Reading - June 2018

Bedlam by Christopher Brookmyre (2013)
Having recently re-read (and watched) Ready Player One, this sort-of companion piece (probably only in my mind) needed reading again. Good fun.
The Guitar Magazine (Vol 29 No 10)
The Book Of The Year by No Such Thing As A Fish (2017)
Subtitled "The Weirder Side of 2017", the NSTAAF crew - James Harkin, Andrew Hunter Murray, Anna Ptaszynski and Dan Schreiber - gather the oddest facts and events into an A-Z of, well, weirdness. Very entertaining.
Wednesday The Rabbi Got Wet by Harry Kemmelman (1976)
I read this via Libby, which I can now run on my shiny new phone, but I realised I'd read it before because I actually own it! It's of a piece with the other Rabbi Small novels, a very acceptable whodunnit with an American Jewish flavour.
The Princess Bride by William Goldman (1973)
I haven't read this for ages and I remembered it as an amusing, sweet twist on a fairy tale. However, this time, I find it somewhat irritating. The fiction of its being an abridgement of a classic novel is maintained throughout, with Goldman's interjections about his (also fictional) life, and while the overall pretence was funny the first time around, his breathless, chatty style wears thin and feels like it gets in the way of the narrative flow. Goldman has said that the device allowed him just to write just the "good parts" of the story and make disjointed leaps from one to another, but too many of them feel like they could have been removed. My edition is the 1999 25th anniversary edition that includes the first chapter of Buttercup's Baby, which is, if anything, even more annoying. (As an aside, I mentioned William Goldman to a good friend of mine once and he said, "Oh, I hate that guy." On being asked why, he said that he couldn't forgive him for ruining The Princess Bride with this abridgement. I tried to explain that there was no original book, but he wasn't having it!)
Sex, Sleep or Scrabble? by Dr. Phil Hammond (2009)
As I understand it, this is a collection of the most amusing and interesting questions that Dr. Hammond gets asked during his comedy tour (since he is also a comedian). Gently amusing throughout, with a couple of laugh-out-loud moments, but consistently informative and interesting. As good a compendium of general health tips as any, with a particular emphasis on sex and sexual health, as befits both the author's own interests and the likely interests of a well-refreshed audience shouting out mildly risqué questions.
The Ultimate History of Fast Cars by Jonathan Wood (2002)
A typical Christmas gift type hardback book, heavy on the glossy pictures and, despite being called "The Ultimate History", out-of-date less than a year after publication - which is why it cost me only a couple of quid. Nevertheless, an competent-enough summary of lots of interesting cars, with only a few odd omissions (no Caterham Seven?) and relatively little of the poor copy editing that usually plagues these kind of photo compilations.


Newport 1958

Mahalia Jackson

Like most people, probably, I think I'd claim to know gospel when I hear it, but I wouldn't have identified this as such. This is just Ms. Jackson singing by herself, with minimal - but effective- backing instrumentation, primarily from a piano and occasional organ. Where's the mass choirs and fevered chanting?

All of which shows how much I know. My entire knowledge of gospel is the five minutes it takes James Brown to sing "The Old Landmark" in The Blue Brothers, so it's fair to say that I am not the best informed about the subject. Listening more carefully, as well as the obviously church-based lyrics, the chord progressions are very typical of gospel - at least, I assume so, because it sounds like early soul. What is striking is how funky some of it is, and you can see the direct line from "I'm On My Way" to Ray Charles's "Hallelujah I Love Her So", and from there to the sixties' twin peaks of Motown and Stax.

Mahalia Jackson's voice is fantastic and the whole thing sounds great fun. She's also sweet when the audience is clapping and she says "You make me feel like I'm a star" - although surely she was, since otherwise why would she be at Newport Jazz Festival, for the second time?

Needless to say, this isn't something I would have chosen to listen to or even known about had it not been in a list in a book, so I'm grateful to have been exposed to it. I'd even probably listen to it again some time.