Day 8 – Books that are underrated – A Disaffection and The People’s Act of Love.

I have to confess that I don’t really follow fashion or know what is underrated. So the books I am going to mention are ones that I have read but not many people I know have read and I feel that they would enjoy.

The first book I have chosen is A Disaffection by James Kelman. It has one of my favourite opening lines – “Patrick Doyle was a teacher. Gradually he had become sickened by it.” It sums up very neatly exactly what happens in the novel as Patrick becomes more and more disaffected with his life in gen9780330307369 (1)eral and his career choice in particular. Gradually, his behaviour becomes more erratic and the narrative voice- although third person – becomes increasingly rambling along with it. It becomes difficult to tell where the third person narrator ends and Patrick’s thoughts begin. This could show just how removed Patrick is from his own life, unable even to grasp a first person narration of his own life.

This is a very down to earth novel and was one of the first books  I read that used dialect words and to have the rhythm of working class language. This appealed to me and also influences me as a writer as I am from a working class background myself. It was also the first time I had read a book that played around with the rules of grammar and punctuation – for example not using apostrophes in words such as shouldnt or question marks at the end of questions. Sentences break off without warning into new paragraphs. Others are left unfinished. This cleverly shows the fragmented nature of Patrick’s thoughts. After all, few people’s thought processes are as clear cut as they appear in most novels. Inside your own head, you don’t have to make complete sense as you are the only one who needs to understand.

This novel is an examination of the human state reminiscent of Kafka and just as surreal at times even though it is grounded in realism. The end of the novel is one of the most poignant I have read. The reader knows that the future is not looking good for Patrick as his final thoughts in the novel are about suicide. The final words are “Ah fuck off, fuck off.” This shows that Patrick is no closer to being able to deal with the world now then he was at the beginning, in fact things are an awful lot worse and likely to continue in that fashion. There is no need to continue the novel as the rest of Patrick’s life is summed up in those five words.

The second book I have picked is The People’s Act of Love by James Meek. It is set in Siberia in 1919, a time and a place I knew nothing about. It begins with the appearance of a mysterious stranger who has escaped from an Arctic prison and who claims he is being chased by a cannibal. This is an exciting narrative that is full of twists and turns and containing some of the

peoples_act_of_love

most interesting characters I have come across.

For me, the main success of the book was making interested in a time in history that I had previously not even considered and the author is clearly knowledgeable about the era, including things such as the Russian sect of Castrates called Skoptsky and also about The Czechoslovak Legion fighting in the Russian Civil War which i don’t think are common knowledge. When I finished this book, I had an urge to find out more, surely the sign of an excellent book.

Day 7 A book that is a guilty pleasure

I’m not sure that I really believe in the concept of a guilty pleasure when it comes to reading. I like what I like and I am not ashamed of any of it. Nobody else should be either. I tend to assume that because I like it, it must be of a quality. I know, that’s a particularly circular argument but I genuinely believe it. And it’s quite an easy thing to say when you don’t read anything that might be considered particularly trashy.

Of course, it is only my opinion. For example, my father in law cannot understand why I read any of the fantasy books I like. In fact, he says he wouldn’t even call them literature. I know that he means Terry Pratchett when he says that. So maybe I should view them as a guilty pleasure but to me, they just are a straightforward pleasure. They make me laugh and they make me think. Surely, you can’t get better than that.

Day 5 – Comfort book – Pratchett and Rankin

When I am feeling a bit low, I tend to look for reading that is either going to make me laugh or that is going to be nicely tied up at the end. There are two things that I periodically turn when I am in this mood – one of the many Discworld books, guaranteed  to lift your spirits or detective fiction of some description which would give me a puzzle to solve and hopefully leave me with the correct answer.

 

The next task for me was to decide which Discworld book to talk about. This was stupidly difficult. As far as I am concerned, they are all good so it wasn’t even a question of eliminating the ones that were bad. Eventually, it came down to favourite characters – and that came down to Death. Of the

reaper-man-1books which feature Death as a main character, Reaper Man is my favourite. In this, Death goes miss and lives as a human called Bill Door. Appropriately, he becomes a reaper of corn. There is a wonderful scene where he becomes aware of the nature of time, something he has never had to worry about before. He cannot imagine how humans manage to live with clocks in their houses, quietly ticking off the seconds of their all too brief (from the point of view of an immortal) lives. As Death is no longer doing his job, life force starts to build up and Ankh-Morpork becomes home to a number of undead – vampires, zombies and old wizards who fail to die when they are supposed to – all of which add to the humour.

This is a novel that manages to be both comic and profound. It tackles big ideas without them seeming big or pretentious. It makes you think about life and death without being the least bit depressing.

