Archive for ‘dublin’

April 24, 2011

Julian Gough, Jude: Level 1

My most recent Left of Cool piece gushes rather embarrassingly about Julian Gough’s Jude: Level 1. A couple of things:

I was in Jaisalmer for a few days last year and rode a camel for the first time in many years. One thing I learnt on this eventful ride (it involved a thunderstorm, the village of the children of the damned, and some very dubious gin) was that to ride a camel is basically to perform a series of pelvic thrusts. I am not sure how much research Mr Gough did for this book, but the sex scene atop a camel strikes me as almost plausible.
The stealing of Will Self’s pig is in itself a brilliant act, but I wonder if I should not have mentioned it here. Gough’s book is good enough to stand on its own and the author should not have to stand in the shadow of his own felonious awesomeness forever. Still, here’s a link to a video of it.
Edited version below.

“If I had urinated immediately after breakfast, the Mob would never have burnt down the Orphanage.” Julian Gough’s Jude: Level 1 manages an opening line that is bound to become a part of literary history. With luck it will lead at least some people to read this excellent book.

Julian Gough is an Irish novelist as well as the singer and lyricist for the group Toasted Heretic. Activities for which he has been famous in recent years include an attack on fellow Irish writers for failing to engage with modern Ireland (2010) and rather magnificently (and Wodehouseishly) stealing Will Self’s pig (2008). The pig in question was a Gloucester Old Spot, the prize awarded every year to the winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse prize for comic writing. Jude: Level 1 had appeared on the shortlist that year, and had lost out to Self’s The Butt.

The plot is simple enough. At the age of eighteen Jude unwittingly causes the destruction of the orphanage (located in Tipperary, Ireland) where he grew up. In the process a valuable letter that might contain the secret of his parentage is destroyed. Jude travels first to Galway, then Dublin, spreading chaos and destruction in his wake.

Jude: Level 1 is a picaresque novel, with a title character who feels rather like a Don Quixote. Jude is a hapless innocent who falls unknowingly into adventure wherever he goes. In the course of his travels across Ireland he blows up a building, leads a group of anarchists to bloody revolution, is mistaken for Stephen Hawking, has plastic surgery to make himself look like Leonardo DiCaprio and (in unusual circumstances) obtains a second penis in place of his nose. He also falls in love, and spends a large part of the novel trying to locate the love of his life; a quest that leads him from fast food restaurants into the depths of Ann Summers and finally across the sea.

Humour can be difficult to sustain and Jude: Level 1 occasionally grates. The journey to Galway at the end of the first section and the long (long) pursuit of Angela across Dublin in the third can get particularly tedious, particularly if one attempts to read the whole thing at one go. But it’s hard to imagine why any reader would: there is so much to savour.

An extended joke about Apple products allows also for a Biblical gag that is terrible and wonderful at the same time. One scene, in which Jude loses his virginity on a galloping camel while leading a revolutionary army, would itself be a good enough reason to read this book even if the rest of it were terrible.

It isn’t all just silliness, however. Jude: Level 1 is a satire, and quite a serious one. It takes for its target a number of the features of Celtic Tiger era Ireland; its economy, its relationship with Europe, its relationship with England and with its own past, the role of the church, and so on. This may perhaps make the books a little less accessible than they would otherwise be – to a reader completely unfamiliar with the country’s history and politics things like the Charlie Haughey cameo and the references to Eamon de Valera might be meaningless. Yet humour throws up strange similarities across countries. I defy any Indian reader to read the account of a Fianna Fáil political rally at the beginning of the book and not find it both familiar and hilarious.

The promised sequel (to be set in England) still has not appeared, though I am trusting that it eventually will. But sequel or not, Jude: Level 1 is a ridiculous, brilliant piece of writing. Had I read it in 2008, I too would have been tempted to steal Will Self’s pig.


December 31, 2009


I began this year with a picture of an inflatable giraffe.

Things I did this year:
- Wrote a thesis.
- Obtained a new degree.
- Obtained paid full time employment.
- Visited three countries in one day.
- Accumulated five crates of books (Dublin) and …some more books (Delhi).
I also discovered:
- The romance novel.
- That Dublin is full of amazing people
- …and so is Delhi.
And in conclusion:
Baby donkeys are ridiculously adorable.
(from here)
I hope that everyone reading this has a good time tonight and a wonderful 2010.
November 11, 2009

Bread And

Poster seen in various places around Dublin

(click to embiggen)

But wait? What is that bit of text at the bottom?

