Murder at the vicarage by Agatha Christie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Murder at the vicarage by Agatha Christie

English crime fiction

Source personal copy

When I read the list of books for 1930 online I saw that I had the three I have reviewed this week on my shelves so I decided to read them I usually read all translation but I got chance to revisit two writers I have enjoyed in my gran was a huge Chrisie fan she had all those gory fifties and sixties paperbacks wish I wish I had saved a few when she passed many years ago mine is a retro hardback. I picked this copy up in Devon on my Honeymoon as it is set in the quintessential Devon village which is where Christie grew up and Miss Marple lives.

Griselda is nearly twenty years younger than myself. She is most distractingly orettyand quite incapable of taking anything seriously.She is incompetent in every way, and extremely trying to live with. She treats the parish as a kind of huge joke arranged for her amusement, I have endeavoured to form her mind and failed, I am more than convinced that celinacy is desirable for clergy. I have hinted asmuch to griselda, but she has only laughed,

The vicars wife is very much younger and he worries she may have her eyes elsewhere later on in the book ?

Now I have seen both the tv versions of the book both miss bits from the book which I forgot when I reread this book. The book revolves around the Murder of Colonel Protheroe. He is a churchwarden and wants to see the vicar about a problem in the church accounts the opening is narrated by the Vicar where he says that Prfotheroe is the type of man to make a mountain out of a molehill and very much wants the  ways kept as they are not like the new high chuch curate wants it in the church. So when he is due to meet the vicar at the vicarage and is found dead by a shot in the head. Miss Marple is well placed as she lives next to the vicarage and has been in the garden at the time the shots where heard and saw the comings and goings firstly the Colonels with before the shot and the artist in the vicars garden. The Artist Lawrence is painting a number of ladies in the village the vicars younger wife Griselda who around this time says she has been somewhere but was seen elsewhere?  he is painting the colonel’s daughter who has a huge crush on him and hates the colonel’s current wife. A mysterious woman renting a local house that the colonel may have known an odd acting curate. An archaeologist and his secretary that has been working on the colonel’s grounds. The Vicars maid the spinster next door a Mrs price ridley all could have done it as the vicar said the man dead would make the village a better place! even Miss Marple says there could have been seven suspects who did it who will put their hands up and what time did he die all these set the tale twisting and turning to a shocking ending.

“If miss Marple says she had no pistol with her, you can take it for granted that it is so” I said “If there was the least possibility of such a thing, miss Marple would have been on it like a knife”

“THat’s tru enough. We’d better go and have a look at the studio”

The so-called studio was a mere rough shed with a skylight. There were no windows and the door was the only means of entrance or egress. Satisfied in this score, melchett announced his intention of visiting the vicarage with the inspector.

The chief constable and inspector know MissMarple so respect her insights into the dress the colonels wife was wearing that day!

This is the classic christie mystery in a way a cast of characters an unlikable murder victim that means there is a whole host of possible victims then we have the twists of the crime what time did he die ? was it a shot that Marple heard that killed him ? each means the closer we are getting to the truth. How is the mystery woman and why did Lawrence redding chose this particular village to set himself up as a painter ?why did the archaeologist and his secretary come to the colonel’s land for the dig? when these are answered we get to the bottom of the tale this is a classic book from the golden era of crime that uses a microcosm of a small village to show how easy a turn here and there can have wider effects on people’s lives. A nice final choice for 1930 club wonder where we will end up next time round?

Vile bodies by Evelyn Waugh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh

English fiction

Source – personal copy

Well, I enjoy Kaggy and Simons year club this time we are now back in 1930 this time for the 1030 club and when I looked at a list of books published in 1930 this one was jumped out at me as I have read this a few times before it is one of my favourite books in English. I may review mainly translated fiction these days but in my youth, I loved the works of Waugh and have in the past did a small weekly blog event for Waugh. This book for me maybe captures those bright young things at the best and worst the only book that comes near is Henry Greens party going.

“French, eh/” he said. “I guessed as much, and pretty dirty, too, I shouldn’t wonder. Now just yoy wait while I look up these her books? – how he said it! “in my ist. Particularly against books the home secretary is. If we can’t stamp out literature in the country, we can at least stop it being brrought in from outside. that’s what he said the other day in parliment, and I says “hear,hear,” =Hullo,hullo,what’s this, may I ask?”

The custom officer confiscating his books and his own manuscript as he arrives back in the UK.

The book focus on the ups and downs of the life of Adam Fenwick Symes as he returns to London after time in America trying to write his magnus opus of a book which he has in his Case. The first down for him is that he loses this book and the money he was going to get for it from his publisher as it is seized by an over efficient custom officer with a hatred of literature. Putting at risk his marriage to Nina Blunt this on-off marriage runs through the book as he on a number of occasions tries to get her father a rather mad colonel. He returns to his hotel and by chance doing a magic trick wins a sum of money which he is persuaded not to keep but by a Major to let him bet on a sure thing outsider horse that is running at 33/1. So when the horse wins he needs to find this Major this is another thread in the book. Also, he is given a chance of a job as mr chatterbox by his publishing tycoon boss in a chance to redeem himself as Mr Chatterbox. A role Adam jumps at but then as his predecessor in the job got in trouble he is pushed by Nina just to make up characters and events and trends like a green bowler hat which leads to fact and fiction blurring as people start wearing them. Will Adam get Nina will he get his money or even his book back?

