And so to the second last of the Ten Favourite Books list. I have posted many times about David Mitchell; he’s one of my favourite modern writers. He’s the exception to the maxim that one shouldn’t meet one’s heroes. I met him at the Dublin Writers Festival five years ago and he couldn’t have been nicer.

My introduction to his work was Cloud Atlas, first published in 2004 and first read by me around then. (I didn’t write my name and the date when I bought it as I usually do, because I bought a first edition in hardback and it would have devalued it. Not that I ever intend to sell it, but I have a certain respect for first editions.)

Cloud Atlas is structured in a unique way; it’s the literary equivalent of Russian dolls, in that each narrative is contained within another. The book comprises six interlinked stories, each taking place at a different time in history with a different narrator and a different style, ranging from a nautical story set in 1850 to a post-apocalytic story in Hawaii, and straightforward mystery to speculative fiction.

The book starts with the first half of the first story, then the first half of the second story, etc., until the sixth story which is told in its entirety, and then we get the second half of the fifth story, the second half of the fourth, etc., hence the Russian doll comparisons. Perhaps it sounds complicated but it’s not, mostly because Mitchell pulls it off with considerable ease and style, leaving each narrative at a crucial moment without the reader feeling like he’s playing some kind of cheap cliffhanger trick.

Cloud Atlas blew me away on first reading. Mitchell’s writing is obviously accomplished and he has a singular ability with language and pacing, but I was most impressed by the fact that he created six distinctive narrative voices in one book, a feat many novelists fail to achieve in the course of a career.

I have read everything of Mitchell’s, except for his most recent novel, The Bone Clocks, which has been sitting in The Pile for a while. I adored Cloud Atlas so much that I have bought it for many people as a Christmas or birthday present, and I think if you haven’t read Mitchell’s work, this is the one to start with.

I haven’t yet seen the film adaptation and I’m kinda scared to, but if any of you wonderful readers say it’s worthwhile then I’ll check it out.

The new Beck single ‘Dreams’ is his first release since Morning Phase last year. Morning Phase was critically lauded and won three Grammys. Although I liked it, it was folksy and a wee bit morose, and there were certainly no tunes that an indie DJ could use in a set.

‘Dreams’ is a different ballgame altogether; a stompy, jangly, dance floor friendly, slice of summer cheer. (Apparently he wrote it so he would have something upbeat to play on tour!) ‘Dreams’ is the first single to be taken from Beck’s upcoming thirteenth studio album, although a release date has yet to be confirmed.

I’ve been bopping around to this at home and playing it at gigs. It’s a great summer rock tune. Check it out.

Lots of people have comfort food, or a song that always puts them in a good mood, or a movie that takes away the blues (one of mine would be Singing’ in the Rain), but for me it’s a certain kind of book. (And yes, I did rhyme that sentence on purpose. Why? Who knows.)

A couple of weeks ago I managed to do something unfunny to my ankle while doing yoga. (If ever you wanted a reason to give up yoga, I now have evidence that it’s actually bad for you.) As a result I have been resting my foot and reading a lot. When I’m ill or I want to be cheered up there are some books I turn to time and time again. They include Cold Comfort Farm, the novels of Nancy Mitford and the short stories of Noel Coward, and The Chronicles of Narnia (you’re never too old) amongst others.

A few days ago I returned to a book that I hadn’t read for years, or rather three books: the David Lodge trilogy of Changing Places, Small World and Nice Work, which I first bought and read in 1994. I’d say I’ve read it at least six times since then. The books are campus novels set in the fictional university of Rummidge, England (based on Birmingham). In Changing Places, Philip Swallow, a professor of English Literature, takes part in a six month academic exchange with his American counterpart Morris Zapp, a professor from a university in Plotinus, Euphoria (based on Berkley in California). The programme has huge implications for both professors, both professionally and romantically, and they return to their positions changed men.

Or do they? After all, how much can anyone really change? This is explored in Small World, which revisits Swallow and Zapp’s stories and adds new characters including Persse McGarrigle from the University of Limerick (which didn’t actually exist at the time of publication). Nice Work tells the story of Dr. Robyn Penrose, another professor from Rummidge, who again takes part in an exchange programme (called the Shadow Scheme) except this time the focus is not academic but instead commercial. Robyn shadows Vic Wilcox, manager of an engineering firm, for two months and then the situations are reversed.

Lodge was himself a professor of English Literature at the University of Birmingham (thus proving once again that every writer draws from their own life in one way or another) and is a very well regarded literary critic, all of which is evident throughout the books as they contain allusions to other novels, elements of pastiche and satire, plus lengthy descriptions of subjects such as semiotics and the industrial novel.

But even though the narrative is set in the world of high academia, it is not a difficult read as a result. In fact the books are very very funny, which is why I have read them so many times. Lodge has a particular knack for sympathetic character description (even though the characters can be bumbling idiots) and he excels in constructing comic sentences, finding the perfect word or turn of phrase that makes you laugh rather than just smile.

