Sometimes misreading book covers or spines pleases me unduly

20881485The Abominable Dan Simmons

After Dark, My Sweet Jim Thompson

Archaeologies of the Future Fredric Jameson

The Burden Agatha Christie

The Deep Peter Benchley

Demand the Impossible Tom Moylan (though I have long settled for the smart and lovely Tom Moylan)

Discipline and Punish Michel Foucault

Drown Junot Díaz (sorry, Junot!)61ktLfUzqOL

The Ecstatic Victor LaValle

Everything Belongs to the Future Laurie Penny

Farewell, My Lovely Raymond Chandler

Fifty Degrees Below Kim Stanley Robinson

The Gradual Christopher Priest

The Hollow Agatha Christie

The Hollow Man Dan Simmons

51saFZsE6RL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Human Stain Philip Roth (although he undoubtedly prefers to contemplate The Professor of Desire Philip Roth)

Leather Maiden Joe R. Lansdale (sorry, Joe, but it’s how I picture you now whenever I hear your name)

Mr Britling Sees It Through H.G. Wells

Occupy Noam Chomsky

The Peripheral William Gibson (remember when he was absolutely central?)

The Queen’s Fool Philippa Gregory

Search and Destroy Tom Clancystone

Serenade James M. Cain

Signatures of the Visible Fredric Jameson

Sixty Days and Counting Kim Stanley Robinson

Stone Adam Roberts (sorry, Adam, but at least I’m not advocating people Splinter Adam Roberts, like you’re a log, or Salt Adam Roberts like you’re some kind of slug – and of course I always really think of you as The Thing Itself)WeCanBuildYou(1stEd)

Terrorist John Updike

Together We Kill Mickey Spillane

The Transparency of Evil Jean Baudrillard (bestselling sequel to The OHP of Evil Jean Baudrillard)

We Can Build You Philip K. Dick

Guess who just spent an hour submitting a couple of reader’s reports and trying to get ‘paid’ for one of them?

A couple of days ago Steve Shaviro posted on FaceBook about the burden of doing peer review as an academic with a clear sense of responsibility and commitment to the development of the field in which he works (and he is brilliant at it – I have called on him sooooooooo many times over the years). Reading articles, book manuscripts, proposals for books and series, marshalling your thoughts, thinking about what is good and what doesn’t work, thinking of potential solutions to problems – and then writing it down carefully enough that the author is not heart-broken by your comments –  is massively time-consuming and mentally exhausting. But is what we do. It is part of our vocation, and sometimes we are even paid some token amount for our labour.

But there are things that make the whole process even more of a burden. Such as:

When the journal sends you a review form to complete but then uses a site like ManuscriptCentral which disaggregates the form into separate boxes into which you have to cut-and-paste the answers rather than just submit the form. It took a couple of times for me to stop being diligent about this. Now I just type a single character in each box and submit the form. Cos fuck ’em – I mean the publishers, not the editors or authors –  they’re already getting my labour for free. Academic publishers will find every way they can not to pay for the labour of academics.

When the publisher will only pay you in so many dollars worth of their books. This means you are selling them your labour at not merely way below minimum wage but also at effectively no cost to them. And you have to spend time scouring their minimally navigable catalogues for a handful of books that are of interest – or would make good gifts, or that you can give to a student or donate to a library or a charity shop – that add up roughly to the amount they are willing to ‘pay’.

I always order the books even if there is nothing I want, cos fuck ’em, they’re not getting my labour without at least the pretence of paying for it. And I always go a little over, cos fuck ’em, I’m certainly not going below what they’ve offered to ‘pay’.

Guess who just spent an hour submitting a couple of reader’s reports and trying to get ‘paid’ for one of them?

And guess who is turning into an angry voice in the local paper?

Fiction (and other bits of lit) I am teaching in 2017-18

515duhpnl-L._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_JG Ballard, High-Rise (1975)
Amiri Baraka, Dutchman (1964)
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1953)
Poppy Z. Brite, ‘His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood’ (1995)
Angela Carter, ‘The Company of Wolves’ (1979)
Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent (1907)
Samuel R. Delany, ‘Aye and Gomorrah’ (1967)
Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007)
Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)
Arthur Conan Doyle, ‘The Blue Carbuncle’ (1892)
Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton (1848)
William Gibson, ‘The Gernsback Continuum’ (1981)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ (1892)
Tom Godwin, ‘The Cold Equations’ (1954)
Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, ‘Little Red Cap’ (1812)
M. John Harrison, ‘The Ice Monkey’ (1980)
ETA Hoffmann, ‘The Sandman’ (1816)
Nalo Hopkinson, ‘Red Rider’ (2000)
Nalo Hopkinson, ‘Riding the Red’ (1997)
Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House (1959)
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
William Melvin Kelley, A Different Drummer (1962)
George Lamming, The Emigrants (1954)
John Ajvide Lindqvist, Let the Right One In (2004)
China Miéville, London’s Overthrow (2012)
Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)
VS Naipaul, The Mimic Men (1967)
Charles Perrault, ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ (1697)
Edgar Allan Poe, ‘The Man of the Crowd’ (1840)
Frederik Pohl, ‘Day Million’ (1966)
Jean Rhys, Voyage in the Dark (1934)
Joanna Russ, ‘When It Changed’ (1972)
George S. Schuyler, Black No More (1931)
Sam Selvon, The Lonely Londoners (1956)
Ntozake Shange, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf (1976)
Bob Shaw, ‘Light of Other Days’ (1966)
Zadie Smith, NW (2012)
Traditional, ‘The Story of Grandmother’
Virginia Woolf, ‘Street Haunting: A London Adventure’ (1927)

