slemslempike: (books: slemslempike)
[personal profile] slemslempike
These Old Shades - Georgette Heyer
1979 - Rhona Cameron
Evelyn Waugh - Selina Hastings
Miss Bugle Saw God in the Cabbages - Sara Yeomans
The English - Jeremy Paxman
Special Topics in Calamity Physics - Marisha Pessl
Black Swan Green - David Mitchell
All About Women - Taslima Nasreen
Bath Tangle - Georgette Heyer
Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady - Florence King
The British Museum is Falling Down - David Lodge
Why Shoot a Butler? - Georgette Heyer
Love is a Many-Trousered Thing - Louise Rennison
Atonement - Ian McEwan
Notes and Queries - Guardian
Tea and Tranquillisers: The Diary of a Happy Housewife - Diane Harpwood
Brighton Rock - Graham Greene
Franny and Zooey - JD Salinger
On the House - Simon Hoggart
This Real Night - Rebecca West
Night Race to Kawau - Tessa Duder

OH MY GOD why whon't Georgie just get together properly with Dave the Laugh? Is she an idiot? I mean, more than she actually is? Good lord. He's brilliant, she's awesome, they're clearly made for each other and he nibbles lips. I have worked out a bit about why I find some bits annoying - specifically the "spaz" and "lezzie" stuff. It's more a thing about all YA novels than just these books, that I imagine the defence against it would be "well, that's what teenagers are like", and it is, but there are other bits of teenagerness that they've chosen to leave out of the books, like racist language and proper repercussions for their actions. And actually I don't want proper repercussions in the Georgia Nicholson books, because they are terrifically funny and not meant to be true to life. So the racism's left out because it would interfere with that, and undermine the loveable nature of the characters. But using language like spaz/retard, and being weird about lesbians doesn't interfere, because it's not seen as automatically negative as racism is. Night Race to Kawau was quite good, but I did find the sailing bits somewhat dull, and started to think about which books manage to make things you're not interested in still grip you (I find this in AF a lot, with the cricket, and actually the sailing bits in The Marlows and the Traitor).

It was interesting finding out the backstory of Devil's Cub in These Old Shades, but the whole sort of genetics thing was weird. So he hates bastards if they're common, but high-born ones are fine. And nature over nurture obviously, which was quite weird. Bath Tangle was mostly quite dull, and I am still no wiser as to why one would shoot a butler. It also had that nice ending where the man proposes while explaining all the woman's faults and how he might quite like to do violence towards her.

Miss Bugle Saw God in the Cabbages was a book I'd been looking forward to read. It was a bit fluffier than I had imagined it was going to be, but still nice. They end up having an environmental protest thing, but I wish they'd been happier. I really, really liked Special Topics in Calamity Physics - it was a bit of a panic buy in Munich airport after I ran out of books on the train (HORROR). I don't want to spoil it for people, so I won't say too much, but I really liked the main character, the way she was slightly weird from moving around, and clever but still wanted to fit in with people just to get by. Each of the chapters are named after a different book/play, and I think I might well try to read them all as my next project. Black Swan Green was the other panic airport purchase, and that was great too. It's set a little too early for it to really chime with me, but it was really evocative of the bits of the eighties I remember. I hadn't read The British Museum is Falling Down before, but I had read How Far Can You Go?, and they seemed very familiar. This edition had an afterword by David Lodge, which was really interesting about the changes in Catholic teaching, and in Catholic practice. I mostly picked up Atonement because I have been seeing the trailers for the film, which have Keira Knightley in them, and thought that I should probably read the book before going to see it for such a shallow reason. I really liked the first part, but thought the ending was a bit of a let-down, and didn't do any justice to the build-up to it. Tea and Tranquillisers I picked up because it seemed that it might be going to be like Letters from a Faint-Hearted Feminist, but it was much more depressing and not nearly as funny. I hadn't read any Graham Greene before, but picked up Brighton Rock at my grandparents', after reading the David Lodge which often gets talked about with Greene. I thought it was excellent, really chilling. Then Franny and Zooey, which was okay, but really I don't think JD Salinger is for me. I didn't enjoy Catcher in the Rye terribly much either, and I've always felt faintly guilty about that as it's supposed to be all life-changing and gripping. This Real Night was wonderful. Richard's Quin's death was sad, but made so much worse because they knew it would happen, and it was another thing that drove Cordelia further away.

Rhona Cameron made me cry quite a lot. 1979 is a memoir, and it's really funny, but it's about her being gay in a small town, and how she struggled with that, and other people's not terribly great reactions, and her dad's death. It's utterly great, and you should all read it. Confessions of a Southern Lady made me cry too - I'd been half-meaning to read it for a while, and then found it in Foyles. Very good. My edition (Virago recent printing) has an introduction by Sandi Toksvig that mostly seemed to talk about how even though this book was great, we should we warned about her right-wing politics in other work. The Evelyn Waugh biography was okay, but not great. Most of it I seemed to know already from various Mitford biographies. The English was well-written, but terribly frustrating. He's sort of looking at the ideal of Englishmen, and although he makes a vague effort by appendin,g -women from time to time he never really addresses the fact that actually English is a hugely gendered (and classed) ideal. He relegates women to a chapter entitled "Meet the wife", which contains a ridiculous little homily on abortion debates, claiming that while in America the anti-abortionist protests are a sign of a healthy consideration of the ethical issues, in England the lack thereof is a sign that we don't want to think about the ethical issues. Rather than, say, having considered them and decided that ETHICALLY, A WOMAN'S RIGHT TO DETERMINE HER OWN BODY IS PARAMOUNT. Dickhead. Notes and Queries were very funny, and a little bit informative. I like the grumpy swipes between correspondents. On the House was a collection of Simon Hoggart's writings about the Commons, and it was great. It was published in 1982, so the events are mostly from before I was born, and I don't remember them first hand at all. Has he published more collections?