Lodge’s book, The Art of Fiction, has been on my Amazon wishlist for ages. It will make the perfect addition to the ‘writers on writing’ section of my library, and now that I’ve been reminded of my love for Lodge, I think it’s my next purchase.

Here’s a short BBC interview with Mr. Lodge from 2008 in which he mentions the novels.

I have a couple of small chairs in my house that need to be recovered and I have been searching for upholstery fabrics online. A friend of mine (with impeccable taste) introduced me to House of Hackney, a British company founded in London in 2010 by  Javvy M. Royle and Frieda Gormley. Their aim was ‘to take the beige out of interiors’, and create high quality fabrics with an emphasis on original prints and design. Since their launch they have branched out into fine china, furniture and bathroom accessories.

The design collections range from straightforward stripes, whimsical animal prints featuring storks, monkeys and sloths, through to ferns, bright tropicals, and vintage inspired florals. I have fallen wholesale in love with the House of Hackney aesthetic and am definitely purchasing some of their fabric for my chairs. The fabrics are expensive, as befits the quality, but they make a design statement and are perfect for a small item of furniture or a pair of blinds. (And when I eventually have a very large house, I’ll definitely be using the Tarovine Midnight wallpaper for my dining room.)

PAMPAS wallpaper

PAMPAS wallpaper

HACKNEY EMPIRE wallpaper and sofa fabric

HACKNEY EMPIRE wallpaper and upholstery fabric

PALMERAL upholstery fabric

PALMERAL wallpaper and upholstery fabric

TAROVINE upholstery fabrics and LONDON STRIPE wallpaper

TAROVINE upholstery fabric and LONDON STRIPE wallpaper

The coolest woman in rock and roll today celebrates her 70th birthday. Happy Birthday Debbie Harry! She’s a music icon, an actress, a stunning beauty, a champion of LGBT causes, a philanthropist, a long-time resident of NYC, and according to a mate of mine who worked with her, one of the nicest and funniest women you could ever meet.

I’ve loved Debbie Harry since I was a teenager and she remains a huge inspiration for me. Debbie has always chosen to live life in her own way and that includes how she ages. Although she’s in her seventh decade, she’s still performing, still doing charity work and still dresses like a rock star. Just check her out at Glastonbury last year and imagine being that cool at sixtyeffingnine years of age! Whatta woman!

Dan Deacon’s last album Gliss Riffer has been played in my gaff a lot over the last while. Deacon is an American composer, musician and producer based in Baltimore, Maryland, who has been pretty prolific since he released his first album in 2003. Deacon has dabbled in many genres, from contemporary classical to film scoring, and his live shows are apparently amazing. He played last weekend at Body and Soul in Ireland and the reports are great. (And kudos for his brilliant Twitter username.)

Shades of the Beta Band and Boards of Canada are evident in Gliss Riffer. ‘When I Was Done Dying’ is my favourite track so far. In March of this year ‘Off the Air’, a programme broadcast on Adult Swim, asked nine of their favorite animators to each animate one section of ‘When I Was Done Dying’, a premise which sounds like it has the potential for a ‘too many cooks’ type disaster!

The end result is one of the most interesting and perfectly expressive music videos I’ve seen for a long time. The artists obviously worked together closely and each section is sympathetic to the one that went before, building on colour and theme while still retaining individuality. It starts with a black and white hand drawn illustration and ends with a blur of neon and digital trickery and it’s just wonderful.

On Saturday last I went out to Dalkey to see Paul McGuinness, ex-manager of U2, interviewed as part of the Book Festival. The talk was titled ‘The Business of Music’ and obviously McGuinness, having managed one of the biggest bands in the world since its infancy, had a lot to talk about.

The talk mostly centered on U2 and his experiences working at the top level of the international music industry. There were a lot of fun anecdotes and little-known facts. For example, one audience member asked why U2 had never played in China, a question that had been put to McGuinness years before by the Chinese Ambassador to the UK. The answer was that they are banned from China as a result of doing a Free Tibet concert years ago. So there’s a bit of music trivia for your next pub quiz!

McGuinness also gave sharp insights into the future of the music industry and problems facing artists now. He made a great point regarding the proliferation of music festivals in recent years and the impact they are having on stadium tours. He says that most artists don’t get the chance to craft a huge stage show these days, in the way that U2 did with their Zoo TV and PopMart tours. Instead they play a series of festival gigs in Europe and North America which has its drawbacks. The band don’t connect solely with their own audience and they’re expected to play a festival-friendly set, i.e, one that is mostly comprised of their greatest hits to satisfy the masses. In addition they are limited in terms of the creativity they can bring to the production; huge props and intricate lighting displays just aren’t feasible when you’re doing an hour at a festival. McGuinness reckons that when the current rock acts like Springsteen, Rolling Stones, and U2 (whose 360 tour was the highest grossing concert tour of all time) aren’t on the road anymore, stadium tours will be a thing of the past. A great observation.

