Summer Magic: The Complete Journals of Luke Kirby

summer magic

When I heard that 2000AD were finally collecting this series as a book, I was thrilled. I remember reading two or three of these stories in their original serialised form in 2000AD, and whilst the stories are largely self-contained (albeit can, and should be read in order), I had never read the beginning and the end – in fact there was a lot I hadn’t read, and this was a trove to round out my childhood love of Luke Kirby.

Sidenote, before we get into it, I love how they’re billing this: Before Harry Potter, before Tim Hunter (Neil Gaiman’s The Books of Magic comic, and their many subsequent series) there was Luke Kirby, and it’s true.

Luke Kirby is a wizard, and it is unceremoniously thrust upon him when he goes to stay with his Uncle Elias. Over the course of the 8 or so serials (which were very spaced apart in 2000AD, it wasn’t like one serial ended and the next started the following week – sometimes there were months, even years between them) Luke learns what it means to be a wizard. And this is not a fluffy story, in fact, it’s a little gruesome in parts, but then the theme of childhood innocence being lost, of becoming an adult, which is thrust upon him very young due to his wizardy, is prevalent.

Beautiful ornate storytelling that tells some spooky standalone stories and has a lovely mythos to ground it, couple with gorgeous clean and crisp black and white line art, I just wish there was more of it. But then, this is like a drum-tight book of short stories, you come to the end asking “Is that it?” only to realise that’s all you need.

Recommended.
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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

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Brilliant Book Titles #178

the farewell symphony
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb: 
In his two most celebrated novels, A BOYS OWN STORY and THE BEAUTIFUL ROOM IS EMPTY, Edmond White charted the story of an American homo-sexual through the 1960s and 1970s. They received huge acclaim, and the third in the sequence – which covers the 1980s – is long-awaited. In THE FAREWELL SYMPHONY Edmund White has drawn together all his experience of gay life in the 80s and transformed them into a wonder-fully witty and moving novel. Set in Europe and the US, and including portraits (thinly disguised) of some of the key figures of the time, THE FAREWELL SYMPHONY opens up a world which feels painfully and fascinatingly real.

Brilliant Book Titles #177

the semi-attached couple

Blurb: 
The worst thing to happen to the season’s perfect couple: marriage.

When the young and gorgeous Helen Eskdale met the wealthy aristocrat Lord Teviot, everything clicked. This was a couple that was meant to be—the match of the year, if not the ages. But in the rush to the altar, there was no time for bride and groom to actually get to know each other. Now the question is: Can they keep their marriage from falling apart?

The Semi-Attached Couple explores the upstairs-downstairs intrigues and comic misunderstandings central to the classic English romance with all the wit, style, and charm of a Jane Austen novel.

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

There’s a couple of big statements I would make about these books.

  1. It’s a better series than Harry potter. Harry Potter is a classic tale of good and evil, of the power of friendship, of resilience and perseverance, of love triumphing over hate, of doing what’s right instead of what’s easy. I love Harry Potter, but these are still better.
  2. It’s one of the great literary tragedies with an ending so unfair you want to scream injustice at the top of your lungs and weep openly on Dublin Bus. Re-reading it opened old wounds I had entirely forgotten. Read The Amber Spyglass and you will be reminded of how art can can affect you.

In anticipation of the long awaited follow up to His Dark Materials I decided to re-read the original trilogy to refresh my memory. They’re even better books than I remember. A sprawling epic with a huge and wonderful cast of characters encompassing all of god’s creatures, and I don’t use that axiom lightly. The central antagonist in Pullman’s trilogy is never one figure, but rather one organistaion, the Catholic Church, renamed for the sake of Pullman’s legal liabilty as the Magisterium. But I don’t think the church or religion in the wider sense is Pullamn’s real targethere. It is zealotry, blind faith to an ideology, an authority figure, even a race of people, anything that would seek to impose its will on others and control them feels the full force of his ire and Pullman’s writin is absolutely superb. Against these forces, the unforgettable Lyra and Will will always earn the reader’s undying support. It’s a series of great intellect and compassion with an ardent message to its readers to cherish our time on this planet and to never deal in hatred or lies.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

