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Booksluts Challenge Read #2.5: The Old Devils

The Old Devils

Amis, Kingsley

Century Hutchinson, 1986

ISBN 009 163790 2

Ahh, summer reading.  That’s right, northern hemisphere-ers, it’s summer down here now.  Don’t worry, I’ll drink a beer in the sun for you.  Although, any New Zealander will tell you that summer never really comes to the city that I live in – all we get is slightly less wind, and this summer in particular has been pretty pants so far.  I have kind of an intense programme set up for the break that I have over summer, as far as reading goes.  Lots of cheerful titles – Catch-22, The Cancer Ward, Speaker for the Dead.  Oh, and this one, The Old Devils, which doesn’t sound very cheerful, but even before I’d gotten to five pages in had me laughing.  Out loud.  In the staffroom.  With other people present.  Lucky for me I’d already finished my avocado on toast, otherwise I could have had a bit of cleaning up to do.  And on that disgusting, unladylike note…

This is the third book that I’ve read that will go towards the Full-Frontal challenge that those darling Booksluts have set up.  The Old Devils won the Man-Booker prize in 1986.  If you read that little description that I’ve linked to just there, you’ll probably note, as I did, that there seems to be a lot of ‘bursting’ going on in Kingsley Amis’ career.  What up with that, literary descriptors?  What about… erupting?  exploding?  Ach, well… it seems a little redundant to me to have bursting twice, but… whatever.  I have read Lucky Jim before, Kingsley Amis’ first book, but it was so long ago, back when I was doing speech and drama lessons that I couldn’t honestly tell you what it was even about.  Which is ridiculous really, but that was a long time ago now (sob), so I might have to re-read it one of these days.  But who has time to re-read a book I honestly can’t remember a damn thing about?

Actually, on a side note, I often find that with funny books.  I read them, enjoy them, then forget about them.  The books which stick in my mind as ‘good books’ are the hopeless ones, the terrifying ones.  I don’t know if that’s just a propensity of mine to enjoy observing other people’s (even fake people’s) suffering… which is a disturbing trait, but glossing over that for the time being… I remember quite a few books which have made me laugh so much I’ve nearly cried (44 Scotland Street, Fever Pitch, Breaking Dawn, although… I guess that last one isn’t strictly meant to), but I’ve never gone back to read any of them, and I don’t think that I’ve ever recommended any of them to anyone.  No, that’s not true, I actually bought Fever Pitch for the Lad, since he’s almost as rabid a supporter of our local team as Nick Hornby is of Arsenal, and I wanted to show him the path that he was heading down.  Yup, I do my nagging in literary form.  Mind you, he bought High Fidelity for me first.

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There are Some Things Rats Can’t Do

Neverwhere

Gaiman, Neil

Kindle e-book edition

Um.  Yeah.  I don’t know about this one.  Well, okay, maybe I need to come back to it, but I got halfway through and that was all I could be bothered with.  It’s not terrible, don’t get me wrong.  Just… seriously generic. It reads like a bunch of other fantasy books would read if they were written for twelve year olds.  Which is not a bad thing in itself, it’s just not what I was after.  I thought it would be a bit more gritty, somehow.   This was possibly because I read Un-Lun-Dun and King Rat, both by China Mieville, before I read this one – they deal with the same sort of topics, but in quite a different way.

I didn’t actually know that this was written originally as a screenplay, then ‘novelised’ (not sure if that’s actually a word, but you know what I mean, hopefully) after the television series it had been written for had aired.  This was in the mid-nineties, according to the Wikipedia entry on it anyway.  Did any of you cublings out there see the TV series?  It certainly never showed here, at least as far as I remember.  It actually looks pretty good.

And don’t say, Oh, it’s a bit soft like that because Neil Gaiman is English.  There have been lots of rough and tough and gross and horrible novels written by the English.  Of course, now that I’m thinking about it I can only think of comic book guys, but you know, I’m sure I’ll think of some novelists later. I guess, the main reason that I didn’t like it very much is that I thought it was kind of an insipid treatment of a really interesting topic.  Actually, not to put too fine a point on it, but it was a very insipid treatement of several really interesting topics – even the bit where Door finds her brother Arch floating in the pool had me shrugging with meh.  There are some really interesting ideas in it, don’t get me wrong.  Maybe I’ve just moved on from Neil.

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The Guts and the Gory

Haunted: a novel of stories

Palahniuk, Chuck

Vantage, 2006

ISBN 9780099458371

Oh, Chuck.  Where did we go wrong, honey?  Once, your words were like a soothing balm of awesome to my eyes.  Now, I feel slightly meh’d.  Believe me, it’s not you.  But then again, it’s not me either.  It’s Haunted.

This had all the makings of a fantastic read – the parental advisory on the front cover, reports of fainting (fainting!) when one of the stories was read by Chuck at a Borders somewhere on a book tour.  I’m still slightly amazed by that, there must have been some seriously weak-stomached people (or maybe just people with seriously great imaginations) in the audience.  For some reason, I could never find Haunted in a bookstore here at Earth’s End, so I purchased a copy over the interwebs, no big thing.  It’s not on the database of items which freaked the Censor’s Office out (though hilariously, there is a video called ‘My Ass is Haunted’ in there – somehow, I don’t think they’re talking about a donkey there), so who knows where it got to.  Anyway,  it’s weird, I got to nearly half way, bottled out of reading the rest a few weeks ago, but for some reason picked it up again over the weekend.  It’s good writing, the premise is solid… but… but… something is missing.

Like a lot of people, I came to Chuck Palahniuk’s writing after Fight Club (the movie) came out.  The movie was great – I adore Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham-Carter, and that other guy isn’t so bad either – but the book is… genius.  And, okay, I know this happens all the time, but the book is actually loads more deep than you’d ever credit from the movie alone.  For a fairly slim volume (it’s almost a novella), it packs a big punch; aside from the twist in the tail, there is a lot to think about in Fight Club – serious stuff, things like the massive gap between the working poor and the classes above them, things relating to the way men and women see the world differently, and about how the ‘button down world’ of late capitalism cannot scratch every itch.  I guess you could equate Fight Club in some ways to Trainspotting – same kind of feeling around the edges, the characters all in search of something intangable which the society in which they live is no longer capable of providing, and everyone in that society is at a loss to explain exactly where it went.  Phew, that was a long sentence.

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Campfire Chat #1

Here we all are then.  Welcome to the blog; snuggle up, it’s freezing out here in the wilderness.

Let Mama Wolf tell you a tale.

Once, not that long ago, there was a woman who was fed up.  Fed up she was, with books with pink covers, with the arched eyebrow of bus book-judgers, with only novels being part of book clubs.  So she decided to start a book club of her very own, a place where she would read what she damn well pleased and then tell all her little cublings what she thought, a book club with a membership of one.  She’d even ask the cublings what they thought, as long as they’d been good.  She would ignore the questions in the backs of ‘book club editions’, unless they were really interesting questions of course, and operate under no pretensions about reading matter.  She would read classics, shlock, high-brow and low.  No word was safe.

So, now it begins – Mama Wolf has found her book club, and here it is on the interwebs.  I can’t believe it’s taken me so long, but better late than never.  I hope you enjoy the book club shennanigans; I’ll aim for two a month, but if I get bogged down in real world stuff, then that ain’t gonna happen.  I’ll re-do some of my old favourites, and some new favourites, but I’m gonna keep my rule of Half Way; if a book hasn’t grabbed me by then, I close it (I’ll let you know how I get on… mind you, I did get through the whole of the Twilight saga, so that rule doesn’t get invoked very often).

See you at the campfire sometime soon, cublings.