Posted by: flexiblegoat | January 14, 2010

Ralph Fleck

Madrid, by Ralph Fleck

I visited the London Art Fair today. The highlight, JD hot toddies apart, was a Paris cityscape by the German painter Ralph Fleck. I bought the gallery catalogue to see a few more of his paintings and I have to say I think he’s a bit of a revelation. The landscapes and cityscapes in particular seem to me to find an ideal balance between representational and abstract painting, they’re pleasingly concrete and stylised at the same time. But I’m no art critic. His website holds a generous number of images.

Posted by: flexiblegoat | December 18, 2009

Translated fiction interviews

BBC Radio Scotland have done a short feature on the success of Stieg Larsson’s trilogy, interviewing his UK Publisher, Christopher MacLehose, and the Editor of the Swedish Book Review, Sarah Death. It’s quite interesting, with a little bit of coverage for a couple of as-yet-untranslated Swedish titles and some speculation about whether Larsson was bumped off by the Swedish secret service! It may be worth listening to just to hear MacLehose’s voice – it’s magnificently patrician. You only have three days left to listen apparently…

Meanwhile, the Guardian have recorded a video interview with Spanish master Javier Marias who has just published in English the third volume of his Your Face Tomorrow trilogy. I’ve only read just over half of the first part but so far I think it deserves any plaudits it gathers. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel that ruminates so acutely on human nature. For those that think too much is lost when novels are translated, Marias apparently prefers his epic in English translation!

Posted by: flexiblegoat | December 9, 2009

The Master and Margarita: Russian miniseries on Youtube

Ah Youtube… Where would we be without it? I, for one, would probably not yet have seen the simply fantastic Downfall or the Ian McKellen Richard III, or been able to once more re-experience as much as the World at War as I could manage without getting slightly bored. Or know how to tie a tie. If you’re content to watch films in a small window or laughable quality the world is now your oyster. Anyway, last night, when searching idly to see if anyone had bothered to upload La Reine Margot I discovered a five-part Russian mini-series of the Master and Margarita. With English subtitles. Fantabulous! It appears to be in 50 ten minute sections, so I feel a marathon coming on. If you’re as interested in this as I am, please find the link to the playlist here.

Posted by: flexiblegoat | December 2, 2009

Blood/Sugar by James Byrne

Last week saw the UK launch of Wolf Magazine editor James Byrne’s long-awaited second poetry collection, Blood/Sugar. It’s published by Arc Publications and if you want to buy a copy online (how ironic that WordPress’s spellchecker questions this word) you might as well get it directly from them as it isn’t discounted at Amazon and they say they offer 10% off all titles except those in ‘Collectors Corner’, whatever that may be. Incidentally, the title has nothing to do with diabetes. I haven’t read enough of the poems to pass much comment yet, but I was very much taken with Sestina for R, which was read out at the launch. A couple of poems from the collection have been published online here.

Posted by: flexiblegoat | December 2, 2009

The Destitutes of Lodz by Steve Sem-Sandberg

It was announced in October that Faber had bought UK rights to this Swedish Holocaust novel and FSG the US rights. There’s no UK release date yet and its not on Amazon or anywhere else as far as I can tell, but judging from its reception in the Swedish press it’s going to be huge. I interviewed Sem-Sandberg’s agent for my post-graduate dissertation when the UK rights were still up for grabs. Apparently it has had the best critiques of any Swedish novel for the last 30 years. It has won the Swedish August Prize and been nominated for the Nordic Council’s literature award. Maybe worth a tenner on it winning the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (can you bet on that?). The agency’s page on the book, with a synopsis and review extracts, can be found here.

Posted by: flexiblegoat | December 2, 2009

Resurgence Review and Chlorine

I just discovered that Resurgence Magazine has uploaded a review I wrote of this poetry book (many years ago). It’s an odd but quite interesting book, perhaps I wasn’t as complimentary as I could have been at the time. We used (fair use! fair use!) one of the poems in the LOVE&LUST book that was shortlisted for a student design award. Anyway, the review can be found here. If you decide that you’d quite like to read it, I’m pretty sure there will be a copy in the basement at John Sandoe Books.

I also found a poem of mine published in Less Common More Sense magazine, which is on page 7 here.