“Acrobats, Dogs, Kangaroos, Emus, Horses African Zulus & much much more…..”

Ah. Well that…makes sense? What is this thing, does anyone know?

October 20, 2009

Mother tongues

By now it feels like about half of the people in this city have congratulated me on how well I speak English, and I have gotten very good at smiling through gritted teeth. So really, I can do nothing better that quote from this mad/awesome/explosive interview with Ashok Banker at the World SF News blog.

I’ve met this particular cultural bogey before and it remains as unfunny as ever! My mother tongue was English, not Hindi, and in fact, there are more English-speaking people in India than in the US [...] I grew up speaking only English, learned Hindi only later in school because it was a compulsory subject (as were either Marathi or French – I took French), and English remains the only language I’m completely fluent in even today.

(I picked French too, after a year of Sanskrit established that I was completely useless at it).

September 14, 2009

Via various people, I love this ad.

August 31, 2009

Toilet humour

Samuel Beckett estate, you have made me sad.

I came to Beckett in the most unliterary of ways. I was fifteen, there was a boy, he was older than me and probably very, very pretentious. And I wanted to know what had excited him so much and I read Company, then some of the shorter plays, and it went on from there. At seventeen I thought the fart-counting in Molloy was hilarious and got raised eyebrows from friends. In college I writhed in a back bench when gloomy classmates whined about the depressingness of Waiting for Godot which I had finally read, a few years after I’d started reading the man’s work.

There’s a wonderful introduction by Salman Rushdie (who I love most when he’s talking about other writers he loves) in one of the Grove Centenary Beckett collections that expresses a lot of what I feel for this writer. Here’s a bit:

Death was as you might say still a word in a book to me. I had not at that time washed my father’s short, heavy corpse or murmured a farewell to the open-mouthed body of the first woman I ever loved or wept tears of rage when I was denied by circumstance the right to stand beside my mother’s grave. Consequently, I still felt immortal, and immortals deal differently with the subject of mortality, knowing themselves to be immune from that strange, incurable affliction. Thus, when as a young man I first faced these texts that deal so intensely with the matter of our common ending, which Henry James had called the Distinguished Thing but which, in Beckett, is always grubbily undistinguished, a bleak prat-falling business made up of flatulence, impotence and humiliation, I experienced the books, their ferocious hurling at death of immense slabs of undifferentiated prose, as essentially fabulous, fantastic tales told by the voices of antic ghosts. I experienced them, in sum, as comedies, and so they are, they are comedies, but not of the sort I then imagined them to be, darker, and, yes, even heroic, for all that comedy scoffs at heroes, pulls down their drawers and pushes custard pie into their faces, still there remains, in the comedy of these broken, scrabbling personages, a stale whiff of odorous heroism. Some of this I when green in judgement only half perceived or neglected entirely to grasp. However, in failing to respond glumly to an oeuvre that wears glumness like a favourite unwashed shirt, I got something half right, at least.

I’m 23, and I suspect that over the next howeversomany decades my way of reading Beckett is going to change too. And that’s fine. Because I’ve always felt welcomed by his work; it has never situated itself above me. And that is at least partly because it’s never been on its dignity with me. The slapstick, the toilet humour, the banana peels; they’re important .

I know that the technical aspects of the plays are vital as well, and that Beckett himself did not like even minor deviations from his directions in productions with which he was involved. And I don’t blame him. But I can’t imagine that the man who wrote Murphy (whose main character wants his ashes flushed down a toilet – the novel ends instead with them scattered on a pub floor “with the sand, the beer, the butts, the glass, the matches, the spits, the vomit”) would be particularly bothered by this version of his play.

[Fun fact: On the evening I first heard about this story I discovered "wait for me Godot!" scrawled on the inside of a pub toilet wall. Positively copasetic.]

May 21, 2009

And the fifth sign shall be sweetened popcorn

People tend not to give me religious tracts. I’m not entirely sure why – perhaps they don’t like what they hear of my conversation as I walk down a street; perhaps I don’t look like the sort of person they want in their religion; perhaps I am actually invisible. But on tuesday as I walked to college a man at a street corner handed me this, and I took it.

Unlike many other religious tracts, this one merely lays out the totally scientific evidence for you, the reader, to put together.

The first page tells the story of a reckless driver who refuses to listen to warnings on the car radio about a collapsed bridge because he is too busy listening to the sports news. His car plunges into the water and he dies. (This is a metaphor).

