Desert island disc -take two the reload

Late last year I did a desert island disc post but since then the choices have puzzled me and a recent chat with an old friend on Facebook has made me re think the list and also in the time in between I ve really found my personnel voice and find writing posts flows easier for me so want to redo list now and flesh out choice with reasons .I love desert island disc and since the archive has come online spent a lot time looking at choices of past guests have made in the show .so for take two here are my choices and the reasons for them .

1.Better together – Jack Johnson – I choose this last time I know ,it is a mellow tune but is the first song we had at our wedding and is Amanda and I song .Because we are better together I feel like I ve lost an arm when we re apart ,we get on so well together every minute together is precious to me .so it will always be here in a desert island disc list .


2.Blue ridge mountains by Fleet foxes – I fell in love with the voices of the fleet foxes when I first heard them ,it was one of those moments you hear a song and know the band will be in your collection for ever ,this track from the debut album make me think of the wild places I ve been in my life ,a windswept beach in Donegal ,the moor in Northumberland or driving through the highlands on a summer day .

3.When I ‘m dead and gone – fury in the slaughterhouse ,the german rem or u2 they’ve been called this from the bluesy album mono ,a dark album about death mainly this song  about how your remembered is my favourite by them .This to me is a secret band not well-known here ,I found out about them in the time I lived in Germany and it reminds me of that year there .


4.Drowners – suede – this was huge when it came out the new smiths was the take ,gritty lyrics and clashing guitars made it a teenage anthem ,I remember buying it in Kirkcaldy in a small indie record shop there and listening to it at my aunties ,it reminds me of summers in Fife with family strange for a dark song but I always make connections between time and places with what I listen to so if this is dark it makes me think of happy times .

5. Fake empire – the national – this was used as part of Obama campaign ,I got into national via a track on a magazine CD .This is an album that is always on my I-pod nano so it makes me thing of Winston for some reason this album boxer and this track in particular is great dog walking music ,especially on a dark night .

6.I wanna go to marz – John Grant – this is a soulful song about a childhood sweet shop but much more than that ,from an album that I ve played to death since I ve got it ,John grant was the lead singer of the czars and I got their album via my best friend Steve so in some ways this albums reminds me of the great night s of my twenties when Steve, Leon ,my brother Duncan and I went out every friday and saturday drinking round town .I remember the characters we meet the bars and route we took week after week .

7.Late night ,Maudlin street by Morrissey – Well anyone that knows me knows I couldn’t go to a desert island without Morrissey or the smiths I have had a love /hate relationship with him and his music I was a smiths fan and love his debut solo album which this is from this is one of his longest songs and I think one he revealed some of his own life on a song set in the seventies about urban life .I m reminded of the day I brought the album at beat route records in Congleton and the fact for a long time after they had an australian copy with a title misprint on of “education in reverse ” the run out groove message on the vinyl album ,not “viva hate” the actual title .

8.Mfwany by Sir John Betjeman – This is one of his poems set to music ,he record these in the seventies but it took twitter to get to me ,although Morrissey had used a different track as a show opener on his tour .I just love his voice the tone of it and this song in particular .

Book – essays by Ben Okri – a change I choose Proust but I feel this would keep my mind alive Okri essays in his two collections the first of which I ve read m\ke you question books myths ,utopias and the Arcadian myth to name some .

Luxury – same as last time a digital photo frame with my wedding the best day of my life   and a couple of pictures of Winston so I’ll  have all I love and hold dear to look at .

There I feel this is a better post than the first ,my friend on Facebook said I live on   memories and I do but also live for today because as some one said you have to see where you’ve been to see where your going ,that is very true I think .

What would you choose and why ?


As though she were sleeping by Elias Khoury

Source – library

Translator – Humphrey Davies

Last year I read Yalo his prize-winning novel ,Elias Khoury is the voice of Lebanon ,he is well-known for his written works ,but also edited the influential magazine Mawquif in the seventies which saw the first major break through of Arabic literature into english ,they were link greatly with the Palestine experience .so what is as thou she were sleeping about .

Unlike Yalo Khoury has moved his focus from the political world to the world of the family in this book set in the 1930′ in Beirut it focus on a couple Meelya and Mansour it also carries onto to the forties and fifties  .It is recounted in the form of dreams over the three nights tha Meelya has ,these dreams drift from the now to the past and the future   .We see her family members how she became Meelya ,How she meet Mansour and moved from her home in Nazareth to Beirut  .Khoury also brings the worlds of Beirut ,Nazareth and the places in between were we  spend time to life making the scenery and smells like orange blossom falling  fly of the page .Now these dreams are almost folk talish at times when it comes to family tales a grandmother that becomes a virgin again an unfortunate uncle that ends up getting hung by a bell ringing rope .We also see the events that make the present day of the region ,the arrival of Jewish people escaping the oppression of western europe of the time to find the promised land  ,also how western influences start creeping into the area as some values change .