There were a lot of music talks at the festival including Viv Albertine of The Slits whose memoir was published last year. It’s a great festival set in a gorgeous part of Dublin and well worth checking out next year.

My mates know my weakness for disaster movies and a couple of weeks ago a good friend asked me if I had seen World War Z. I hadn’t, so I remedied that the following weekend and very much enjoyed it. Another very well read friend told me to check out the book that the movie is based on as she thought it was miles better. She wasn’t wrong. I raced through the book in a night and have since recommended to lots of people.

World War Z takes the form of an oral account of a plague that infects the world’s population and turns the infected into zombies. The book is compiled by a fictitious United Nations agent who interviews survivors of the Zombie War, from government officials, scientists and military personnel to members of the general population.

Zombies are not a subject that generally attracts me to a book or film as it conjures up ideas of schlocky horror movies and bad genre fiction. But the zombies are the only unbelievable element in this book. Everything else is utterly plausible, from the way the governments ineffectually try to control the initial outbreak, to the mass panic that ensues once the zombies have invaded every continent, and the frantic efforts to find a cure.

The film differs from the book in that it focusses on one main character, played by Brad Pitt, and therefore shrinks the scope of the book and makes it more personal. I think the film suffered as a result and I would love to have seen it produced as a faux-documentary to reflect the style of the book. As Brooks has said in interviews, the movie relates to the book in name only. Once a writer signs over the film rights that is where their input ends and the production company will hire a screenwriter with a pedigree to adapt the book. Fans of the book were disappointed as several key scenes were left out of the movie, but that’s often the risk with seeing a film adaptation of a novel you loved.

Here’s a reddit interview with Brooks from a few years ago, where he discusses his work and the movie. (And if he reminds you of anyone, it should help to know that his parents are famed actors Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft.)

I have a confession to make. Up until yesterday I was a DJ without a decent sound system at home and without a set of decks, and a writer without a printer. But now part of that problem has been solved because a bunch of my amazing friends got together and bought me some bluetooth speakers for my birthday.

Last night I tested the speakers fairly comprehensively and listened to a lot of stuff, including albums I’ve neglected for a long time mostly because my shitty laptop speakers were completely busted and distorted the bass horribly. In the process I came across this tune by Cagedbaby, a favourite of mine for a long time.

I first heard Cagedbaby ten years ago when I was living in London and working on a music conference called Encompass. I caned the album in the office in the months leading up to the event and then saw the band play live in a small venue in Shoreditch during the festival in April 2005. The gig was electric, the band were so powerful live. This tune in particular reminds me of that time in my life, living in London, immersed in music, looking forward to the summer and having a lot of fun.

The Velveteen Rabbit was one of my favourite books as a child and now it’s also the name of a gorgeous furniture store in Dublin. The shop is the brainchild of Zoe Carney, a fashion and design professional from Dublin, and its first incarnation was a pop-up shop on Baggot Street for a few months last year. Spurred on by its success, Zoe has created a warehouse space in Harold’s Cross and an online shop, showcasing the collection of furniture and decoration for sale, and items available for prop hire.

There are stunning pieces sourced from France, Hungary and Sweden, and Zoe has reconditioned some of the antiques, putting her own distinctive signature on the collection. The shades of blue and green and the aged patina give the pieces lots of character. Zoe also offers a reupholstery service so if you fall in love with a fauteuil but don’t like the colour, you can have it changed to suit.

The Velveteen Rabbit is located at Home Studios in Harold’s Cross and open by appointment from Wednesday to Saturday. Click on the pics to be taken to the items on The Velveteen Rabbit site.

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1930s White Patine Louis XVI Fauteuil

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Green Transylvanian Table

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Vintage Siphon Bottles

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Vintage Dutch Trestle Table

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19th Century Hungarian Printer’s Drawers

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Antique Hungarian Sideboard

The Multiverse

is a blog from an Irish writer and DJ which takes in a wide range of subject matter as follows: Monday’s blogs are related to literature and writing; Tuesday is fashion, style and beauty; Wednesday is music; Thursday is TV and cinema; and Friday is a miscellany.

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The current pile beside my bed. About ten days' reading in my world! #books #unreadbooks #PaulMurray #ElenaFerrante #OranRyan #BenLerner #reading Oh hey guys! #muppets #statlerandwaldorf #Dublin #soberlane At the side of the stage last night for Moving Hearts. Savage gig! #folkfest #Killarney #MovingHearts Longitude with these messers! #Longitude #festival In the recording studio with my dad today. Love this message in the car park! Even though cherries are my favourite fruit, whenever I eat them I'm reminded of that scene in The Witches of Eastwick. #cherries #possession #jacknicholson

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