24 October, 2008


If I don't do this I will never catch myself up.

Empire of the sun, JG Ballard. This was quite amazing and I would like to write more about it. You can see why Ballard writes such weird books, given a childhood roughly like this (I think he was in a Japanese camp, but not separated from his parents). The bit when he is alone in Shanghai, eating cocktail food from the bars of the deserted but opulent houses of departed Westerners (the servants have already taken the food from the kitchens; all that's left is chocolates in bedside tables and bar snacks) has a haunting, post-apocalyptic feel. [53]

Just in case, Meg Rosoff. [54]

From the Boer war to the Cold war, AJP Taylor. A sort of follow-up to his colllection of essays on the nineteenth century, From Napoleon to the Second International, which I thought was terrific (although, looking back, I didn't manage to write anything about that either). This was very interesting as it deals with the twentieth century, and so a lot of the essays concern events that took place during Alan Taylor's lifetime. I really like the way he writes: he's very clear and understandable, and often very witty. [55]

Resistance by Welsh poet Owen Sheers was one of those rare books that I finished reading despite the fact that it actually wasn't very good. This was an alternative history novel, in which the Germans had successfully invaded the UK, and is set in a remote Welsh valley. I liked the evocation of wild Wales, but the alternative history bit of the story seemed a bit pointless, and the characters were very wooden, particularly the central woman, a farmers' wife whose husband has left to join the resistance. There were also a few grating bits - would a Welsh farmer's wife in the 1940s compare the smell of gorse to coconut? Perhaps that's very picky, but that sort of thing is very jarring. [56]

Confessions of a survivor, Doris Lessing. I really enjoyed this. One of the things I really like about this is that it's sort-of a post-apocalyptic novel, but the disaster (which is never fully explained) is gradual, rather than drastic: it's described in terms of things getting worse and worse, not some sudden event. I also really like Doris Lessing's almost squinty-eyed honesty about the way her characters think and behave. [57]

Dead end feminism, which I re-read for my women's group, but have written about briefly before. I like the critique of Andrea Dworkin, and what she characterises as 'victim feminism', but I think she goes too far in, for example, her claim that breast-feeding is fetishised in order to keep the mother tied to the child. (Although I think in France breastfeeding isn't considered as important as it is in other Western countries?) . The other smart-arse light-hearted book by a French philosopher I've read recently was How to talk about books you haven't read by Pierre Bayard, which was mildly entertaining, but which I now remember nothing about. [58] [59]

A collection of poetry about london, London lines, selected by Kenneth Baker. [60]

The ballad of Lee Cotton, by Christopher Wilson, which was light, entertaining, but trying a bit too hard to be unpredictable. [61]

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