Meelya is in bed ,dreaming .Pain squeezes her belly and climbs upwards .She feels as though she’s suffocating ,as though a fist has buried itself in her depths and is gripping her .Her body is paralysed and her head heavy .She opens her eyes and can’t see .then the pain recedes,seeming to spread through her belly before melting away,leaving a fading memory .

Meelya second night of dreams begins .

This book is very different to Yalo I struggle at times with it thread as it drifts at times although it is easy to spilt the dreams into past present and future over the three nights ,thou  it is a book that wraps you in it arms and give you a real trip of the mind as you try to follow the threads of the dream ,Khoury seems to have done that rare thing and caught what our dreams are like on paper the cascade of our thoughts that we all have in our sleeping hours .This books style owes more to his earlier books than to his most recent Yalo  .It is Meelya quest ,she is invisible in her normal world due to her being a women in Arab society of the time .so via her dreams she is able to see the world and her place in it also how that could change with new freedoms .The last part of the book deals very much with the formation of Israeli as we see the influx of Jews to the region and the start of the conflicts that are still here to this day .I am a daydreamer so could identify with Meelya and her world of dreams .Humphrey Davies has done a wonderful job of translating what given its non linear dream like prose would be a hard book to keep Khoury’s words alive ,but he has managed too .The book is published by Machlehose press

Booker longlist reaction

Well susan Hill had promised a fresh list of books for the longlist .But in my opinon what we got was ground shaking .Books new to most people ,the shock wave on twitter was noticable as people tried to find out more about the listed books ,also why the list was so different than peoples ideas of what shoulkd have been there .The fact smaller publishers have been picked is good thing in this modern age .

• Julian Barnes  The Sense of an Ending
• Sebastian Barry On Canaan’s Side
• Carol Birch Jamrach’s Menagerie
• Patrick deWitt The Sisters Brothers
• Esi Edugyan Half Blood Blues
• Yvvette Edwards A Cupboard Full of Coats
• Alan Hollinghurst The Stranger’s Child
• Stephen Kelman  Pigeon English
• Patrick McGuinness The Last Hundred Days
• AD Miller Snowdrops
• Alison Pick Far to Go
• Jane Rogers The Testament of Jessie Lamb
• DJ Taylor Derby Day

so there it is, of the titles I ve read none I have two on my tbr pile ,a quick trip to library yesterday came back blank .Some of them aren’t out yet thou  .From the list the ones that grab my eye are Patrick Mcguiness the last hundred days set in the dying days of the Ceauceaus regime in Romania from the small publisher seren ,snowdrops Andrew miller set in Russia a thriller about a young Englishman struggling with the temptations of new Russia .I ve sister brother and strangers child on tbr ,I m not sure what others I will read maybe wait to see what makes shortlist .Is this shake up of longlist a good thing ,in some ways as there are a number of smaller publishers on the list ,but you have to question why so many people got so few books that are on the list right .Are we seeing the depth of English writing or a small choice by five judges set on shaking the booker order  for the sake of it ? I don’t know the answer as many of you know I am more interested in translations and world lit ,but always look at the booker as the barometer of what is good or interesting in English at the moment .so in that respect I think they have got it wrong and a good few books have missed out on the longlist .

What are your thoughts ?

Did the booker need shaking up ?


Waiting for the wild beasts to vote by Ahmadou Kourouma

Source – personnel copy

Translator – Frank Wynne


Earlier this year when I interview Frank Wynne the translator of this book to name his favourite translation he choose this book .By the late Ahmadou Kourouma ,he grew up in Ivory coast ,from a well-known family he spent time in the french military and studied in Lyon in france (mathematics).But after his homeland of Ivory coast gained independence from france in 1960 ,he questioned the leadership of Felix houphouet-Boigny  and was sent to prison and after that spent thirty years in exile returning in 1994 just after the death of Felix H-B .Ahmadou Kourouma died in 2003 .

