Musical experiments, revisiting youth classics and technological wonders.
This month, a new novel by 2003 Granta Best Young British Novelist Alan Warner, The Lips Talk of Mischief, is published. Here, he shares five links of what he’s reading, watching and thinking about right now.
1. I’m at that most awful age where I am rereading the novels which formed me when I was seventeen. Do they still work and do they still pump the structural system of my DNA as a reader? Andre Gide’s The Immoralist (1902), which thumped me as a teenager, didn’t work, (but you should still read it); it seemed weakly flirtatious, with giggling ideas of naughtiness which didn’t make me blink. Jean Rhys was a different matter. Last week I reread Good Morning, Midnight (1939). This novel could have been written yesterday, so supple and so eternal is its solid cry of loneliness, its anatomy of the jaded life. She was horribly ahead of her times.
2. My friend, the German musician Holger Czukay, made one of the greatest guitar albums ever, Movies (1979). Like Jean Rhys he was decades ahead of his time, using mosaic editing of baroque complexity and found sound samples. His website is an updating scene of his full-time zany madness, which disguises one of the most exquisite sound masters of all time.
3. I am also a Jack Bruce fanatic and his beautiful new album, Silver Rails, (2014) is one of his best solo albums in fifty years as a musician; but as well as the album, I am spinning the DVD that comes with: a touching documentary about the making of the album at Abbey Road Studios in London. Bless Jack, Scotland’s treasure.
4. I hardly make use of the Internet, but Google Maps is a specific obsession. It literally saves you travelling and forges virtual memories. I am an adoring fan of Giorgio Bassani, the Italian novelist of Ferrara; almost all his tragic novels are set in a very specific geography within that small, walled city. For two decades I felt the need to visit Ferrara and stroll those streets, but now with Google Maps and Street View you can walk with the characters of his novels from their houses to their playing fields and cafes. It is all still there, and I don’t need to smell the coffee.
5. Shazam has changed my life. It seems able to recognize even the most obscure of compositions. I am extremely un-technological and until recently did not even own – or more accurately, could not operate – a mobile phone, but at last, after a lifetime, there is an app to counter those pesky DJs on radio who don’t announce the songs they play. I wake up most mornings, blinking, holding out my smartphone obediently towards the radio. How did life get like this? It is also great fun at a gig, hoisting up the ‘unrecognized’ symbol to some meticulous Ozzy impersonator hauling his own way through a classic Black Sabbath song.
Cover image by Gustave Caillebotte, Vue de toits, 1878