Sunday, December 30, 2012

Excerpt: Rites by Sophie Coulombeau

When I was seventeen, my English teacher - who was about to leave the school for a new job - beckoned me over in the pub.  He was half-cut and overexcited, and he wore the blunderbuss shine of a man poised upon the precipice of liberation.  

Day, he said, flecks of spit around his lips, May as well ask it before I go. Did you do it?

Did I do what, Sir? said I, although I knew immediately what he meant.

Well, did you do it?  You know! The thing.  The thing, back in the day.

I looked at him.  His eyes flickered back and forth, and he stilled a little, and a sort of intensity settled over the group in the pub.  I'd never liked him, you see, this man.  A buck-toothed weasel with a womanly bottom and an offensively matey facade.  He always struck me, for one thing, as one of those who can only get their kicks from the periphery.  Proud-player of intestine-splattering computer games, who'd never been in a fight.
I looked at him, and I saw that he wanted me to have done it; I saw him projecting himself into my youthful place and thinking of the thrill, the titillation, the exquisite wrongdoing of it. 

 I said, No, of course I didn't.  I said that at the time, didn't I? 

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Christmas Carol (& a merry christmas!)

London Southbank - you can just make out St Paul's peeping through!
There's something about this story which makes me willing to sit through film-after-film, play-after-play, read-after-read.  I know each and every one of the characters in it and know what's about to happen and how it all ends..but there is magic in that book.  

Recently a friend and I trampled around the streets of York watching a promenade performance of A Christmas Carol which had been written especially for promenade theatre with input from Dickens' grandson.  It was freezing.  Raining.  December.  It was also one of those theatre experiences which just stays with you -- as we all huddled into a graveyard in the centre of town to meet the ghost of Christmas future, walked down York's cobbled streets much to the bemusement of passers on...  It's a wonderful lesson to take from a story though, a story which is as relevant today as it was when it was first written.  It can be so easy not to take a chance on someone, it can be so easy to become self-absorbed, it is not easy to always put others before yourself.

"It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour."

I suppose if I wish anything for you, dear reader, over the holiday season spend time with loved ones.  And try not to squabble over insignificant details in the rules of your favourite board game ;)
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Friday, December 14, 2012

I wonder if the snow loves the trees...


I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says "Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.

L E W I S  C A R R O L L

I'm so excited to be on my Christmas holidays... a chance to recommence reading for pleasure / reading things which you guys may be interested in...unless there are fans of Elizabethan theatre here? In which case hello! woop!
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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Clandestine by James Ellroy

I don’t know about you but I stick to my familiar corner of the bookshop. A book which promised a protagonist whose primary interests were solving crimes and indiscriminately sleeping his way through Los Angeles wasn’t exactly my ‘cup of tea’. 

This is Ellroy's second novel, originally published in 1983, it comes before his more famous novels, such as The Black Dahlia and L A Confidential. It is the story of Fred Underhill a young policeman in Los Angeles trying to further his career. By day he keeps the city safe from crime and at night he prowls for loose women. He looks for “the wonder”, a sense of awe, which he feels when he encounters anything new and unusual: from people, nature, or crime.

What is surprising is the amount of sentimentality bordering on the maudlin at times that the narrative contains. Based partially on the real-life murder of Ellroy’s mother, which to this day remains an unsolved crime, there are elements within Clandestine which hold true to the cliché thriller. A protagonist searching for answers in both his personal and professional life. Yet I think the narrative and interesting use of dialogue which Ellroy employs compensates for the slight clichéd overtones of the novel.

Clandestine has something of a split personality between the hard boiled sections of Underhill's police work and private investigation and the sections of near romanticism where he searches for the miraculous in life and romance. Still, Ellroy is a smart enough storyteller even at this early stage not to let the narrative get too bogged down and builds the final third of the novel to a fast paced conclusion.

I wouldn’t recommend this to someone who is looking for something ‘new’. It’s still very much formulaic and I don’t feel it represents the best crime writing of which Ellroy is clearly capable in his later work. I’m not entirely sure that I have been convinced to give books of this genre a go – the cynic in me will always think that they’re formulaic, and in a way Ellroy doesn’t really prove me wrong. That isn’t to say that it wasn’t a good read, and although there are elements which didn’t necessarily work, you still want to know what happened.

This post was originally posted here, because I write about books as much as I can...probably a bit too much, if I'm honest about it...
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