Author Topic: an apology  (Read 10235 times)

ian

  • fatuously disingenuous
    • The Suburban Survival Guide
an apology
« on: June 18, 2013, 04:38:43 pm »
Recently, I committed myself to the cause of those who fight for the right to read Dan Brown books without feeling the sunburn of shame, for their right to enjoy his books without the searing prejudice of their peers. I argued that they should be allowed to submerge themselves in the effervescent silliness of Dan Brown and all that he writes, all that mattered was that they enjoyed the sensation. In effect, I was – as the Beastie Boys would have it – fighting for their right to party, and their right to party however the hell they wanted.

It has come to pass that I was wrong and I wish now to apologise profoundly and profusely for this. I did have a copy of Inferno thrust into my hands at the weekend and I attempted to read a chapter. It was like rowing through a lake made of cheese. In the end, I just couldn't. I wanted to prove myself right and read the damn thing, to put those of you who munch through those Booker nominated tomes like you're tapeworm hungry and they're bowls of mental muesii (the horrid kind that looks and tastes like rabbit dropping and sawdust, not nice sugary Alpen) in your place. To deliver a big slap in the face for historical fiction and show the world that a bit of a gung-ho popularism was good old fashioned dirty fun, like mud-wrestling in your underpants while listening to seventies disco. Boy, what was I thinking. I was, in philosophical terms, talking giant horse bollocks.

I'll cling to a few tenuous elements of my thesis, like a man trying not to drown in his own self-created ocean of stupidity. All those reviews of the book where the reviewer oh-so-wittily parodied the man himself aren't funny, but that's because Dan selflessly puts himself beyond the bounds of parody. It's like he's discovered how to move faster than the speed of light. The critics and reviewers will never catch him. There's possibly nothing that can reach him. Reading Inferno is like someone has dropped a turd into the LHC, pushed all the dials to eleven to accelerate their brown bomb beyond the bounds of known physics, and they're using your brain as the collider target.

In short, I feel dirty and bad. Please accept my apologies and do not touch this book.

(I suppose what brought this in focus was that I'm re-reading John Connolly's series of Charlie Parker thrillers which really show you how a labyrinthine, dark and gothic plot should be managed, and despite the darkness are so luminously written.)
!nataS pihsroW

Re: an apology
« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2013, 04:42:21 pm »
 ;D

Have you tried reading Twilight?
Have you seen my blog? It has words. And pictures! http://ablogofallthingskathy.blogspot.com/

Re: an apology
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2013, 04:43:00 pm »
On a related note I've read some shit books (fiction) concerning computers (I should know better) but nothing, nothing, comes close to how dire Digital Fortress is. At least I took the turd less trodden when it comes to Dan Brown books.
"Yes please" said Squirrel "biscuits are our favourite things."

Euan Uzami

Re: an apology
« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2013, 04:52:06 pm »
;D
But WHY is it shit?
Is there no plot, or is it that there is a plot but it is just written in such a simplistic, cringeworthy, childlike writing style that it mars your appreciation of it?
Because that's what I like - I'm quite thick when it comes to novels, I don't understand 'reading between the lines', metaphors, subtlety, nuance, having to work out what's implicitly going on, etc. I need "he did this and then this happened and then the situation was like this". Stylistic writing just washes straight over my head.
I've not read the latest one but intend to when I get round to it: as yet, you've not yet managed to convince me why I should give it a miss.
Just in the same way an election campaign sounds perfectly reasonable, but you can't find any reason FOR voting for the party - your negative review of Dan Brown makes sense, but I can't find any reason why I wouldn't enjoy it. In fact, you seem like a fairly clever, literature-appreciating kind of guy - and you hate it, so I, being basically a mouth breather when it comes to literature appreciation, will probably love it.
Which could be what a lot of people think on reading the professional reviews - and then go on to buy it, which could explain why Dan Brown's so rich?

Eccentrica Gallumbits

  • Rock 'n' roll and brew, rock 'n' roll and brew...
Re: an apology
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2013, 04:54:53 pm »
Nothing would make me happier than ian and Mr Larrington reading the whole Twilight series and reviewing them here. In fact, if I win Euromillions this week I will pay each of them a million quid for every Twilight book they read and review.
My feminist marxist dialectic brings all the boys to the yard.


