Book 762 Salman Rushdie – Shame

Dammit, first the pic was too big now I can’t seem to re-size it! ah well.

The last Rushdie I had read was  The Satanic Verses, and I thought it was one of the greatest books ever written.  Shame treads some of the same paths but its more about Pakistan’s political history than rather TSV’s religious and humanistic themes.

The story is basically about the entwining paths of  two families, both representing Pakistan’s prime ministers. Throughout their family history there’s madness, suicide, imprisonment the whole lot   and if you discount the flights of magical realism you have to keep in mind that such things did happen.

However the main theme is shame and how it shapes history, or maybe the Indian character?, for the only protagonist in the novel who is not born with a sense of shame is the one who survives the most in the book.

As such Shame is not as powerful as The Satanic Verses, it works as a satire and the writing is great but I felt that it lacks the energy and whizz of  Rushdie’s most notorious novel. Still it wipes the floor with practically everyone else so a good Rushdie novel not may excel his own masterpieces but it still is a fascinating read.

 

Advertisements

Book 763 Martin Amis – Money

 

 

 

 

 

 

First of all the above cover is from the first edition. Although I wish I had that version my edition of  Money is the Vintage 21 series, i also had an old Penguin version , but pages were falling out of that so I had to buy a new one.

This is my third reading of Money, once in 1999 and another time in 2001 and I admit its the best one. As I have stated before, I am amazed at the amount of things I missed out before.

John Self is a modern man in every way. He is selfish, materialistic and a full on hedonist. After cutting his chops in advertising he decides to direct a semi autobiographical film. After finding a producer and the right actors, Self launches himself into American life in the most debauched ways possible.

When he returns to England though he is more reserved ( thus Amis is showing us the difference between Reagan’s America and Thatcher’s Britain) and spends his nights having glorious sex with his girlfriend Selina.

Good things never last and soon Self starts to find his world crumbling down nastily and in series of twists (plus one very surprising one) loses everything and returns to London as a man ready to redeem himself.

Money is difficult to explain , its prose is utterly spell binding. Every single sentence has a punch to knock you flat , light puns , memorable sentences , funny observations. They are all here in a labyrinthine linguistic glory. However Money is not unreadable. I feel we’ve all met people like John Self  so we can relate to his modern worldview.  As a satire on the human self it is positively eye opening and even provides digs at the literary establishment.  Personally I think London Fields is a better novel but Money is the one (having read nearly all of Amis’ output) where Amis’ distinctive style emerges.

Book 764 Julian Barnes – Flaubert’s Parrot

 

It is official – When re reading a novel after a 12 year gap you discover so many new things. I’m amazed at how much I missed the first time round.

Anyway Geoffrey Breathwaite is a doctor who discovers two stuffed parrots and both state that they were borrowed by French writer Gustav Flaubert. Breathwaite then spends the rest of the book trying to figure out which parrot is the real one. In the process we, as readers are treated to an in depth study of Flaubert, albeit in non chronological order and via trivial aspects of his life , which are springboards to the most important aspects. The novel ends with a university style final examination which bring all aspects of this book to the forefront.

But that’s not all.

In his quest , we readers learn that writing is indeed a mirror of life and Geoffrey in his struggles to discover the parrot, goes through a process of self realization as well. Mainly that his life – and I assume that our lives owe a lot to writing. This is evident in the third last chapter.

Flaubert’s Parrot is a complex novel , but deceptively so. The reader is on a ride that’s both informative and interesting. This is ,  I feel , an experimental novel should be like. Maybe Barnes has done better ( his latest novel, The Sense of an Ending, is a masterpiece) but the intellectual playfulness one finds in Flaubert’s Parrot is totally missing.

Book 765 Jaan Kross – Professor Martens’ Departure

 

If Professor Martens’ Departure had to be made into a film , I would definitely resurrect Ingmar Bergman to direct it. The plot of this book is so Bergman-esque that images of his films kept popping in my head.

Professor F.Martens is returning to his native land of St. Petersburg from Estonia. On the lengthy train ride he reflects about his life , his affairs and his achievement. He also tries to see parallels between his life and another F. Martens who lived in Germany a century earlier ( the book takes place in 1909).

The novel is essentially about memory ; it’s unreliability and how the human person can forgive one’s action. To be honest though this book , like some if Bergman’s films , drags a bit in places and the tranquility of the novel sometimes can be overbearing. On the whole though it is ok and the translation is pretty go as well. One of those books you have to be really in the mood for.