New link…

I’ve added a new link to my Pickings from the Internet link-list (you can also access it via the menu at the top of the page) – This most recent addition is to the Psychedelic Press Journal blogsite, to an interesting article from 2013 by Jack Hunter. In this link list I am attempting to gather…more


I don’t wanna be nice

I am currently rejoicing in having found a new way to circumvent the habit of a lifetime.

In the past I have found  it impossible to write anything negative in a book review and I kludged my way through this  pathological niceness by simply not reviewing books I felt ambivalent about.

There were other reasons that I failed to write a book review – lack of time, upheavals  in my private life, lack of interest in or knowledge of the subject and on at least one occasion, when having sent an email promise to let me have a hardback first edition of their next book, signed with a personal handwritten inscription along the lines “For Jean Dark, I just LOVED your last book-review”, the author simply forgot to put the book in the post.

And I found other ways to deal with my negative bibliophilic sensibilities – if the book was in e-book format I wrote about the generic failings of electronic books and avoided discussing the book itself. So desperate was I not to upset anyone, particularly if I knew their name, or the title of a book they’d written.

And then I found myself on the horns of a dilemma. I was sent an e-book to review, I fell instantly in love with the style and content, but the e-manuscript had so many typos (typing errors as blatant as “ans” for “and” etc) that by the 2nd chapter I had so lost heart and viewed the book with such dread that the experience was utterly ruined for me.

It is from this place of despair that I formulated the following ploy to avoid appearing uncharitable:

One  of my many gripes about e-books is that they often lack the basic elements that separate books from rambling hebephrenic babble. By that I don’t mean that the content is bad, it’s the production values that are at fault. For instance, a hard copy paper book would be laughed off the shelves if it lacked something as fundamental as a  contents page. Yet I have been sent e-books to review in just that state. Books that consisted of plain solid text; with none of the expected markers and signposts – like chapters, page numbers, introductions, beginnings, endings, indexes, punctuation and contents page.

Where are all the proper pedantic pagan proof-readers when you need one?
In response to this common FAQ…

Jean  Dark  is now offering an e-book proof-reading service
(reduced rates for small presses)

For more details of proof-reading and editing services available contact

See, I’m really nice even when I don’t wanna be.

Somnium by Steve Moore

Today I found from the blog of the publisher Strange Attractor that Steve Moore had died on the bright spring equinox full moon.
I only recent had contact with Steve Moore, he sent me a email thanking me for a book review I had written of his Novel Somnium, which had been published in Pentacle magazine. A tantalisingly brief brush with mystery and chivalry, I feel gently charmed.

Cambridge Creates Anthology Volume 2 in the pipeline?

I have heard on the air and at the pricking of my thumbs and in the voices of my head that Shakey Navel-Bones is contemplating a reprise of the splendid Cambridge Creates Anthology. A second volume, in fact.

So, just to pique your interest again, or to engender envy if you failed to get a copy last time round…is a reprise of my previously unpublished review of Cambridge Creates Anthology from 2011

Cambridge Creates Anthology
A compilation & celebration of art within our community.
Review by Jean Dark

There are 78 individual contributions listed in the contents to this stylish new anthology of contemporary Cambridge art and writing. The striking and intriguing cover design halts the attention, like an unfamiliar logo, and draws the reader in. My first impression was of abundance, where to begin, no obvious path in. I scanned the contents and found a name I recognised – Jonny Wrong and started in from there, taking in Sadie Few, Nicky Smith, Trishna Shah, Bella Basura and ‘Anonymous’, amongst others, along the way…more

Whinging Into The Cyber-Void

E-Books vs. Paper Formats. Pt 1

Yule 2011 I was lucky enough to be given an e-book reader. After switching it on and frustratingly browsing some e-book distributor websites I chose to download George Orwell’s 1984. There are complicated reasons for this choice, not the least of which that the last time I read 1984 from cover to cover was early september 2001. I was actually reading about the Ministry of Peace at the exact moment that I heard about the twin towers, it seemed as if the face of Osama Bin Laden had been forever superimposed over the goat-like features of Goldstein – Orwell’s archetypal terrorist scapegoat. Winston Smith’s job in the ministry of Truth is to re-edit historical documents in prescribed ways in order to justify and uphold the shifting pragmatic views and actions of a monolithic state. For me the book is a study of social control through the control of information, the manipulation of minds through the manipulation of accepted reality – propaganda, censorship and outright lies as strategies to maintain the position of those in power. I have for sometime now viewed the rise of the e-book as a form of Orwellian more…

The Liver Clinic, again…

In the past few days I have again felt compelled to discuss hepatitis C with a relative stranger. The reaction, I have found is generally the same. They listen, appear to digest and then skip over it. They never ask questions.

In this mood I am posting up this piece again in explanation.

(I understand that the treatment situation  has advanced in leaps and bounds since I wrote this piece in 2006, and that rapid recovery is, anecdotally, the norm.)

Hecate’s Trip To The Liver Clinic – A Psychogeography in Plague Territory 

The appointment was for 3.45. At 4.15 I will still be sitting in the waiting-corridor, waiting.

I’d long ago given up reading my book, a surprisingly engaging socio-history on the Iberian Peninsular post-Franco, when I raised my head to look briefly around.

I was glad Toby wasn’t with me. He’d be all stiff-upper-lip, or stick-uppa-arse as I frequently pronounced it to his face. He’d be freezing me out with his theatrically dignified grin-&-bear-it demeanour.

One empty seat separates me from a low coffee table of magazines and a twittery woman in the next chair. Our backs are against the wall. She’s picking through the magazines and chattering non-stop. She’s wearing a screw’s uniform. She’s chattering away non-stop to a male screw, who is hand-cuffed to a blue-clad man sat between them. The screws are slagging off an absent work mate for being obese. The prisoner between them is silent, he’s thinking he might die of this awful disease, alone, in prison. It is after all ‘an incurable disease’ that we are waiting here for.

This incurable disease we’re all here consulting about today was discovered and named in 1989…read more…