Sunday, 24 February 2019

Leave it to Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse

“Love, Miss Halliday, is a delicate plant. It needs tending, nurturing, assiduous fostering. This cannot be done by throwing the breakfast bacon at a husband's head.”

Another excursion into the world of Blandings Castle seemed like a good idea. Another point in its favour was that it meant I could tick off the entire list of the 25 most stylish men in literature. If you're a long time reader, you will know of my deep, abiding love of list fulfilment.

So, how to describe the contents of this particular Wodehouse work? Well things are much as you would suspect should you be familiar with his work. I really loved the recent television outing of the Blandings castle novels and this one combines with the Psmith series. Psmith is, well he's something else and the P is silent. Prepare for some umbrella theft, mistaken identities, assumed identities, jewellery theft and general shenanigans.

While published in 1923, this one still retains its sparkle.
4 out of 5 jewels aren't to be sequestered away.

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.