That Gutenberg Feeling

Interrupting all programs….

The book is dead, long live the book!

The swan song of the traditional book has reared its ugly head again.

“Where’s your mouse? … Can you make characters fight? … Can it text? … Tweet? … Wi-Fi? … Can it do this? TOOT!”

No, a book can’t do any of that.

But where would a Kindle or an iPad be without its battery, the socket where it gets plugged in to recharge?

I want to embrace the digitization of the book, too. But I also want a choice: to read in the traditional way or not to read in the traditional way, that is the choice.

It seems to me like a self-fulfilling prophecy is in the offing. The more we chant the trad book is on its last spine and choking between the covers, the more it will come about.

Or not.

And because I like my own madness instead of the crowds, I predict the following:

Sentient books, ravaging the world, gobbling up innocent bystanders and serious bibliophiles. From library to library, from bookstore to bookstore, they stalk, eating us alive, devouring us, terminator books sent to wipe out humanity in one grand bestselling swoop. Our only chance of survival, the eBook, armored and backed by the God Google, they will march to our rescue, march like an army of deliverance.

“What worries me is that a load of shite has been talked about digitisation as being the new Gutenberg, but the fact is that Gutenberg led to books being put in shelves, and digitisation is taking books off shelves. If you start taking books off shelves then you are only going to find what you are looking for, which does not help those who do not know what they are looking for.” Jeanette Winterson


Diary of a Grille-Peerer

Today is August 18 in the Year of our Lord 1940. I have just come back from the London Library in Piccadilly, in the heart of the city. Naturally I was haunting the stacks, waiting, hawk-eyed, to spy one of the city’s lovable bibliophiles climb a ladder. I have always found it helps when she is wearing a skirt. Thank the Lord for browsing.

Animal Logic

I have ice cream on the brain. Literally. David Linden, a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and the author of The Accidental Mind, has this to say about our brains: “If you imagine the lizard brain as a single-scoop ice cream cone, the way you make a mouse brain out of a lizard brain isn’t to throw the cone and the first scoop away and start over and make a banana split — rather, it’s to put a second scoop on top of the first scoop.”

So that’s why I sometimes get that Ben & Jerry feeling in my gray matter.

Oh, and that lizard brain, just so the creationists out there don’t feel left out, is the part of our brain that we inherited from lizards. In the evolutionary way of things, opposed to that old geezer God meddling in the aether, when mammals like mice came along, the lizard brain got slapped together with the mouse brain (like a evolutionary sandwich with cold and hot meat). Then, when evolution turned up the wattage and apes appeared, evolution decided to do a triple-decker.

Voila, the naked lunch of the brain is served!


The Cure, Head on the Door. Possibly my favourite Cure album. And possibly more.

Jurassic 5, Quality Control.  They hip-hop and they sample like BAD.


Kraken by China Miéville. A giant squid goes missing from London’s Natural History Museum. Enter crazy cultists, an Amy Winehouse, gutter-riffing, magic-dabbling police officer, a mega-thug who’s a tattoo, a bunch of brutes who have hands for heads, an Egyptian rebel spirit that likes to hang around in kitsch toys and a statue of Newton, and enough imaginative synapses firing on overload that my own writing feels like a floppy disk in the shadow of Miéville’s CD. And he has a blog now, it seems: If you’re out there China, you know, in the hypertext, hyperlink slipstream, would you like to have a cuppa?

The Wee Bit Heap

Know that old sock by Robert Burns that goes “the best-laid schemes o mice an men” that Steinbeck nicked for his novella about dumb giant and drifter, well, it’s true. I’ve got this giant squid filled with the ink of story ideas and then, wham, bam, thank you mammary glands, but wouldn’t you know that a brand new idea’s got me by the goolies and is determined not to let go. Well, bits of it have. They are kind of like cheese curds right now and I’m not sure what they are. But they are somethin’ powerful, I tell you, something earthbuggering. And that can only mean one thing: Story in the making.