5 New Film Books to Watch Out For

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Showbiz Politics: Hollywood in American Political Life by Kathryn Cramer Brownell (1 Feb 2018)
Conventional wisdom holds that John F. Kennedy was the first celebrity president, in no small part because of his innate television savvy. But, as Kathryn Brownell shows, Kennedy capitalized on a tradition and style rooted in California politics and the Hollywood studio system. Since the 1920s, politicians and professional showmen have developed relationships and built organizations, institutionalizing Hollywood styles, structures, and personalities in the American political process. Brownell explores how similarities developed between the operation of a studio, planning a successful electoral campaign, and ultimately running an administration. Using their business and public relations know-how, figures such as Louis B. Mayer, Bette Davis, Jack Warner, Harry Belafonte, Ronald Reagan, and members of the Rat Pack made Hollywood connections an asset in a political world being quickly transformed by the media. Brownell takes readers behind the camera to explore the negotiations and relationships that developed between key Hollywood insiders and presidential candidates from Dwight Eisenhower to Bill Clinton, analyzing how entertainment replaced party spectacle as a strategy to raise money, win votes, and secure success for all those involved. She demonstrates how Hollywood contributed to the rise of mass-mediated politics, making the twentieth century not just the age of the political consultant, but also the age of showbiz politics.

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Fasten Your Seat Belts: The Passionate Life of Bette Davis by Lawrence J Quirk (6 Feb 2018)
The illuminating, comprehensive biography of Bette Davis, one of the most electrifying Hollywood stars ever to grace the silver screen.

With a career spanning six decades and more than eighty films, Bette Davis is synonymous with Hollywood legend. From her incandescent performance as Margo Channing in All About Eve, to her terrifying, psychopathic Jane Hudson in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Davis generated electricity wherever she appeared, whatever she did–and not just on the silver screen. Her personal life was as passionate as her career and was so fiery that it eventually consumed her.

In this landmark biography, Lawrence J. Quirk takes us behind the scenes of all of Davis’s movies, from her early unpromising roles, to her commanding presence at the pinnacle of stardom, to her degrading exploitation in horror films at the end of her career. Quirk delves into Davis’s four unhappy marriages, as well as her frosty, manipulative relationships with her three children. Also revealed are her many affairs through the years with leading men, bit players, servicemen during World War II, and, very late in her life, much younger men, who repaid her by using her and deserting her. Intense, volatile, ruled often by her emotions, Bette Davis was described by one critic as “a force of nature that could find no ordinary outlet.”

Fasten Your Seat Belts brilliantly explores the life and career of Bette Davis to show us the fascinating original she was.

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Magnificent Obsession: The Outrageous History of Film Buffs, Collectors, Scholars and Fanatics by Anthony Slide (15 Mar 2018)
An all-embracing history of fans and film buffs from the Silent Era to today.

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Marilyn in Manhattan: Her Year of Joy by Elizabeth Winder (1 Apr 2018)
A city, a movie star, and one magical year.

In November of 1954 a young woman dressed plainly in a white oxford, dark sunglasses and a black pageboy wig boards a midnight flight from Los Angeles to New York. As the plane’s engines rev she breathes a sigh of relief, lights a cigarette and slips off her wig revealing a tangle of fluffy blonde curls. Marilyn Monroe was leaving Hollywood behind, and along with it a failed marriage and a frustrating career. She needed a break from the scrutiny and insanity of LA. She needed Manhattan.

In Manhattan, the most famous woman in the world can wander the streets unbothered, spend hours at the Met getting lost in art, and afternoons buried in the stacks of the Strand. Marilyn begins to live a life of the mind in New York; she dates Arthur Miller, dances with Truman Capote and drinks with Carson McCullers. Even though she had never lived there before, in New York, Marilyn is home.

In Elizabeth Winder’s Marilyn in Manhattan, the iconic blonde bombshell is not only happy, but successful. She breaks her contract with Fox Studios to form her own production company, a groundbreaking move that makes her the highest paid actress in history and revolutionizes the entertainment industry. A true love letter to Marilyn, and a joyous portrait of a city bursting with life and art, Marilyn in Manhattan is a beautifully written, lively look at two American treasures: New York and Marilyn Monroe, and sheds new light on one of our most enduring icons.

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Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece by Michael Benson (19 Apr 2018)
Celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the film’s release, this is the definitive story of the making of 2001: A Space Odyssey, acclaimed today as one of the greatest films ever made, including the inside account of how director Stanley Kubrick and writer Arthur C. Clarke created this cinematic masterpiece.

