Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Is There Still Sex in the City? by Candace Bushnell

"I didn't know it then, but my relationship was like an aneurism - a death waiting to happen"

I had an email hit my inbox with the news that Sex and the City  author Ms Bushnell had a new release and Netgalley was offering up review copies. I had to pounce immediately!!
While I've indirectly modelled myself on Samantha ( never on purpose - I swear), my recent sojourn ( last Easter) to New York and the SATC tour (not my idea but a guilty pleasure despite the world's worst hangover) had stoked the fire for more.

As I am about 10 years or so behind the SATC girls, I looked forward to a flashy view of perhaps what middle age might hold. There is not a whole lot of vasoline on these lens. This is an engaging foray into Candace's life approaching 60 but not dead yet. How do you deal with TInder and divorces and creepy old blokes when you are no longer in your thirties and well past your forties. This book made me kind of want to find someone stat and avoid the quandry. Yet, as I read on, I realised... nothing really changes. The ages heighten, the moisture depletes, but really we're all the same losers we always were and that goes triple for the online dating scene. I struggle at my age, I can only imagine the drama as the numbers increase.

There's a lot of talk about cougars and I get it.Younger men hold a lot of appeal and are insecure enough to not treat you like dirt. Isn't that a sad indictment of the messed up world we live in. Imagine if age appropriate romance was attainable rather than aspirational. Well a girl can dream. Right now, I'm thinking about how I can advance my career to afford the copious amounts of surgery to reach "super middle" status and triumph in the twilight years.

It's a good thing that Candace Bushnell is such an engaging writer. If she didn't make me smile so often, I'd be jumping off the harbour bridge at the prospect of the oncoming storm of the 50s, 60s and beyond.

5 out of 5 - babe I'm never chasing a man with a bicycle.

Birthday Girl by Haruki Murakami

"She waited on tables as usual that day, her twentieth birthday"

Coming in at under 50 pages, this short story released to celebrate Murakami’s 70th birthday, is the exact opposite of the massive Killing Commendatore, recently released by the author. A sliver of a thing perhaps and yet a delightful little read. I pre-ordered this one not realising just how little the book would be – it easily fits in my mail slot. Apparently it was previously released as part of an anthology of short stories in 2004.

I'm going to be completely honest here. Of the 48 or so pages, I had to re-read the final few to consolidate my perceptions of what actually happened. That is not to say it isn't good, rather it is, I think, intentionally obtuse.

5 out of 5 spit when they blow out the candles... but don't tell.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Vermilion Sands by J.G. Ballard

“The geometric forms loomed and wavered in the haze, like shifting symbols of a beckoning dream.”

I went on a date the other day and the guy made the mistake of asking me what I’d been reading. Well, I said, a collection of strange science fiction short stories where the protagonist sleeps with a lot of women who are reminiscent of mythological creatures. You guessed it, there isn’t going to be a date two.
Anyway, enough of my crazy adventures, back to the work at hand. I have always been a huge fan of the dark worlds of Ballard. I don’t know what that says about me. Nevertheless, this short story collection seemed the work of a younger, more positive individual. At least he manages to have sex with almost all the weird women of the stories. That’s not to say things end well, no quite the opposite. These tales seem much more optimistic than the horrors of Cocaine Nights or Crash, for example.
Vermilion Sands is a setting, a strange and unusual place that is delivered up as some kind of symphony with contradictory movements. Art, music, philosophy and poetry play pivotal roles, as if the women characters are symbolic of creation and inspiration. I particularly loved the tale about the singing plants. Sex and death, as always in Ballard play a starring role.
The copy I read was gorgeous, part of the Vintage Futures series, it has this rather trippy cover which “animates” courtesy of an inner sheet.  I’m rather looking forward to hear the thoughts of my pseudo -book club pal Nicki on this one.
5 out of 5 sail away with me permanently.


Saturday, 2 February 2019

The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst

"The feel of his warm hard body under the silky shirt was almost worryingly beautiful, a promise too lavish to believe in."

This novel has been sitting on my shelf awaiting my attention for a year or so now. I was initially put off by its girth. I've had a short attention span of late and was reticent to launch into something sizeable. I noted however that The Line of Beauty  is included on a lot of must read lists and so my rubber arm was twisted.

