The price of second-hand books seems to have fallen in Brighton. On my last trip I picked up some good books including The Secret State, The Manual of Detection and a volume of Eldridge Cleaver speeches, all for two pounds each.
I also picked up a copy of Toby Litt's i play the drums in a band called Okay. I'd read a couple of the chapters as short stories so thought I would give the book a try, although books about rock bands are generally disappointing. This turned out to be a lovely novel. It's written as a rockstar's autobiography and makes an episodic sweep across his life. The book's origin as disconnected short stories works well. In fact, it's arguable that the book is actually a short stort collection – but, if it is, then it's one of those rare collections where the selection and sequencing make the stories far stronger.
Another cheap book I picked up recently was Warren Ellis's Crooked Little Vein. I'd expected this to be entertaining but I've been surprised at how much it's made me think. The book explodes with ideas like godzilla bukkake / macroherpetophiles, Aaron Sorkin as a CIA plant, saline infusion, the ethics of human/canine relationships and the meaning of America. But the book also has some interesting things to say about what the Internet means for fringe culture:
"Consider this, though. If I've seen it on the Internet, is it still underground? 'Underground' always connoted something hidden, something difficult to see and find. Something underneath the surface of things, yes? But if it's on the Internet – and I do praise the Lord that I lived long enough to see such a thing – it cannot possibly be underground."
We live in a time when anything interesting is quickly propagated on twitter. Jokes can be stale within hours. Hype cycles can be so fast that they never recover from the 'trough of disillusionment'. There is less time for things to brew in secret before being brought to light – it's ridiculously to throw up a website for a minor project. And that may be a bad thing, it may not, but things have definitely changed. Crooked Little Vein might look like be an extended gross-out at points, but it's also a very clever little book and well worth reading.