December 2nd, 2012

Relax!  Grab a Book!

Book 15

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  1. Freedland, Jonathan — Bring Home the Revolution: The Case for a British Republic (245 pages)
  2. Kierkegaard, Søren — Fear and Trembling (150 pages)
  3. Nothomb, Amélie — Fear and Trembling (132 pages)
  4. Delany, Samuel R. — Babel-17 (194 pages)
  5. Raine, Craig — History: The Home Movie (335 pages)
Page count
3335

I really thought I was going to get back on the book tracking bandwagon in late October, but somehow I only managed one. I definitely want to get through all my outstanding reports before the year is through, though, so I'd better get cracking.

History: The Home Movie is a collection of impressions of the twentieth century in verse. It is episodic in character, each chapter a collection of three-line stanzas capturing an significant moment in the life, or a pivotal historical event through the eyes, of one of the Pasternak or Raine families.

Craig Raine is one of the principal exponents of Martian poetry. The idea behind Martian poetry, a late '70s/early '80s British movement, is to recontextualize the familiar in unfamiliar ways with unexpected metaphors, to imagine how a Martian might see our world.

This all sounds very interesting, and at times it worked to great effect. Overall, the book was a disappointment, for two reasons:

  1. Raine seems — unsurprisingly for someone who is a friend of Ian McEwan and a kindred spirit of Martin Amis — to have an unhealthy obsession with gratuitous and often masturbatory sex. His subject matter and characters provide a wealth of opportunities for the poet and chronicler to exploit, but instead too much time is spent contemplating Boris Pasternak's cock.
  2. Sometimes the metaphors Raine employs are brilliant, causing one to consider objects from a fresh perspective, to focus on otherwise overlooked characteristics, bringing a scene or moment to life in a novel way. But far too often they came across as attempts to be clever and rang empty.

This is an ambitious book, but it fell short of the mark.

Update: I forgot to mention that this was my National Poetry Month reading selection.

Relax!  Grab a Book!

Book 16

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  1. Freedland, Jonathan — Bring Home the Revolution: The Case for a British Republic (245 pages)
  2. Kierkegaard, Søren — Fear and Trembling (150 pages)
  3. Nothomb, Amélie — Fear and Trembling (132 pages)
  4. Delany, Samuel R. — Babel-17 (194 pages)
  5. Raine, Craig — History: The Home Movie (335 pages)
  6. du Maurier, Daphne — Jamaica Inn (312 pages)
Page count
3647

I always thought the first du Maurier I would read would be Rebecca. But you know how I love reading location-appropriate books when I travel, and when I found out I was going to visit Cornwall in May — we drove within spitting distance of the real Jamaica Inn — and Jamaica Inn was sitting on my shelves, well, really, I had no choice in the matter.

I have nothing insightful to say. Jamaica Inn is a well-spun tale, dark, exciting, peopled with intriguing characters, a cross between Wuthering Heights and Treasure Island. I often questioned Mary's choices, but that did not detract from the story in the least.

I very much look forward to reading more du Maurier, and I was excited (as I think everyone else was, too, for I kept talking about Jamaica Inn during our trip) when we stumbled across a house in St. Ives where du Maurier lived and worked.

I watched the movie as well, but I must say it was not nearly as impressive as the book upon which it was purportedly based. Several of the characters were removed or changed, and the resolution seemed to lack any suspense or drama, unusual for a Hitchcock film. (I think it's generally regarded one of his worst films and really was just a vehicle for Charles Laughton and a young Maureen O'Hara.)