Archive for September, 2010

September 30, 2010

If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller…: Italo Calvino

by Andy

Pretty much every single person I have ever recommended this book to, or bought it for, have hated it; it was too irritating, or annoying, or clever.  But that’s the point.

Obviously if you want otherwise – nice, neat beginnings and middles and ends and absolutely no challenge whatsoever – then stick to, say, the Brothers Grimm or whatever Richard&Judy suggest.  Personally, I thought this was utterly brilliant.  Your loss if you give up on it.

September 30, 2010

Eleanor of Aquitaine: Alison Weir

by Andy

Take the Queen Mother, combine with Margaret Thatcher, insert into Medieval England (and France) and that’s Eleanor of Aquitaine.  Chances are you’ve never heard of her (King John’s mother if you remember your Maid Marion) but worry not.

Weir has a habit of taking the most controversial and misunderstood historical persons and situations and rendering them in such considered detail, free from salacious diatribes and glib asides, so that you finish with the full story told.  This is no exception but with the added bonus of a genuinely fascinating and wilful monarch who let nothing – her first husband, her second, her children, the Pope and the Crusades (which she joined in with, on horseback) get in her way.  Informative and entertaining.

Tags:
September 29, 2010

The Gum Thief: Douglas Coupland

by Andy

In my opinion one of the best of his novels, far better than many of his better known works.

Worth it alone for Glove Pond, the novel within the novel, painful creation of main protagonist Roger – the story of Steve and Gloria and their crumbling marriage and limitless imbibing of Scotch, and so dreadfully bad it’s brilliant.  (The short story about bread also has to be seen to be believed).

Typical Coupland at his best – riddled with angst, misanthropy and bewilderment, and hugely creative.  Thoroughly recommended.

Tags:
September 27, 2010

Penguin Book of Classical Myths: Jennifer R March

by Andy

Everything you wanted to know about Greco-Roman mythology (with the emphasis on Greek, for reasons that will become obvious when reading) in handy, book form.  Or rather handy, readily readable book form.

No endless chapters detailing the ten year wait outside the walls of Troy, no lengthy stanzas reciting who begat who (and with who, and what they happened to turn into, and which god’s ire was stoked in the process).  March adopts the approach of a novel – starting from the very beginning, sticking to a rough, chronological order – and supplies enough background to avoid mere summaries but does not burden the text.  The result is an approachable jaunt through thousands of years of mythology and an abundance of highly enjoyable and thrilling tales told with style.

Tags: ,