 

The other type of novel I like when I feel a bit under the weather is detective fiction. Although I have read Rendell, Kellerman, Patterson and others, I find that Ian Rankin’s Rebus just resonates the most with me. My favourite

question of blood

Rebus Novel is A Question of Blood. The murder takes place in a school; a shooting by a loner who then kills himself. I like this because it appears an open and shut case but, of course, it isn’t. As ever, Rebus’ personal life gets him into trouble and is as much a concern as the case he is working on when it seems he may have committed a crime in order to help DS Siobhan Clarke.

I try not to read books that I have read before especially when there are so many books waiting patiently on my to-read list but there are times when it is comforting to know exactly what you are going to get. And both Pratchett and Rankin never let you down.

Day 4 – Book turned into a movie and completely desecrated.

It took me quite a while to think of an answer for this one. As I have mentioned before, I think that the book is generally better than the film. Having said that, it was still difficult to think of a film that had completely ruined the book.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been things that have annoyed me about adaptations. For example, the chase scene at the end of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas annoyed me immensely. The ending in the book is much more subtle and therefore more poignant. The rest of the film was, I thought, quite well handled though. The word desecrated seemed to suggest a bit more than mere irritation.

Eventually, I remembered my disappointment after watching the film

boleyn girlof The Other Boleyn Girl. I had been quite excited to watch it as it was an excellent read so expectations were high when I sat down to watch it with my mam who had also read the book.

I’m not sure how it is possible to take a book that is so packed with action and intrigue and make it limp and insipid but they managed it. Events were missing, the characters didn’t sparkle, there was no tension at all. Normally, I would have stopped watching but because I knew that the book was so good, I persevered. I kept thinking surely it must get better. I was wrong. This was a real damp squib of a film even when considered on its own merits and not compared to the book.


Day 3 – the longest book I’ve read

adwdAfter saying yesterday that I would probably always choose 2 or 3 books for each blog, there can be only one answer to this question so, for once, I was easily able to make
a decision. I will at least say that A Dance with Dragons is the longest book that still resides on my book shelf at 959 pages. If I have read a longer one than I can’t remember.
I’m a bit of a recent convert to the series, I have to admit. I read the first book ages ago but for whatever reason didn’t carry on with the series. However, the TV series reminded me how good it was so I decided to read all the books. This happened to coincide with the release of A Dance with Dragons earlier this year so I was able to continue reading without a break.
As the series is filled with action and surprises, I did not feel aware of reading a really long book. I could not put it down, in fact and read it far quicker than I expected. The only bad thing about finishing this book was the knowledge that I’d have to wait for the next one to be published.
This was made all the more difficult by the fact that Martin had created a series of cliffhangers; not just one but many. The novels are divided into chapters giving the life events of a particular character. By the end of
the novel, it became apparent that a number of characters were going to be left in great danger. I cannot wait for the next instalment.

Day two- Favourite side character – Walser, Spud and Ponder Stibbons

As you will discover as this challenge continues, I am incapable of picking a single book for anything. So each post will probably look at two or three books.
My first choice for favourite side character is Walser from- Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter
Jack Walser is the straight man to the magical, winged woman Fevvers in Angnights-at-the-circusela Carter’s wonderful tale of mystery and intrigue. In a lot of ways, he performs the function of a reader, incredulous and duped by the amazing Fevvers. He gets drawn into her chaotic world almost against his will and is amazed by her along with the reader.
In the course of the novel, Walser is frequently injured and humiliated. He completely loses himself at one point before being reborn a new and wiser man. As a reader, we feel for him and worry for him, in a way that you don’t have to about Fevvers who is strong and confident and although she gets into scrapes, she seems so together that there seems little need to doubt she will survive.
The reason I like him so much is that as a journalist, he should be cynical but in the face of the Fevvers, he cannot remain so. He is described as unfinished and does not reach his true personality until he has been through his series of adventures and falls for Fevvers in every way.
Spud from Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
Spud is one of my favourite comic characters. He is involved in one of my favourite incidents in Trainspotting – the job interview which he attends with Renton having taken speed and in which he informs the interviewer that htrainspottingas lied on his application form. Welsh perfectly captures his voice, calling everyone ‘cat’ and ‘kitten’ and showing his eternal optimism and friendliness. Unlike Renton, Sickboy and Begbie, Spud is a warm character who maybe a little naive and hopeless but is not as flawed as the others.
Spud has perhaps the most poignant moment in the novel where he begins to feel close to a woman but loses his nerve after remembering a line from There is a light that never goes out by The Smiths. It is heartbreaking.
Ponder Stibbons from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
If you have ever worked in an office (or wherever) and felt that you were the only sane person in the place, then you will have a great deal of sympathy for my third choice, Ponder Stibbons. He is the only sensible wizard in Unseen University. Having to deal with Arch-chancellor, Ridcully  on a daily basis would try the patience of a saint and Ponder is often on the very edge of his patience. But what is really great about this character is the strategies he employs in order to ensure that things are actually done his way. The way he plays Ridcully is a joy to behold.