Re: an apology
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2013, 05:20:28 pm »
I'm reading it.  The use of italics and the ellipsis is as pervasive as ever.  He makes a grammatical joke which indicates he doesn't understand grammar.  It is stunningly formulaic, if you've read the DVC and A&D.

Basically he's talentless but got very lucky.
Never tell me the odds.

Re: an apology
« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2013, 05:31:35 pm »
;D
But WHY is it shit?
Is there no plot, or is it that there is a plot but it is just written in such a simplistic, cringeworthy, childlike writing style that it mars your appreciation of it?
Because that's what I like - I'm quite thick when it comes to novels, I don't understand 'reading between the lines', metaphors, subtlety, nuance, having to work out what's implicitly going on, etc. I need "he did this and then this happened and then the situation was like this". Stylistic writing just washes straight over my head.

No there is plot and if the writing was simplistic and childlike it would be a lot better. The point is he doesn't keep it lean, mean and simple it's positively baroque with superfluous descriptions of things that have no bearing on character or moving the story along.  He fills sentences with metaphors and similes that simply don't work. You could remove 50% of the words in any of his books and they would read better.
I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that.

Julian

  • samoture
Re: an apology
« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2013, 05:36:54 pm »
^ Yebbut I'd say the same about Dickens.

Re: an apology
« Reply #8 on: June 18, 2013, 05:39:59 pm »
^ Yebbut I'd say the same about Dickens.

Dickens could certainly be edited but at least his prose works and I guess he was being paid by the word (his stuff was originally serialized in magazines) so at least he had an excuse :)
I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that.

Jakob

Re: an apology
« Reply #9 on: June 18, 2013, 05:48:18 pm »
Basically he's talentless but got very lucky.

I disagree with that. That's like claiming George Lucas was just lucky.  He has a talent for coming up with stories.

Also, my wife who barely reads any English language books, will read his books, as she finds them easy to read, so regardless of what we think of the quality of his writings, they clearly appeal to a market that wouldn't normally read that much....and that can't be a bad thing.

Mr Larrington

  • A bit ov a lyv wyr by slof standirds
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Re: an apology
« Reply #10 on: June 18, 2013, 07:04:06 pm »
^ Yebbut I'd say the same about Dickens.

Dickens could certainly be edited but at least his prose works and I guess he was being paid by the word (his stuff was originally serialized in magazines) so at least he had an excuse :)

Some writer of Western pulp fiction1 - I forget who but he was paid by the word - used to draw out the final gunfight as long as possible.  Every time he wrote "BANG!" he got another cent, and back in the Thirties two "BANG!"s woul buy you a newspaper.

Nothing would make me happier than ian and Mr Larrington reading the whole Twilight series and reviewing them here. In fact, if I win Euromillions this week I will pay each of them a million quid for every Twilight book they read and review.

I suspect I'd rather eat a razor-blade casserole with fava beans and a fine Chianti than read the Twiglet series, but there is a distinct possibility I might shortly finding myself needing the money >:(

1 - No, cowboys and outlaws, you fools ;D
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Re: an apology
« Reply #11 on: June 18, 2013, 11:27:35 pm »
I for one admit to being jealous of Dan Brown's success.

All I've learnt about Opus Dei, Free Masons and the Knights Templar, I've learnt from his novels. All of you knockers are in the pay of the illuminati


Wowbagger

  • Dez's butler
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Re: an apology
« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2013, 11:58:45 pm »
You will not be surprised to learn that not only have I never read anything by Dan Brown but also that I have learned of his existence as a writer of poor fiction solely as a result of this thread.
Oh, Bach without any doubt. Bach every time for me.

her_welshness

  • Slut of a librarian
    • Lewisham Cyclists
Re: an apology
« Reply #13 on: June 19, 2013, 10:24:06 am »
The reasons that Dan Brown's books are so shit:

1. Because he likes to talk down to his audience. It is honestly like being in a room listening to your patronising tutor, going on and on.

2. His books turn people into gullible idiots. 'Well there is a lot of truth in what he is saying' opined one colleague. NOOOOOOOO!

