Books


#882

Picked up the new Jack Reacher and the new David Baldacci yesterday. Still got Stella Rimington, a couple of Mark Billinghams and assorted others to read…and that’s just the paper ones. About another 50 plus on Kindle.


#883

Simenon’s “Maigret Goes Home’” effortlessly exhibits his virtues of Gallic wit, style and brevity…and his contempt for originality. Totally predictable but nevertheless enjoyable, it includes a priest who “would have allowed his tongue to be torn out rather than break the seal of the confessional” and expose the killer, an event which would have enlivened the plot.


#884

I’m a Maigret fan, in fact a Simenon fan. I have a feeling I may have read that one although I can’t remember anything much about it. It’s an early one (1932); Simenon was incredibly prolific and wrote over 800 novels during his life. Mostly they’re short, about 80,000-100,000 words, and he churned them out every few months. Many have been filmed, and in fact they are still filmed from time to time. Jean Gabin played Maigret in a whole series of French films, and he’s been on English TV often as well: the best was Michael Gambon, and Rowan Atkinson, who did the most recent version, was the worst.


#885

I loved Gambon in “The Singing Detective” and “The Cook, the Thief etc” but the idea that Mr Bean, whom I despise (but then apparently I lack as sense of humour, for which I am grateful) could play Maigret, is beyond the pale.


#886

I reckon Rowan Atkinson does a pretty good job as Maigret.

The terrible casting is Tom Cruise as a 195cm ex-MP in Jack Reacher.


#887

You may be right but Atkinson’s supercilious approach to comedy has always set my teeth on edge. He may be brilliant as Maigret but nowadays I rarely watch TV or videos so I’m unlikely to find out.
PS How’s that for the pot calling the kettle black.


#888

I’ve never found Mr Bean very funny but as Blackadder he’s great. Blackadder goes Forth is on Fox Classics at the moment and it’s great. As Maigret he just doesn’t convince me.


#889

First episode of Mr Bean was everything he had. But they kept on going.

I think the latest Maigret series is pretty good. Gets the mood of 50s Paris pretty much how I envisage 50s Paris. I just wish they were coming more regularly.


#890

And that experiment is now over.

Lee Child has been quoted as saying that Reacher will now become a series (with Netflix or someone similar).

He praised Cruise for the job he did but said that he was just too short (at 5’7")


#891

Just finished Anna Burns’s novella “Almost Hero”, a pungent, metaphorical, at times uproariously funny exercise in mind fuckerry. The actual writing is more conventional than her more recent Booker prize winning “Milkman” but the narrative is a wacky and confounding mishmash of comic book action and incisive social and personal analysis, replete with super heros and villains who are curiously prosaic, even when they are trying to kill one another. You could be forgiven for thinking the author is on something potent but it’s all sleight of hand of course. The deja vu eventually kicked in and counter intuitively I realised it made more sense if you’ve read the more recent “Milkman” first. Like the models who populate Caravaggio’s paintings, themes and incidents repeat themselves in different settings and for different literary purposes but are recognisable all the same, such as insights on the nature of relationships and personal frailties in tense combative environments ie Northern Ireland during the troubles, but who wants to read that. So Burns cleverly refracts it all through a surrealistic prism.
A brilliant writer likely to repel more readers than she attracts, and I like that.


#892

It’s the bloke out of the us office and a quiet place i think.

I like cruise but he was miscast in this one. I recon he should start doing comedies after his performance in tropic thunder. Pi$ser.


#893

Thurber’s “My Life and Hard Times” is dated, slight and short, which is just what I need right now. A series of whimsical vignettes of middle Americana in the early 20th century, I was especially taken with the anecdotes of his mother placing plates of food on the pantry floor for mice during dinner parties so they wouldn’t enter the dining room and scare the guests and the ornery Grandfather and civil war vet who tried and failed to break in his mistrusted mobile scooter in much the same fashion as an unruly horse. And of course the accompanying illustrations are a visual treat.
The book itself is a delight to behold, and hold, an orange and white striped Penguin paperback printed in 1948 and listed as selling for the princely sum of “One shilling and sixpence”.
Oh well, back to the kindle.