So what is waiting for the wild beasts to vote about well ,it is a story of an African leader told by a Bingo a sora (a storytelling singer) told over five nights .The leader Koyoga was an orphan that became a leader of the gulf coast ( a made up african country but easily a number of countries round ivory coast )and along the way gain a huge mythology about his life and what had happen to him .we see the french involvement at the start with what are called the naked people ,then Koyoga father was the first of this tribe to wear clothes .Then we see Koyoga a solider take power in his homeland and start of with ideals and standards a friend of the west france in particular .But then his promises start to fall apart and people start to doubt him so he turns to violence and corruption to keep power .

When you recovered the Qur’an and the aerolite,you will ready yourself for democratic presidential elections . Elections based on universal suffrage supervised by an independent National commission .You will seek a new mandate secure in the knowledge that you will triumph ,that you will be re-elected .For you know ,you are certain ,that if by chance men refuse to vote for you ,the beast will come from the jungle ,will lay their hands on ballot paper and will elect you by a landslide .

The closing page and the title of the book is made clear .

Well this book is a must read for anyone ,part magic realism part african folk tale ,also a chunk of history of post colonial africa .Is Koyoga far-fetched ,well no if you’ve watch the film  the  last king of Scotland or any programme about the regimes and the leaders in Romania ,North Korea and many others to know that fact and fiction and what these people did in their lives are very blurred . Kourouma is a wonderful storyteller Bingo brings the leaders life to life through his tales .This book is also closely related to the Latin american dictator novels by Roa Bastos or Angel Asturias in the fact like them it examine the character of the people in this case post french africa ,there is some say that it was Togo president Eyedema was the main blueprint for the leader as he like Koyaga had a mythical status having being the sole survivor of a plane crash .But in my opinion it is far wider than that and yes it is based in africa but erase the names and some of the place it could be south america ,south-east asia or even post soviet states .So if you want an insight into africa ,the mind of a dictator ,how much the western world has influence in the third world .I know this is due out shortly as an E-BOOK as Frank told me when I meet him at IFFP prize .This is probably in the top ten novels about Afica for me if not top of that list .It sold over a 100,00 books in france when published .

Do you have a favorite African novel ?

Do you have a favourite dictator novel ?

my booker predictions 2011

well tomorrow we find out who has made the longlist of the man booker prize 2011 .I was going do this earlier this evening but 2 hour power cut meant unable to blog so I ll fly through the book I ve heard about and reviews I ve seen over last few months ,so  i ll give you a baker’s dozen –

At last – by Edward St Aubyn –

the latest in the partrick Melrose series to pay respects to his mother and another look other his past .

Strangers child by Alan Hollinghurst –

two poets lives and works tracked from 1912 to present day a look at what being a poet means and how history decides what there poems mean .

Wish you were here by Graham swift –

jack deals with his brother’s death in Iraq a look at modern english lives .

The girl in the polka dots dress by Beryl Bainbridge –

A girl from Kentish Town heads in 1968 to the cauldron of the US with Martin Luther King dying ,maybe one last chance for Beryl hey .

Pure by Andrew Miller –

Set in 1785 a young man must clear an old cemetery whilst watching his own back .slightly different hope it makes list one that appeals to me .

Last man in the tower by Aravinda Adiga –

a building needs to be cleared in Bombay but there is one man stopping this as old and new india clash .

Waterline By Ross Rasin

well I ve heard Joe from Penguin go on about this book ,as a friend of my father owned a shipyard this one appeals to me ,it is about Mick his journey out of the shipyards ,about love and loss .

The forgotten waltz by Anne Enright  –

Gina has a love affair with Sean ,passion desire and memories all crop up in this book it seems .set in Dublin ,has to be a Irish writer on booker list .


Other people’s money by Justin Cartwright  –

the fall of a family owned private bank told from two generations point of view ,Justin sold this to me when I heard a radio interview ,seems to catch the spirit of the time a bit .

We had it so good by Linda Grant –

I think every blog review of this book has been positive ,set in 1968 it follows middle class people over the next forty years ,through main character Stephen an American living in Britain .

Cedilla by Adam Mars Jones –

The continuing story of John Cromer from his earlier book ,I ve this on my tbr pile like fact main character has a disability something you don’t often see in books .

London Triptych by Jonathan Kemp –

three mens lives and affairs in 50’s london against a backdrop of a gay underground and art world .This sounds different to me when I read a few reviews .

Embassytown by China Mieville –

Well I ve put this on as I m feed up of the whining from sci-fi readers that he misses the list year after year and the fact it does sounds like a great read ,an alien world humans modify to communicate with the life form on the planet .It seems to be about our lives using the alien world as a tool for our world and its problems .






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