My hope

*taps microphone*

Is anyone out there?

Things have been weird for me over the past year. They’ve been weird and incredibly shitty. I’ve spent a lot of time lying face down in a metaphorical pool of excrement which I will from now on call my “lowest point”. During this time, I lost a lot of confidence, mainly in my writing, but also in pretty much every other aspect of my life. Things began to change for the better a few weeks ago after seeing an old friend. She said some words that encouraged me and some that kicked the crap out of me, but in a positive way.

I’ve spent a lot of time pushing myself into a corner and ensuring that everyone else is at arms length which is incredibly unhealthy. I spent a long period measuring myself up against many others – writers, people in general – and feeling hopeless. I’ve cut, scratched and burned my way to where I stand today. After many hours of talking and many pills down the hatch, I’m beginning to feel like a new version of me. That version of me would like to blog about books again.


However, I know that many times in the past I have said this and failed to keep up any kind of schedule. That isn’t fair to the people who stop by and it isn’t fair to the authors and publishers I support. For the past few months I’ve been writing elsewhere and about other things, allowing me to rediscover my voice. So, from today I am aiming to restart Utter Biblio, but I will make no promises about regularity of content, nor what I will be reviewing. The only promise I’m making is to try and write about the books that I enjoy; the ones that are important to me. There will be no word counts, no memes or challenges or projects.

I want to go back to when I’d write about why I loved a book and why you should read it too.


Hello all,

Just a quick blog post to say that I don’t think I’ll be blogging here much any more because I’ve discovered TinyLetter. I’ve decided to start sending weekly newsletters out to all who subscribe using this link – – it will feature lots of books, also some videogames and lots of mental health discussions. Receiving the letter costs nothing and it’s an interesting way for me to communicate via a personal letter.

One week per month will be dedicated to books and I’ll write mini reviews of everything I’ve read in that month. I hope to see some of you subscribe!

Kisses x

The Natashas by Yelena Moskovich

27241057Your enjoyment of this novel will entirely depend on how much you enjoy surrealism and books that use more language than plot to convey a story. The Natashas has very little coherent plot throughout, more a litter of cast members who experience certain emotions in situations which are exposed to the reader. As the book progresses it’s clear that this is a very experimental work which uses the idea of discomfort primarily.

Practically every scene or line of dialogue can unease a reader whether it’s from being so incredibly vague that you’re picking it apart to find motive or meaning or whether it’s the direct actions of the cast. There are certainly some very disturbing moments as the story plays out. The front cover (above) could set nerves tingling, but it does relate very well with the contents of the book. If I were (and I kind of have to) to find a theme in this debut it would be identity and exposure. Each character presents themselves one way to everyone around them, but only us, as the audience, truly knows how each person ticks.

Take Cèsar for example, an actor who has moved from Mexico to Paris in order to find his perfect role. He finds himself working in a call centre and using the opportunity to try out different characters on the customers he calls. He seems to favour the more aggressive and violent personas in his repertoire, these seem borne of an anger he holds towards his brothers who bullied him for being gay. Bèatrice shows a shy and almost blank exterior to the people around her, which was sparked from adolescence when she developed large breasts from an early age. It’s clear that most people fixate on her boobs, despite her jazz singing voice and from this she retracts into herself. It’s only when she meets Polina – who may or may not be real – that we see more of her.

The biggest issue with the novel is knowing who is real and who isn’t, who is important to the loose plot and who acts as more of a narrator. This latter role is perhaps performed best by The Natashas, a group of European women who are being exploited in the sex trade. Their conversations and actions foreshadow moments of the book, almost like a Greek chorus (Noted by Kirsty Logan in her review for The Guardian). But are these women real? They seem perfectly tangible in their short chapters, but one has to wonder if they’re an imaginary figment of one of the central characters. The aforementioned Polina is a conundrum who appears when Bèatrice is shopping for a new dress. We see Polina talking with the shopkeeper, but soon the shop has closed down and the only person who sees Polina is Bèatrice. The entire novel keeps the reader thinking about who we’re really reading about. Maybe Cèsar and Bèatrice are imaginary figures conjured by The Natashas to alleviate their existence? After all, they live within one room and only interact with each other, the head of The Natashas and any clients who they must sleep with.

Sex is a huge aspect of the book actually and Yelena writes each scene with candid precision. Her depictions of sex and oral sex (as well as feminine beauty) are very blunt and that makes it all the more powerful. She talks about sucking and spitting and the thrusting of fingers so that it makes the characters all the more fragile. This isn’t lovemaking, even if the characters interact in that way, this is animalistic and dirty, which goes further to remove the public personas of the ensemble.

In fact all of the writing is of a high standard. Moskovich comes from a theatrical writing background and it certainly shows in her blunt, staccato sentence structure. Her prose takes turns being poetical and stage management direct, but it’s always affecting. To come full circle and return to my opening sentence, enjoyment will depend on how open your mind is to misleading fiction written in an eccentric way.



Silence by Shusaku Endo

9780720612868I don’t really know what to say about this renowned classic. On the one hand I can see tremendous beauty in the plot and I can say I was genuinely moved by the circumstances of the central characters. However, whether through translation or not, the writing itself was a little jarring. There was a lot of needless repetition in the prose which pulled me from the situation that had been holding me so tightly. Certain sentences were repeated throughout the novel many times, this caused me to feel like the reader as opposed to a part of the experience.