There was something so perfect about launching into a lengthy tale about a young man who is really a fish out of water in the cocaine fuelled years before AIDS began to take a hefty toll during the four hour process of turning blonde again ( with eighties bangs to boot). Set in the upper class echelons of the British ruling class, the protagonist is very much an outsider. Nick Guest is a young guy with rather well to do friends, who have helpfully let a room to him while he's at university. As he grows into himself the sense of difference and inclusion is a weird one. That sense of being in but out is one I could always relate to.

Sure it was a little awkward as the foils went in, I was worried my hairdresser could read the gay sex scenes, or the cocaine snorting depictions, over my shoulder, or  perhaps more upsettingly, the words Margaret Thatcher. Hollinghurst is a beautiful writer and the entire novel just seemed to fly by.

I'm not sure I've enlightened you too much today with this discussion. I'm a bit tired - summer is so draining. In short, there is a reason why this novel is so well-regarded, it is a great read.

5 out of 5 - I am killing the 1001 list at the moment.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

The Asshole Survival Guide: How to Deal with People Who Treat You Like Dirt by Robert I Sutton

“Yes, you should try to get away from assholes, but don’t be an idiot about it.”

Having had a lengthy career in Asshole Survival, I was eager to find some further tips to broaden my arsenal in taking them on. Sadly, I just felt a little vindicated about my usual methodologies and concerned that I may have fallen victim one too many times to denial. The feeling that the person was perhaps suffering a temporary blip and really, deep down they must be inherently nice. That explains the last few years of dating at any rate.

I heard an interview with the author on a podcast on the abc and was eager to learn more.
So as I set out on the train to my place of work, where there are a number of prize examples, I pondered on my efforts to escape and dove deep into the pages. I'm not going to say it made for a happy read.
Would I recommend this book? Not unreservedly, but yes. It has some great tips and is well written. Ultimately its up to the reader to ensure they are not treated like dirt. Blocking assholes on every communication device is a sure fire winner when you can.

4 out of 5 assholes are a pain in the butt.

The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan

“She loved him, though not at this particular moment.”

How to describe this moody and depressing novella? Well on the plus side, it's inclusion on the 1001 books you must read before you die list makes it a must read for this completer of lists. On the negative, well it is inherently negative.

A couple that have very much morphed into an almost asexual relationship take a vacation. While unnamed you can't help but be convinced they are in Venice. Indeed it reminded me of a particularly unromantic stay there with the former bane of my existence. A chance meeting with a local owner of a bar, Robert, sends the story on a weird tangent.
Is Robert hitting on Colin? He's certainly been hitting his wife.

That is the least disturbing thing that occurs. Things are about to get bat shit crazy before the end of this slim volume. I guarantee  that you will however, keep reading to the end. Enjoyment is unlikely to be found.

3 out of 5 holiday experiences can be harrowing.

The Victorian Chaise Longue by Marghanita Laski

"It was ugly and clumsy and extraordinary, nearly seven feet long and proportionately wide."

Have you ever felt so run down that you literally melted into a couch. We’ve all had those days and to be frank, I’m working through one today. Imagine if you fell asleep only to find yourself trapped in the body of someone else who was on the verge of death? That notion makes for some unpleasant sensations and ones that are frighteningly depicted in The Victorian Chaise Longue, a short little story that packs a punch.
Recovering from Tuberculosis and desperate to return to health to spend quality time with her newborn baby, Melanie moves out of her bedroom and onto a recently purchased, rather garish, chaise longue. Stained and covered in a floral pattern. It is not long before she nods off and awakens to a terrifying nightmare.
I’ve probably given way too much away with that brief description, this is, after all, a very short story. It seemed almost cinematic in scope and would, I thought, make a fantastic screenplay. Further googling online unearthed the fact that the story had already been adapted both in 1957, with Joan Fontaine and Ronald Regan as part of the General Electric Theatre TV series and also as a Studio 4 televised play in 1962
Happily, this is another from the Guardian’s 1000 novels list completed, you know how I love to finish a list. Well, actually I still have a fair whack to go

4 out of 5 op shop finds can be dangerous.