Posted by: flexiblegoat | November 30, 2009

Two Poems


I used to think truth vital,

Now I don’t think that at all.

Only in diminutive incarnations

is it relevant. I wish I’d seen

the tornado that levelled

Kensal Green last year.

When I compare the faces

of theme park junkies

after coasters and splashdown slides,

the soaking look so broken,

rigor mortis shivering,

straight-backed legs akimbo.

Scream for double-helix loops,

for in-line 4G brace your neck

don’t lose your shoes,

but one day the boat will return

and Shelley will be dead

and you won’t come crying to me.

I’m so dirty, the water’s turning black.

I think I’d better shower, pull the plug.



Beg your neighbour, his curtain closed,

call a nurse from the nether ward

to lead him down those sandstone stairs.

Not that he’s no saint, but I’m bored

by the hack in his lung. Earnest by-line

coughing keeps my steel plate spinning

and sister I’d crash for a milligram’s

silence, intravenous if you please.

Thrice nightly the boa constrictor

checks my pulse and robbed of sleep

I swallow the double-baked lotus.

Vatic sputum’s spat, the silver bowl

spills shrill to the frigid laminate

and the ringing’s a circlet on stone,

no bended knee to stoop despairing hand.

Posted by: flexiblegoat | November 30, 2009

Broken by Karin Fossum


This intriguing, daring novel is marketed as crime fiction (by which I mean it looks and feels as if it belongs in that genre) and is written by one of Norway’s leading crime novelists, but though a pivotal crime is committed, it radically subverts all generic expectations. Broken sets its post-modern stall out early: the novel begins with a haunted, borderline-alcoholic author surveying a disparate group of sorry individuals queuing on her front lawn. That these are potential characters, the subjects of as yet but mooted stories, becomes clear when one of them enters her house in the night, sits by her bed and demands that he should be permitted to jump the queue. This framing device becomes an opportunity to meditate on the lonely, obsessive nature of the writer’s profession, the fundamental importance of characters as the prime movers behind stories and the almost schizophrenic bonds of empathy that authors form with them.

The “man” that forces his way in, forces the author to confront the story she has in mind for him, is a solitary, dependable, prudent repressed homosexual who revels in his job as an art gallery assistant and diligently saves his Krone despite the fact that he is convinced he will die, as his father did, in his fifties. He relishes and is skilled in conducting his professional interactions but never forms any social relationships because he is unwilling to engage beyond perfunctory pleasantries.

The author, who participates in a number of earnest discussions with her character about the nature of the novel he will inhabit, introduces two conflicting elements into his life that will force him to make the kind of decisions he has always shirked. The first is a painting of a broken or unfinished bridge that is on sale for the exact amount of money he has in his bank account; the second is a young heroin addict who he allows into the gallery to take shelter from the cold, contravening his employer’s express instructions to give such individuals short shrift.

The drama that unfolds is devastating in its pyschological plausibility, compelling in the ways in which it reveals the anatomny of a crime that is committed out of fear and intertia and the extent to which a person can undermine their values by attempting to do good in a situation where there can be no palatable outcome. The novel’s conclusion is genuinely moving and its sentimental edge is fully earned through the accumulation of minute, precise detail and Fossum’s willingness to eschew any sensationalism or monochrome oppositions of good and evil. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Vintage, £7.99.

Posted by: flexiblegoat | November 30, 2009

Illustration Cupboard – 14th Annual Winter Exhibition

A lovely little exhibition, this, and free too, which helps (though I think ideally you’ll buy a print). The exhibition brings together the work of over 50 illustrators from around the world, including Anthony Browne, Maurice Sendak and Kate Greenaway. The highlight for me was a number of amazing illustrations by the Australian children’s book author, Shaun Tan. There’s also artwork from film animations like Wallace and Gromit and Dangermouse. I’d definitely recommend taking a look; the prices for prints start at £95 and the illustrated catalogue is £10.

Illustration Cupboard
22 Bury St

Exhibition ends 31st January
Posted by: flexiblegoat | November 29, 2009

The Three Robbers

The Three Robbers

I found this downstairs in John Sandoe a few months ago. The author/illustrator is Tomi Ungerer, French-born, whose work is undergoing something of a revival at the moment. I thought it was visually very striking, so I took it with me. You can judge for yourself, as some kind person has made an animated short out of it…

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