March 8th, 2010


3. Cityboy, Geraint Anderson.
The trouble with familiarity with SF, fandom and to a lesser extent geekdom (for want of a less irksome term) is that one gets so habituated to weirdness that one is very blasé, and thus a book about the excesses of the City of London doesn't really do it for me. "Coke fueled orgies? Unless people are dressing up in blue fur suits don't bother waking me". Also the City is about one thing, slicing and dicing of risk, which is ultimately not very interesting. Give me guinea pigs armed with flame-throwers any day.

4. How Low Can You Go? Round Europe for 1p Return (+ Tax) by Tom Chesshyre
A 'bloke does stuff' book. This should really be a genre with its own shelves in bookshops. In this case the bloke goes to various European cities on budget airlines. Plus one chapter where he interviews Stelios and one where he interviews Tony Juniper. His sympathies seem to be with Stelios, not surprisingly. Moderately diverting.

5. The Fit, Philip Hensher.
There are three published authors who were at St. Badger's college, University of Upminster at the same time as me that I am aware of, or 5 if you include those published by Invisible Sky Bully Fan Presses (which the list of alumni on St. Badger's website doesn't). Hensher is by far the best known. I have absolutely no recollection of him, I must admit. The novel is very slight, the first person narrator's wife leaves him, this coincides with him getting persistent hiccups, an irksome conceptual artist appears on the scene and exploits him and his family by taking lots of photos of them (including crashing his sister's wedding) and using them for a show, her hook being the dark family secret which is that one of his sisters was raped and murdered. At the end the narrator's wife returns and his hiccups stop. I understand that there is animus between Hensher and Tracy Emin, though I think Emin is the model for another conceptual artist rather than the one taking the photos. The hero is an indexer and indexing is discussed in a manner of mild whimsy which reminded me of The Intuitionist's discussion of elevators. There also seems to be a conceit that the the first person narrator has some sort of cognitive impairment e.g. his wife cures his hiccups by writing a 4 letter word beginning with L on his back, but he can't work out what it is. The book has a whimsical index which raised a couple of chuckles.

6. The Dream That Died: The Rise and Fall of ITV by Raymond Fitzwalter
The title is somewhat misleading, it is mainly a history of Granada from the early 80s, through the early 90s franchise debacle, to the mergers that lead to the formation of ITV plc, and is almost entirely about the boardroom battles etc. rather than TV programmes. I knew a lot of this, but it is well written and was one of those rare books that changes ones mind - viz you may recall me making the argument that ITV stations should have been allowed to merge earlier to allow a global champion rather than the essential wiping out of ITV as a significant force in TV production or, well, anything really. The counter argument is, of course, BL / ICL. (which is slightly unfair to ICL on some level to be fair). Having read this book however it is clear that the counter argument wins, and essentially without an implausibly different government, the hollowing out of ITV and the enrichment of the senior management would have happened anyway. The author clearly doesn't like Gerry Robinson very much :-)

7. The Columbia History of American Television ed Gary Edgerton
I probably wouldn't have bought this if I had seen it in a bookshop rather than buying it online. It would have failed the index text i.e. various things I would have expected a book on this subject to have in the index have no entries (there, we are back to indexes, a link with the Hensher). This is, I guess, some sort of academic text book though for what exactly I know what.
It is a history in chronological order and the earlier sections seemed to me to be far better than the later. On the invention of television it comes down fairly strongly in favour of electronic television as being what made television practical, and Philo T Farnsworth as being the main inventor of all electronic television. Once we get into the 60s the author seems to lose the plot somewhat and it becomes rather less insightful as to what it includes, until we get to the final section on the relationship between TV and the interwebs etc. which is frankly piss-poor.
There are a couple of promising books referenced in the footnotes that I will probably get.