Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Lost Book Library Reading Round-Up no. 6

A summary of my latest attempts to actually read the things before the Lost Book Library goes on its Christmas break.

Alton Douglas's Celebrity Recipes

Status: Flicked

Obviously, I'm not going to read a recipe book all the way through.  I'm not a mental.  I will, however, be shortly beginning a spin-off blog where I cook each of the recipes and rate them for tastiness, nutritional value and aroma.

The Landsbird by Colin Dunne

Status: Completed

This is exactly the sort of book the Lost Book Library exists for, even though it nearly didn't make it in due to its truly dreadful cover, and only a recommendation from the Nivenator himself saved it.  Too much of a soapy melodrama to be 'literary', too loaded with a vivid sense social reality to be a straight romance, this tale of doomed love between a couple brought together, and driven apart by the Sexual Revolution's slow crawl into England's remote areas falls between the cracks beautifully.  Although featuring such seventies stock characters as the businessman with the mistress in the city, and the nagging housewife, as well as those Lost Book Library stalwarts, the troublesome bikers, it also has a fantastic realness to it when it's attention turns to the fishing folk whose livelihoods are slowly, inexorably winding down to nothing.  There are some plot twists towards the end which are so unexpected, bizarre and problematic my brain refuses to process them, but overall, a very enjoyable and surprising read.

A New History of Torments by Zulfikar Ghose

Status: Abandoned, p. 99

This novel from B.S. Johnson's former writing partner comes with the most impressive list of recommenders - John Fowles, Edna O'Brien, Michael Moorcock, and it is indeed sporadically dazzling, with characters being flung on their own individual adventures in a manner that is positively Tarantino-esque.  It is also, unfortunately, irredeemably silly.  Beginning with a wealthy middle-aged man's affair with a younger woman (as all novels set in Latin America are - no exceptions), its attention soon turns to his children, who have very short memories, and think nothing of doing things like spending several days on a stranger's farm in order to see if there are any agricultural techniques they can apply to their own business, in spite of the fact their sibling has mysteriously disappeared after being knocked unconscious in a car crash.  I suppose this might be some magical realist device, but I couldn't be bothered with it, and after three characters in a row experienced such amnesia, I gave up, annoyed at such a potentially brilliant novel being capsized in this manner.

A True Romance by Jacky Gillott

Status: Abandoned, p. 19

A story about a romance writer getting over her mother's death that was simply too dreary to bother with, but as promised, here is another shot of the amazing fur-and-knitwear combo featured on the cover.

Kick Turn by Anthony Glyn

Status: Completed

This coming-of-age tale from the early sixties turned out to be an unexpected delight.  A young man is torn between following in the footsteps of his pretentious uncle into the fruit import trade or returning to the bosom of the family of his godfather, a truly terrifying bunch of outdoorsy religious nuts.  Along the way, he is irritated to have to stop listening to opera in order to lose his virginity to an older woman, and meets a free spirit who shows him a possible way out of his dilemma.  As ever in the Lost Book Library, the ending is a mess, and fan though I am of rambling, near-plotless post-war novels, the elements aren't ever set in motion in the way they should, and so a potential lost classic is instead an enjoyable curio.  Still, well a worth a read.

Sunday, 9 December 2012


Title: Dangler

Author: Charles Gaines

Year of publication: 1980

Inner cover blurb: 'In Dangler Charles Gaines has created a character as emblematic of America as Jay Gatsby.  On one level is is a carefully orchestrated - and often extremely funny - novel of manners and a cautionary tale of the dangers of male pride.  On another it is a superbly gripping adventure.
   A wealthy, boundlessly energetic autocrat who is unable to resist the most demanding tests of his physique and his courage, Kenneth Dangler builds a luxurious sporting centre in the wilderness of northern New Hampshire, through which he hopes to revive the lost spirit of frontier America in an age of cultural and physical decadence.  To the accompaniment of gourmet meals and daily stock exchange quotations, his clients pay exorbitant fees to take part in realistically staged outdoor adventures - shooting fearsome rapids in canoes mounted on rails, or grappling in the woods with a bear whose claws have been conveniently drawn.
   Dangler's effect on people is hypnotic.  His patrons are mesmerized by his enthusiasm, and flattered by his attentions.  His beautiful wife, Erica, has a craving for the dramatic and the terrifying, and together the Danglers form a magnificent, troubling image of all-American confidence and recklessness.
   As Dangler's obsession with the camp grows and his visions take shape, the simulated adventures become frighteningly real.  Play escalates into reality, until finally he leads his group into a climactic confrontation - a final test of manhood he has willed himself to face.'

Quick flick reveals: Cross between the Great American Novel and Westworld, as written by the inventor of Paintball (true fact).

Random paragraph: '"Have to see a fella about a dog," said Bigelow after another silence.  "You guys want to join me?  It's a beautiful night out there, and there won't be mnay more when we can walk outside together and take a leak."'


Saturday, 1 December 2012

A Chemical Romance

Title: A Chemical Romance

Author: Jenny Fabian

Year of publication: 1971, Corgi edition 1973

Back cover blurb: '"I think Jenny Fabian should be taken for what she is - a very clever girl who can actually write quite clever books about rather self-indulgent young people.  I hope this book is very successful.  I hope it shocks lots of people and sets the whole of the middle classes revolving in their tasteful graves."
   Jilly Cooper

"Fabian's portraits are lightning silhouettes cut by a master with a very sharp pair of scissors... everything is captured accurately in the black comedic outline."
   Time Out

"The new book is as revolting as the last one.  I didn't get beyond the first three pages but that probably means it's bound to be a best-seller."
   Over 21

"It permits a look into a world most of us don't know and feel secretly fascinated and horrified by.  We enjoy, through Jenny, illicit pleasure we would not dare enjoy ourselves."
   Liverpool Daily Post'

Quick flick reveals: Fabian is renowned for her first novel Groupie, a work that will always draw attention to itself as one of the characters is clearly based on Syd Barrett and offers a fictionalised, informed account of his breakdown.  Less well known are Fabian's follow-up novels.  I suspect this one might be a bit about taking drugs.  And sex with rock stars.

Random paragraph: '"I can't stand chicks with smelly cunts", he continued, "too many chicks have smelly cunts.  I like to go down on a chick, but I've got a very sensitive nose and can't stand the slightest odour.  You'd be surprised how many chicks have smelly cunts."'