Archive for May, 2011

Book 824 Christoph Ransmayr – The Last World

May 31, 2011

 

This was the second book I took with me to Clermont Ferrand – probably the only bad thing about the trip.A man goes searching for the banished Roman poet Ovid and on his way he finds clues in the form of mythological characters and people who lived in Ovid’s time.

and that’s basically it.

I got bored reading this one and managed to finish it due to a five hour wait at Charles de Gaulle airport.

 

Book 825 Peter Carey – Oscar and Lucinda

May 31, 2011

 

Every May I go to the small town of Clermont Ferrand in order to participate in the Europavox Festival (it was brilliant this year) Anyway I always bring two books from the list with me – The first one was Oscar and Lucinda.

I have stated before that I’m not too crazy about Peter Carey, In fact I read Oscar and Lucinda seven years ago and hated it, but as I’m finding out that with age things tend to change.

Both Oscar and Lucinda are misfits. Oscar is a shy effeminate  man who has rejected his Baptist father’s teachings in order to become a vicar and Lucinda wants to prove to the world that a female can rise in society (the book takes place in 1860) and does this by purchasing a glass factory. When both these characters meet they strike it off nicely and they find out that gambling is their passion. Eventually they bet that they cannot build a glass church and ship it to an unknown area of Australia.

Oscar does manage but with results that lead him into trouble.

This novel is very unpredictable and there are some chapters which took me by surprise, this is no ordinary love story and all clichés are thrown out of the window. It’s also a book which deals with colonialism although Carey is clever and makes this seem like a secondary plot until the end when it takes over the supposed romance between Oscar and Lucinda. Yes it was an enjoyable read and I loved Carey’s style of writing, which addictive.

Incidentally there should be more frequent updates as this is the last of the thick books and I have a lot of slim novels to be read.

 

Book 826 Alan Hollinghurst – The Swimming-Pool Library

May 21, 2011

After reading the stunning ‘Line of Beauty’ a couple of years ago (book 988) I was rather eager to read Hollinghurst’s first novel, ‘The Swimming-Pool Library’ but I have to admit it’s a very flawed novel despite some excellent bits.

William Beckworth is an upper class gay man who lives a very hedonistic lifestyle , when not having affairs with other men he parties’, eats at expensive restaurants and so on. The novel itself starts when Beckworth rescues an old man from a heart attack, which he later finds out is Lord Nantwitch, also gay.

Nantwich is so grateful that he wants William to write a biography about him and gives him his diaries. Upon reading them Beckworth discovers that pre second world war gay life is not entirely different from gay life in 1980’s London (where the book takes place) maybe it’s a little bit more underground but basically the same elements are there.

William then discovers that a member of his family got involved in one incident of Nantwitch’s life and even Beckworth’s own view of things start to go a bit downhill.

On the whole I enjoyed the novel, it is funny in places and I liked the plot, especially the twists but I found the writing style way too stilted and dry and this was a book I read after the Satanic Verses so Hollinghurst’s prose came as a bit of a shock – I sort of wanted words to leap off the page, which never happened once.  Plus I did detect a lot of unnecessary ‘shock value’ scenes which really did not need to be in the novel but I assume since this was a first novel Hollinghurst wanted to make his mark.

Honestly I say stick with ‘The Line of Beauty’ and approach this one with a bit of caution.

Book 827 Salman Rushdie – The Satanic Verses

May 12, 2011

The Satanic Verses has been sitting on my shelf for a very long time. The main reason why I kept putting off reading it was mainly cause I thought you need an intricate knowledge of the Koran in order to fully understand it but really all you need is some basic knowledge – Rushdie is a kind author and guides you on the way.

A plane explodes and it’s two victims – a washed out actor called Gibreel Farishta and an Anglophile voice over artist called Saladin Chamcha survive it. Once they hit the ground, Gibreel turns into an angel and the other, a devil. They separate and Saladin vows to get his revenge on Farishta.

In between this Gibreel has these amazing dreams (and they are the best parts of the book) which deal with the creation of the Satanic Verses (three verses in the Koran about mythological deities) and a modern society who go on a pilgrimage to Mecca.

However the book’s main theme is the Indian migrant experience, colonialism and how Religion, namely Islam is fused within Indian culture in both modern and ancient times. Also towards the last bit of the book there’s a first-rate passage about fatherhood and family relations.

At times funny, beautiful, satirical this is one book that shouldn’t be missed out on. Maybe it’s not the best introduction to Rushdie but it’s the one in which displays his fiery prose the best.

Book 828 David Markson – Wittgenstein’s Mistress

May 5, 2011

Generally I’m not a fan of experimental novels but ‘Wittgenstein’s Mistress’ is one of those exceptions. In fact I couldn’t put it down and in the process I felt more intelligent reading it!

The plot – if there is a thing – is about a woman who thinks she’s the only person left in the world but really it’s a philosophical meditation on Wittgenstein’s use of language in society.

I simply love the writing style – short sentences filled with trivia about art, architecture and literature. All are interconnecting and create one whole.

I’m replicating it here in the blog.

Sorry it’s a bit short.

I’ve got lots of work at the moment so I just have to squeeze in these blog posts.

Did you know that tortellini is based of Venus di Milo’s Bellybutton?

Book 829 Duong Thu Huong – Paradise of the Blind

May 3, 2011

After reading countless accounts of  Vietnam through the eyes of a soldier, it is refreshing to see the same country through a Vietnamese point of view! and Duong Thu Huong’s novel does this. Actually she goes a step further and writes about Vietnam after the war .

The main protagonist talks about growing up in the worst areas of Vietnam, mainly due to the fact that Huong’s uncle was a member of the communist party and her family had to obey the laws laid out for them. Yet through an rich auntie Huong is able to lead a privileged life as well.

The book is about Huong (it’s a loose autobiography) going to Russia in order to help her uncle. On the way she reminisces about her past. When she does reach Russia she finds out that she has to take part in some semi risky business.

Without doubt this is a political novel, a very honest and no punches are pulled. Yet I felt there was something a little bit lacking. Anyone agree with me here?