Regarded as a masterpiece today, 2001: A Space Odyssey received mixed reviews on its 1968 release. Despite the success of Dr. Strangelove, director Stanley Kubrick wasn’t yet recognized as a great filmmaker, and 2001 was radically innovative, with little dialogue and no strong central character. Although some leading critics slammed the film as incomprehensible and self-indulgent, the public lined up to see it. 2001’s resounding commercial success launched the genre of big-budget science fiction spectaculars. Such directors as George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, and James Cameron have acknowledged its profound influence.

Author Michael Benson explains how 2001 was made, telling the story primarily through the two people most responsible for the film, Kubrick and science fiction legend Arthur C. Clarke. Benson interviewed Clarke many times, and has also spoken at length with Kubrick’s widow, Christiane; with visual effects supervisor Doug Trumbull; with Dan Richter, who played 2001’s leading man-ape; and many others.

A colorful nonfiction narrative packed with memorable characters and remarkable incidents, Space Odyssey provides a 360-degree view of this extraordinary work, tracking the film from Kubrick and Clarke’s first meeting in New York in 1964 through its UK production from 1965-1968, during which some of the most complex sets ever made were merged with visual effects so innovative that they scarcely seem dated today. A concluding chapter examines the film’s legacy as it grew into it current justifiably exalted status.

It Devours: A Welcome to Night Vale novel by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

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I’m a big Night Vale fan and when I read the first novel (Welcome to Night Vale), I was genuinely worried if the podcast could translate into novel format, but the book they wrote was expansive and beautiful and genuinely emotionally impactful – it was a beautiful story of family and negotiating those relationships, about desiring to grow up, about not having the relationship with a parent you want, or they want with you. In short, it was a great book, the feel of which has stuck with me since my first and currently only reading (reviewed here).

At the 100 page mark of It Devours, I was totally ready to stop reading.

It wasn’t that I expected the same book, but I expected the same quality of writing, and this just isn’t on display here. It Devours bills itself more as an action book – it has giant sandworms, so, yeah – but it doesn’t work. Welcome to Night Vale had a wonderful action setpiece chapter where Jackie and Diane navigated the library and the horrible monstrous librarians they lay within but It Devours

The main thing for me was the story and characters. There was no depth to them. Nilanjana is a scientist who works with Carlos, partner of Night Vale’s main character (and lead in the podcast) Cecil Palmer. She wants friends but doesn’t have any. She believes in Science. She meets Darryl from the Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God, a local religion, and he’s lonely too, but religious. See where this is going? And that’s pretty much the depth of their characters. So of course it’s a romance. But there was just no depth to the characters. I didn’t care. And what the writers did to the Joyous Congregation (whom were featured prominently in parts of the podcast with their spokesperson Kevin, who was terrifying), they declawed them. I get the point, and the joke Messrs Cranor and Fink but you had something otherworldly and that spoke to religious fervour in people like Kevin and his worship of the Smiling God.

Nothing worked in this. I read it to the end and went ‘Why’. I love Night Vale, and will always listen to their podcasts and buy their books, but this, I cannot recommend this at all. A formulaic action adventure.

That said, I could gladly recommend anything else they do – the podcast or the first novel are both consistently brilliant!

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You can reserve these books online at South Dublin Libraries Catalogue:
It Devours / Welcome to Night Vale / Mostly Void, Partially Stars / The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe

Brilliant Book Titles #176

what is the what
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb: 
At the heart of this astonishing novel is a true story of courage and endurance in the face of one of the most brutal civil wars the world has ever known. Valentino Achak Deng is just a boy when conflict separates him from his family and forces him to leave his small Sudanese village, joining thousands of other orphans on their long, long walk to Ethiopia, where they find safety for a time. Along the way Valentino encounters enemy soldiers, liberation rebels and deadly militias, hyenas and lions, disease and starvation. But there are experiences ahead that will test his spirit in even greater ways than these

Truly epic in scope, and told with expansive humanity, deep compassion and unexpected humour, What is the What is an eye-opening account of life amid the madness of war and an unforgettable tale of tragedy and triumph.

Brilliant Book Titles #175

a girl is a half-formed thing
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb:
WINNER OF THE BAILEYS WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION

WINNER OF THE DESMOND ELLIOTT PRIZE

KERRY GROUP IRISH NOVEL OF THE YEAR AWARD

WINNER OF THE GOLDSMITHS PRIZE

Eimear McBride’s award-winning debut novel tells the story of a young woman’s relationship with her brother, and the long shadow cast by his childhood brain tumour. It is a shocking and intimate insight into the thoughts, feelings and chaotic sexuality of a vulnerable and isolated protagonist. To read A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing is to plunge inside its narrator’s head, experiencing her world at first hand. This isn’t always comfortable – but it is always a revelation.

