Miganne, who lived in front of Cabanillas’ office…the Cabanillas who married Artola’s daughter. And my mother continued in this vein. Each name was a knot of meaning into which many other chains of names converged.

My parents had no use for antiques or objets d’art – they were just second-hand stuff.
Mother found them inexplicable, useless, and therefore unwholesome.

The narrator is a failure in his own eyes:
Unemployment, the anachronistic relationship between a sixty-year-old man living with his mother, my long-since confirmed bachelorhood, all of it had enveloped me in the typical melancholy of dead days.

But his mother blames it on the environment:
If anything bad had happened to me, the fault lay in those degenerate and evil others who surrounded us. But she also didn’t admit that anything bad had happened to me: I was just fine where I was, things in my life had turned out well and would get even better in the future. In short, a complete denial of reality was in play.

He intends to ask a friend to finance his next venture, but it would do no good to explain his hopeless situation. It was better to let him experience it. There are things that are impossible not to understand if you experience them, or at least if you inhale their atmosphere, because then, even if you don’t grasp them with your understanding, you grasp them with your being and you register them deeply.

But this is an absurd story, and so there can be no understanding.

Thursday 11 February 2016

#AMREADING Joshua Cohen, Book of Numbers.

This novel is a treasury of new word creations:
  • Techsperanto
  • Assisterati
  • Taste arbiteur & approviste
  • Agglutinated fatness of American pro football
  • Cosmic latte (= beige)

Cohen’s innovative language extends to his descriptions as well, for example, of this book launch.

The location: A purposefully unreconstructed but rebranded wreckage harbored on the Hudson – the interior resembled a ruin, a rusted halfgutted rectilinear ‘spanse. Hangaresque, manufacturingesque. Previously a drydock, formerly a ropery. Had it just been built, it would’ve been a marvel – the type of modern design that architects and engineers torment themselves over, the natural course of things achieved by falling apart: foundation issues, an irresolvable roof, problem with the electric and plumbing.

Sunday 7 February 2016


But before you settle in, read Rosencranx Baldwin’s article in the L.A. Times:

Here are a few choice phrases from the article:
  • Earbuds are like underwear…almost everyone’s got a pair on them.
  • They expose you to a constant stream of stimulation, a cranium full of sound.
  • Get rid of them. With your ear canal stoppered white, you can’t hear the world around you. You could be doing some high quality eaves-dropping!

Saturday 6 February 2016

Rummel, Inquisitor's Niece

Yes, I’m reading the final proofs of my forthcoming novel, The Inquisitor’s Niece, the story of a taboo relationship between a Jew and a Christian, set in inquisitorial Spain. Here is a teaser:

Public executions always fetched a good crowd. People craned their heads to see the expression on the faces of the trio of heretics, an old Jew and two youths - his sons presumably - bareheaded and shirtless, their backs bloodied by the lash, their hands and feet shackled. They were transported in an open cart for all to see, to be vilified, cursed and spit on. The crowd was in a holiday spirit, merry and boisterous. Boys were hawking chestnuts, dried fruit and sugared almonds. A band of blind musicians was playing their guitars. A juggler performed tricks with coloured balls. Harlots were doing brisk business.
The crowd was jostling for the best spots from which to watch the spectacle. There was excitement in the air when the heretics were dragged to the pyre and tied to the stake.  A joyful shout went up when the executioner put a torch to the kindling, and for a moment the cheers and jeers drowned out the agonized shrieks of the men at the stake. The crowd watched them writhing as the smoke and the licking flames enveloped their bodies, and the fumes and the pain overcame first the old man and then his companions. Their bodies slackened, the roaring fire ate through the ropes that tied them to the stake, and they dropped to the ground. For a while an up-drift of air made it look as if they were waving their limbs in desperation, then the bodies turned into a darkly glowing heap, shapeless lumps seen through a curtain of fire.
The flames had hardly died down before souvenir-seekers started raking the hot ashes for keepsakes and carried off the bones to grind up and hawk as magic powder. Alonso watched them in cold horror. The spectacle made Alonso’s skin crawl. It was an evil omen. Was this the fate that awaited his father?

You can pre-order the book from the publisher at:!inquisitors-niece/co4k