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What are you reading ?

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Reposting here in case of interest, especially to fans of Lee Child.
Radio 4’s Open Book today.
Interesting interview by Mariella Frostrup with Lee Child and Pat Barker.
On our need for heroes through the ages.

Gullane

@Grey-Wolf
My ‘go to’ author for an easy, gentle read, one that restores your faith in humanity, has to be Alexander McCall Smith.
I seem to recall reading that over 90% of his readers are women….so he clearly doesn’t appeal to everyone.
It’s also fair to say that he’s a really prolific writer. I used to buy his books….but now borrow.
Most people will know him for his No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, but I’m also a fan of the 44 Scotland Street and the Sunday Philosophy Club series, both set in Edinburgh; also the von Igelfeld novels.
Perceptive, urbane, unfailingly witty and wise…and comes over as a really nice person too …

Gullane

@GeminiJen I fully empathise with the soft and fluffy sentiment as an antidote if you’ve been trawling through the pages of the high brow, the heavy, the challenging and the noir as I tend to do, you do need a ‘layby’ now and again as an interlude. For me Roald Dahl’s short stories “Completely Unexpected Tales” (about fifty in all), offer that outlet, well crafted, quirky but quaint, likewise the tales of John Wyndham “Consider Her Ways & Others” , “Jizzle” and “Seeds of Time” all short story collections, likewise those of Arthur C Clarke “Exploration to Earth” Ray Bradbury “Machineries of Joy” all big on ideas but “light” on the reading palate. Re-read John Steinbeck’s novella “The Pearl” the other week , probably the most poignantly, despairingly sad book I’ve ever read…and yes it’s all in the course of ‘art’ etc. etc. but there comes a time when you have to escape into some alternatives…though not, for me, the ‘penny dreadfuls’ as I call them: Messrs. Rankin, Child, Mankell, Robinson, Crais. You can keep your corpses, morgues and Glaswegian backstreets away from me thank you very much indeed.

Last Edited by Grey-Wolf at 18 Nov 19:16
Wakefield, West Yorks.

Have just finished re-reading Margaret Atwood The Handmaid’s Tale.
I first read this more than 20 years ago and decided to read it again before reading her sequel The Testaments
I haven’t watched the TV series.
Briefly, this is a dystopian novel, set in 21st century America.
What I found particularly chilling is that so many of the horrific events in the book have already happened somewhere in the world.
E.g. Fertility control in China; The Disappeared in Argentina; The Salem Witch Trials…..
So, not comfortable reading.
I’ve now decided to read something soft and fluffy before tackling the sequel

Gullane

@GeminiJen I also forgot dear, dear Jhumpa Lahiri on the ladies’ list. Fay Weldon, Daphne Du Maurier, Iris Murdoch, Doris Lessing would also feature on mine…all pioneers of the previously unwritten.

@Grey-Wolf
Agreed. The panel must have felt this was an impossible task, to please everyone.
[I mean, if this year’s Booker prize panel couldn’t even agree on one winner….]
In addition to the men you mention, I’d have added a few more women: AS Byatt, Margaret Drabble for starters….
That said, I’ve just watched the first episode, devoted entirely to the work of women writers….and enjoyed it.
I think you mentioned that you don’t possess a TV?….Pity, there are some very watchable series…..

Gullane

@GeminiJen I’d be the first to admit there’s many on that list I haven’t read ~ but it’s by no means definitive. I see no Billy Golding, John Fowles, JD Salinger, JB Priestley, John Steinbeck, Carson McCullers, John Wyndham. If I got into playwrights I could list a dozen more including Arthur Miller, Harold Pinter, Joe Orton, Caryl Churchill, T.S. Eliot, Steven Berkoff etc.

Mind you, I must say it’s nice to see Neil Gaiman get a mention…I discovered graphic novels some years back and must say he takes the crown for nudging that genre into high art with his “Sandman Chronicles” and of course Alan Moore (“V” for Vendetta) – I’ve got the complete book of that and there’s actually far more in the comic book than the film (interesting fact: Alan Moore was highly displeased at the final "V for Vendetta " film – brilliant as it is ~ as it cut out much of what was in the original colour graphic novel which is about 300 pages long).

Last Edited by GreyWolf at 09 Nov 18:49

“William Golding ~ A Critical Study” ~ by Mark Kinkead-Weekes and Ian Gregor. When it comes to high brow I do like a nice Lit. Crit. now and again in unpacking the unforeseen held therein. This one is very lucid in discussing Golding’s first five novels : “Lord of the Flies”, “The Inheritors”, “Pincher Martin”, “Free Fall”, “The Spire” . The final chapter “Perspectives” especially in attempting to define Golding’s art and craft as a whole and the connectivity between each of the novels. A bit like JB Priestley or John Steinbeck, names known only through the school ‘set text’ can have a habit of rendering that author into the unfashionable ‘stale bread’ category, when usually nothing could be further from the truth. None of these writers wrote with the school syllabus in mind, rather it found them. In Golding’s case though he may well not appear on any fashionable publishers’ promotions today, he certainly deserves to be. This is the sort of book you’d borrow before you wrote an essay on a set text, (my 1967 Ex Libris Castleford library copy, many times borrowed and sold off as surplus, obviously did just that) but the Lit. Crit. can serve as highly pleasurable recreational reading around an author.

Last Edited by GreyWolf at 09 Nov 18:16

100 novels that shaped our world. See link:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/494P41NCbVYHlY319VwGbxp/explore-the-list-of-100-novels-that-shaped-our-world

Have they missed any you would have chosen?

Gullane

Just an update on the aforementioned Noir series of books, trawling the site there are no less than 123 different Noir short story collections titles covering half the planet, you could almost stick in a pin on the map and find a Noir collection set in that location . From Tehran to Dehli , Trinidad to Tel Aviv , through Prague to Amsterdam, Belfast to Baghdad, Helsinki to Texas, Berlin to Cape Cod. With about 15 stories per volume that’s probably around 1,900 stories all told. Link here:

http://www.akashicbooks.com/subject/noir-series

Last Edited by Grey-Wolf at 04 Nov 13:31
Wakefield, West Yorks.
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