Wednesday, 10 June 2009


Hurray for paperbacks! If you don't think you're ever going to reread them you just give them to Oxfam. I've been rereading lots of Iain Pears' excellent art-history crime books, and also some Perez-Reverte. The latter is part of my quest to find a book written after 1914 which my boss would like. The Fencing Master might do, but I think The Dumas Club has the wrong sort of sex in it, which is a shame, because he's a big fan of Dumas.

In new books, I enjoyed Me Cheeta. When it came out in hardback it was anonymous, or at least purporting to be by Cheeta, but now it has someone's name attached. Well done James Lever! It's very funny and mimics the bitchy Hollywood tone perfectly. Also Cheeta's love for Tarzan (Tony Weissmuller) is very touching, and it has an amusing index, which is quite a hard thing to pull off. It's probably the sort of book that would make a good present. But not for anyone who doesn't like the idea of chimpanzees snorting cocaine from the breasts of nubile starlets. So probably not my mum.

Tibor Fischer's Good to be God is also good, but he's yet another one of those authors whose work I read, and enjoy, but put down thinking how much better their earlier stuff was. I love The Thought Gang and The Collector Collector (and I know that not loving Under the Frog so much is a sign of my unintellectual nature).

I read The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perotta. All the characters were very 2-D, verging on stereotypes, and I found it hard to get worked up about it. It has gone straight on the Oxfam pile.

I read Alan Moore's Watchmen. I enjoyed it. But it's interesting that even though comics don't have to be geeky, they are. Also naive -- why on earth would an alien landing in New York pull the whole world together in harmony during the Cold War? The same political antagonisms would continue. Isn't that how the Romans conquered Gall? Anyway, now I too am a geek, arguing about the logical inconsistencies in comic books.

Eamon Duffy's one-volume history of the papacy is good. I have the Oxford Dictionary of Popes, but I've never really read it all the way through rather than just dipping in to work out which of the (generally nauseating) popes of the tenth and eleventh centuries were involved in various things I'm working on. Now I want to read a biography of Marozia. Maybe I should write one. I could put it together with some other short lives in a collection called "Genuinely Revolting Women". I hate this feminist thing where you have to be on the side of all women ever and you can never disapprove of anything they did -- it's very patronising. Marozia's story would all be a bit too schlocky for a novel; my advice is that if you ever come across a novel based on the life of Marozia, avoid it. I read a novel once about the life of that Spanish woman who was Lucrezia di Borgia's sister-in-law, and that was a mistake. Also, novels about anyone with the surname Boleyn.

And I finished the Arcadia book. It was interesting but irritating. For one thing when he transcribed original documents there were tons of instances of words like "pishe" which were quite clearly meant to be "parishe", and he's just failed to notice the tag on the back of the p which shows it's short for par or per. This really annoyed me.

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