Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Holiday reading

So back from sunny Cornwall where I read:

The Green Man by Kingsley Amis - entertaining enough but faintly irritating as the narrator appears to be pretty much Amis's fantasy of himself, and because of the irruptions of authorial voice for tedious editorialising.

Who Killed Zebedee? by Wilkie Collins - fine (as in 'adequate').

The Story of My Sommer by Patrick Suskind - a novella in the short, childlike, whimsical vein which can be annoying (cf Halldor Laxness) but works here, mainly because the barely specified historical context of postwar Germany brings depth and point to it all. Must try Perfume one day.

Youth by JM Coetzee - which I enjoyed a lot (for instance the underlying conversation with Conrad), except that the ending was dissatisfying, a non-ending, a petering out. I found something similar with Waiting For the Barbarians, and I wonder if it is a feature of Coetzee's style, or even a late-twentieth-century things. Then last night I was inveighing against Stephen Fry and Felix Dennis for their hostility to modern poetry when my wife said, 'But that's exactly the same as your attitude to modern fiction'. I didn't want it to be true, but I couldn't say how it was different. Horror!

Now on to Arnold Bennett's The Card. I've never read anything by Bennett, but five pages in I think I'm going to get on with him. Late imperial wonders. Fashion's a funny thing - there's been no sign of Bennett anywhere in my local Waterstone's or any other bookshop I've looked in recently, and I always thought he was a fairly major figure. But 'Bennett, Alan' is all you'll find.


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