3. His characters are extremely two-dimensional.

If you want to read some proper rumbunctious thrillers than the Bernie Gunter books by Philip Kerr will do you good.

Euan Uzami

Re: an apology
« Reply #14 on: June 19, 2013, 10:48:09 am »
The reasons that Dan Brown's books are so shit:

1. Because he likes to talk down to his audience. It is honestly like being in a room listening to your patronising tutor, going on and on.

2. His books turn people into gullible idiots. 'Well there is a lot of truth in what he is saying' opined one colleague. NOOOOOOOO!

3. His characters are extremely two-dimensional.

If you want to read some proper rumbunctious thrillers than the Bernie Gunter books by Philip Kerr will do you good.

Yeah but the problem with books like that is they use daft, long, incomprehensible words - lke 'rumbunctious'. ;)

Re: an apology
« Reply #15 on: June 19, 2013, 11:20:59 am »
Read Raymond Chandler then. Or Alastair Maclean, Dick Francis, Desmond Bagley etc. Nicholas Monsarrat can manage a hell of a story without making it difficult to read or being pretentious.

Plenty of decent writers out there.

*everyone* should read Raymond. He just about invented simple, clear storytelling



<i>Marmite slave</i>

mattc

  • n.b. have grown beard since photo taken
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Re: an apology
« Reply #16 on: June 19, 2013, 11:42:08 am »
Read Raymond Chandler then. Or Alastair Maclean, Dick Francis, Desmond Bagley etc. Nicholas Monsarrat can manage a hell of a story without making it difficult to read or being pretentious.

Plenty of decent writers out there.

*everyone* should read Raymond. He just about invented simple, clear storytelling
+1

But Ben should really just go and read the bloody things, if he cares so little for the opinions here. And give us a clear non-pretentious review.

Easy to find copies - the charity shops are stuffed with Dan Brown.
Has never ridden RAAM
---------
No.11  Because of the great host of those who dislike the least appearance of "swank " when they travel the roads and lanes. - From Kuklos' 39 Articles

Re: an apology
« Reply #17 on: June 19, 2013, 12:11:22 pm »
;D
But WHY is it shit?
Is there no plot, or is it that there is a plot but it is just written in such a simplistic, cringeworthy, childlike writing style that it mars your appreciation of it?
Because that's what I like - I'm quite thick when it comes to novels, I don't understand 'reading between the lines', metaphors, subtlety, nuance, having to work out what's implicitly going on, etc. I need "he did this and then this happened and then the situation was like this". Stylistic writing just washes straight over my head.
I have read & enjoyed many books & stories written in a simple, straightforward,  metaphor-free, even childlike, style. There is nothing wrong with it. Indeed, I find simplicity in writing very attractive. See mrcharly's list for a few of the many writers who have done it well.

That is not Dan Brown. I've looked (until my brain hurt, which means very briefly) into one of Dan Brown's books. The style is crap.
"A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Type-Writer Girl, 1897

Euan Uzami

Re: an apology
« Reply #18 on: June 19, 2013, 02:14:49 pm »
;D
But WHY is it shit?
Is there no plot, or is it that there is a plot but it is just written in such a simplistic, cringeworthy, childlike writing style that it mars your appreciation of it?
Because that's what I like - I'm quite thick when it comes to novels, I don't understand 'reading between the lines', metaphors, subtlety, nuance, having to work out what's implicitly going on, etc. I need "he did this and then this happened and then the situation was like this". Stylistic writing just washes straight over my head.
I have read & enjoyed many books & stories written in a simple, straightforward,  metaphor-free, even childlike, style. There is nothing wrong with it. Indeed, I find simplicity in writing very attractive. See mrcharly's list for a few of the many writers who have done it well.

That is not Dan Brown. I've looked (until my brain hurt, which means very briefly) into one of Dan Brown's books. The style is crap.

Excellent, thanks - that's made the decision very easy for me, I'm going to buy it for my kindle and read it over the weekend.
'Not liked by people who want "style"' usually == 'nice and easy to read'.

Question, is the latest Dan Brown book along the same lines as the others?
Better, worse?


barakta

  • Bastard lovechild of Yomiko Readman and Johnny 5
Re: an apology
« Reply #19 on: June 19, 2013, 03:03:38 pm »
^ Yebbut I'd say the same about Dickens.

