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Ah! ‘Tis miserable beyond your wild-
est dreams of miserableness, to be a
writer. Or maybe it’s just me. Now I
Rob Walker (Constable)
think about it, I could probably be
Those who consider themselves immune to advertising, take heed. New York Times columnist Rob Walker’s
exposé of American consumer culture may inspire you to examine your shopping trolley a little closer in future.
a very miserable engine driver or
While the notion of advertising as a highly adaptable, Orwellian power is not a new concept, this study stems
podiatrist. Or even a switchboard
from the author’s candid recognition of himself as an impressionable consumer. By providing anecdotes which
operator; which is what I am. As well
illustrate his own vulnerability to advertising, Walker personifies his theories in a manner which perhaps even
as being a writer. Whatever. I thought
the most sceptical reader can identify with. Though the author sympathises with those who question their rela-
tionship with advertising, his study is concerned with identifying tensions between the dual roles of consumer/
I’d list a few gripping details about
individual when making choices in the marketplace. Perhaps most significant to contemporary media debates
your average writer’s day. So you’ll
are Walker’s chapters regarding the ethical implications of ‘murketing’ – a blurring of rules concerning market- know how we suffer. So what? I hear
ing and reality. This results in covert advertising through, for instance, undercover ‘agents’ who are rewarded
you say. Quite, is my reply. But here
for writing biased product reviews online or mentioning brand names in conversations with friends. Despite a
goes anyway:
substantial bibliography, it’s occasionally difficult to decipher the source of a specific fact or figure within the
text but unless you intend on referring to Walker’s findings at length in your media studies coursework, this is a
minor issue which shouldn’t detract from one’s understanding of the book. HJ
1. Wake up late with unshakeable
feeling of dread.

2. Briefly experience euphoria; it’s
not the day you go for that nasty
Daniel Kehlmann (Quercus)
little procedure you’ve been put-
Sebastian Zöllner, the obnoxious art critic and wannabe novelist, has an idea for a biography about the ageing
and reclusive artist Manuel Kaminski. He arrives at Kaminski’s home, intrudes on a family dinner, alienates
ting off.
his sister and their guests and searches through their private things before ‘kidnapping’ the old man out from 3. Dread again. You’ve got to write
under his daughter’s nose and embarking on a road trip to find a long lost love. As is often the way with road
trip narratives, this story has a deeper meaning for the players – many things are discovered along the way and
4. Prop up self on pillows and stare
many of the characters are altered forever.
The real charm of this excellent novel comes in the form of Kaminski’s character; Zöllner assumes he has the
into middle distance. This could
artist’s gentle personality and doddery ways figured out, but of course his ego blinds him to the truth in every-
be thinking, but you know better
thing. The slow, gradual reveal of the narrative runs alongside Sebastian’s realisation of what is actually hap- 5. Drop off into light doze, have
pening, but you never want to rush things, because the dry humour and effortless flow of the prose makes the
horrific, but strangely satisfying
novel a joy to read. In the end the misguided Sebastian makes you shake your head in agreement with the other
nightmare, and wake up energised.
characters who see him as arrogant and smug, even more blind than the painter he is trying to manipulate. EG
Leap out of bed with An Idea.
6. Rush to laptop, hair awry, jaw
clenched with keenness. Step on
Colin Cotterill (Quercus) Geraint Goodwin (Parthian)
prongs of discarded hairdryer plug
Dr Siri Paiboun, aging and very reluctant Set on the Welsh-English border in the and collapse, howling. Idea vanish-
Coroner of Laos, returns after Cotterill’s 1930s, The Heyday In The Blood explores
es. Lie on floor expressing agony
success with the excellent novel The issues of nationality, language and
and then give up. No one cares. You
Coroner’s Lunch. Siri is once again slowly class with a humorous yet tragic story
and gently unravelling a plot, this time attached. Following the life of Beti Tudor,
are alone. You have to write today.
to overthrow the government. The prose a pub landlord’s daughter, this novel is
7. Spend the next hours drinking cof-
once again sparkles with witty gems and a product of its time and explores issues fee, eating Wotsits, plucking eye-
at times makes you laugh out loud at the that are still up for debate nowadays. The
brows, watching TV, finding rude
absurdities of life that Siri so gleefully and in-depth descriptions of places and situ-
words in dictionary, destroying
matter-of-factly picks apart. The story ations create a vivid image for the reader,
moves quickly and grips you tight, as providing an interesting if challenging
jewellery, googling yourself, griz-
any great crime novel should. Cracking read. BR zling quietly, checking through
stuff. EG
the pockets of all your coats.
Find a note which you wrote say-
Ed. Maggie Hampton (Parthian) Giovanni Verga (Dedalus)
“This is the story of disabled women’s Originally published in his native Italy in 1881,
lives. We live. We create.” And Maggie Verga’s poignant novel depicts the struggles
8. It’s 5 pm. Slouch up sideways to
Hampton does create. A very poignant of a Sicilian fishing community during the laptop. Casually sit down. Maybe
and emotional journey, explained by 10 advent of industrialization. Through a style
hum a tune. Keep calm.
disabled women who are all involved in reminiscent of Steinbeck, the author success-
9. Remember Idea. Realise it’s crap,
Welsh arts. Read in awe the stories of fully combines lyrical prose (beautifully trans-
these talented and determined women lated by Judith Landry) with an inspiring
but have another, better one.
who are a credit to our country. Hamp- social commentary, highlighting the poverty
10. Start to write, and keep on writing,
ton uses transcripts of interviews to suffered by provincial Sicilian communities and don’t realise you’re writing
ensure that the women get their say and under Garibaldi’s rule. Focusing on the theme
until you stop writing three hours
can be heard without prejudice. This of human survival, Verga’s sensitive use of
later. Briefly feel euphoric, blessed,
style personalises the stories, making social Darwinism illustrates the horrendous
them even more touching. BR consequences of a vastly increased rich/poor
humbly grateful you’re a writer, AND
Jefferson Bass (Quercus) Timothy James Brown (Quercus)
The second mystery in Bass’s Body Farm I will, should I ever meet them in real life,
series sees Dr. Bill Brockton entrapped totally sympathise with anyone who buys
in a world of paedophilia and murdered this book (a stilted and unfunny spoof
cross-dressers. To make matters worse, chronological trip through the evolution
he is accused of a murder he had no part of underwear from Adam and Eve’s fi-
in, loses his job and is suspended from gleaves to – dying over here, Brown – the
working on any cases. How will he prove ‘iPant’) in a ‘Waterstones Dec 24 5.55pm
his innocence? Bass builds suspense oh-god-oh-shit I AM A BAD RELATIVE’
Deborah Kay Davies is the author
throughout and takes great pleasure in scenario. All I can do is guarantee you
detail, but at times it seems he needed that the putative gift recipient would
of Grace, Tamar and Laszlo the
to give more attention to the actual prefer a book token, or if it comes to it,
Beautiful, which is available from
plot. HG a tenner’s worth of snacks from a petrol Parthian on Tues 21 Oct.
station. NG
OCTOBER2008.indd 52 25/9/08 3:28:20 pm
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