Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A FAREWELL TO ARMS - Ernest Hemingway



Frederick Henry is an American soldier serving as a Ambulance driver for the Italian Army in the First World War.

Through a colleague he meets Catherine Barkley , a British nurse.  This book is the story of their love affair with the war as a back drop.

Shortly after the initial meeting Henry is seriously wounded and the affair blossoms as Catherine nurses him and becomes his lover.  The wounding is what occurred to Hemingway in real life and he supposedly went on record as the first American to be wounded in WWI.

The affair continues and Henry eventually deserts to be with Catherine due to her pregnancy.

The Hemingway I like -the short punchy sentences - is here but in my opinion the book can't decide whether its a full on romance or full on on war novel and ends up not being either.

I began to struggle with this with about a third of the book to go, I stuck it out but it dragged for me after a promising start.  And like Graham Greene , Hemingway won't leave tired from laughing.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A POINT OF VIEW - Clive James



Between 2007 and 2009 Clive James was one of several people who took part in a 10 minute slot on the BBC espousing their views on various topics- A Point of View.

This book is the collection of the 60 broadcasts.  The original text is printed and then there is a post script added by the author prior to this being published.

As normal with anything Jamesien its brilliant-funny, cynical, well researched and hits its target every time.

There are myriad of topics covered- Harry Potter, the golf ball potato crisp, Dairy of a London Call Girl, soccer (football).  My favourite started about futurologist Herman Khan.  Herman was prone to making claims about the future, what will be happening in 20 or 25 or 35 years times. Clive concludes the most impressive thing about Hermie was it made Hermie sound impressive and that is all.  The topic then segues into climate change.  Clive and I agree on the " man made climate change" brouhaha , we are not fans.

There is something for everyone here- I believe the programmes themselves are still up on his web site- www.clivejames.com.

Lastly, not wishing an earlier demise than is already underway for Mr James, who is very ill, I will mourn him for the fact the the world needs quick witted intelligent cynics like him and Hitchens.

When you read both they make you realize we humans are rather puffed up dweebs who need to laugh more at ourselves.

This collection is gold.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY - G.K.Chesterton






































This is sub-titled: A Nightmare.  Gabriel Syme is a Police detective and poet who infiltrates a meeting of anarchists,joins becoming member code name "Thursday.  This is written in 1908 when the anarchists were a movement.

The cynic in me thought that they can't have been much of anarchists if they were having organised meetings but there you go.

He soon finds out that no one is who they appear to be.  Many scenarios later there is a confrontation with the head anarchist ,Sunday, and all is found to be well  proving that goodness will prevail in a wicked world.

The clue is in the sub-title, its a feat of imagination where Chesterton goes with his characters but once its apparent what is happening it takes a bit long to come to a conclusion in my opinion.  This is not a Father Brown story by any stretch, very different.

If you enjoy the metaphysical  give this a go, its short and won't take too much of your time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

DEATH UNDER SAIL - C.P Snow






































From 1932 this is Snow's first published novel and his only 'whodunnit', after this he embarked on his "Strangers and Brothers" series.

Six people are on a boating holiday in the 'fens".  The host is found shot dead at the tiller of the yacht. From this the remaining guests move to a conveniently local house to solve the matter themselves with a cameo by an idiotic local police man.

This is what Raymond Chandler called a 'cheat ' crime novel, in that the reader is not given remotely enough information to solve the crime by information from the story.

The highlight for me is the puritan housekeeper, she made me laugh constantly.  Apart from that the only interest is the manners of the people of the period- (everyone is so damn polite even though they loathe each other)- there's not much to recommend this.

It is short, two decent baths on a rainy Sunday nailed it but there's much better 'crime' around from this time period.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

THE THREE MUSKETEERS - Alexandre Dumas



After viewing several of the several hundred film and televisions adaptations of this novel I have finally read it and what treat. Its a "rollicking good yarn" of "daring do"- females in distress, political chicanery and one of the most evil females in literature.

The bare bones of the story are well known I assume, a young country lad, D'Artagnan, goes to Paris to become a Musketeer in the employ of the King.  He meets three serving Musketeers who after initial "issues" become friends with them.

They have to deal with the political trickery of the Cardinal and "Milady" who is wonderfully evil; killing and plotting with impunity until....

The Musketeers and D'Artagnan are nicely flawed humans - Athos is alcoholic, Porthos a compulsive gambler, Aramis a religious nut bar and D'Artagnan would be in jail for stalking if he behaved towards females like he does in these enlightened times.

The four are also very touchy- insult them and you're likely to get run through with a sword in short order.

This was great fun, timeless and I wish I had read it years ago.




Sunday, June 7, 2015

HIGH FIDELITY - Nick Hornby


Rob Fleming, owner of a second-hand London record store has been left by his girlfriend and he is not handling this well.

From this we have Rob's revisiting of previous relationships.  We have Rob's constant issues with his staff.  We have Rob attempting to start new relationships.  This all sounds a bit trite but its not, the novels about relationships and is very funny.  It also has untold moments regarding relationships where I just cringed for the simple reason I know I've behaved like this and this behaviour was not good.

As well as writing a book that contains bits of us all Nick Hornby has an encyclopedic knowledge of pop music which makes it an interesting diversion on its own.

The only negative and the reason we could never be friends is Hornby doesn't rate " Frampton Comes Alive' -adieu.

Monday, June 1, 2015

VEGAS- John Gregory Dunne






































"In the summer of my nervous breakdown, I went to live in Las Vegas, Clark County, Nevada."

So begins this journalistic, autobiographical novel, memoir, work of fiction.  It recounts a summer where the author moves to Las Vegas to re-evaluate.

There he befriends a $10,000  a week stand up comic, a prostitute and a private investigator. Interspersed with his meetings, evenings and days with these three, there are autobiographical reminiscences.

He acts a a pseudo pimp for the hooker, taking her into casinos past security so she can work, gives a breakdown on how the P.I works using a web of contacts throughout the gambling industry, and listens to the comic how he has come up through the ranks working in 'mob' controlled clubs on the east coast

The scenarios are dated, this was published in 1974, but what never dates is Dunne's sparkling, punchy dialogue, he doesn't waste words.  This is interesting, not a "True Confessions" which is Dunne's masterpiece but an interesting slice of time and life.