What would you expect the editor-in-chief of Dazed and Confused, one of the world’s coolest magazines to have on his bookshelf? Some big, clunky fashion titles? Some sort of bicycle book? A map of Hackney? Well you’re wrong. The very lovely Tim Noakes has kindly shared with us his selection of seriously fascinating books, a photo of his very cute son in their very nice living room, and some stories about Wu-Tang that will blow your balls off. Take it away, Tim!
Wonderland: Curiosities of Nature and Art by Wood Smith
This gold-trimmed beauty belongs to my Grandfather, “Oupa” Thomas Paulley. As the certificate on the inside cover shows, it was presented to him “For Regularity and Punctuality of attendance at the Ecclesbourne Rd Boys’ School” in Croydon. Suffice to say, I would have never received an award for that. It says November 1901, but as Oupa just turned 96, I reckon the true date is around 1925.
He lent it to me a few years ago and I was instantly spellbound by its tales of travel and adventure from a bygone era. At the start you are presented with two illustrations; one of a boy high above a Japanese mountain range pulling himself and his possessions across the ravine via a rope slide; the other shows a family sitting on top of a huge Californian tree stump, having erected their own permanent staircase to climb up and down it. It sets a fantastical tone, with Smith going on to describe everything from how to cross a river in Turkestan and fish for sponges in the Mediterranean, to navigating a bazaar in Baghdad and weaving cashmere shawls in India. I can only imagine how exotic and exciting it must have felt to my Granddad when he read it as a boy in the window of peace between the two World Wars.
Why Cats Paint: The Theory of Feline Aesthetics by Heather Bosch and Burton Silver
The original LOL Cats. Our friend Katherine Rowlandson gave this formidable art theory book to my future wife in 2001, the year we all graduated from London Guildhall University. It’s made us laugh ever since. Having grown up around many cats – yet never once seeing any of them paint – I loved how Bosch and Silver had the wit and imagination to create an entire book that parodied the dryness of contemporary art criticism with photographs that made you doubt your sanity. The pioneering brushwork of Bootsie the Trans-Expressionist and Charlie the Peripheral Realest deserve your immediate attention.
The Wu-Tang Manual by The RZA
Can I get a suuuuu? Probably not, if you haven’t read this book. My wife, Caroline, bought me RZA’s guide to Shaolin for my birthday in 2005. Part of her message inside was “You just need to find a shelf to fit it on now…” which is quite fitting for this feature. But more than that, this rap nerd bible reminds me of going to Denver to interview the group in 2007. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my career and its breakdown of Wu Lexicon came in handy every step of the way. I ended up on stage at Red Rocks in front of 10,000 people, went clubbing at a skanky dive bar with the entire Clan for GZA’s 40th birthday and shared a cheese pizza with Ghostface and Raekwon on the tour bus while RZA and ODB’s son rapped along to Brooklyn Zoo in the background. After the interviews – which ranged in length from 30 seconds (Masta Killa) to 2 hours (GZA) – I asked each living member to sign their profile page in the manual. Everyone obliged apart from Masta Killa and Inspectah Deck. Ha. Maybe I should have given them some cheese pizza.
Ritual by David Pinner
I was going to choose J.G Ballard’s High Rise, one of my favourite novels ever (dystopian dog anyone?), but I plumped for David Pinner’s criminally overlooked debut instead. First published in 1967 and then in 2011 by Finders Keepers Records, Ritual is, as the cover handily informs potential readers, “The original seed from which grew the towering movie enigma The Wicker Man.” I’m not a big fan of that film, but this book is a beast. Set in Cornwall, it follows the downward spiral of police officer David Hanlin as he sets out to investigate the murder of a local child in a town driven mad by occult excess. Pinner’s demented characters are exquisitely realised, but it’s his hilarious phrasing – in particular Hanlin’s inner monologue as reason slips away and insanity takes root – that earned Ritual a permanent place on my shelf.
Peace at Last by Jill Murphy
Our two-year-old son, Arthur, loves to be read Peace at Last every night, so by proxy I’ve probably read it more than any other book in my collection. Actually, it’s a toss up between this, Each Peach Pear Plum and Where the Wild Things Are, but I’ve chosen Jill Murphy’s classic because the story revolves around a family of three bears, and in particular a Dad who has a terrible night’s sleep. Like most parents I can definitely empathise with his red-eyed plight. Strangely, even after reading it hundreds of times, I still enjoy the rhythmic, hypnotic simplicity of its plot and the charming illustrations. Perhaps I just need some more sleep…