Monday, 28 July 2008
Popping my Salon cherry
Finally, after joining months and months ago, here is my first Sunday Salon post. I was introduced to this by the lovely Ms Damonwolf earlier this year. However this discovery clashed horribly with my final year exams and my life revolved around work, cleaning flat, studying, eating, studying with very little time to read for pleasure.
Reading for pleasure is something I have re-discovered in the past couple of months. I have been in that grey area between graduating and finding a proper job which has left me a lot of time on my hands. Another re-discovery was the wealth of my local libraries. After moving away from the parental home I found out I could have a library card with my new local council as well as keeping my current card for another area. They're both within travelling distance which is awesome news. One library offered Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugh, a worthy novel and took over a month for me to polish off. Phillip, the main character, strikes me as the original rebel teen though no doubt someone will correct me of that assumption. Though at times I did want to shout at him to pull himself together and sodding Mildred was taking him for a complete ride.
Another book which has made an impression on me was The Road by Cormac McCarthy. A well-read friend sang this book's praises so I picked it up in a charity shop a few months ago. This book was extremely well written but hard to read. The topic matter was bleak. We follow a man and his son (their names never revealed) as they travel across a devastated America, caused by some catastrophic event. Obviously it has affected the rest of the world as they have no hope of rescue. McCarthy gives a convincing insight into the "what if" of such an event. The scene that horrified me was the discovery of humans being kept for food by the two protagonists. What was hidden behind the door jumped at me from the pages and truly gave me the fitzwiggens.
Yet, throughout all this despair, the love between this father and his son shines through the book. As they fight each day for survival their care for each other shows an inkling of human hope in this post-apocalypse world. It's a short read but perhaps not one for the holidays. It goes without saying the tone of the book is not exactly Five Go Mad In Dorset a la Comic Strip style. I believe The Road has been made into a film and is being released early next year. This month's Empire magazine had some magnificent photographs of the set and the book is set during the bitter winter. So a January release date seems apt.
The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas was another spiffing read. I wangled it as a freebie from the publisher and was not disappointed. Due to the nature of the book, the pages have a black and burnt effect on them and the front cover is dominated by the colours red and black. A good impression before I start to turn the pages. First, a quick explanation of the plot. Ariel is a post graduate student who is searching for a copy of The End of Mr Y, a very rare book which is rumoured to place a curse on anyone who reads it. Because I am a big wuss I didn't read this book when I was home alone. Sad I know.
At times it's obvious Thomas is a creative writing teacher. Her writing seems a tad too perfect at times, almost as if she's demonstrating to a class how to produce good descriptive writing. Her knowledge does astound me. The book covers topics as diverse as alternative therapies to thought experiments to Darwin. I recently took a class in Victorian England and could see a lot of similarities between the book and topics discussed in class. Thomas certainly knows her stuff.
The book did go a bit ropey in the middle for me. I don't want to reveal too much (because it will spoil it for you) but the sudden presence of KIDs (and I meant to spell it that way) was a tad weird. I feel Thomas could have created the same effect with other characters without resorting to these children dressed up as cowboys. But that is my only criticism. Apart from the ending which seems to suggest post-modernism was right and everything is made up.
So now I've popped my cherry. Am I late for this week's Sunday Salon or early for this week's?