Friday, 25 July 2008

Grumbling about some books

1. I read Scarlet Thomas' The End of Mr Y, which was quite good. Not brilliant, but at least unusual. I don't know how much you can believe what she says about the theory of relativity, given that it's a novel; I have all sorts of questions about that now which will have to wait until I get back to Cambridge and have access to scientists. Also there was a quote from the Independent on the front saying it had lots of grubby sex in it, which was not at all true, and makes me think that the reviewer must have not read anything written after about 1960. Julian Rathbone's King Fisher Lives is said not to have won the Booker in 1976 because Lady Wilson was chair of the judges that year and she was shocked by its filthiness, whereas now it doesn't seem that untame. I don't know why it's not a cult classic.

NB I just looked on Wikipedia and it seems Julian Rathbone died while I was in Italy and I missed it! Not that it's likely to have made front page news here either. Still, alas Julian Rathbone, I will miss your chutzpah.

2. I reread P.D. James' Death of an Expert Witness. She's quite good, only very cold, and Dalgliesh is a bit silly, with his poetry.

3. Then I read Kate Mosse's Sepulchre on my long journey back via Milan and Bristol. I managed to finish it at Milan Malpensa airport, a pretty dismal place, so that I could abandon it there as it deserved. I've heard her talking on Radio 4 and she seems like a pleasant and intelligent individual, but her writing is terrible. Almost as bad as Ken Follett. I should have known this because I read Labyrinth a while back, but Sepulchre was in Waterstones for half price and I thought maybe it would do for a long journey, even though it's clearly much the same book again. There aren't enough good fat paperbacks in the world. I used to think that this was the ideal plot for a novel when I was about 15, the Penelope Lively-style thing where a girl or young woman who is in some way alienated finds out about a girl of similar age in the past to whom dramatic things happened, and then their stories start to merge dramatically. You know what happened to the past girl because of things the present girl finds out, which adds poignancy and suspense. It can make a good plot, most high-browly used by Stoppard in Arcadia, but plot is not enough I think. Talking of Penelope Lively, her Moon Tiger is brilliant, though it might make you cry.

4. I've just finished Documents Concerning Rubashov the Gambler by Carl-Johan Vallgren, which was quite good but a bit sad. I doubt I will ever reread it.

5. Anyway I need to read something good now, something I will want to reread like King Fisher Lives or Moon Tiger (but without the crying).

No comments:

Post a Comment