Will We Be Brilliant or What? by John Spillane

Will_We_Be_Brilliant_or_What

This book will appeal to a growing group of people who know and love the songs of “the Cork bard”, John Spillane. The book can be enjoyed as a stand- alone work but really, do yourself a favour and seek out the music of this most poetic of musicians/songwriters. Together, the book and songs enhance enjoyment and understanding of both. John’s songs embody positivity, even the sad songs are uplifting. His work is life affirming, emotionally honest and highly evocative of a sense of place, while still managing to have universal resonance. “is that brilliant or what?”, as john might say. It is very satisfying to get the back story on such well known and much loved songs.

This is a delightful book, to be dipped into and enjoyed in short bursts, rather than read from cover to cover. All the songs are wonderful but the stand out ones personally are: “I’m going to set you free”,”The dance of the Cherry Trees”,and  “The Dunnes Store Girl” and my all-time favourite, “All the ways that you wander”. John Spillane’s songs can be seen to provide a soundtrack to one’s life, with all it’s sunshine and shadows. This book is a real tonic, guaranteed to uplift the spirit, with it’s beautiful depiction of nature and the wonderfully optimistic and respectful attitude of the author to all human beings, no matter what their social position or struggles in life. Cheer yourself up, read this book!

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

5 Music Books to Watch Out For

sundog
Sundog by Scott Walker (11 Jan 2018)
Scott Walker is undoubtedly one of the most brilliant, serious and intelligent of artists today. As one of the greatest lyricists of the 20th century and front man of globally loved pop trip, The Walker Brothers, Walker commands huge devotion. A major event, Sundog is the first ever selection of Walker’s lyrics curated by the artist himself, published for the first time with a stunning introduction by Eimear McBride. Walker’s iconic lyrics will proudly follow in the footsteps of other famous musicians who have been published by Faber & Faber, including Jarvis Cocker, Billy Bragg, and Van Morrison.

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A Hero for High Times: A Younger Reader’s Guide to the Beats, Hippies, Freaks, Punks, Ravers, New-Age Travellers and Dog-on-a-Rope Brew Crew Crusties of the British Isles, 1956–1994 by Ian Marchant (15 Feb 2018)
Deep in a wood in the Marches of Wales, in an ancient school bus there lives an old man called Bob Rowberry.

A Hero for High Times is the story of how he ended up in this broken-down bus. It’s also the story of his times, and the ideas that shaped him. It’s a story of why you know your birth sign, why you have friends called Willow, why sex and drugs and rock’n’roll once mattered more than money, why dance music stopped the New-Age Travellers from travelling, and why you need to think twice before taking the brown acid.

It’s the story of the hippies for those who weren’t there – for Younger Readers who’ve never heard of the Aldermaston marches, Oz, the Angry Brigade, the Divine Light Mission, Sniffin’ Glue, Operation Julie, John Seymour, John Michell, Greenham Common, the Battle of the Beanfield, but who want to understand their grandparents’ stories of turning on, tuning in and not quite dropping out before they are gone for ever. It’s for Younger Readers who want to know how to build a bender, make poppy tea, and throw the I-Ching.

And it’s a story of friendship between two men, one who did things, and one who thought about things, between theory and practice, between a hippie and a punk, between two gentlemen, no longer in the first flush of youth, who still believe in love.

coal black mornings
Coal Black Mornings by Brett Anderson (1 Mar 2018)
Brett Anderson came from a world impossibly distant from rock star success, and in Coal Black Mornings he traces the journey that took him from a childhood as ‘a snotty, sniffy, slightly maudlin sort of boy raised on Salad Cream and milky tea and cheap meat’ to becoming founder and lead singer of Suede.

Anderson grew up in Hayward’s Heath on the grubby fringes of the Home Counties. As a teenager he clashed with his eccentric taxi-driving father (who would parade around their council house dressed as Lawrence of Arabia, air-conducting his favourite composers) and adored his beautiful, artistic mother. He brilliantly evokes the seventies, the suffocating discomfort of a very English kind of poverty and the burning need for escape that it breeds. Anderson charts the shabby romance of creativity as he travelled the tube in search of inspiration, fuelled by Marmite and nicotine, and Suede’s rise from rehearsals in bedrooms, squats and pubs. And he catalogues the intense relationships that make and break bands as well as the devastating loss of his mother.

