Wednesday, 29 November 2006


I'm really enjoying Pynchon's Against the Day; he's definitely got better as he got older. To solve the wrists problem I carefully excised the covers with a craft knife I haven't used for ages, and then split it into two volumes. I reinforced the edges of both spines with electric insulating tape, and then added basic covers cut from a large padded envelope. I'm very pleased with the result. It even looks quite attractive. I'd post an image but I can't be bothered, so you'll just have to shut your eyes and imagine it (especially given that I doubt that "you" isn't me, as it were).

Monday, 27 November 2006

You are awful (but I like you)

I've finished rerereading V, and I enjoyed it; but I'm wondering what it is I enjoy so much about about Pynchon. In particular I'd have thought the dodgy women bits would put me off. I'm not sure anyone would publish the fate of Mélanie l'Heuremaudit these days, unless in a sort of ironic way like Byatt's Babel Tower, which I disliked. Another book I loved which I shouldn't have was Perez-Reverte's Queen of the South; this is about a drug-dealer and not my usual sort of thing, but it's just seriously brilliant like everything he's ever written. Another one is Julian Rathbone's The Crystal Contract. I like Rathbone even though he's very cheeky in the sort of way which usually annoys me. Read King Fisher Lives; the story is that it failed to win the Booker because Lady Wilson, who was on the panel that year, was disgusted by its immorality and language; it's very brilliant, and extremely memorable in an iconic sort of way.

PS When I wrote this I also forgot Lawrence Durrell. The Alexandria Quartet is great, the Avignon Quintet greater, and actually the latter even has some reasonably-portrayed women in it.

Sunday, 26 November 2006


OK so I still really like the huge spider pop, but I think maybe it has a lot to do with its being very like a cleaner version of Peaches' F*** the pain away; what else is in the teaches of peaches? I once had to turn off the excellent 2 Many DJs album because a not-particularly clean-mouthed friend of mine objected to Peaches' message. Or it maybe it was the Lords of Acid suggestions about where to sit. The excellent version of I was made for loving you can be found on the Headrush album by Queen of Japan.

This website will do your head in.


I'm re-reading V because someone said that Against the Day is a prequel to it, but given Pynchon's penchant for re-using names and characters, like Pig Bodine, I won't be surprised if it's no such thing. I'd forgotten that V is the one with all the animals -- the alligators, rats, and rainbow-coloured monkeys. And the excellent Edwardian Victoria Wren. And the Whole Sick Crew.

I have renamed this blog in its honour, after the dwelling-place of Veronica, the first rat saint. I write with Lilian the rat trying to squeeze through my sleeves. She is not a candidate for sainthood; if she were I can't imagine keeping her as a pet. Animals, unlike people, aren't on any moral journey, and this is why they are so good for us. My rats' response to me is based entirely on my actions and their needs, and this is almost inexpressibly restful. Lilian has tired of me now and is trying to climb on my bookcase. In a moment I will offer her a Delicious Treat, and she will happily go home.

Thursday, 23 November 2006

Thomas Pynchon

If you like Thomas Pynchon, then another author whose work you might enjoy is Thomas McGuane. Try The Cadence of Grass for starters. There's something about the way his sentences curl back on themselves which is very Pynchon-like and satisfying. I visited America for the first time ever this summer and went into the huge bookshop on the Stanford campus. Shockingly they didn't have any McGuane on the shelves. I bought the new Patrick McGrath instead. His Asylum is truly chilling.

Recently recommended to me as the best crime novel ever set in Oxford or Cambridge (in my conlocutor's opinion edging out even Gaudy Night, my favourite) is Michael Innes' Operation Pax. I've ordered it second-hand. I like to get book recommendations from interesting people.

Book hacks

Life hacks is an annoying term, it's true, but there are some useful ones about. The whole 43folders thing is supposed to be good, and I really like the way that it revives the old 'household tips' genre. But what I was really wondering about today is customising books. I am awaiting with eagerness the arrival of my pre-ordered copy of Thomas Pynchon's latest, though it might be a while given that online stores seem to be low on copies. I thought it might be a good thing to take with me on my trip to Israel in December, given that I loathe being at an airport without something to read, and even my more-than-usually-interesting travel companion might not be adequate compensation.

The problem is that the thing is the size of a smallish breeze block and would take up a substantial amount of luggage allowance. Back when I first read Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy I was struck by his suggestion, both within the text itself with regard to Shakespeare's plays (it goes down very badly with an English faculty as I recall) and in an article he wrote for a newspaper at about the time it came out, that we should chop books up into sections freely and without regret. In the article he said that A Suitable Boy had been specifically laid out with this in mind, so that each of the twenty chapters started on a recto, and he urged people to take out razor blades and have a go. I did this to my copy, cutting it into five not twenty pieces; not only did it make it a whole lot more manageable to read, but it gave me a pleasant feeling of transgressing middle-class mores. Also it shocked my then boyfriend. On another occasion I had to buy (due to reading compulsion) the second volume of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle before it came out in paperback, and to save my wrists I customised it into a paperback. I took the cardboard boards off either end, wrapped the dustjacket round the end pages, and covered the outside in sticky-backed plastic to make an improvised flexible cover. Its second-hand value may have been affected -- but I was unlikely to sell it ever anyway.

If the new Pynchon becomes as beloved a Pynchon to me as, say, Mason and Dixon, then I'm not going to be too precious about keeping it a nice copy, because I'll get through more than one anyway. And the paper of hardbacks seems, perversely, to be more vulnerable to reading than that of paperbacks. Perhaps a future post will be: what is wrong with hardbacks.

Wednesday, 22 November 2006

The death of rats

I haven't added anything to this blog for a while; one reason for this was the death of my pet rat, Zoe, on the operating table. It's a risk to put a small mammal under general anaesthetic. I might have done things differently if I'd known the outcome -- maybe I'd have had her put to sleep straight off instead. I thought my remaining rats -- Lilian, Yaffle, and Muesli -- were looking at me oddly for a while after that. Lilian, who had lived with Zoe all her life and may have been her sister, wouldn't come out of the cage for two days.

In general, my rats trust me, and if something startles them they move towards me rather than away. They seem to feel safe on my shoulders, or in my sleeves. Zoe was very light on her feet and sometimes felt like a small bird perched on my hands (unlike Lilian who sits on her stomach). She was very fast moving and my nickname for her was sleekit, but sometimes she would fall asleep in my sleeve, making it much harder for me to type or turn the pages of books.