Sunday, 22 January 2017

Culling Again

Almost invisible on the far left between the field microscope I have no real reason for owning except I like the box it comes in, and the big fat Martin Amis book, is The Case of the Caretaker's Cat by Erle Stanley Gardner, which I'm pretty sure I would have loved in my teens when I was reading Saint novels and Christie's 'Bright Young Things' spy books. It's all a bit too sassy and dramatic for me now. 

Next to that Martin Amis' The War Against Cliche, a collection of essays and reviews. Some of it's great - such as his comments on what used to be called Lit and Soc, and it's demise (or at least, it's painful earnestness and eventual becoming very poorly indeed), his review of Philip Roth, sympathy for Lydia Bennet, and dry appreciation of Martin Seymour-Smith. 
It feels like he's just skimming over the books he's writing about though, a stone across the surface of a pond. Fine for a magazine review intended to give the reader a flavour of such and such a thing to decide if they want it, but not a book I need to hang on to.

Jean Rhys Letters. I gave up on this half way through. She is so thin skinned and I felt like I was nosing into something absolutely none of my business, a fellow human being like a wasp trying to get out of a window and only crashing into it again and again.

Willam Golding The Hot Gates - much of what I wrote about Martin Amis above probably applies here. Individually entertaining essays, but I don't need to read them again.

David Mitchell - Thinking About it Only Makes it Worse - ditto the above.

Matt Haig Reasons to Stay Alive - I'm pretty sure I was given this by an aunt, along with a book by Danny Baker I haven't read yet and Swallow This by Joanna Blythman, with the idea I would read them if I wanted and take them to the bookswap. Blythman was excellent and I'm hanging onto that, and the Danny Baker is on my bathroom bookshelves.
Reasons I took against on the very first page. I'm sure there are people out there this book will help, and I'm glad if it helped Mr Haig to write it, but I don't want to read it. Sorry.

Nicholas Bentley How Can You Bear to be Human - I simply don't find him funny, and since there isn't much to this book except humour and draftmanship there doesn't seem any point in keeping it.

James Thurber Alarms and Diversions - slightly more amusing but not really. I think part of the problem is that the odd cartoon makes me smile, but pages of them make me shrug.

Colin Watson's Coffin, Scarcely Used is a perfectly workmanlike murder mystery that I know the solution to now.

The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill is not perfectly workmanlike, it's too long, There are three perfectly good first chapters from different points of view, and for some reason she's included them all. I bailed out at 150 pages. Odd because I've read short stories by Susan Hill and she's good at building tension so surely realised she was letting it deflate over and over here?

The Memorial, Christopher Isherwood. I wrote a review of this here. I won't reread it.

And those last three books on the right are actually library books waiting to be returned. Ways of Seeing by John Berger followed as a logical step on from Breakfast at Sothebys by Philip Hook. Seeing was written in 1971 but is still relevant today. In fact the essay on publicity images is more relevant than ever, and the one on nudes highlights an attitude to women and which women had towards themselves that it's in no-ones interest we slip back into.

Speaking of which Gladys Mitchell's The Devil's Elbow is a nice little murder story badly spoilt by the constant negative 'she asked for it' refrain around the woman who has been killed. She appears to have been a nymphomaniac, or a good time girl. I'm not sure why that's a murdering offence.

On the far right is Heads and Straights by Lucy Wadham, which is one of the best of the 'tube line' books I've read so far. It's the Circle Line, but not really about the Circle Line. I won't say what it is about, because these books are so slim that they're easily spoilt.

Incidentally my least favourite was Waterloo-City, City-Waterloo by Leanne Shapton, which is basically the thoughts of people going to work, and then coming back again, and which was an insult to the human imagination. I don't believe the human being has been born that is as dull as this book makes us all out to be.

Incidentally - or not - one of the characters is reading Mrs Dalloway, in which Virginia Woolf does a much better and richer job of getting inside people’s heads and memories and internal dialogue. Maybe that’s meant to be the point, that people on the Drain going back and forth are duller, or that work anaesthetises us into dullness. I dunno. 

Don't care much. It's that sort of book. 

No idea what this is about but leaving it here.

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