#894

If anyone’s interested in history, I’m currently listening to an audiobook of The Civilisation of the Middle Ages by Norman Cantor. I’m about 3 hours into a 27 hour book (i.e., a very long one, whether in print or audio form) and I think it’s great. He writes beautifully, not like an American at all. (He was a Canadian.)


#895

#896

Except for the prison book and Ali every things else is BORING


#897

0/100

Tempted by about 4


#898

I picked up George R.R. Martin’s “Fire & Blood” last Thursday, $28 for the hardback at Target.

When I heard it had pictures I was kind of expecting a coffee table book (similar to The World of Ice & Fire companion book), but I can attest this is a 700 page tome speckled with the odd illustration every 20 pages or so.

As for the content, it’s not a novel, but rather a history of the Targaryen’s rule of Westeros, beginning with Aegon the Conqueror’s conquest and I presume finishing with the Mad King’s reign, but I’m only 270 pages in…

I should also add that this historical record was compiled by a Maester, and he cites various sources along the way, from shipping records, the notes of household maesters and septons/septas, letters and books from the Citadel etc., and in many instances he will show conflicting accounts and allow the reader to draw their own conclusions.

I must admit that I found some of the opening pages quite heavy with regards to them outlining the initial state of the 7 kingdoms (it would have been nice for the maester to provide a map) and the various kings and family members and their boundaries and grievances. It’s also made more difficult considering how many first names within a family are so similar (Ageon, Aeneys, Aeryn) and that the re-use them a generation later - not to mention all of the incest and so siblings are getting married (and then if someone dies they re-marry another family member or whatever).

In any case , once I got past this the book really opened up, and since it’s not a novel, the chapters tend to cross over and so the maester often reminds you who someone is or who their dragon is or what happened to their husband, etc.

Another advantage of not being a novel is that the language is much less flowery and so it’s really action packed. Births, deaths, marriages, economics, dragons, succession, betrayal, skirmishes, mysteries, wars, politics, intrigue, brothels and beddings, it’s all happening.

Huge battles are recounted in less than a page, with only the main details provided, such as the numbers on each side, who led, the casualties and what swung the battle to the victors advantage - and of course spoils for the victor and repercussions for the losing lords.

In any case I’m loving this so far. I certainly wouldn’t recommend anyone read this prior to starting the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, but I’m really loving the additional context it provides to the 7 Kingdoms and the families who became big players in AGOT, and I’m wondering what kind of additional conspiracy theories it will start.

I also wonder if this will give G.R.R. Martin a better platform to launch his final books, perhaps Fire & Blood will provide some extra context that may alter some of the plot in comparison to the GOT TV series.


#899

For those interested two backstory articles on my latest literary crush, Anna Burns, the former eye opening and the latter polemical.



#900

Milkman is what I’m listening to as an audiobook right now, and so far I think it’s outstanding. It’s brilliantly read by a woman called Brid Brennan. I’m quite sure that I couldn’t read it as text; I’ve tried to read books written as semi-stream of consciousness with paragraphs that go for pages and got nowhere. But read by a reader who’s intelligent enough, and has done enough preparation, to be able to read it with emphasis on the right words to bring out the rhythms of the narrator’s thought so that they can be followed makes it not only possible but not over-difficult. The New York Times article is right in saying that the whole thing is full of tension and foreboding. I want to get to the end but I fear it’s not going to be pleasant.

The NY Times article is good but the Guardian is absolute rubbish. Its thesis is that impoverished and underprivileged writers are unable to write or get published because writing is only for people with money and their offspring, and the writer cites as proof Anna Burns, who’s impoverished and from a moneyless family and a disability pensioner, who has not only managed to write and be published but also to win the Booker Prize.


#901

Hope the reader has a Belfast accent.