19 February, 2012

Cheeky Reading Update

I'm about 3/4 of the way through this - a hedonistic, gluttonous modern tragedy. It's a hefty 400 pages of dense, dense text - but isn't that the point? In a book about excess, limits and the drudgery of hedonism, the book has to be a trawl to get through. But thats not to say the prose isn't precise - Amis has a way with metaphor and dialogue that expresses the vulgarities of the modern world consisely, exactly and in detail.
The plot revolves around John Self, a Londoner and a New Yorker, who is addressing the reader in what the novel's sub-title says is 'a suicide note'. He is in the process of making money from a film, whilst spending as much money as he can in the process. He sleeps around, eats, drinks, and the repetition and sheer number of hedonistic trips exhibits the tragedy of the man's life. Similarly, Amis' prose shows the bad and the dangerous of his life. In a life of pornography, drugs and money, his heart is described as a 'time bomb' -  the image of a useless, and struggling heart is apt and a motif of hope and of inevitable tragedy.

(It pains me to write 'Color' it really does).
Walker's most famous novel is set in the deep South of America between the wars. It is a classic of the A-Level set text list, but I  escaped reading it. I finally got around to reading it, and frankly, I don't see what the fuss is about.

The most endearing part of the novel is the relationship between Nettie and Celie, sisters who are separated and spend the majority of the book writing letters to each other - letters which may or may not even reach one another. This is a sad sad separation (getting more and more absurd) but you struggle to see why Celie stays in the situation she is in, and there is a danger around her, but also a lightness, and one never knows where she actually stands.

The lesbianism plot isn't as profound and deep as I would expect for something praised for its treatment of this theme. It is, I would argue, a feminist text, but is more jolly-jolly pro-women's relationships, but failing to actually expand meaningfully on lesbianism as a theme or idea, and even fails to keep up a consistency of this in plot terms.

This is a collection of musings and ideas (I won't say essays - they are not scholarly) on the ideas of reading, readers and its benefits. With contributions by Mark Haddon, Jeanette Winterson and Zadie Smith, it has the big names to draw sales, but also more interesting and scientific, political ideas by Jane Davis and Dr Maryanne Wolf.
Here are some of the interesting quotes from the book. A book which provokes the pleasure of reading, the pleasure of learning, and puts them side by side, often speaking very seriously about the power of reading in the 'current climate':

1. ''Attention Deficit Disorder' is not a disease; it is a consequence of not reading' - Winterson
2. 'Memory is talismanic. We hold on to what we need and let the rest go' - Winterson
3. 'This [feeling] is what film can't do. The sense of being inside looking out' - Haddon
4. 'Publishers of books... are the foot soldiers of this army. On they go, on they must go' - Callil

Some of the pieces are better than others, and some of the points you'll agree with, some you won't. I wholeheartedly disagree with Haddon's assertion that Virginia Woolf is the best writer at 'capturing the texture of life itself', and the last text, 'Questions for a Reader', is heavy on scientific points to prove a point, but sparse on the scientific explanation and justification for its findings. In all, an interesting read - with some in-depth and emotive ideas on the power of reading, and some less-than-interesting passages, but either way - it helps the reader to further formulate THEIR opinion on books - and in these times, that's important.

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