Films I am teaching this year

Films I am teaching in 2017-18

DeadSlowAheadAll That Heaven Allows (Sirk 1955)
Alphaville (Godard 1965)
The Apartment (Wilder 1960)
Bamako (Abderrahmane Sissako 2006)
Bicycle Thieves (De Sica 1948)
Black Mirror: ‘The Entire History of You’
Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut (Scott 1991)
Body and Soul (Micheaux 1925)
Boyz N the Hood (Singleton 1991)
The Bride of Frankenstein (Whale 1935)
Bush Mama (Gerima 1979)
Casablanca (Curtiz 1942)
Cleo from 5 to 7 (Varda 1962)
Cronos (Del Toro 1993)
Daughters of Darkness (Kumel 1971)
Daughters of the Dust (Dash 1991)
Dead Slow Ahead (Herce 2015)
Dirty Pretty Things (Frears 2002)
Do The Right Thing (Lee 1989)
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Mamoulian 1931)
The Emperor Jones (Murphy 1933)
Fast & Furious (Lin 2009)
Friday Foster (Marks 1975)
Gamer (Neveldine + Taylor 2009)
Get Out (Peele 2017)
Ginger Snaps (Fawcett 2000)
Hallelujah (Vidor 1929)
His Wooden Wedding (McCarey 1925)
I Am Legend (Lawrence 2007)
Imitation of Life (Sirk 1959)
Just Another Girl on the IRT (Harris 1992)
Killer of Sheep (Burnett 1979)
King Kong (Cooper and Schoedsack 1933)
Limbo (Sayles 1999)
The Long Good Friday (Mackenzie 1980)
Losing Ground (Collins 1982)
M (Lang 1930)
Maltese Falcon (Huston 1941)
Man with a Movie Camera (Vertov 1929)
Memento (Nolan 2000)
Modern Times (Chaplin 1936)
Moonlight (Jenkins 2016)
My Beautiful Laundrette (Frears 1985)
Nothing But a Man (Roemer 1964)
Pillow Talk (Gordon 1959)
Purlie Victorious aka Gone Are the Days (Webster 1963)
A Raisin in the Sun (Petrie 1961)
Sankofa (Gerima 1993)
Singin’ in the Rain (Kelly and Donen 1952)
Splice (Natali 2009)
The Spook Who Sat by the Door (Dixon 1973)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Abrams 2015)
Stingray Sam (Cory McAbee 2009)
Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (Van Peebles 1971)
Taxi Driver (Scorsese 1976)
The Thing (Carpenter 1982)
The Thing (from Another World) (Nyby 1951)
Under the Skin (Glazer 2013)
The Watermelon Woman (Dunye 1996)
The World, the Flesh, and the Devil (MacDougall 1959)

Plus a selection of Lumière and Méliès shorts and The Bride Retires, The Gay Shoe Clerk, The Great Train Robbery, Life of an American Fireman, Photographing a Female Crook and A Voyage to the Moon.

Plus a dozen brand-new arthouse releases selected on a weekly basis in semester 2.

Fiction I am teaching this year.

Holiday reading 3: what I read on my holiday


What I didn’t read on my holiday:


Poor Caine Mutiny has now traveled over 20,000 miles in my luggage since December and is still unread. Maybe next time.

What only got as far as Manchester because the case was too heavy when Andrea selfishly packed her stuff in it:


And, okay, the books I bought in Malta:

books2In my defence, they were both remaindered, I’ve never seen a copy of the Lotz, and the Winslow was because when we were mis-sold bus travel credit, they refused to refund but would exchange, then mis-sold us different bus travel credit but on leaving the shop we checked online what they’d straight out lied to us about, and still they refused to refund, so we bought the correct bus travel credit and then spent ages finding a bunch of things we did not really want for them to have to ring up on the till (though, that said, the Winslow sounds like a great piece of trash, and so no doubt it will find itself packed in the luggage for another trip some time. But not until I’ve finally read The Caine Mutiny).

