intraspace: the review lounge

Monday, August 28, 2006

the incredible adam spark

the incredible adam spark, by alan bissett

it's amazing what you come across when you're not looking for anything in particular at the library. our library has a new book stand that i always have a look at. take a punt, and sometimes it pays off.

this is a story (in first-person) about a scottish down-syndrome teenager with superhero abilities. as the tagline reads: 'at last, scotland has a hero'.

adam spark, or 'sparky' as he's known, has all kinds of adventures and rides the waves of people's prejudice and the realities of a disfunctional family. it is brilliantly written in sparky's own voice complete with scottish dialect (a la irving walsh) and unique punctuation and spelling. everything is seen through his eyes. at times the harshness of life seems to wash over the hero, but the truth comes out in subtle ways.

and now, for some unforgivably lazy reviewing. i shall quote wholesale from the publishers blurb about the book:

Adam Spark. Eighteen going on eight-and-a-half. Fast-food worker. Queen fan. Last in the queue for luck. On waking from an accident in which he saves a child, he has the distinct impression that all is far from right. What are these curious lights that seem to surround people? Why are animals and machines trying to speak to him? And can he really control time? Is it just his imagination, or has Adam Spark been chosen to become Scotland's first, and only, superhero?

This, however, is the least of his problems. The local gang is luring him into deeper and darker peril. His sister and lone carer, Jude, is giving all her love to another woman. And if Jude abandons Adam - or Adam drives her away - all the superpowers in the world won't be able to save him.

ah- so there you have it. recommended.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

the worth of art

the worth of art: pricing the priceless, by judith benhamou-huet

this book caught my eye on the shelves of the local library when i was browsing the art section. it's a subject that interests me - how do you assign a monetary value to an artwork - and this book's nicely sized. a quick flick through showed that it wouldn't be too hard to read.

the original was written in french and the writing has an interesting quirkiness about it, partly because it has been translated but also because benhamou-huet writes with wit.

she outlines the elements that transform the price that an artwork sells for. these elements are: the buyer, the intermediary, the seller, the place of sale, and the artist. she explains how the circumstances of these elements bring marketability and value to the artwork. benhamou-huet describes a world of asperational buyers who collect for status and for investments that will pay off, wheelers and dealers, cunning auction houses and galleries, recognised centres of art and anguished artists who exude the 'romanticism' and 'tragedy' of the artistic life. fascinating stuff.

art collectors and auction houses come out looking pretty bad. there are some pretty tasty quotes about collectors and their hunger for status:

"From New York to Los Angeles, people with new money have a complex. Taking an interest in modern or contemporary art allows you to put a stamp of respectability, a hallmark of culture on the person concerned." - according to one quoted 'art professional'.

"Among the most famous examples of art buying of the last few years, we find the collection of Steve Wynn, the Las Vegas billionaire. Between 1996 and 1998, he spent sums estimated in the region of $300 million to amass a number of important Impressionist works. Wynn has become a driven collector, going so far as to tell an American magazine that 'I've never enjoyed myself so much before. For me, painting is beginning to mean as much as cash.'"

wow! as much as cash! can you imagine?... but the really great thing is that many of the works ended up being displayed in the prestigious bellagio casino, helping create the perfect atmosphere for high rollers to part with large amounts of money.

so there it is. highly recommended read this one.

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Saturday, August 12, 2006


orthodoxy, by g.k. chesterton

if you've seen my other blog, you might have noticed that i've been harping on about g.k. chesterton recently. i've finally finished reading his book 'orthodoxy'. it looks little, like a quick read, and then it isn't.

this book seems to have had a revival in the last couple of years. it's recommended by philip yancey (as you will see from the cover of my copy), john eldridge mentions it a lot in his writings, and relevant media (purveyors of christian cool) have just released a version under their imprint. i suppose it was also considered a 'christian classic' before this recent press - i've heard that it was instrumental in bringing c.s. lewis to faith.

the book was first published in 1908. there are aspects of it that seem a bit dated in 2006 (his examples more than his arguments). i found it a bit hard to get into for the first couple of chapters, but it took off after that. there were certain passages that were that kind where you stop reading for a couple of minutes because they are so powerful and they take some processing.

while chesterton's arguments are often quite compelling, i found it just as useful for stimulating my own thoughts and ideas. the book is in the same category as writing by c.s. lewis if that's your cup of tea.

on the stereo: 'everyday should be a holiday' by the dandy warhols, from the album 'come down'.

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

sharon osbourne extreme

extreme: my autobiography, by sharon osbourne

anna got this from her book club, i think. i came across it when i was looking for something a bit lighter to read...

i suppose it's a bit of a "girl's book", but it's also a rather interesting insight on the music industry of the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.

sharon osbourne is famous to most people for being the wife of ozzy osbourne, former lead singer of black sabbath. but apart from this significant accomplishment, she was also on the inner circle of the british music industry.

her father was an artist manager, and was responsible for bringing rock n roll to britain. he turned down management of a new band called "the beatles" because he thought the idea of british rock was a joke. instead he continued to focus on bringing american acts like chuck berry over to the uk. other famous artists he represented included ELO in the 70s (by then he had caught on to the idea of british music).

sharon became involved in the industry, and much of this book is about the corruption and criminal under-current of the music business. nothing girly about that! sharon herself was (is) a bit of a hard woman - not afraid (it transpires) to use her excrement (literally), her language and her fists to prove a point. before i leave off talking about the music industry bits of the book, i should also say - did you know that sharon once managed the smashing pumpkins? she ditched them because billy corgan was a royal pain in the arse.

the rest of the book is about her relationship with ozzy - enduring weekly beatings and his insane drug and alcohol addiction. she also talks about her kids and her fight with cancer.

so lots of aspects to this book - well worth reading for either the music industry stuff or for the human drama.

on the headphones: 'un bacio (ali n. baskin remix)' by ennio morricone, from the album 'morricone rmx'.

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