Monday 27 February 2012

An Ill-Tempered Announcement About Commenting, and Some Links and Plugs

Let's get the ill-tempered announcement part of this post out of the way first, and then we can move on to more pleasant matters.

If you've tried to leave a comment on Existential Ennui recently – an unlikely scenario, I know, but indulge me – you might have noticed that there's now an additional step to negotiate: word recognition, or "captcha", to use the common parlance. This is the process whereby you have to retype in a little box at the bottom of the comment panel the randomly generated – and partly nonsensical – words which you can see in another box just above that one, to "prove you're not a robot", as Blogger puts it. Slightly offensive to robots (some of my best friends... etc., etc.), but there you have it.

I've enabled this feature because a gradually increasing number of spam comments have been making it through Blogger's spam filters and onto Existential Ennui itself, culminating in a massive spam attack a week ago, when over 500 spam comments went straight through to the blog. As you can probably imagine, that was incredibly fucking annoying, and if I ever get the opportunity to royally fuck with the witless cretins responsible – I'm looking at you, Coach Factory Outlet Online, Coach Outlet Online Store and Louis Vuitton Outlet UK (and please don't Google these cocksuckers and contribute to their worthless hits) – then I will grasp that opportunity with both hands and gleefully fuck them in their eye sockets.

Until that joyful day arrives, we're all stuck with word recognition on commenting. I hope you'll understand why I've had to introduce it, and why I may yet have to go even further and introduce comment approval, too; even with captcha enabled, the odd spam comment is still making it through the spam guards. Hopefully it won't come to that, but we'll see how we get on. Either way, please don't let it put you off commenting.

That tiresome piece of business out of the way, I thought I'd take the opportunity to throw a few Marvel Bullpen-style links and plugs your way, beginning, naturally, with a link to something I wrote:

ITEM! If you'll cast your mind(s) back to January, you'll recall that I ran a series of posts on Desmond Cory and his Johnny Fedora spy thrillers, during the course of which I reviewed Cory's 1962 mini-masterpiece Undertow. Well, seeing as Mike Ripley's Top Notch Thrillers imprint reissued Undertow late last year, that review can now be found – in an altered and quite possibly improved form – on the website of Shots Magazine, one of the UK's longest-running and most respected crime fiction publications. It's my first review for Shots, so go have a read and see what you think.

ITEM! Back in December of last year I mentioned that Ethan Iverson's brilliant Do the Math website had linked Existential Ennui, something I was dead chuffed about because Do the Math's overview of Donald E. Westlake had been instrumental in helping me navigate Westlake's Byzantine backlist. Well Ethan's been at it again, and now has a page dedicated to the work of another author who's a firm favourite round these parts: Ross Thomas. It's a lengthy article, but Ethan's in-depth, detailed research and insight into each of Thomas's novels – including the Oliver Bleeck ones – make it an essay deserving of your undivided attention.

ITEM! The sixth issue of my pal Martin Eden's splendid gay superhero team comic, Spandex – which I've blogged about before – is out now, and can be ordered here. This issue is especially noteworthy because it also comes with three free mini-comics featuring some of the more minor characters from the series, produced in collaboration with different artists – the Cherry Blossom Girl mini in particular, with art by T'sao Wei, is rather fine. Titan Books will be publishing a collection of Spandex in May, so I'll be returning to Mr. Eden and his cast of colourful characters then, but in the lead up to the pub date, Martin is blogging about various aspects of Spandex on the Titan website, so check back there for updates.

ITEM! Talented Lewes-based book cover designer Neil Gower – who I've mentioned once or twice previously, and whose splendid work is simpatico with the ideals of this similarly Lewes-based blog – popped up on BBC Breakfast the other week, being interviewed as part of a piece on teenagers designing new covers for William Golding's Lord of the Flies. Neil puts in a fleeting appearance towards the end of the item, but it's worth a look because it affords a glimpse into both his working methods – very much traditional as opposed to digital – and his studio. And I'll have more on Mr. Gower soon...

ITEM! British cartoonist John Bagnall posted a short but interesting piece on a twentieth century British artist I'd never encountered before: Algernon Newton. Newton's largely people-free landscapes and cityscapes are, to my mind, curiously appealing, and I'll certainly be exploring his work further. John's blog continues to be a great source of inspirational artwork, both other folk's and his own; I'd urge you to bookmark it if you haven't already.

ITEM! Lastly, if you've any interest in books as physical objects, doubtless you'll have seen this much-shared Flavorwire post showcasing beautiful bookshops (which provoked a caustic response from secondhand book dealer Rick Gekoski on the Guardian website). But what you might not have noticed is that Flavorwire has since followed it up with a post on beautiful personal libraries (link via The Spectator), which is perhaps even more envy-inducing. I do fear for the spines of some of the books in the featured libraries, though: a number of them appear to be shelved in direct sunlight, so I can foresee some severe spine fading occurring – unlike the books in my own "library":

which are largely hidden from the sun's rays; recent house guest Sammy the cat admiring my shaded shelves, there.

Anyway, enough of the linkage: what can you look forward to on Existential Ennui in the not-too-distant future? Well, later this week there'll hopefully be a Westlake Score and a Notes from the Small Press, and the week after that will see the return of two firm friends – of each other that is; they're more passing acquaintances of Existential Ennui's – Kim Philby and Graham Greene. And looking further ahead, in the tradition of previous Existential Ennui chats with Anthony Price and Jeff Lindsay, I have a couple more exclusive interviews lined up for you. Before all that, though, let's have a guest post, courtesy of a good friend of mine – and an occasional commenter – Adam Newell, on a little-known Roald Dahl novel...


  1. Whew, that's quite a roundup. Worth every moment, though.

  2. Argh.

    Never thought about severe spine fading before. Should I go home and re-arrange my books?


  3. Only if you don't want them all to end up with uniform light blue spines, Steve. There's a secondhand bookshop in Shoreham called Bookworms which has an entire wall of books shelved in direct sunlight, and all of them have faded to pretty much the same shade of blue. Looks quite attractive actually...