Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Holiday Reading

So here are the books I read on holiday. I remind readers that the score is an indication of how much I enjoyed reading them as part of my holiday; not a mark for literature, ground-breaking thinking or great prose.

The Visitor - Lee Child (7)
Start your holiday reading with a light page-turner. I will eventually have read all the Jack Reacher books and will have to wait in the airport lounge bookshop of doom for an annual fix until the franchise is over. Meantime 500 pages pass in the blink of an eye and we do eventually find out who is killing people in baths full of army-issue green paint. And why.

Razor Girl - Carl Hiassen (7)
Another author I will read completely. In fact I am up to date and this is the latest Florida-based thriller comedy full of trademark grotesques. Disgraced cop now food inspector Andrew Yancy, failing to observe the requirement to butt out, investigates a weird kidnapping. If it exists you'll never want to eat in Key West.

Breakfast at Tiffany's - Truman Capote (6)
Ignorant me had seen the movie but never read the book. Discovered it wasn't even a book but a short story and, to be honest, I enjoyed the other, shorter stories in this collection more than the eponymous longer one (more a novella). They were:

House of Flowers
A Diamond Guitar
A Christmas memory

Each genuinely short, perfectly constructed and nicely delivered.

But back to  Holly Golightly. She wanders across the pages. We don't really know what she is up to, how she makes her money, where she is from or where she is going. But our narrator is infatuated with her - probably because of the mystery. Even her door plate says 'travelling' where an occupation might have been expected. She is cool, chic, sophisticated - yet a glimpse into her bedroom reveals a laundry disaster. Intriguing. 

Sisterland - Curtis Sittenfeld (8)
My second book by this female author. I love her style, the way she builds a tale, the slow reveal of a thing and yet a page-turner. Twin sisters with an unusual gift - but they don't both exploit it. And an interesting (parallel) reminder that prophecy is useless without context, assessment and validation.

Capital - John Lanchester (9)
My favourite book of the holiday. John Lanchester wrote a wonderful guide to the financial crash of 2007/8 called Whoops! Clearly at the same time he was constructing this novel as the various residents of a London street have their lives affected by the same. A fascinating insight into economic migration, family relationships, the history of houses and the ultimate inter-connectedness of all things.

The Sellout - Paul Beatty (7)
I like to read Booker prize winners to see what the fuss is about. And this is incredibly clever; a satire on racism. Seeing his town wiped off the map our narrator aims to put it back on by re-introducing segregation; harder even than it sounds in an apparently all-black neighbourhood. It is a commentary of contemporary USA. I maybe got half the jokes (but they were excellent). I particularly loved one riff on why white people's skin-tones are never described in the detail given to people of all other colours. But it didn't quite hold my attention all the time. Hard work for the beach. I'd commend it for study more than holiday reading and for that would give it a 10/10.

Julian Barnes - Talking It Over (7)
The three members of a love-triangle take it in turns to narrate their position. Sometimes you can see something coming, know it isn't right and yet can't change the direction or pace of the circumstances. A reflection might follow on the inevitability of sin.

Amusing Ourselves to Death - Neil Postman (8)
Writing in the mid 80s Postman (no longer with us) reflects on what TV has done to the way we process information. Sesame Street didn't, he says, teach kids to love education; it taught them to love television. So eventually the news became entertainment. He looks back at the days of the nineteenth century when presidential debates could last eight hours and an audience were comfortable with this. As we live in the age of social media it behoves us to reflect if this is having another, major effect on the way we think.

As I publish I am halfway through I Am Charlotte Simmons by the excellent Tom Wolfe. Looks like a 10 to me but I only managed 350 of the 700 pages before the end of holiday rudely interrupted.


Anonymous said...

Fancy going on holiday and then spending your time reading, something you could just as easily have done at home.

Anonymous said...

I'll take a wild guess that you've never lived in a vicarage.