Coal Black Mornings is profoundly moving, funny and intense – a book which stands alongside the most emotionally truthful of personal stories.

unmasked
Unmasked by Andrew Lloyd Webber (8 Mar 2018)
“You have the luck of Croesus on stilts (as my Auntie Vi would have said) if you’ve had the sort of career, ups and downs, warts and all that I have in that wondrous little corner of show business called musical theatre.”

One of the most successful and distinguished artists of our time, Andrew Lloyd Webber has reigned over the musical theatre world for nearly five decades. The winner of numerous awards, including multiple Tonys and an Oscar, Lloyd Webber has enchanted millions worldwide with his music and numerous hit shows, including Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Cats, The Phantom of the Opera―Broadway’s longest running show―and most recently, School of Rock. In Unmasked, written in his own inimitable, quirky voice, the revered, award-winning composer takes stock of his achievements, the twists of fate and circumstance which brought him both success and disappointment, and the passions that inspire and sustain him.

The son of a music professor and a piano teacher, Lloyd Webber reveals his artistic influences, from his idols Rodgers and Hammerstein and the perfection of South Pacific’s ‘Some Enchanted Evening,’ to the pop and rock music of the 1960s and Puccini’s Tosca, to P. G. Wodehouse and T. S. Eliot. Lloyd Webber recalls his bohemian London youth, reminiscing about the happiest place of his childhood, his homemade Harrington Pavilion―a make-believe world of musical theatre in which he created his earliest entertainments.

A record of several exciting and turbulent decades of British and American musical theatre and the transformation of popular music itself, Unmasked is ultimately a chronicle of artistic creation. Lloyd Webber looks back at the development of some of his most famous works and illuminates his collaborations with luminaries such as Tim Rice, Robert Stigwood, Harold Prince, Cameron Mackintosh, and Trevor Nunn. Taking us behind the scenes of his productions, Lloyd Webber reveals fascinating details about each show, including the rich cast of characters involved with making them, and the creative and logistical challenges and artistic political battles that ensued.

Lloyd Webber shares his recollections of the works that have become cultural touchstones for generations of fans: writings songs for a school production that would become his first hit, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; finding the coterie of performers for his classic rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar; developing his first mega-hit, Evita, which would win seven Tonys Awards, including Best Musical; staking his reputation and fortune on the groundbreaking Cats; and making history with the dazzling The Phantom of the Opera.

Reflecting a life that included many passions (from architecture to Turkish Swimming Cats), full of witty and revealing anecdotes, and featuring cameo appearances by numerous celebrities―Elaine Paige, Sarah Brightman, David Frost, Julie Covington, Judi Dench, Richard Branson, A.R. Rahman, Mandy Patinkin, Patti LuPone, Richard Rodgers, Norman Jewison, Milos Forman, Plácido Domingo, Barbra Streisand, Michael Crawford, Gillian Lynne, Betty Buckley, and more―Unmasked at last reveals the true face of the extraordinary man beneath the storied legend.

a history of heavy metal
A History of Heavy Metal by Andrew O’Neill (8 Mar 2018)
‘Absolutely hilarious’ – Neil Gaiman

‘One of the funniest musical commentators that you will ever read . . . loud and thoroughly engrossing’ – Alan Moore

‘A man on a righteous mission to persuade people to “lay down your souls to the gods rock and roll”.’ – The Sunday Times

‘As funny and preposterous as this mighty music deserves’ – John Higgs

The history of heavy metal brings brings us extraordinary stories of larger-than-life characters living to excess, from the household names of Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Bruce Dickinson and Metallica (SIT DOWN, LARS!), to the brutal notoriety of the underground Norwegian black metal scene and the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. It is the story of a worldwide network of rabid fans escaping everyday mundanity through music, of cut-throat corporate arseholes ripping off those fans and the bands they worship to line their pockets. The expansive pantheon of heavy metal musicians includes junkies, Satanists and murderers, born-again Christians and teetotallers, stadium-touring billionaires and toilet-circuit journeymen.

Award-winning comedian and life-long heavy metal obsessive Andrew O’Neill has performed his History of Heavy Metal comedy show to a huge range of audiences, from the teenage metalheads of Download festival to the broadsheet-reading theatre-goers of the Edinburgh Fringe. Now, in his first book, he takes us on his own very personal and hilarious journey through the history of the music, the subculture, and the characters who shaped this most misunderstood genre of music.