And good luck with that because it's a SKIP WEEK! So I have thrown some words into the path of your thwarted desires and curdled expectations. Words about books because it is summer (or so rumour has it) and people like to be told what to read on the beach. Then they ignore it and buy that Dan Brown shit. I've seen you. I've seen all of you!
Also, it transpires Boisterous Brian Hibbs has done his sales charts for the year thus far and posted them just below this. You are now content rich. Enjoy! Anyway, this...
This was Helen Zahavi’s debut novel and it is VERY GOOD! It’s written in raunchily rhythmic prose delivered by a swaggeringly sarcastic omniscient narrator who takes a sadistic pleasure in every blow our heroine takes, but savours even more every crack she gives back. Because this is a book about Bella and how Bella woke up one morning to find, as she makes plain, she’d had enough. Had enough of the shit that men give that women are expected to take. Bella works her way through a menagerie of misogyny leaving no doubt as to her feelings on the matter at hand. You could say they asked for it, and Bella thought it rude to refuse. Murder, I’m talking about there. She kills ‘em. You may be thinking that it sounds quite a lot like a female Death Wish. Well, it sounded enough like a female Death Wish for it to be filmed in 1993 by one Michael Winner the director of, yes, Death Wish.
For those blissfully unaware, Winner is a tireless self-publicist who has had occasional cinematic success with films that ,while derivative, do , at their best, possess an entertainingly grubby energy and disarming absence of taste. At their worst, which is most of the time, they are just puzzlingly shit. Basically, Michael Winner is the cinematic equivalent of Mark Millar. Although Millar probably won’t end up trading on his status as national laughing stock and appear in daytime TV Insurance adverts. More’s the pity. Anyway, the movie is precisely as good as you would imagine a feminist fable of retributive violence would be if it were filmed by a man who titled his restaurant review column Winner’s Dinners. Stick with the book is what I’m saying there. Also, be nice to ladies.
The title helpfully cues you into the fact that this is, ostensibly, about the last werewolf. And some vampires with whom he fails to get along with quite violently. Oh, and the human organisation which hunts them both while you doze, sedated by light ale, in front of Mad Men, wishing you too dressed like an adult. Because, as you have known in your bones since birth, there is a supernatural world hidden behind the net curtains of the mundane. It is of course a sexier and more exciting world too. There’s little doubt about this as our narrator takes great pleasure in regaling us at tedious length about the arousing and, yes, rousing existence he has suffered, lo, these two centuries past. And is it all about to end? Is the world to suffer not only the loss of his self-centred self but his very species itself? After a pretty gripping start I soon failed to care, alas.
Duncan’s primarily hobbled himself in presenting the story in the form of a journal written after the fact. This means he’s (mostly; no spoilers!) limited to one POV and all the most interesting shenanigans occur offstage. This does mean the exposition is smoothly delivered but it also means there’s a lot of exposition required, as all manner of shit has a tendency to just suddenly happen out of nowhere. This latter is okay in moderation but it’s taken to excess here. Tension and suspense aren't exactly engendered when a helicopter spraying garlic napalm could burst through the wall at any second to save our lycanthropic lead. Speaking of whom, he sure soon wore out his welcome. Yammer, yammer, yammer, that’s this guy. And it’s all about him, and how hard it is to be a sexy, dangerous and dangerously sexy manly wolf. Wotta maroon, this fella is. The guy’s had two hundred years to get used to the fact that he kills and eats someone once a month. After two centuries of failing to psychologically adapt he comes off as narcissistic nincompoop. People have got used to far worse thing in far less time, like being a Tory.
Oh, it’s OKAY! Duncan can write, and he writes well at that. He’s got an interesting premise and I was, I really was, really into bits of it, but the combination of overly facile plot machinations and self-pitying narration just rubbed me up the wrong way. Seemed to me that the biggest danger of being the last werewolf is you spend far too long sniffing your own arse.
This is an overseas only selection of Self’s shorter fiction culled from each of his collections existent at the date of publication, together with a brief new piece. As such it’s a VERY GOOD! overview of his work from the early stylistically ostentatious stuff concerned primarily with effect to the more disciplined and, thus, more emotionally affecting later work. Here you can read Self gravitate from the impressively deadpan evocations of drab horror (“Grey Area”) to a tale which quietly allows you a peep at the singular level of Hell which can flare open in a moment of parental inattention (“The Five Swing Walk”). Some of it is quite funny too. Honest.
Um, that's it...Next time - COMICS!!!