Like eating a packet of dry crackers for years on end...

ian

  • fatuously disingenuous
    • The Suburban Survival Guide
Re: an apology
« Reply #20 on: June 19, 2013, 03:04:40 pm »
;D
But WHY is it shit?

So, to shit, and why Inferno is so precisely brown and noisome.

I'm not the clever and erudite thing you believe. It's true, I once dabbled in the world of literature, until one fateful day – part way through the labour that is Finnegans Wake (it doesn't have an apostrophe you know, all clever people do) – I had a small epiphany. Not a big neon Jesus epiphany, well not unless Jesus was the small sparkly elf as portrayed in the apocryphal Book of Kevin, but enough of an epiphany to bring me to a literal halt and to contemplate just why the hell I was bothering with the slog. So, I put Finnegan in my wake and suddenly a weight lifted, like my very soul had taken a big draft of helium and was about to make one of those squeaky comedy pizza orders. At this point, some men – mostly those men destined to be caped crusaders (and despite the predilection towards tights, it generally is men, make of that what you will) – would have taken the life opportunity offered and maybe retreated to a monastery in highest Nepal to learn martial art skills and moody looks, but my calling was different, so instead I headed to Pizza Hut and spent a while wondering just how much processed cheese they could infect a small piece of bread with, and whether it would be better to just embed the bread inside a block of cheese and be done with it. Who wants bread when you can have cheese. That became my philosophy. That's what the stuffed crust taught me. There's cheese and there's death. Choose cheese.

So to Mr Brown. From past readings (and I did read the Da Vinci Code), I figured that he could hammer together enough plot to hold together a plausible story, it's admittedly the shonky shed of storytelling, the kind of thing that'll hold up for the spare hour or two in an airport lounge or the on beach. It's there, it should do the the job, and given enough pace, it should hold together. It's not going to be standing in a few weeks. Cheese is there to be eaten, not admired.

Oh, you're going to demand specifics. The writing is easy to pick on, it's the small kid with the peculiar odour and jam-jar thick glasses. The prose dies on the page, right in front of you. You want to call someone but you know it's too late. Defibrillation would be futile. It's like the words have turned up out of some vague sense of obligation, after all he gave them a job last time, but they would rather be somewhere else. You can almost sense them sneaking off, they've heard there's a better book over there. There undoubtedly is. He insists on simply telling you things. The lead character is in the hospital when a doctor walks in. She has the assertive gait of an athlete. She's just walked into a hospital room, not pole vaulted in. Her eyes, though a gentle brown, seemed unusually penetrating, as if they had witnessed a profundity of experience rarely encountered by a person her age. Seriously, someone wrote that sentence. Editors read it. Proofreaders skimmed over it. Someone printed it. At no point from the conception to the printing of that sentence did a single person utter the word 'uh?' That assertive gait of an athlete probably came in handy a few entire pages later when she was running from the leather clad, spiky haired, motorbike-riding assassin. If you can get past the recently deceased prose, it's like being beaten about the head with the cold, dead haddock of cliché.

And mostly because there is no pace. That was the one thing that might have carried it. It proceeds with all the dramatic tension of someone reciting the alphabet. The chapters are short and episodic, even if the writing could carry it, there's not even the space for tension to develop. No tension equals no pace. It has all the tension of the gusset of a ten-year-old pair of y-fronts. A book should grab you and carry you along. It doesn't have to be fantastic writing, and as someone who's trying to write a novel (well, two), I'm pretty impressed just by the act of holding a story together for a few hundred thousand words. It's a marathon. Sure, some people run a marathon like it's a race, others do it dressed as a giant chicken. They finish and that's the important thing. It's the achievement and the fact that you've been taken along for the ride. So what if that was on the back of a giant, sweating chicken.

I don't get on with proper literature these days, I can't abide the hothouse I've-done-a-creative-writing-course prose that's so beloved of the literati, but writing should have some fizz. It doesn't have to be a riot of adjectives, no one needs to kettle those restive adverbs, it just has to tell a story and make you interested in that story. And that failing is why Inferno is big, brown, and smelly. Flush it for your own good.