Date: 2007-09-01 11:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It also had that nice ending where the man proposes while explaining all the woman's faults and how he might quite like to do violence towards her.

WHY does Heyer write so many of those and why do the women accept them? You'd think anyone with a bit of sense would think it was a bit of a red flag, particularly if they're living in a mystery rather than a regency and therefore (a) they could quite reasonably continue to support themselves by raising bull-terriers and (b) the young man in question probably is not an extremely handsome member of the peerage, but a Saturnine Young Thing in golf-bags who smokes too much.

Though I suppose it's not just her so much as a thirties and forties trope; there's a completely-inexplicable-to-modern-eyes bit in Angela Thirkell's The Headmistress in which the 'difficult' young woman with the beautiful, charming mother has a falling-out with the much older sea-captain she's about to get engaged to, and her parents have a cringeworthy conversation along the lines of 'Someone should beat Elspeth' / 'And Christopher's the man to do it'.

Date: 2007-09-01 12:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh good lord! I don't think I've read The Headmistress, but now I quite want to, just to see if it's any less terrible in context.

Heyer is still enjoyable but the more I read the more those bits stand out. I quite like relationships written where it's not all true love and soppiness, but the line between that and jovial threats of violence isn't at all thin, it's about 54 point, and in bold.

Date: 2007-09-01 12:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's worth reading: Angela Thirkell's very good, when she wants to be, and particularly at that trick of creating a contained world where you can go back and live for a few hours. She's also very good at creating believable teenagers, neither monster nor Predestined Bride or Husband - though her skill at that slacks by the end. Her later books are noticeably worse than the earlier ones, though - she gets a bee in her bonnet about the postwar Labour government that makes AF's feelings about Vatican II look like a mild preference.

Date: 2007-09-01 01:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I've read Summer Half and enjoyed it. I keep meaning to go in search f more, but the library aren't being terribly forthcoming.

Date: 2007-09-01 02:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, yes, Summer Half is brilliant, particularly the chameleon, though I don't love schoolgirl!Lydia as much as her creator does.

They're fairly easy to pick up second-hand in orange Penguins. There are GGBP-ish reprints, but they all have the most drearily inapposite paintings for covers.

Date: 2007-09-01 02:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Summer Half and High Rising are probably my favourites. I dote on Tony Morland and like all the books with the school in. Angela Thirkell was very clever, very funny and quite dreadful after the war. You will also fume over her attitudes to female education. In spite of everything, she is one of my guilty pleasures.

Date: 2007-09-01 11:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Playing to the Gallery is a collection of Hoggart's writings from, I think, 1997-2002 - it's a bit great.

Date: 2007-09-01 12:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thanks - I will try to get hold of those at some point.

Date: 2007-09-01 12:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think it depends when you first read The Catcher in the Rye? I was given it for my 18th birthday and I was really into it. Then I read it again a few years ago and it was just okay. I do, however, really recommend the Salinger story Lift High the Roofbeam, Carpenters.

Date: 2007-09-01 12:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think I read it when I was late teens myself, and I just didn't get it. It miht be a style thing as well, I've never been as much into American literature. I'll look out for the short story though - seems like the uni library might have it somewhere.

Date: 2007-09-01 12:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I have it in a book with Seymour: An Introduction. It's like a split single. But I never got beyond the first couple of pages of the latter.

Date: 2007-09-01 01:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"Black Swan Green" really hit home for me - possibly my favourite David Mitchell so far although I thought "Ghostwritten" was incredible.

I have just bought another five books today .. *sighs happily*

Date: 2007-09-01 01:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I haven't read any other David Mitchell books. So shhould I look out for Ghostwritten?

I got an Amazon delivery from ages ago yesterday - the second and third Temeraire books, and Shakespeare and Co by Stanley Wells. I'm really looking forward to reading the Shakespeare one. What did you get?

Date: 2007-09-01 09:33 pm (UTC)
ext_6283: Brush the wandering hedgehog by the fire (Default)
From: [identity profile]
in America the anti-abortionist protests are a sign of a healthy consideration of the ethical issues

As opposed to being a manifestation of misogyny by bible-bashing fundamentalists who would not know what healthy consideration of ethical issues was if it started munching on their backsides? Duh. Dickhead indeed.

I wonder how many novels written after 1918 and set before have some wonderful young man character who we know is set up to be going to die horribly. Or else come back a shell-shocked wreck with less than the full complement of limbs. Have you read Cousin Rosamund yet?


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