Here you will find anything and everything that
makes my psychedelic barometer go bing!
What I'm reading...
There aren't too many times when I pick up a book and feel like waving it at everyone, imploring them to read it but this is one of those books. Admittedly, I have been to Nicaragua where it is set and so loved the oppressive descriptions of the heat and the crumbling capital and all the nuances of Central American life that are as true now as they were at the time of the book's setting (1984) but I think any reader would feel like they had been to Managua after about thirty pages.
If I said it was a thriller I would be lying and neither is it a spy novel but it has elements of both and a touch of the claustrophobia of Crime and Punishment.
We are taken straight into the story and it doesn't let up until the final page when our anti-heroine is pretty much back where she started except for a few more psychological scars gathered during the short time frame of the story.
The American protagonist and the British businessman she becomes entangeld with lurch through Managua trying to avoid the secret police and the CIA and the heat and the idea that they are going to be disappeared. Who is she? Who can be trusted? What happens when self-preservation meets the morals of a country at war? It's a visceral read and the tightly written first person narrative holds you so close to the action you can almost smell the cheap hotel rooms. Go and get it!
What I'm listening to...
This a podcast wherein Brad Listi, novelist, speaks with American writers. That is the essence of the podcast. Rarely does the conversation delve into the works themselves but instead Brad slowly unravels the writers' lives from childhood to present day always via a few wonderful detours as topics jiggle his antennae.
To be honest, I am hardly ever familiar with the writers but my enjoyment as a listener is having this window into America. The writers hail from all over the States so I like to hear how their childhoods are different but also hearing about the culture reflected through the eyes and mind of writers. Brad's interview style is informal and relaxed and he puts his subjects at ease; his aim is to let you know the person behind the work rather than knowing the work itself. This works for me, even if I haven't gone out and bought any books by these authors they are on my radar (getting a 'bump' as it is known by Brad).
Expect honesty, revelations into what forms a writer, and left turns into topics as diverse as contortionism to Buddhist meditation. To paraphrase Brad: you can find it, go and hear it, oh my god....
What I'm watching...
I first saw this film with a large group of friends at university and when it finished I had to leave them and walk away somewhere quiet and think about what I had just seen. I had no words for it and, looking back, I think I was in shock a little bit. The rather comfortable act of sitting in a room watching a film for pleasure had been violated. The film had reached through the screen and grabbed me by the throat and after the credits I felt a strange mixture of emotions: shame, embarrassment, confusion, an anger with no source or target. But also: wonder - the filmmaker magician had pulled back the curtain and shown me something horrible and true and all the more horrible for being true and all the more true for being horrible.
What I had been shown - I now think, and only now have the words to describe - was myself. I was a callow nihilist, too clever to take part in the world and content to sneer from a safe place outside and the film had been a mirror held up to me at a young age. It had shown me that nihilists might have some nice lines but they don't have nice lives and nihilism is a form of cancer, one you can live with forever but one that's still there chewing at your soul, even when you're singing or fucking or laughing.
What a bloody good film.