Monday, 11 January 2010

Some Good Stuff From 2009 Part 3 (Books)

The best book I read this year actually came as two books - JG Ballard: Complete Short Stories (95 to be exact, spread over two volumes). Ballard's writing can be broadly described ,as science fiction (a tag he hated), but unlike say the other worldly adventure stories of Arthur C. Clarke, Ballard was more concerned with contemporary life and what happened when the ordinariness of life became distorted. Its a Twilight Zone-ish notion to be sure, but Ballard's writing is dark, apocalyptic, prophetic. Admittedly Ballard's ideas and plots throughout the short stories can be dense and difficult (not to mention mind-bending, I'm still unsure of what exactly happened at the end of the 1962 story The Watch-Towers. Looking at the short stories more closely there is a sense that many of stories were dress rehearsals for ideas he would explore in more long form works, and throughout both volumes there are echoes and flash forwards to Crash, High Rise, Concrete Island, and in particular a short story penned in 1977, called The Dead Time could be an early discarded draft of Empire of the Sun.

The best film book I read this year, (or rather poured over) was FAB Press' follow-up/companion piece to their earlier Shock Horror. The Art Of The Nasty, which contains a huge collection of UK VHS scans, all pre-1984, before tabloid hysteria about the corrupting influence of horror and exploitation videos led to a major government crackdown and the term Video Nasty was coined. This book is an absolute joy to skim thru, and there are some truly outlaw sleeves on display (a sampling of some favorite sleeves below), produced during of halcyon period of a largely unregulated video industry. The scans are accompanied by comprehensive liner notes about each sleeve, including alternative scans for certain titles. As well as the official 39 video nasty videos, the collection also covers horror, exploitation and porno. Highly recommended !

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