Monday, April 27, 2009


Half an hour ago I woke from a dream in which I was wandering in Israel/Palestine and found skeletons of gibbon apes along the road. It was very real. I just caught myself thinking "what I pity I didn't take a photo".

I am seriously wondering if my recent reading of Annie Proulx inspired this fanciful flight of my subconscious. It's almost as though I can hear the dreamy background music.

I'll be back with Proulx posts, count on it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ursula K Le Guin: The Word for World is Forest

I wanted to re-read this because it had been a long time. I'm beginning to find the fore-words more interesting than the books themselves, actually. Here Le Guin calls the novel a little preachy - "overly moralising". She wrote it during frustration at the Vietnamn war. Now that she told me I noticed, but the story does stand up well anyway I think. It's just a classic in the genre. And that's all I have time for, but no matter (dunna mattuh) because you can google it for wiser words.

Nick Hornby: A Long Way Down

On a rooftoop on New Year's Eve four people meet and queue up to jump to their deaths. Obviously, queuing for suicide is socially awkward, so they end up not jumping, and then they end up becoming an unlikely group of not-friends-at-all-really.

It's not the best and most gripping tale of depression I've read, although Maureen's story comes closer than the others. It's just too funny and light-hearted. Then, Hornby would be the first to admit his failure in the Serious Literature department, so it doesn't matter (dunna mattuh as my son says). I liked it. I like Hornby. But his name is hell to type, it keeps coming out as Horby or Hienby.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Annie Proulx: Bad Dirt - Wyoming Stories 2

I haven't even seen Brokeback Mountain, folks.

Curiosity prompted me to get this, and also, short stories are good to read when interruptions are frequent (darn those nightly rounds when I'm working). I'm glad I did, because I found it quite marvellous. Not that every story was a masterpiece, but it was on the whole very good. In Proulx nobody is a hero I think, instead people are just people. This sounds simple, but most authors can't really write that simply, just about people. It's odd.

Some of the stories are about a little three-bar town called Elk Tooth. These are a little more humourous and feature the same sets of characters. A bit more crazy, like the one with the game warden who discovers an opening straight to hell in the forest, to which he commences to bring the poachers he catches.

I'm also enamoured with the names. Does everyone in Wyoming have fantastic names? Wolfscale, Conkle, Cokendall, DeBock.

And most of all she manages to make us fall a little bit in love with Wyoming. Without glorifying anything, least of all the people, remember, she tells us that it's worth loving. It inspires devotion and love. Maybe this love destroys it too. But I'd like to go there and see the clear sky...

Zoë Heller: The Believers

I picked this up on a whim because Heller's previous novel, Notes on a Scandal, is endorsed by Zadie Smith on the cover. This one was apparently filmed - I'd never heard of it. I'm so out of it. (Like that story of the sport's journalist who gets roped into reviewing Macbeth when the theatre critic is sick, and writes an unbiased enthusiastic review, having no preconceptions about Shakespeare - indeed no idea of who he was. This is me sometimes in questions of culture. Except I have Google to ruin me.)

Anyway, Zadie is right, and this is a great book. I thought it would be funnier (black humour, but nevertheless), but it mostly isn't. Quite moving and tragic. I might gripe about that the mother of the family, Audrey, becomes a little too much of a charicature, but I think this resolves itself a little towards the end. I'd recommend it!

Oh, and my motto for this Friday is, as you can see, "write something , no matter how short"...

Peter Dickinson: The Ropemaker

I had such a hankering to read something by Peter Dickinson, and thought myself very clever when I remembered that there was nothing stopping me from borrowing his children's books, since I'd read all the adult ones the library seems to have. After all, a long time ago I'd read The Blue Hawk (in translation, admittedly), and it was good. So when I saw this I picked it up. Unfortunately I was disappointed. It starts off well, throwing us into a setting and events that we don't completely understand the reasons for, without any explaining. This is classic Dickinson, to me, and I like it. Makes the reader feel a bit intelligent, right? But then the explanations start coming and to be honest I just felt like the whole book was a series of scenes piled upon one another, with long tedious dialogue and over-explained like anything. The first chapter I started thinking that this would make an excellent film perhaps, and had jsut started crowing to myself that Dickinson wasn't one of those writers that write as if they're expecting that to happen though, ha ha ha, and was I ever going to put that in the blog post!

I changed my mind. I am very unsure of this book.

It redeems itself a little in the epilogue, where we learn that despite our heroes and heroines tremendous efforts to save their home, there will come a future day in which they are a mere myth, and their country will have been overrun by violence and death. With that little glimmer of hope, when one descendant starts to believe the stories. Oh, and the world Dickinson has created is really capable of being a fantastic secondary universe. It's a tremendously cruel and violent Empire, riddled with magic and with a lot of internal logic and myth. Sadly, it doesn't reach all the way, I feel.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Caroline Graham: Written in Blood

The Midsomer Murder books are MILES better than the tv series, as I believe I've said. This one is about a writer's circle in Midsomer Worthy that invites a famous author to one of their gatherings. By the end of the evening one of their members is dead. Like I said I'm in a rush, so I'll just but down that I liked it. It's fairly predictable, but I still like it. The predictability is miles better in writing than on the telly.

Val McDermid: A Darker Domain

The only McDermid's the library stocks are the newer ones. I want my beloved Lindsay Gordon, pretty please...

This one is a free-standing story, about a cold case detective (who by the way, is a fabulous character) who is asked to investigate the disappearance of a miner whom everyone assumed had gone off scabbing during the strike in -84. His daughter wants to find him to help save her son's life. At the same time new evidence emerges in a kidnapping case from that same era, and our detective with her male sidekick solves them both.

I liked this, but I wasn't mad about it. I loved our radar couple though, more of them.

Am being a bit short, because I want to return the books today.

Ursula K Le Guin: Threshold

How fortunate that I happened to find Rocannon's World at the second-hand shop recently. Because this book just about did it for my relationship with Le Guin. First that enormous brick of questionmark that was Always Coming Home and now this. Premise is OK - a spot in the woods that's the threshold into another world, where it's always twilight. Discovered by accident by a young man with problems, and one day there he meets a girl who has been coming regularly since childhood. The inhabitants of the world are in trouble and gladly send these two off to meet their deaths. Okay, but what is the point of the story? It got awfully long and tedious for such a short book. It feels like an experiment.

Bit of a bargain

Went to the Red Cross shop yesterday and found Rocannon's World by Le Guin - a VERY battered copy, but for five crowns it'll do me nicely - and an Ellery Queen collection, containing mystery stories by Hemingway, Huxley and Steinbeck, among others. Should be good!