Day 1 – Book series I wish had gone on longer – Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series.

Until recently the most obvious answer to this question would have been Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series. John Rebus is my favourite fictional detective because he is difficult, exasperating and above all anti-authority. His moral code is highly personal which ensures that he does not play by the rules much to the annoyance of his superiors and the entertexit musicainment of the reader. Even more importantly, he had excellent taste in music and Rankin litters the books with musical references as should be apparent by some of the titles – Dead Souls, The Hanging Garden, Let it Bleed, Black and Blue and, of course, Exit Music. And then there is the fantastic Edinburgh and Fife locations, so evocative that they seem like a character in themselves.
In what was the final book of the series, Exit Music, Rebus retired. I admit, even at the time of reading, this seemed unsatisfactory. Rebus is one of those people who would be lost on retirement, who die three weeks after or turn up at work more often than when he worked there. It may that Rankin agreed with this as there is now a new book, Standing in Another Man’s Grave which I am yet to read. It may be that it was always the case that another book would be written. The ending of Exit Music is open to a continuation of the story. It matters not. I am certainly looking forward to reading about the next stage in rebus’ life.
I haven’t read that many other series. Harry Potter, I feel ended when it should. The only way to continue that would be with the next generation of Weasleys and Potters. An adult Harry Potter just wouldn’t be the same. Similarly, His Dark Materials had a pleasing ending and a completely new scenario would have to be invented in order for Lyra to have an new adventure. I love the Game of Thrones series but as yet they do not look like finishing.

A Resolution of Sorts – 30 Day Book Challenge

I don’t really believe in New Years resolutions. They make us all feel better, of course, after the excesses of Christmas. But I find a couple of things about them depressing. For a start, they tend to be negative, giving up things, forcing yourself to do things that you don’t want to. It always seems a strange way to start the year. The other thing is the tendency to break them is high as if making the resolution was enough in itself. This relates to the negative nature of resolutions. No one really wants to keep them. They just want people to admire their potential resolve.

Last year, I decided I wanted to make resolutions I would actually keep so I resolved to choose things that would make my life more pleasurable. I resolved to watch more films and to read more books. This has been great and ensured I have discovered new writers and directors, seen things I wouldn’t have bothered with. I have made an effort because I actually wanted to keep them.

This year, I am resolving to blog more. So to start the year I am going to do the 30 day book challenge as created by Becky

DAY 1. – A book series you wish had gone on longer OR a book series you wish would just end already – Ian Rankin Inspector Rebus Series
DAY 2.  Favorite side character – Walser, Spud, Ponder Stibbons
DAY 3. – The longest book you’ve read – A Dance with Dragons – George R. R. Martins
DAY 4. – Book turned into a movie and completely desecrated – The Other Boleyn Girl – Philippa Gregory
DAY 5. –  Your “comfort” book – Rankin and Pratchett.
DAY 6. Book you’ve read the most number of times – Steinbeck, Ellis, Bulgakov
DAY 7. – A guilty pleasure book.
DAY 8. – Most underrated book – A Disaffection and The People’s Act of Love.
DAY 9.  Most overrated book – David Nicholls and Ian McEwan
DAY 10. – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving – THe Memory Keeper’s Daughter and The Book of Lost Things.
DAY 11. – Favorite classic book – Dickens, Salinger, Stevenson.
DAY 12. – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t.
DAY 13. – A book that disappointed you – A Sense of an ending and Lighthousekeeping
DAY 14.  Book that made you cry – Dancer from the Dance and The Book Thief.
DAY 15.  A character who you can relate to the most – Little Women and The Robber Bride
DAY 16. Most thought-provoking book – Naomi Klein and Joanna Blythman.
DAY 17. – Author I wish people would read more.
DAY 18. – A book you wish you could live in – Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
DAY 19. A favourite author – Margaret Atwood
DAY 20. Favorite childhood book – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women
DAY 21. – Book you tell people you’ve read, but haven’t (or haven’t
actually finished) – On the Road, The Old Man and The Sea, The Scarlet Letter.
DAY 22.  Least favourite plot device employed by way too many books you actually enjoyed otherwise – Atonement and The Time Traveller’s Wife
DAY 23. Best book you’ve read in the last 12 months – The Good, The Bad and the Multiplex
DAY 24. – Book you’re most embarrassed to say you like/liked.
DAY 25. – The most surprising plot twist or ending.
DAY 26. – Book that makes you laugh out loud.
DAY 27. – Book that has been on your “to read” list the longest.
DAY 28. Favorite quote from a book.
DAY 29. – A book you hated – 50 Shades of Grey
DAY 30. Book you couldn’t put down.