A long list of signs and warnings that are being ignored follows. This includes violence, rape, terrorism, AIDS, and the like. However, the really convincing argument for the coming apocalypse?

By the way, this mad rush was foretold by Daniel 2,500 years ago, as evidence of “THE TIME OF THE END” (Dan 12:4); “Many shall run (rush) to and fro”.
“The travel industry is now the biggest industry in the world.

Other problems

Sex Manipulation: “For this and some sort of sex manipulation taking place between fallen angels and women in Noah’s day, God’s judgement was to wipe them all off with a flood, except Noah and his family who trusted in Him. Weird experiments that are taking place today.

Mice: (As a part of the Animal-Human Hybrid section) “Inside their brains are living human neurons that help them to see, hear and think”.

Gay people: (This is a long section, encompassing most of the booklet)

New York got a powerful warning in the destruction of the Twin Towers, but this was wirth the hands of evil men, but I think a judgement on the extremely perverting influence flowing out of Hollywood and San Francisco could be a mighty earthquake and tsunami to hit the West coast of the USA. but not at all limited to that area.

Sex teaching in schools is fanning the fires of passion in young people. A report in Newsweek says “They have gay assemblies, with speakers extolling the virtues of gayhood”, and go on to say how gay pop idols “Help promote experimentation among teenagers. Kids today are willing to try just about anything”.

…talented and professional people are often involved. Playing a leading part in this is the increasing Occult and Satanic activity, promoted and fanned on by the Internet and similar electronic devices.

There is no account of Homosexual or Lesbian marriage in Sodom, yet suddenly now hundreds of thousands of couples are lining up to take vows and go through a ceremony which, until how, has been the right of a man and woman only.

AIDS + tourism: “It began with the Homosexuals and by illicit sex spread to the Heterosexuals too, so that the increasingly rapid world travel adds to the increasingly rapid spread of AIDS.

The Church, now the laughing stock of demons: “Instead of boldly proclaiming what God says about this, they are ordaining practising homosexual men and women to the highest offices in the churches and helping promote the cause of the Antichrist religions which are aggressively aiming to take over these Christianized lands.
An apologetic, compromising Church must be the laughing stock of demons and scornful men, and to the Lord Himself it must be as he said of the Church in Laodicea, “Because you are lukewarm, I will spue you out of my mouth“.

The Mark: “The long talked-of MARK has been developing in unexpected ways and could soon become universal REALITY. Don’t be fearful, but be careful what you sign.

Global Warming: I wasn’t aware that this was still an issue, what with the sudden rise in piracy. It is clear that pastafarianism is an Antichrist Religion.

Yet with all this, there is hope. The writer (a representative of End Time Ministries, located in Kilkenny) wants to be saved, and he hopes you will be too.

May 12, 2009

Random Dublin

April 5, 2009

Exciting things that I have learnt in Dublin

There are many seagulls in this place. They spend inordinate amounts of time hanging around college, much as the pigeons used to do at school and at my former college (except without the loud pigeon sex and the phenomenal amounts of excreta). Occasionally they walk about on the lawns.

It was only a few months ago that I realised that they rarely stand still. Throughout the winter (I wondered if their feet were cold, but they’re still doing it) whenever they were on the ground they were constantly moving their feet so that one was always in the air. I don’t know why this is (and I hope someone who understands seagulls will tell me in the comments) but they look like they’re tapdancing. Are they? What gives, feathered tribe?

April 4, 2009

Homesickness (or the Return of Project Objectify)

I miss cricket. I miss watching it at home, hearing other people’s radios talking about it, going out and seeing it as the default on restaurant TVs.

On Friday morning on my way to college the bus stopped at a red light near a school. Kids in blue and white uniforms were playing cricket in the grounds, and I noticed the man sitting in front of me watching and grinning. It was actually really tempting to grab his shoulder and demand to know why he was smiling and did he like cricket and did he play. I did none of these – it’s alarming to be grabbed by random strangers on the bus.

Lack of television, etc. have not blinded me, however, to something I noticed over the Christmas holidays while I was staying with family who did have TV.

J.P Duminy. Pretty.


Also, A.B de Villiers. I cannot imagine why I have paid such little attention to South African cricket.

(Edit: Blogger is still running on Delhi time, and I’m quite a few time zones behind it. I wrote this on the evening of the 4th!)