Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A year of reading - part two

In the second part of my review of the books consumed this year there has to be a mention for a couple of authors in particular that provoked a frenzy of reading activity.

J.D Salinger
Starting with Catcher in the Rye, which was everything you expected it to be with the teenage anti-hero, there was enough about the style to provoke a delve into the short story collections. The creation of the Glass family, which seemed so genuinely biographical, is something that weaves throughout his other books. Franny and Zooey and Raise High the Roof Beam Carpenters both expanded on the family history. The pivotal event, apart from the family being involved in a popular radio series as children is the suicide of the eldest son Seymour. That event stirs his brother Buddy to be the voice of the narrator that looks for clues to the suicide and catalogues the impact on the siblings.

Cormac McCarthy
One of the great things about loving books is that it can lead to interesting conversations with friends. One of mine led to an exchange with a McCarthy loving friend. I didn’t act on his enthusiasm until half way through the year and then tackled No Country for Old Men and the Border Trilogy. Those four books, which concentrated on the changing nature of Texas and the mystery of the Mexican border, were the perfect preparation for The Road. Probably my favourite book of the year, The Road is able to take the idea of a dying world to its logical conclusion. Once there all that is left is love, hope and a fading respect for some of the traditions of the past.

Crime fighters
Thrillers have always been a source of relaxation and there were some great surprises. The Swedish husband and wife team of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo managed to grip you with Roseanna and introduce a ten book series following the exploits of Martin Beck. As the year ended the first two had been read and Father Christmas had delivered the third. Henning Mankell, another Swedish author, looked like delivering the same quality with Faceless Killers but his next two books, the third of which I am still wading through, failed to deliver. Arthur Conan Doyle provided the holiday reading in Switzerland as I visited the falls where Holmes had fought with Moriarty.

British humour
Times gone by, a gentler age, were easily discovered leafing through the pages of Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop, Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat and the Lord Elmsworth stories by P.G. Wodehouse. Although none of the above provided many laugh out loud moments they all threw open a window into the past when it was possible to get into a farcical scrape and still come out of it having kept the reputation of the upper classes intact.

Short stories
One of the pleasures, and occasional chores, of 2007 was being ambitious enough to fill each lunch hour with novellas or collections of short stories. Some of the best were provided by Rudyard Kipling who produced colonial tales that showed his ability as a writer. The same colonial background was used by Doris Lessing in The Black Madonna. But one of the masters of the short story genre, Edgar Allan Poe, provided a selection of stories that often seemed far removed from real life. Some of the most memorable include The Fall of the House of Usher and Murder in the Rue Morgue. There are little pockets of supporters for short stories and whenever they pipe up Anton Chekhov is often used as an example and he also provided some powerful food for thought during lunch hours.

2 comments:

Michael Krahn said...

Hey,

I recently read The Catcher in the Rye and put some thoughts up about it here:

http://michaelkrahn.com/blog/2008/01/06/the-catcher-in-the-rye/

Take a look if you're interested.

simon quicke said...

Thanks Michael I'll pop by and have a look.