Archive for the thief of broken toys

The reading blues…

Posted in Books, General Musings with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 3, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

A couple of times recently, I’ve noticed people (principally reviewers, I should note) saying that they’re suffering from the reading blues. Well, I’ve been going through exactly the same thing for the last month or two – apart from the books I’ve been asked to review I haven’t, until very recently, actually picked up a book just to read solely for pleasure. I’m still ploughing through a book of short stories by one of my favourite authors, HP Lovecraft – and I started reading it in mid-summer. This is very unlike me – I used to go through books at a frightening rate, reading a couple a week.

I’ve been wondering why I felt a slight ennui when it comes to reading for pleasure recently. Perhaps it’s simply because, on some days at least, I have trouble keeping my eyes open after working a 12-hour day and I just can’t bear the prospect of doing anyting other than going to sleep. Or it crossed my mind that, being a reviewer, you sometimes suffer from ‘book-fatigue’, that having read something all day and making notes about it, the idea that you want to read even more just to wind down is somehow just too unappealing. A third possibility was that it was just me.

So, to read that others have the same problem is heartening, in a way. My dad bequeathed to me a love of books and the written-word that I have carried with me ever since I was able to read (over forty years now and counting), and the thought that I have somehow become tired of them is quite appalling in my book. There are far too few people who read books these days, or so we are led to believe – and I certainly don’t want to join their ranks.

I guess, to an extent, it’s something about the fact that when I review a book I am not only looking at it from the point of view of whether it’s a good story or not, but also from a ‘meta’ aspect as well, ie. analysing the deeper constituents of what the author’s trying to do. Use of language and words, rhythms, the believability of characters and plot, and how it all flows together come into play here. It’s only one step removed from what I did in school when I studied English Literature A-level all those years ago; the only difference, I feel, is that at least I (mostly) get to choose the books I review and they’re all in genres I enjoy reading. I find that sometimes, even when reading ro relax, I default to my literary critic persona almost automatically.

A similar thing happened after my university course – it included a film-studies module. In it, we were taught how to ‘deconstruct’ films, looking at context, subtext, use of imagery, how the camera (angles, movement) was used to help tell the story, use of lighting to accentuate things, etc., etc. I enjoyed it immensely as it allowed me to look at favourite films with new eyes. After a while, however, I found that, whenever I saw a film, either on TV or in the cinema, I just instantly switched into ‘celluloid deconstructionist’ mode – and often it would spoil my enjoyment of the film. There were times indeed when I simply wished that I could either completely forget what I’d learnt or at the very least be able to switch it all off.

I do the same with a book, any book, although I am consciously aware that I am doing it and then I actively try to remember that I am now reading for the hell of it, not reviewing. I just want to read it, not decode the damn thing. So, in some measure, I’ve been avoiding reading books  that I don’t need to review for that reason, even if subconsciously. I have it deeply ingrained into my psyche that books are for enjoyment, and if anything that is likely to spoil that quality looms I make sure that I swerve away from it. Hence the recent bout of ‘reading blues’….

Just the other night, however, I picked up a book, just to read for pleasure, for the first time in months – Tim Lebbon’s The Thief of Broken Toys. I’m still fighting against that urge to read it as if I were doing a review, an urge which is incredibly annoying. I am NOT going to review the book (and that isn’t meant as a slight to Tim, btw) – I just want to enjoy it for what it is, a beautifully-told story. You have my permission to slap me if you ever see an in-depth review of it by me posted anywhere. Hopefully, I’ll start to come out of feeling those blues very soon as a consequence – no reader likes to feel this way. =D

Spectral update and other stuff…

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 2, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

Just a short little note to let people know that the PDF proof of the very first Spectral Press chapbook is in my possession, and has also been passed on to Gary McMahon for final approval. Many thanks to the sterling Neil Williams for putting it all together so rapidly and so well – there will be a few very minor cosmetic changes made in terms of layout, incidental text (NOT THE STORY, BTW – that’s bloody perfect) and stuff but in all honesty it’s all there, more or less. And I have to say it’s looking mighty good. If all goes according to plan it’ll be sent to the printer’s a week Friday and I should get everything done by the end of the month.

(Please note: anybody wanting a copy for review will receive a PDF file, rather than a physical hard-copy. I am attempting to keep the costs down as much as possible for at least the first year – if you want a hard-copy for your collection, then you’ll have to buy one, I’m afraid.)

Anyway, for all those out there who are, quite understandably, dithering about taking out a subscription, unsure whether they should send £10 of their hard-earned cash to an unknown quantity for a year’s worth of Spectral Press volumes, then let me assure you this is really happening. Come January, What They Hear in the Dark, the very first one, will be available to buy and those who have taken out subs already will have copies in their hands to lovingly gaze upon. You can do that too by taking out a sub and not only will you get three issues in the first year but your name will also be entered into a prize-draw, where you stand the chance of winning a great prize. (Details below)

Spectral subcriptions

Do you want your name listed as a founder subscriber in the first Spectral chapbook? If so, then act fast, before Monday 6th December 2010! A yearly subscription will cost £10UK/£12EU /$20US/ $25US RoW (all prices inclusive of postage and packing). Individual chapbooks will be available for £3.50UK/£4EU/$8US/$12RoW (again all prices inclusive of p+p). You can either pay via Paypal or cheque: Paypal is spectralpress[at]gmail[dot]com and for details of how to pay by cheque, please send an email to the same address and I’ll get back to you forthwith.

Spectral Prize-draw

As an added incentive, if you do choose to subscribe before the end of this year (31st December 2010 closing date), your name will be entered into the prize-draw, where you’ll stand the chance of winning a specially signed and framed edition of  Gary McMahon’s chapbook. Alongside it will be a copy of the annotated manuscript, ie  Gary has scrawled all over it in his best red biro – he’s even signed it and ‘illuminated’ it with a little doodle of a smiley horned devil on it as well. The winner will even get a free subscription extension for another year on top of that… now that’s what I call a bargain! (Winner will be notified by mid-January)

Books received

Yesterday saw the postman deliver two lovely book, courtesy of Solaris Books:

The Age of Odin, by James Lovegrove

Engineering Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan

I am also reading, for pleasure this time, Tim Lebbon’s novella The Thief of Broken Toys (ChiZine Publications). Apart from the fact that I like Tim’s work, I also thought the title so poetic and enigmatic that it was actually a no-brainer purchase. In just the first half of the opening chapter, the feeling of deep loss and estrangement is acutely described and felt, Tim using his trademark lean writing style with few words but every single one of them counting. Might give this one a write-up here very soon….