The best and worst things about the Malta/Gozo holiday


36727174431_5d0d97ab38_zBest: The 4000 year-old mummified crocodile; the lizards, the gecko and the flying fish; the cheap buses that always run on time even though the clocks on them are always wrong; the Neolithic, Bronze Age and Phoenician sites; the ridiculously bad films introducing various sites (especially at Gozo’s citadel and the Hypogeum); the sausages, the seafood and the cheeselets.
Worst: The crazy-ass Catholic shit that rapidly goes from being ‘local colour’ to ‘oppressively ubiquitous’ without parking long enough in ‘hilarious tat’.

bearBest: The refreshing complete absence of seagulls.
Worst: The ominous complete absence of seagulls.

Best: Starting a long walk at 6.30am before the sun comes up at 7.30am and the day gets too hot.
Worst: The killer humidity from 6.30-7.30am.

Best: The ten minutes from 7.30-7.40am when the sun first comes up and burns off all the humidity.
solarisWorst: The killer heat from 7.40am onwards.

Worst: The reluctance of dog owners to clean up dog shit.
Best: The speed with which the sun dries out dog shit.

Best: The locals’ refusal to queue for buses.

When mock tudor is beyond mockery

Worst: The psychotic glee with which ex-pats and tourists abandon the practice of queuing for buses. (Seriously, when the Brits have to return to the UK after Brexit, they will threaten the very fabric of our ordered and orderly society.)

Worst: The widespread inability to move down the bus to allow more passengers to board.
Best: The road-to-Damascus light of revelation in the eyes of passengers when they finally grasp the concept of moving down the bus to allow more passengers to board.

Best: How cheap the wine is.
Worst: How far our apartment was from the off-licence.

When Malta itself…
…is not enough

Ballard’s Cinema: Notes for a Retrospective – Carry On Getting It Up (Gerald Thomas 1977)

JG-Ballard-photographed-i-006Following the disastrous performance of Carry on England (Thomas 1976), pulled from cinemas after just three days, producer Peter Rogers decided the long-running series of tepid sex comedies needed a change of direction if it was to survive.

For the 29th instalment, he turned to Jack Trevor Story, then enjoying all the notoriety a weekly Guardian column about his disastrous domestic and romantic entanglements could bring.

An occasional and peripheral figure in the British science fiction New Wave, Story rapidly produced a screenplay parodying Ballard’s High Rise (1975). Despite the scepticism of director Gerald Thomas, Rogers took the plunge, in the hope that they could cash in on the publicity for Nicolas Roeg’s official adaptation, then in production.

Kenneth Williams, in his 25th Carry On, is the only series regular to appear, albeit in little more than an extended cameo. He plays Queen, an effeminate architect presiding over a newly erected but already crumbling apartment building, while struggling to finance further ‘erections’. Elke Sommer, in her second Carry On, plays his perpetually aroused but sexually frustrated wife.

Rogers and Thomas turned to a pair of up-and-coming sex comedy stars for their leading men. Martin Shaw, so effective in LWT’s late-sixties Doctor in the House series, was ideal as the dishy doctor Prang, while Lewis Collins, briefly glimpsed in Norman Cohen’s Confessions of a Driving Instructor (1976), proved his perfect foil as the thuggish, proletarian Nobby. The two actors, however, soon fell out.


Suzanne Danielle, in a role reputedly intended for Mary Millington, plays the unnamed air hostess displaced from Prang’s bed when his sister – Judy Geeson in her second Carry On – appears. Other familiar faces in minor roles and an extended, if utterly innocuous, orgy scene, include Yute Stensgaard, Valerie Leon, Vicki Michelle, Carol Drinkwater and Koo Stark.

Carry On Getting It Up broke even in just one week, which was as long as it lasted in British cinemas before being withdrawn in the face of legal action – but not from the uncredited, and unpaid, Ballard.

Rather, Ernő Goldfinger, apparently unaware that Ballard’s Royal was partly based on him, took umbrage at being depicted as a poor architect and worse heterosexual.

Deciding not to risk a court case, Rogers suppressed the film, and immediately began work on Carry on Emmannuelle, with Kenneth Williams, a handful of series regulars and, in her first named role, Suzanne Danielle.

What – if anything – Ballard made of Carry On Getting It Up remains a mystery. We have been unable to trace any mention of it by him. We are, however, delighted to bring it back to the big screen for the first time since Morph debuted on the telly and Star Wars was a hit.

Other films in the retrospective
Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola 1979)
The Drowned World (J. Lee Thompson 1974)
The Drowned World: The Director’s Cut (J. Lee Thompson 2015)
El Dorado (BBC 1992-93; 156 episodes)
Gale Force (Val Guest 1967)
Jodorowsky’s Burning World (Frank Pavich 2013)
Track 12 (Joseph Losey 1967)