ZONA by Geoff Dyer

February 12th, 2012 | stuff2012

ZONA is a book about a man sitting in a room watching a film about a man going to sit in a Room.  The film is STALKER, Tarkovsky’s masterpiece, based upon the sf novel ROADSIDE PICNIC by the brothers Strugatsky.  (I like STALKER.)

The man is Geoff Dyer, a man who has watched STALKER so often that he is compelled to write a book about it.  A book about the film STALKER, and a book about the act of watching STALKER, and a book about him watching STALKER and all the times he’s watched STALKER.  Which probably sounds appalling.  But, even as the story of STALKER unfolds as a journey into the deepest core of the characters, ZONA becomes a ride into the depths of the film, and of the nature of cinema, and, often quite affectingly, into Dyer’s own life.  I must’ve watched STALKER half a dozen times, but Dyer teased new angles out of the film for me, with clear sight and cranky humour, and I’d recommend it just for that – but there is a lot more to like in ZONA.

on Amazon.co.uk | on Amazon.com

Pye Corner Audio: BLACK MILL TAPES Vol. 3

January 25th, 2012 | music, stuff2012

In which the Head Technician leaves behind much of his radiophonic and classical hauntological experimentation and heads off into realms I described on the twitters as British Cosmic.  Passing through the 70s TV memoryscape mined by The Advisory Circle, the record crosses into a zone of distortion and beats that is (to me) clearly Kosmische, loping and yet frequently meditational.  Analog electronic spacelaunch.  And it seems to touch down, on the last track, in a warped Leyland Kirby wasteland, reality foaming at the edges, beautiful and unsettling. It took me a couple of listens to warm up to it: it’s not as immediately pretty as its predecessors, but I’ve found it’s richer and more rewarding. Stream it for free here or click through and buy it for cheap.

Alan Moore: Conversations

January 23rd, 2012 | stuff2012

This collection of old interviews with Alan Moore has been great fun to flick through.  The very earliest one, I’d never actually heard about.  There’s a few early ones that are sadly omitted while arguably being richer pieces (the ARKENSWORD interviews, for instance, or the Eddie Campbell dialogue in ESCAPE), but the selection generally feels strong.  And I’m particularly enjoying finding herein interviews that I haven’t read before.

I’d recommend this book to anyone with more than a passing interest in Moore’s work over the years, because it does quite wonderfully illustrate the evolution and mutation of the thinking behind the work over… christ, thirty years or so.  It’s a nice bit of curation by Eric Berlatsky, and a joy to read.

Amazon UK / Amazon US


January 20th, 2012 | stuff2012

Partway through Iain Sinclair’s GHOST MILK and finding the wading hard, I commented to a writer friend that it read like an auto-obituary.  The friend recommended I persevere, even though he found himself in agreement.  Which didn’t bode well.  But here I am at the other end of the book, and my initial impression remains.  It’s like watching someone give his funeral audience a lengthy disquisition on his life while digging his own grave and knocking together his own coffin in front of them.

The “grand project” of the subtitle is nominally the Olympic structure being imposed on east end London for this coming summer’s games, and all the other airdropped corporate constructions attempting landings across the country.  But there’s a clear double meaning: the project being called in is Sinclair’s own. 


If there is a next Iain Sinclair book, I will buy it automatically on sight, as I bought this one, because the man can write like Promethean fire when the drive is there.  And perhaps, if there is a next Iain Sinclair book, he will do so again.  But GHOST MILK feels like a last Iain Sinclair book.  I hope I’m wrong.

There’s an awful pall of failure over the whole thing, thicker and deader than a modest blanket of self-deprecation.  He trots out his friends as a parade of doomed losers, sketching out a difficult and often charmless eulogy for his generation of wasters in the arts.  He carefully balances the milestones of a somewhat buggered career by the roadside for us and plots his own course into irrelevance in neat little chapters.  And there’s a lot of “back in my day, all this round here were fields and trees wastegrounds and condom dumps and canals wi’ bicycles sticking out of ‘em.”  There’s a sense that the life of the deep urban flaneur closes when corporations and governments can do in concrete and steel what the derive can achieve only in air and ink – remake the streets according to their own will. 

Also, there’s only so many snotty comments about new buildings you can commit to print before you start to sound like the sort of inverse-snob who preferred Hackney when all the toilets were outside.  The book has the tone of a man who’s done.  It’s a tired and miserable monologue.  His prose has, for the most part, lost its arcane crackle.

In 2002, Sinclair said: “London gives you anonymity, you can spook about the place like a spy with no problems at all.”  Not any more, mate.  And, worse: when, in GHOST MILK, he gets spotted trying to spook around, he’s not spotted as a writer, a filmmaker, London’s last lost mythologiser.  He’s assumed to be an unemployed indigent and pointed at a nearby hut where he can get a proper job.

Patience (After Sebald)

January 16th, 2012 | stuff2012

James Leyland Kirby, in his guise of The Caretaker, created a soundtrack to Grant Gee’s documentary about the magnificent writer WG Sebald.  Currently on vinyl only – I’m a direct subscriber to Kirby’s work, and so received the download early.  It’ll be out on CD and download next month.

It’s of a piece with other Caretaker work, and Kirby’s other output outside the “Intrigue & Stuff” collections: deeply haunted early 20th Century recordings summoned through dusty electronic seance.  I’ve seen a few people comment that it’s Kirby-as-usual and the trick’s getting thin.  I think it’s a perfect response to Sebald’s work.

It did, in fact, send me running for my shattered old first-printing paperback copy of Sebald’s sublime THE RINGS OF SATURN.  Which promptly crumbled and disintegrated in my hands, a shower of papery dust and brittle yellowed sheets.  No more apt way to strew the way for the recording, I suppose. 

PATIENCE (AFTER SEBALD) is, at a long stroll’s pace, meditative and deeply involved with memory.  Exactly like Sebald’s own work.  I haven’t yet seem the film, but it’s hard to imagine a more fitting accompaniment to the man’s themes.  It is also, like Sebald’s prose, very stately and beautiful.

You can hear samples at Boomkat.  If you’ve never heard Kirby’s work before and have further interest, there’s a fine selection for full free streaming at his Bandcamp page.

(I can’t believe there’s not an ebook edition of RINGS OF SATURN.)