Monday, 28 January 2013

Lost Book Library Reading Round-Up no. 7

I've decided the gap between books featured and books actually read is getting excessive, so I'll be concentrating on reading round-ups for a bit.

Villains We Have Known by Reg Kray

Status: Abandoned, p. 22

I don't want to dwell on this too much, as being the only book in the Lost Book Library so far written by an obvious sociopath it is utterly unpleasant.  It does, however, contain sentences like these: 'His cue to life seemed to be his zest for living, which he achieved to the full before the door of death finally turned its key on him.' And  'It seemed theirs was a classic example of the epitome of life's seesaw of sorrow and joy.'

Juan In America by Eric Linklater

Status: Completed

This novel was a smash in the 30s, but has since petered out of public consciousness.  The protagonist is a descendent of Byron's Don Juan, making his way in a picaresque manner across the USA.  I was expecting quite a lot of sex because of this, but despite a lengthy preamble explaining his lineage, this Juan doesn't actually get up to much naughtiness.  In fact, the book could easily be called 'Some Bloke In America' and it would pretty much capture the contents just as well.   Occasionally brilliant, with some comically dazzling scenes such as a play in which characters reveal their inner thoughts via overhead projector and an orchestra that never rehearses forced into giving a performance, the novel suffers from just being too damn picaresque.  Juan leaves situations before they are exhausted, and because of this, it's sometimes hard to invest that much interest in them.  And while there are some killer lines, ('She's only got two ideas in her head. The other one's hats...' 'Baptists, it appeared, were not very good footballers. A little soft, perhaps, as a result of so much immersion...') some paragraphs are so dripping with wry observation and irony they verge on being overwritten.  Not a lost classic then, but still a worthwhile read for anyone interested in literature between the wars, somewhere between Sinclair Lewis and Nathaniel West, but not as good as either.  Interestingly, Linklater was born in the same Welsh town as I was, and is therefore my soul brother.

The Secret Lives of the Sky Girls

Status: Abandoned p. 92

I was wary of reading this as it is squarely aimed a the female reader, and being a man I have no interest in the things like 'feelings', 'emotions' and 'love' that they stuff books of this type with.  Having said that, however, I did read about half of it, partly because the style was breezy and enjoyable, and partly because I unexpectedly found the world of airline stewardesses quite fascinating.  In the early chapters, the ins and outs of the job are explained and it's a pretty engrossing read.  As it went on, however, there was just lots of yukky kissing and sexy stuff.  All perfectly fine for what it is though.


Status: Abandoned p. 30

This novel about a gay merchant seaman in 70s London was disappointingly a bit of a mess, despite the promising theme and great cover.  It's written as a diary, a format I always hate, Adrian Mole excepted, as it gives the impression that a novel feels the need to justify it's own existence. Also, the novel seems to initially serve the purpose of tying together some short stories, as the protagonist tries his hand at creative writing.  Undoubtedly an important piece of social history, and the first short story at least is actually good, but as a novel it's a nonsense.  Also, after working my way through Quick Turn and Juan in America, I was all picaresqued out.  I think somebody should read this novel, but I've decided that person shouldn't be me.

Lifetime by Mark McShane

Status: Abandoned p. 123

Unfortunately for me, the next novel in the Library also fell into the picaresque category.  A young man is given the chance by an elderly millionaire to live a lifetime's worth of experience in a year.  On the one hand, there are some nice scenes such as one in which the protagonist suffers an unwanted erection while posing nude in an art class.  On the other, the sexual politics are very swingin' seventies, with much easy sex with dolly birds who love it.  Not actually dreadful, but at over 300 pages, it was just too long to justify giving any more time to.  I could pretty much see where it was all going anyway.

Anyway, another round-up soon.  Or later.