Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Lost Book Library Reading Round-Up no. 8

Another round-up of my attempts to actually read these freaks of literary nature.

Jessica's Wife by Hester Mundis

Status: Abandoned p. 35

This story of seventies sexual experimentation from Joan Rivers's writing partner had the pedigree to be genuinely good, but Mundis is all to ready to sacrifice the integrity of the world she creates for the sake of a joke, much the same way that Judd Apatow does, only you feel less inclined to forgive her.  Consequently, characterisation is all over the place.  Most of the jokes seem to stem from the fact various minority groups want equality, which seems to me quite reasonable.  Not a keeper.

Have a Nice Day by Barry Norman

Status: Completed

I'll be frank, I didn't have great hopes for this book, but it turned out to be a perfectly enjoyable comic novel - probably as good as Money by Martin Amis.  Norman sticks to writing about what he knows - Hollywood, making TV programmes and LA prostitutes - and comes up with a good range of enjoyable grotesques.  Although Norman's approach to depicting ethnic and sexual difference perhaps hasn't quite stood the test of time, it is enjoyable to imagine him sitting at his typewriter and hammering out the line 'Hey my man! Gimme some skin!'.  It's worth bearing in mind that Bazza, the Bazzinator, Crystal Tips and Bazzastair, went on to write a thriller that was praised by Elmore Leonard, so underestimate him at your peril.

The Harrad Experiment by Robert R. Rimmer

Status: Abandoned p. 36

An academic sets up a programme which allows him to scientifically mess about in his students' sex lives.  Essentially a novel that asks what if someone did a thing that no one is ever going to get away with actually doing.  I can see why the book attracted such a large readership in the sixties, but as literature it's not that great, with clunky characters and unfeasible motivations, and following the dreaded journal format. (Novelists!  You're allowed just to tell a story.  You don't need to justify the existence of the text.  That's why there are such things as novels.) There are enough people talking about this book online already for me to not bother with it.

The Reproductive System by John Sladek

Status: Abandoned p. 92

I was surprised to find myself given up on this rather acclaimed satirical sci-fi novel, but it was just winding me up a bit.  The sci-fi element of self-replicating metal boxes was a joy to read, but the Catch-22-style military humour simply didn't strike me as that funny.  And with each minor character coming with their own 'hilarious' back-story, my patience was tested beyond breaking point.

A Sunset Touch by Howard Spring

Status: Completed

This post-war novel of a shy man obsessed with his own Cornish ancestry discovering sex and love is a classic Lost Book mix of great passages, acute observation, and occasional narrative incoherence.  There's a real spookiness to some scenes involving an ancient vicar, and the treatment of casual pre-marital sex is fascinating as social history.  The plot, meanwhile, hangs from some quite magnificent coincidences and leaps into sheer randomness, to the point that for the first time in my life I found myself laughing at the words 'cancer of the right lung'.  Halfway through there is a bizarre attack on the state funding of art and drama students.

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