Did someone mention Twilight?
!nataS pihsroW

Re: an apology
« Reply #21 on: June 19, 2013, 03:20:46 pm »
Twiglight is a lot, lot better than anything by DB

It is perfect for the audience. It's teen-girl vampire romance fic, do you really expect something deep and meaningful? 
<i>Marmite slave</i>

Euan Uzami

Re: an apology
« Reply #22 on: June 19, 2013, 03:31:46 pm »
I'm not the clever and erudite thing you believe. It's true, I once dabbled in the world of literature, until one fateful day – part way through the labour that is Finnegans Wake (it doesn't have an apostrophe you know, all clever people do) – I had a small epiphany. Not a big neon Jesus epiphany, well not unless Jesus was the small sparkly elf as portrayed in the apocryphal Book of Kevin, but enough of an epiphany to bring me to a literal halt and to contemplate just why the hell I was bothering with the slog. So, I put Finnegan in my wake and suddenly a weight lifted, like my very soul had taken a big draft of helium and was about to make one of those squeaky comedy pizza orders. At this point, some men – mostly those men destined to be caped crusaders (and despite the predilection towards tights, it generally is men, make of that what you will) – would have taken the life opportunity offered and maybe retreated to a monastery in highest Nepal to learn martial art skills and moody looks, but my calling was different, so instead I headed to Pizza Hut and spent a while wondering just how much processed cheese they could infect a small piece of bread with, and whether it would be better to just embed the bread inside a block of cheese and be done with it. Who wants bread when you can have cheese. That became my philosophy. That's what the stuffed crust taught me. There's cheese and there's death. Choose cheese.

Don't understand this at all. This paragraph is a perfect example of what most 'good' books read like to me: completely incomprehensible due to being full of metaphors. What has cheese, Nepal, or men in tights got to do with anything? And who are Kevin and Finnegan - when were those characters introduced?

So to Mr Brown. From past readings (and I did read the Da Vinci Code), I figured that he could hammer together enough plot to hold together a plausible story, it's admittedly the shonky shed of storytelling, the kind of thing that'll hold up for the spare hour or two in an airport lounge or the on beach. It's there, it should do the the job, and given enough pace, it should hold together. It's not going to be standing in a few weeks. Cheese is there to be eaten, not admired.

OK... but still not sure what cheese has to do with anything.

Oh, you're going to demand specifics. The writing is easy to pick on, it's the small kid with the peculiar odour and jam-jar thick glasses. The prose dies on the page, right in front of you. You want to call someone but you know it's too late. Defibrillation would be futile. It's like the words have turned up out of some vague sense of obligation, after all he gave them a job last time, but they would rather be somewhere else. You can almost sense them sneaking off, they've heard there's a better book over there. There undoubtedly is. He insists on simply telling you things.

Great! That's what I want! I want a story, not a cryptic puzzle I have to figure out. If I want a cryptic puzzle I need to figure out, I'll buy a crossword, not a fiction book.


Quote
The lead character is in the hospital when a doctor walks in. She has the assertive gait of an athlete. She's just walked into a hospital room, not pole vaulted in.

What's wrong with that? I would take that to mean the gait that an athlete walks with when they're merely walking, not when they're actually doing athletics.

Quote
Her eyes, though a gentle brown, seemed unusually penetrating, as if they had witnessed a profundity of experience rarely encountered by a person her age.
I understand what that means - I'm not really sure what's wrong with that. It means what it says. It's not cryptic in the slightest.
How would you prefer her eyes to have been described?

THe thing about it is it forces an image into your mind of what it is like. So it's like watching a film. I guess you obviously don't like that and would rather it be left to your imagination, but it's not necessarily a bad style, just not to everyone's tastes.
Crypticness isn't to my tastes, but it doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad style.

