Iain’s Bookshelf


So much reading now is strategic, predatory, working favours, grazing for quotes, scavenging for scraps to be recycled. But in the heap are always gems, epiphanies, pleasures. Recognitions.


THE VORRH by Brian Catling. To be published later this year by Honest Publishing (of Twickenham).

There are not many books that rearrange the molecules of your being,  turning your eyes inside out. ‘The Vorrh’, this saturnine post-traumatic testament, is one of them. Malign ethnology, angelic codices, sump poetry and clownish viral comedy seethe and argue and interact in ways that are not just unlikely, but definitively impossible. The heady, hallucinogenic prose comes at a rush. Pages turn themselves without pause: insomniac seizures, voices from deep anaesthesia, colonial scars and fossils returning to life. The book is a library of malpractice. Bakelite robots have souls. Trees talk. Ruined mansions ooze with the seepage of erotic dreams. Absurd humans, flinching and dumb, play out their preordained roles in a blasphemous collision between pre-literate grunts and a legendary narrative carved into brass. A work of idiocy and genius.


William Gibson, ‘Distrust That Particular Flavour’ (Encounters With a Future That’s Already There).

What I like is the conversational tone, the smart curation of his own terrain. The warp that’s expected, keeping us on our toes. ‘I’ve always felt that London is somehow the best place from which to observe Tokyo.’ Sounds strange now, canny but charmingly antiquated. The beauty of this gathering of occasional hybrid texts lies in the afterwords, the authorial whispers and confessions at the end of each burnished routine. This moment acknowledging that moment, flaws and flourishes.


James Sallis, ‘Driven’.

Sallis has boiled it down to essence, to a point that is almost pathological. It’s a late style, earned and achieved. And it works. It moves at pace, through a series of frozen instants. The violence is geological, not human. Cinema came calling when most of the hard work had been done, as ever – but in time to activate a rich cross-fertilization. Under the surface you’ll pick up the pain. The poetry. The sentence that gives away a hidden substrata of real people in real distress making their pleas. “We ponder and weigh and debate. While in silence, somewhere back in the darkness behind words, our decisions are made.”

There is some Sallis to be found, flicker frames from a visit to Arizona, in ‘London, City of Disappearances’.(p.528 – p.542)