Welcome to this week’s blog, and our roundup of your comments and photos from last week.
I re-read Tale of Two Cities a while ago because people kept telling me how wonderful Dickens was. I didn’t enjoy it and I thought the ending entirely ridiculous; Sidney Carton behaving completely out of character.
I’ve re-read several authors that I loved in my youth: Sartre’s characters seemed constipated and unhealthy instead of profound… Orwell’s loathing of the working – class is very apparent in 1984… It’s apparent later in the book that he thinks the working-class has no culture of its own (and he also has a ludicrously static view of historical development)… Homage To Catalonia illustrates his political ignorance… Greene’s Quiet American is nauseatingly smug. Personally , the only book that stands the test of time is “The House at Pooh Corner”: profound.
I agree about The House at Pooh Corner, anyway. Elsewhere, Sebastian Barry also received the boot in the face treatment from MsCarey, who hasn’t been enjoying the Costa Prize winning Days Without End:
OK, I’ve ground to a halt… On page 158. It’s not that I think it’s a bad book, I just don’t care about any of it. How many ways are there for men to kill each other in ‘lyrical’ and ‘evocative’ prose?
Also sticking it to prize-winners was Sara Richards, who hasn’t been enjoying the power by Naomi Alderman.
If I didn’t know that Alderman writes and plays computer games I might have guessed. People are unfailingly abusive, cruel, power mad, and they are always in the midst of the action. They escape from life threatening situations by, for example, climbing a tree and throwing items at an oil cylinder to distract a would be adversary. In the oil drum are two small children who our intrepid two leave to their presumably grisly fate.
Two legs good, four legs bad. Orwell said it first and much more convincingly. I will read to the end because it was the winner of the Bailey prize…. I have read and enjoyed Alderman’s fiction before now and she is an engaging presence when she is interviewed. Nevertheless this book is truly hard to stomach and a constant barrage of bone crunching, electrocution, and a diagram of male genital mutilation are unnecessary. We get the message Naomi. You could have cut a good half of the book and it might have passed muster. Sorry.
At the weekend, I finished Atonement by Ian McEwan. Right from the start of this truly fantastic novel I had been hooked. I love the way the novel is constructed and the way different points of view are used for each of the four parts. I was bamboozled at the end of the third part when I realized I had been tricked, or rather, subtly manipulated into taking a central aspect of the novel for granted. McEwan seems to love these twists, which, I guess, some people will definitely hate, but for me such complex interaction with the reader’s mind adds to the intellectual pleasure. I will without doubt read more by McEwan soon.
Here’s another joyful burst of positivity from catpatterson who has been reading Gustav Meyrink’s 1914 classic, The Golem:
Meyrink’s Ghetto, brilliantly realised, is almost unremittingly grim, and his gorgeous, hallucinatory imagery which often subverts itself, does nothing to relieve the tension. “It is said that the blue spring gentian will lose its colour for good if the pale, sulphurous gleam of the lightning that announces a hailstorm should suddenly shine on it.” A woman has “a beauty that strikes you dumb… and, in some inexplicable way, makes you feel disheartened… [Her] face must be formed according to laws of proportion that have been lost for thousands of years.” A lamp shines with “a consumptive” glow. The scenes of horror — at meeting one’s own double, “the breath of bones” — were completely original. “Fits of shivering rippled across my skin… my skeleton seemed to be turning to ice and I was aware of each individual bone in my body as if it were a cold metal rod onto which my flesh was freezing fast.” I never had the slightest idea how the plot twists would untangle themselves, and I finally closed the book supremely satisfied.
Finally, BaddHamster has been reading books by writers “I’d heard of all my life but never actually met on the page”:
First up was Seize The Day by Saul Bellow. Short and, I suppose, basically a character study of a man disintegrating beneath the weight of his own self pity. It’s well written, but the ending left me feeling unsatisfied and I think I’d have preferred something a bit meatier.
The other one, which I’m still reading, is Norman Mailer’s An American Dream and I have to say I’m enjoying it very much, despite the prose being strewn with some pretty bizarre metaphors and one descriptive passage of a sexual encounter that made me think, “If this is what goes through someone’s mind while having sex, then I must be doing it very, very wrong.” … Great fun, all in all, if a little on the wordy side.
Meaty, great fun, a little on the wordy side? Sounds like an ideal friend.
Interesting links about books and reading
- This astonishing revelation about a poetry prize conspiracy has rocked the book world.
- Tobias Wolff reading Denis Johnson’s Emergency is one of the best things on the internet.
- Haruki Murakami’s advice to young writers.
- A tasty essay about reading about cooking.
- Mesmerising footage of Boston Public Library’s book dust removing system
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