Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Lost Book Library Reading Round-Up no. 14

The penultimate round-up of the Great Lost Book Library Reading Backlog.

Game in Heaven With Tussy Marx by Piers Paul Read

Status: Abandoned p. 24

This opened with an intriguing premise of a conversation in the afterlife involving Karl Marx's daughter, but soon moved on to the class-obsessed seduction story material that bored me in the last novel by Read I tried to read.  I'm sure what he's doing is lovely, but it's not for me.

Harris in Wonderland by Philip Reid

Status: Completed

As you'd expect in a detective novel written under a pseudonym by two Private Eye staffers, here the establishment is corrupt, while those angry enough about it to get radical are figures of fun.  The moral ideal to be aimed for here is, naturally, that embodied by the socially conservative investigative journalist.  The story is sometimes engaging, sometimes not, but there's a good courtroom scene and a decent twist, as well as some enjoyable counter-cultural stuff if you like that sort of thing.

The Bender by Paul Scott

Status: Abandoned p. 26

Very well-written early work by The Jewel in the Crown-meister.  Nothing particularly wrong with it, but I'm getting weighed down by the sheer number of class angst post-war novels I'm having to wade through.  The plot hung on some gubbins about an inheritance and a debt I couldn't get my head round, and accountancy-based stories just aren't my thing.  You should definitely read it, though.  It's probably brilliant.

Seventeen Part One by Soya

Status: Completed

The Lost Book Library is amply stocked with recollections of teenage sexual encounters which are definitely those of a fictional character and not the author.  I was determined to finally get through one of these, despite the fact the psychological reaction they trigger is not dissimilar to that experienced by Springfield when Principal Skinner announced he was a virgin.  This one, by renowned Danish novelist Carl Erik Soya and set just before WWI, is actually good stuff.  It's more a novel about adolescence, despite the sexy packaging, and by the end of Part One, the protagonist still hasn't got his end away. (He doesn't even get to first base) It does, however, detail a boy on the verge of adulthood trying to make sense of the world he is about to enter very well.  It's also an example of the past being a foreign country, with everyone only having a bath once every fortnight and children playing with toys well into their teens.  Having said that, apparently blackheads were an issue even back then.

The Marriage of a Young Stockbroker by Charles Webb

Status: Completed

Despite being reissued as a classic every decade or so, I didn't think Webb's The Graduate was much cop.  The inarticulacy of its protagonist seemed unlikely and dishonest.  Here, in Webb's third novel, the young stockbroker of the title is refreshingly vocal, and we actually get to know what his problem is as his marriage disintegrates under the weight of his voyeurism and the tactics of his interfering sister-in-law.  Although his wife does irritatingly display some Benjamin-esque vagueness, this is overall a much more satisfying book than The Graduate, although less high-concept.  The dialogue crackles, and Webb's standard film treatment-style is juxtaposed with some fine interior monologues as the protagonist recalls a visit to a now very tame-sounding porn cinema.  A strong entry in the suburban ennui genre.

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