And for me, this was a necessity. Silence is not only the story of a Portuguese priest questioning his faith in Japan, but it prods the reader to take part in this idea. Much of Rodrigues’ internal monologues are spoken to us – the audience, because of this we aren’t just a part of his sounding board, we’re being urged gently to consider the overarching concept of faith. This is, quite likely, a more personal situation as I’ve often questioned the premise and place of God. So, this conversation between reader and character was integral, meaning that the actual craft of writing needed to be perfect.

If I were to ignore my issues with the prose, I would have to say that Silence is a wonderful book. Set in the mid-17th century, Christianity has been banned in Japan and western priests who are bringing Christianity to the country are being tortured and forced to apostatise. Silence tells the story of Father Sebastien Rodrigues after he has travelled across the world in search of his former mentor. Being a Christian priest, Rodrigues also hopes to aid the Christians of the country who are currently in hiding or being persecuted by the government for their beliefs. This instantly puts his life in danger and he must hide from authorities, sadly he is eventually captured and the majority of the novel takes place within a prison cell.

The most interesting aspect of Silence is the fight that Rodrigues has with 9781447299851himself over his passions for Jesus. This is a man who has spent his life devoted to the church and has idolised Jesus for his every sentence and ideal. Now he is being forced to trample on an image of Christ and renounce his own beliefs. Endo does a superb job of illustrating how difficult it would be for a priest to turn his back on everything he believes – and not only believes, but lives for. Rodrigues is constantly forced to witness Japanese peasants die for their belief in a Western God and he finds himself asking where is God and how can he stay silent through such torment and misery. It’s something that many of us ask on a daily basis as we see wars break out across the globe or children dying in poverty, but Endo goes a step further and looks at how a leader of Christianity would see these “trials”.

Endo also uses the themes and stories of the bible as his inspiration for the plot. Rodrigues is betrayed by Kichijiro, a weak willed peasant who repeatedly shows up to torment the priest. This has shadows of Judas and his betrayal of Christ at its core and Rodrigues himself questions whether Jesus could forgive and love Judas despite his actions. This is a key test of will for the priest whose main conceit in life is to love and accept, but how can he do this when he feels such hatred for Kichijiro? In this world of 1640s Japan, we are to examine how a man can be tested, how he can be tortured and whether that can override his pride and belief. It’s an incredibly powerful concept and perhaps one of the oldest concepts in life.

The author paints a very dark and bleak picture of his own country’s history, which must have been difficult to imagine at times. The thought of people being drowned or burned alive for their belief in a foreign God is a terrible one, but it is something that has plagued mankind. By reading Silence we are being urged to reflect on the world around us and the violence that a clash of ideals has brought throughout history. The central message is timeless and forces us to take a long look at humanity. For such a short book, Endo has achieved something monumental in tone and idea. It is right to be hailed as a 20th century masterpiece and classic.

Post Office by Charles Bukowski

9780753518168For my shame it wasn’t until a few months ago that I discovered the wonder that is the writing of Charles Bukowski. It started when the lovely people at Canongate sent me a copy of Ham on Rye and with it being such a well-known book, I dropped everything and read through it within 24 hours. I loved it. I adored every grotesque and ugly word that Bukowski aimed at the world. His writing is very much in my wheelhouse as my obsession with the grimy side of America grows each year and his style speaks to a part of me that usually hides behind a polite façade.

After talking with lots of his fans on Twitter, I decided I needed more, and soon. It wasn’t until my recent holiday, however, that I finally got around to buying Post Office – the first in a loose trilogy inspired by events of Bukowski’s life. While it didn’t quite chime as much as Ham on Rye, it still gave me the shot of gritty dregs that I needed.

The plot follows Henry Chinaski as he works for the US Postal Service – although his life is more about the drinking, sex and foul mouthed rants. It’s through the work that we see Bukowski attack the daily grind of Americans and the “American Dream”. To me he is saying how truly worthless life is without something meaningful within it and work isn’t that one thing. It seems that Henry doesn’t know what he wants. When he does marry it’s only for sex and comfort rather than love, even the idea of his wife’s millions of dollars doesn’t bother him. In fact, when they eventually split up after her having an affair, he simply shrugs, divides their possessions and leaves.

It’s this carefree nature that I love because it is a façade, you can see the devotion to jobs in Henry and the passion he has for the women in his life. When he shows the lengths he’ll go to in order to help someone, he is in control and commanding. The same can be said for Bukowski himself. Under all the booze and sweat, there is a kind soul who puts up a wall to fight of the filth of society. Or, at least, that’s how I see it. Mainly because that’s what I do, to an extent. Henry puts on the tough act and attitude to disguise his disappointment in life itself. It’s much easier to set the bar low, in other words.

Post Office is venomous bile spat at the everyday world and while it’s vulgar, it is also meaningful and in turns beautiful. Henry’s “fuck the world” attitude is important because that is how so many people feel. His voice is one that many of us agree with. We hate it when people disrespect us or our friends, we hate being bullied at work and Henry replies with all the anger we feel. Post Office is an important work because of what Henry says and also, what he sees. We aren’t seeing anything we’re unfamiliar with, we’re just seeing it with the parental guidance switched off.

What I enjoy most, perhaps, is that I love an underdog and Henry is the epitome. He is a fighter and the antidote to many social and political ideas that are constructed to grind down common people. He stands tallest in a crowd like the middle finger of your hand and even though he has his flaws, he is a hero that we (that I) need.