Quote
And mostly because there is no pace. That was the one thing that might have carried it. It proceeds with all the dramatic tension of someone reciting the alphabet. The chapters are short and episodic, even if the writing could carry it, there's not even the space for tension to develop. No tension equals no pace. It has all the tension of the gusset of a ten-year-old pair of y-fronts. A book should grab you and carry you along. It doesn't have to be fantastic writing, and as someone who's trying to write a novel (well, two), I'm pretty impressed just by the act of holding a story together for a few hundred thousand words. It's a marathon. Sure, some people run a marathon like it's a race, others do it dressed as a giant chicken. They finish and that's the important thing. It's the achievement and the fact that you've been taken along for the ride. So what if that was on the back of a giant, sweating chicken.
...
I don't get on with proper literature these days, I can't abide the hothouse I've-done-a-creative-writing-course prose that's so beloved of the literati, but writing should have some fizz. It doesn't have to be a riot of adjectives, no one needs to kettle those restive adverbs, it just has to tell a story and make you interested in that story. And that failing is why Inferno is big, brown, and smelly. Flush it for your own good.

But don't you want to know what happens next? Surely you must have wanted to know what happens next, otherwise you wouldn't have finished it.


Twiglight is a lot, lot better than anything by DB

It is perfect for the audience. It's teen-girl vampire romance fic, do you really expect something deep and meaningful? 

Can't speak for anybody else but personally I only really like books and films I can relate to - so that usually has to mean it has to be physically possible (which rules out most superhero/fantasy type stuff), takes place in the present day, and ideally in Britain.

ian

  • fatuously disingenuous
    • The Suburban Survival Guide
Re: an apology
« Reply #23 on: June 19, 2013, 07:46:22 pm »
No worries Ben T, you don't need to justify your reading preferences to me. Go on, dive right in. Just remember, like in the sea off an English seaside resort, you may find yourself head-butting a turd. I was merely taking the opportunity to correct my previous supportive comments, having now had the dubious benefit of reading the first few chapters. Hoist with my own petard, indeed. Of course, Inferno could possibly have roared into flame after I gave up. I'm content never to find out.

A few comments, if I may, because I may as well get something out of my lost fifteen minutes of Dan Brown.

The problem with his simply telling you things is that they have no context. It's stodgy, omnipresent narration. Rather than let characters develop, he drops facts on them like little bombs. It may as well be a shopping list of handy character facts. A man is fat. Pigs are pink. A woman is tall. Why at the point of a doctor appearing in the doorway do I need to know she has the assertive gait of a athlete? Not only is a pig ugly clanger of a phrase, what's relevance does it have at that point? At this stage, she's just a doctor, standing in the door. OK, DB lore will have it that she'll shortly be in tow of our hero, running breathlessly through the tour guide landscapes of Italy, chased by leather clad assassins or crazed monk assassins. Some flavour of assassin anyway. But that's leaping ahead. If it was occasional, this kind of fact might add colour, but he shovels them out like he's digging to reach buried treasure.

As for other things: what exactly is unusually penetrating. People can, I'm sure, have a penetrating stare. It's a bit of a cliché, but a reader will know that's intense. But unusually so? Is there a usual penetrating stare? Is this unusually penetrating stare a gift of the fact that she has brown eyes. Can blue-eyed people (burn em!) have equally penetrating stares? And, really, gaze into someone eyes (probably best to ask their permission first, especially if you're planning to try this out on the Tube) and let me know how you tell by gazing into those eyes if they [have] witnessed a profundity of experience rarely encountered by a person [their] age. What is the precise level of profundity of experience for a given age? Is there a profundity scale? An ISO standard of profundity calibrated by age? I'll give you a clue, you can't. It's a senseless phrase unless she's the sort of mad starer most usually found mumbling at the back of a night bus through Elephant & Castle. In which case it's the kind of profundity earned through the mixed media of psychotropic drugs and White Lightening cider. I don't think he meant that.

Horses for courses, I suppose. If he really wanted to demonstrate she had acquired had some kind of profundity of experience (oh what a phrase), perhaps he could have done so via some interaction, perhaps a hint of backstory, rather than merely divining it from the depths of her penetrating stare.

I'm not explaining cheese or men in tights to you. These are things best learned through experience.
!nataS pihsroW

mattc

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Re: an apology
« Reply #24 on: June 19, 2013, 08:04:43 pm »
After reading Ben's incisive review of Ian's latest work, I am keen to read more of his stuff.

[This might be a reckless way to select my bedtime reading, but Ian's stuff is all free, so what the hell.]
Has never ridden RAAM
---------
No.11  Because of the great host of those who dislike the least appearance of "swank " when they travel the roads and lanes. - From Kuklos' 39 Articles