Friday, 10 July 2009

Riz MC - Sour Times video

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Alan Moore and Kevin o'Neill - The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century 1910 (Knockabout 2009)

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen volume 3 is upon us, and with it, Alan Moore’s propensity for Victorian filth and mind-expanding concepts. This time, The League is more ambitious, and dare I say it, purposely a fuck you to anyone who might consider trying to film it, after all film versions of his work have ended up ruining or only hinting at the genius in the original source material. Volume 3 of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is called Century officially and... spans... a century. Expansive. Gone are most of the characters we refamiliarised ourselves with (the original two volumes concerned literary characters from Victorian novels reimagined as a type of antequated MI5) and instead we are faced with brutal serial killers, songs and the occult. So prevalent are songs and rhymes in this first volume (with parts two and three due next year and the year after) that if it were filmed, it would take the place of a grotesque carnival musical, with filthy shanties and bawdy limericks pricking the surfaces of naked tortured skin. We catch up with Wilhemina Murray, the vampiric bride of Dracula, immortal and having outlived most of her original League, now with generation 2, comprising of Thomas Carnacki, a ghost detective, Quartermain’s son and Orlando a mysterious figure in possession of Excalibur. Carnacki’s visions lead him to murderous Armageddon in the East End and the occult who are trying to birth a moonchild. Meanwhile, Captain Nemo of the Nautilus dies, leaving his beloved submarine to his estranged daughter, absconded to England to work in a bordello by the docks. The book is self-contained and while it takes a while to get going, promises an interesting take on this century. Themes abound in volume 1 of the power of vice and how do-gooders trying to quell human desire for vice and virtueless violence are undoing nature’s own commands, and evil will out. Moore seems to be predicting the death of the century and along with it, the death of the human race. The violence is grotesque and bloody, the pirates that crew the Nautilus are ruthless and cunning. And the new League is still trying to find its feet. Volume 2 takes place in 1969 and concerns the hippy movement and volume 3 will bring us up to date in 2009, promising appearances from Jack Bauer, characters from the West Wing, and bizarrely, Armando Iannucci’s surreal retro-future comedy show, Time Trumpet. Definitely unfilmable then. But then after the disaster of the last attempt to commit The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a sombre and disgusting mediation on the human condition as told by literary figures in Victorian times, into cartoonish celluloid, I doubt anyone’ll be coming near this 100year spanning tome with hardly any ‘stars’ or recurring characters through each volume. Whatever happens, Moore has ensured he won’t be cursing any more film versions of his babies anytime soon. In the meantime, this is essential for any comic book reader and for any literary types who want to succumb to the filth and fury of 1910, as told by modern times’ most famous magus of wit and invention, Alan Moore.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Shappi Khorsandi - A Beginner's Guide to Acting English (Ebury 2009)

Look ma, a celebrity autobiography worth reading? Shock-a-rama... except this breakout memoir by comedienne Shappi Khorsandi has been what’s tipped her over the edge into the public eye, eyeing up appearances on Jonathan Ross and Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow. Instead of gracing the mirthless bowels of Radio 4 comedy, Shappi Khorsandi will now hopefully be commanding more high profile gigs based on this book. The memoir, documenting her arrival and early to teen years in the UK trying to fit in, shows she can write too. More poignant than laugh-out-loud funny, more tragic and beautiful than punchline-punchline-punchline, the book approaches the immigrant experience with a fresh yet familiar take, using a backdrop of England and classic Englishisms to tell a story about inherently Irani protagonists. Khorsandi discusses her first years at an English primary school, speaking not a word of the language, using her brother and other silent immigrants as emotional crutches, while occupying a fantasyland of make-believe and imagination at home, hero-worshipping her father and trying to teach her mother more English things. She talks about how English slowly crept up on her, through rhymes and stories before becoming her normal vernacular, how she went from being frightened of the English to scolding her mum for not being able to make her jam sandwiches. The centre of her attention is her father and his political leanings. While Iran undergoes some major changes, her father, a satirist and journalist and poet- hero-worshipped by the Irani community of London, meaning endless social engagements, debates and performances in front rooms- documents the changes, the fall of the Shah, the rise of the Ayatollah, the revolution and its divisive nature, as middle and upper class London-dwelling Iranis put their tuppence in. Meanwhile Khorsandi’s family in Iran feel the effects and impacts the changes in power structures have on their well-being. ‘Persepolis’ dealt with similar topics and told them from the same spiky brutally honest angle; here, the crucial difference is the journey that Khorsandi and her brother make towards accepting their present surroundings and how it impacts on their cultural identity, something easily identifiable for a generation of Diaspora immigrants in this country. This most tense and interesting section of the book, where men are dispatched by the new government to assassinate Khorsandi’s father. This section arrives in the second half of the book and is by far its most exciting bit. The writing teams with compassion and warmth, the humour in the situations and characters is sweetly scathing, the differences between Irani and English customs played out to great comic effect, and the sincerity in the prose, the unflowery honest writing makes it a strong memoir with its lightness of touch and comic timing.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Rutu Modan - Jamilti and other stories (Jonathan Cape 2009)

How much do we know about the people of Israel? We know the politics, have picked our sides to support and happily go on through our lives reducing countries to polemic and political policy. So thank god for the medium of graphic novels and for Rutu Modan, whose short pieces of pictoral fiction comprise a sturdy offering from the Jonathan Cape stable of thinking liter-ista’s funny books. This is a far cry from the spandex and superheroism of Marvel. This is a subtle intense funny set of short stories, all with their own brand of ultra-violence. In the titular ‘Jamilti’ we meet a bride-to-be, one of Israel’s bleeding heart liberals marrying an oafish pig of a far right man. Her quiet acceptance of her position and his boarish conversational gambits about terrorism and Palestine converge in a tense engagement where much is left unsaid. When she finds herself in the debris of a terrorist bombing, she finds herself face-to-face with a mutilated dying man who makes her feel appreciated and beautiful. That moment of pure vulnerability and synergy makes the closing pay-off all the more smarter. The characters in Modan’s book all lead quiet lives that are torn apart by violence, whether it be political or personal or emotional. ‘The Panty Killer’ follows the police investigation into The Panty Killer, a violent serial killer who leaves his victims with a pair of Y-fronts over their head. In ‘Homecoming’ a small community mourn the death of one of their boys gone off to war in different ways, unable to move on from the fact that he may have died at war, when a plane appears overhead and they reach fever pitch excitement wondering if he has now in fact returned. Each story is funny with a black heart stricken with the cancer of grief and bereavement, with the whisping underbelly of politics trying to muscle its way into the lives of these Israelis. The artwork is beautiful and sombre with a lot of strange yellows and pencil-coloured hair and backgrounds, each panel oozing with the mix between adult- and child-eye view of the scenes depicted, reminiscent of Tin-Tin. The precise nature of their expression and observation mean that the dialogue-light panels are effective at evoking deep emotions. With other stories ranging from parental discoveries to women with healing hands, the range of lives in Israel, macabre and twisted as they may sound are funny and sombre and dripping with a gallows humour only befitting a country with such a war-filled past.