Friday, 28 July 2017

Dream Story by Arthur Schnitzler

"A shudder went through her naked body, transmitting itself to him and almost depriving him of his senses."

At last, the antidote for the last dreary death obsessed novel I read was  this short novella, dripping with lust, unfulfilled and all consuming. Our hero and his wife make the usual mistake of being just a little too honest about times where they may have been tempted to stray. That utterance once voiced lends an air of unease and jealousy. Such a trap for young players. 

In this frame of mind, Doctor Fridolin heads out for a house call and proceeds to experience an unusual evening. SPOILER ALERT - He spurns the unwanted advances of a daughter grieving her father, is bewitched by a young lady of the night and crashes one hell of an eyes wide shut style gathering. Damn, I've said too much.
The writing is exquisite and oozes longing tinged with guilt and transgression.
Eighty eight pages of heady delight that hint at the power of desire and the attraction  of infidelity.

5 out of 5  lingering looks lead to strange places.

The Dark Flood Rises by Margaret Drabble

"Sara is newly dead, Pauline Boty is long dead, Simon Aguilera's wife is long dead, and Ishmael is improbably very much alive."

I had been counting down to the day when this novel arrived in my letter box and I feel I was sadly mistaken. Certainly a novel about ageing, dying and decay was not really the perfect antidote for yet another birthday. I may have rebelled in spectacular fashion to countermand its influence.
My reading journey was a rocky one, short snippets of misery that seemed somewhat interminable, which is perplexing given the many endings posited within. It felt like being on the phone to my mother when she is telling a never ending tale concerned with people, names and places which are completely unfamiliar to me.
Stylistically it is well fashioned and yet it just didn't gel with me. Old age, I'm not ready for you yet. Perhaps this is something I need to re-read later, much...much...much later.

I'm guessing my mother will like it.

 4 out of 5 times getting old is not a happy place to be.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore

"Today's child is growing up absurd, because he lives in two worlds, and neither of them inclines him to grow up"

How to review this one? I'm not really sure. It is perhaps best summarised as a kind of visual poetry accompanied by some interesting commentary. First published in 1967 and revised in 1996, this one has some "bottle age" and yet some of the concepts are still relevant today. The visuals are impressive and it makes for an intriguing time capsule.

4 out of 5 images a go go.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Night by Elie Wiesel

“One day when I was able to get up, I decided to look at myself in the mirror on the opposite wall. I had not seen myself since the ghetto. From the depths of the mirror, a corpse was contemplating me. The look in his eyes as he gazed at me has never left me.”

Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, for this harrowing account of his time in Auschwitz and Buchenwald, Wiesel's book is as horrific as it is brilliant. There's a tendency sometimes to be overwhelmed by the horrors of war and push them aside in the too hard to deal with basket. This personal account is so immediate, no fifteen year old should have to experience such things and yet he did. What is even more disturbing is the fact that we have such visceral accounts and yet, as a human race, we learn nothing and horrific treatment of other cultures, races and religions carries on even in these times when we think we've progressed.
When our rights are stripped away, when we live in a culture of fear, horrific events become the norm and we revert to animalistic survival mode. That is not the mark of an enlightened, educated, society. That is the stuff of pure nightmare.
Night  is 126 pages of pure nightmare and shows just how quickly civilisation can disappear and an ordinary life full of aspirations can reduce to something inconceivable.

5 out of 5. I don't feel any glib comment is warranted here. This is a reminder that our grip on an ordinary life is a tenuous one, and that there are those who would take it away because they don't realise theat we are all human being first and foremost.