Friday, November 14, 2008
I suppose Victorian novels were what Victorians did instead of soap operas, so maybe listening to its quarter of a million words read out is appropriate. I loved the relentless satirizing of everything, even love itself. I loved the warmth. I loved the way he kept the central love story of the plot right to the last page. I think Becky Sharp would have wrapped me round her little finger. Worse, I would have enjoyed it.
There are one of two sticky spots when it appears even Thackeray didn't read over his own work, perhaps he was in a hurry, but like all great books, I want to go back and do it all again.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
If books were people this would be '20s flapper, fresh, quirky, flip, light-footed, beautiful. I found this book in a mission school library in the middle of Cote d'ivoire, read it by the light of a generator with the grasshoppers singing all around, finished it, went back to the beginning and read it again. A perfect dance partner of a book.
Friday, July 4, 2008
I have to put that aside in this case. This is a simple book that talks about the main elements of a good novel. It is the nearest legal equivalent to gas-and-air that I have found when it comes to soothing the birth-pains. I love its complete lack of pretension. It's sympathetic and funny. I don't have any friends who are successful novelists, but this book more than any other helps fill that gap. I owe this book so much.
PS: This James N Frey is not the James Frey of recent literary scandal.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Utterly, totally captivating with its stories of this pioneering denomination that sought out the poorest 10% in the UK and around the world.
This was the gospel setting the news agenda. Who popularized safety matches? The Salvation Army. Why is the legal age of consent in the UK and in many countries around the world set at 16? Because the Salvation Army, allied with a leading journalist, campaigned for it. MPs, who used child prostitutes, were in uproar. There were riots, bricks, violence, jail sentences against the campaigners. Still they fought -- laughed at, derided, causing major civil disturbances, criticized by the great and the good as well as the indolent and the bad.
Here's the story of the Salvationist leader who always used to march carrying a dead rat: he reasoned that it was better to carry the rats that were thrown at him rather than cast them aside to be hurled at him again. What a book.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
The book became that much-devalued thing, a number one bestseller. It is about as far from beiing a work of literary fiction as a book can possibly be, which is delightful. Our moment in the sun. Take that at the Hay-on-Wye Festival and smoke it. The Hitchhiker brand got diluted after the second series and second book, but not after it inspired Terry Pratchett (another physicist) to leave the nuclear industry and write for fun.
Here's the book:
Here's the radio series:
Your brain is still mushy at that age, but solidifying fast. Mine went this way. Physics is beautiful. Technology can make fairy tales true. It's OK to dream of a better world. Writing can be lucid and enlightening. Wouldn't it be fun to study Physics at King's College (Clarke studied Physics and Maths joint honours). Then, be a writer for the rest of your life, simplifying complex things that you study for the fun of learning about them and writing novels. Clarke died a few months ago and I still miss him.
I read it after a near-fatal heart disease that left me, in my mid-thirties, disabled, off work for three months, banned from going out in the evenings, waking up with severe heart pains and every time I looked at my four-year-old son and my six-year-old daughter, thinking I was going to die.
I didn't die. I have lived to see my kids become bigger and wiser than me. But I did learn that 'time management' is not about packing as much into life as possible, but taking out as much out as possible -- everything that, in the final analysis, doesn't really matter. I loved this book.
*in my little world at least
Monday, May 19, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
I've been driving my family mad with references to this book which can summed up as: knowing your enemies, drinking lots of water and champagne, and relishing fresh, in-season food in small portions.
I don't know what 'scarfing' means but plan to use it sometime.
Monday, May 12, 2008
What is life like living with an extremist who turns out to be right? What do the family think of this God who drowns the world? What does Noah do after the Flood when the words from God stop coming and he has to cope with being an ordinary, lonely old man? What a fabulous, funny read. You might even have to use the phrase 'heart-warming' by the end but don't let that put you off.
Here's the opening quote:
This book is about ending poverty in our time. It is not a forecast ... Currently, more than eight million people around the world die each year because they are too poor to stay alive. Our generation can choose to end that extreme poverty by the year 2025.
We live in amazing days: Nigeria, for example, now has no foreign debt, through a combination of political reform and debt forgiveness (and a high oil price). Debt forgiveness would not have happened without the Christian Church's contribution -- a story that perhaps will rank one day with the Christian contribution to the ending of slavery. This marvellous, clear-headed, optimistic and prophetic book is essential reading to shape our responses to poverty, aid, debt and trade.
The language is fruitier than you will find in your average 'Christian bookshop' but Hendra's wit and honesty and Father Joe's wisdom and grace, and the un-theologized clarity of the story, make for an inspiring read. You'll never despair for a prodigal again, even if the prodigal is you.
The Amazon link is for an audio CD version, which I preferred to reading the text itself.
The version highlighted is a modern, easy-to-read, thought-for-thought translation of the original, with a funky metal cover, a Bible that not only slips into a bag but also sets off airport security alarms and probably stops bullets.
This is a fine version but I think the best idea is to read every version you can get your hands on, including the word-for-word translations like the NIV and paraphrases like The Message. Then buy a Greek-English interlinear version and a book like Vine's Dictionary of New Testament words and make your own translations. The New Testament has sold even more copies than the Da Vinci Code, I'm told, so there must be something in it.
You have to clear your schedule for a couple of months in the evenings, and you have to pace yourself and think of it as a series of about six novels. I read it when I was banned from going out or working for three months after nearly dropping dead. Almost worth getting a moderately serious illness so that you can read it while you recover.