Tuesday, 23 April 2013

World Book Day: Books Wot I Been Reading

It being UNESCO World Book Day, here's a note of the books I've read in the past couple of weeks whilst lounging about in the Mediterranean Springtime include:
Lucky Jim - Kingsley Amis
Amusing and nicely plotted, Amis takes the mickey out of university intelligentsia and other pompous and pretentious arty-farty types. He throws in some excellent farcical episodes and includes an insight into romance. The humour has a lot in common with P G Wodehouse, i.e. a slightly dim chap getting himself into an unnecessary tangle, until he eventually realise he should just be straightforward.
Something Fresh - P G Wodehouse
The Master. This is the first story in the 'Blandings' series. Wodehouse never fails to entertain and like Jane Austen, it is not so much the plot that matters - you can generally figure how things are going to turn out - but the language and the way he gets there is what counts. I find myself re-reading passages because I enjoy them so much. In this book, Lord Emsworth is not the central character but he and his idiosyncratic world of Blandings Castle are what provide the mise-en-scène. Emsworth comes into his own later in the series.
[PS: The recent BBC TV adaptation was OK in its own way, but not a patch on the real thing. Inevitably for a TV series some characters were re-drawn and story lines were conflated but c'est la vie, what?]
The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
Poetic and lyrical in his style of writing, and mysterious at first while you try to figure out what is going on. As the narrative progresses, the characters become less and less likeable as their selfishness, hypocrisy, vanity and fickleness is revealed. The concept of 'The American Dream' is revealed to be a tad hollow and inevitably rooted in corruption, and thus it is most ironic that Gatsby's good qualities i.e. his love and loyalty towards Daisy, are what lead to his demise. Meanwhile, Buchanan's bad qualities are what enable him and Daisy to get away.
The Kraken Wakes - John Wyndham
Apocalyptic alien invasion! An interesting aspect of the narrative is that the aliens are never explained or even described beyond the means by which they induce terror and destruction. And we are never really told what their motivation is beyond speculation by the human protagonists. Meanwhile, in the course of the book, Wyndham takes several well-aimed swipes at the media and at politicians. It's curious when you consider some of the crap films that get made these days that no one has yet adapted this book for the screen.

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