27 December, 2007

Christmas books

Hope all my readers had a good Christmas - and got the books they wanted...

19 December, 2007

More French stuff

Finally, two books for my course: Madame Bovary and Germinal. Both brilliant, and both re-reads, although I liked Madame Bovary far more now than I did when I was seventeen. (At the time I was rather earnestly political and thought Emma should pull herself together, stop moping about reading novels, and count her blessings, rather like the curé in the novel.) [83]

Germinal is also fantastic, although I still appreciate it mainly for the same reasons I did when I was seventeen: it's so brutal and angry, and Étienne is such a fantastic, human hero. [84]

And the rest

Quick catch-up of other books, as I probably won't get round to a longer post for them: The Tudors, by Christopher Morris (not that one), a short books about the Tudor Kings and Queens, the lastest Stephanie Plum book by Janet Evanovish, which was good fun but much like all the other Stephanie Plum books, and Wicked, by Gregory Maguire, which didn't really work. [79] [80] [81]

However, on various people's recommendations,I read and loved Meg Rosoff's How I live now, which was a lovely, sad novel about a teenage girl who moves from New York to Britain and gets caught up in a war. I thought this was wonderful and really want to read her other book now. [82]

15 December, 2007

Modern german novels

I haven't been updating this as much as I should, but other stuff has been keeping me busy. Anyway, I've been reading German stuff and really enjoying it, especially as it's all been very short. I love short novels and novellas.

Wolfgang Koeppen's Death in Rome, which was short and chilling and bitterly angry, an examination of Germany after the war. Four men reunite in Rome: a former Nazi mayor, now democratically elected Bürgermeister and his brother, a former SS-man now wanted for war crimes, and their respective sons, a conductor and a priest. As a discussion of what Germany and the Germans are, it's pretty brutal, but the structure and balance of the book is wonderful: a review I saw described it as 'choreographed like a ballet'. I want to read his other books about post-war Germany, Pigeons on the grass and The hothouse, but only found A sad affair in the library, his novel about a true life obsession with a cabaret singer. Not such an interesting theme or gripping book, but a fab Weimar-decadence atmosphere: even ze orchestra are beautiful. Thanks to N for the initial recommendation of Death in Rome. [74] [75]

Two more books of Joseph Roth's (I seem to be reading my way through his complete works, but he's so brilliant, it's great). Left and right, a novel about two brothers during the rise of the Nazis, and some of Roth's journalism from 1920s Berlin, collected as What I saw. The journalism is great and really captures the uneasiness of the time, as well as being funny. [76] [77]

And another German writer, another short book, and another recommendation from a friend, Stefan Zweig's Twilight, which was charming and sad. [78]

06 December, 2007

Politics and music

A little book, more like a pamphlet, called When ol' blue eyes was a red, which was a valiant attempt to save Sinatra from his older, Reagan embracing, 'That's Dr Sinatra, you little bimbo' right-wing image, and make a case for him being a subversive leftie in his youth. It's not a very good case. He was a pretty good guy in his youth; he made several prominent stands against racism long before the civil rights movement was really big, and it's well documented that he was a generous, liberal guy who gave generously to some left causes. Betsy Blair, Gene Kelly's first wife, who was very left wing, enough that she was blacklisted, described him as a 'good democrat', and that's alway been my impression of him too. This book tries to stretch it out into something more and doesn't really succeed. [72]

Rednecks and bluenecks, a book about the politics of country music, was very interesting: it starts with the reception that the Dixie Chicks got in the US when they made a joke about George Bush, and then interviews a whole lot of country musicians about their politics. It paints a very interesting picture of American society and what seem like great fractures based on moral and political beliefs, and made me want to track down quite a lot of coutry music (i only really know the older, schmaltzy stuff). [73]