(… Masked parties, savage parties, victorian parties, greek parties, wild west parties, Russian parties, Circus parties, parties where one had to dress as somebody else, almost naked parties in St John’s wood, parties in flats and studios and houses and ships and hotels and night clubs, in windmills and swimming baths, tea prties at school where one ate muffins and meringues and tinned crabm parties at Oxford where on drunk browbn sherry and smoked Turkish cigarettes, dull dances in londonand comic dam=nces in Scotland and disgusting dancesin Paris – all that succession and repetition of massed humanity …Those Vile bodies

In his Mr Cgatterbox piece we see the title as Adam describes those bright young things parties and what they get up too !!

Well this is a book that is timeless in fact since the last time I read it Adam stint at Mr chatterbox seems more apt than ever we live in a time that Gossip is now news it seems ever more to me every time you see a red top paper there isn’t news just gossip as news and also the angle of Fake news the reporting of green Bowler hats a piece of fake news that drifts off into reality,. The book is based on Waugh own life and his circle of friends at the time from the batty to those near the prime minister of the day mad relatives. It is for me his funniest book his later books have humour but also the tinged  by world war two this is a moment between the wars that saw as Stephen Fry retitled the book for his film those Bright Young things were able to party and be carefree just before the crash and far enough away that hope had grown after world war one. A perfect first choice for the 1930 club have you read this or have you a favourite Waugh book?

Quichotte by Salman Rushdie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quichotte by Salman Rushdie

English fiction

Source – Library book

I am now on the third of this year’s Booker shortlist as I said the three books I have read so far were ones I may have read anyway. I have read Midnight’s children, satanic verses, Haroun and the sea of stories and the ground beneath her feet so I haven’t read anything by him for at least twenty years as my reading path went towards translation I moved away from his works but this being based on Don Quixote caught my eye when it made the longlist which was before it came out when I read he was using that classic tale as a background to a road trip through middle America I decided to read it.

“Sancho”, Quichotte cried, full of a happiness he didn’t know how to express. My silly little Sancho, my big tall Sanch, My son, my sidekick, my squire! Hutch to my Starsky,Spook to my Kirk, Scully to muy Mulder, BJ to my Hawkeye, robin to my Batman! peele to my Key, Stimpy to my Ren, Niles to my Frasier, Arya to my hound! Peggy to my Don, Jesse to my Walter, tubbs to my Crockett, I love you! O my warrior Sancho sent by Persues to help me slay my meduas and win Slama’s heart, here you are at last. “Cut it out,,”dad”, the imaginary young man rejoined. “Whats in all this for me?”

He imagines Sancho as his sidekick

As in the other books by him, I have read by Rushdie he uses various stories within his novel. here we have a man an anglo Indian writer of spy novels that is alone his son has left him. He has wanted to write about a man traveling across  Middle America this is where he comes up with the Character of Quichotte an Indian salesman Ismail but he takes the name Quichotte. A man who has spent his evenings and all his free time watching the trashy side of US tv those odd reality shows and dramas and quiz shows he is a sickly man and has fallen for an Indian tv star Salma R he writes to her and decides to travel across America and get to this woman as he does this he invents a son as he sees it all those great Tv stars he had seen had a sidekick so he has a son called Sancho along the way he meets many racists in Middle America in one small town they become Mastodons this is a nod to the Absurdist work of the Italian writer Ionesco his play Rhino about the rise of fascism in Italy here is echoed with a warning with the undercurrent of Populism that Trump has brought to the fore that has a whole heap or racism entwined in its heart. So as he heads across the in his battered old Chevy Cruze meanwhile the writer of this story sam sees his story of Indian salesman having echos of his own life! Will Quichotte get to Salma R?

My dear miss Salma R<

with this note I introduce myself to you. With this hand I declare my love. In time to come as I move ever closer you will come to see that I am true and that you must be mine. You are my grail and this is my quest.I bow my head before your beauty. I am and will ever remain your knight

sent by a smile,

Quichotte

A letter he writes to his beloved Salma as he heads across the US to her.

 

Another book taking a look at the heart of Trumps America it is interesting that two of the books on this years list take a view of this country at its heart I heard Rushdie interviewed and he said he had wanted to move his book outside the big cities in the US like Duck Newburyport it use the heart of America as Rushdie pointed out the red states the heartland of Trump. What Rushdie captures with Quichotte and  Sancho is that unspoken undercurrent of racism that is just below the surface that he shows him with a brilliant piece of magic realism when they all turn into dinosaurs. A writer that even in his seventies is still trying to challenge his readers. Now I read half of the list I wanted I’m not sure if I will read the other three I do have two books and am awaiting the third. If I do the next book will be the orchestra of minorities

Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann

British/American fiction

Source – personal copy

I am rarely tempted by a new book in English but this book grabbed me when I saw pictures of this huge book I was interested in what it was about any way Lucy Ellmann had written a number of books since the late ’80s. She is the daughter of two writers and is married to a writer and has taught creative writing. She had all her earlier books published by a big publisher. But when this book was finished and described to her usual publisher They turned it down. It was picked up by the small publisher Galley Beggar Press. I mean a thousand-page modernist novel that has no plot and is a stream of consciousness eight sentences that makes up the book.

I wish I had nice handwriting, the fact that i also have a few of her favourite sweaters, but that’s about it, beside the stuff she gave me, like some books and stuff, ups, fedex, rolex, X-ray, and my old patchwork quilt that was always on my bed as a kid, the  fact that it’s reall falling apart now, the fact that Jane Austen no longer exists and only ever existed briefly, not long enough to finish  Sandition, tragedy, enormity, Bronx cheer, Graduation Gowns, Choir Robes, paper owels, humdinger, Uber, Lyft, biege countertop, the fact that some people work for Uber and lyft at the same time.

One passage where she admires her moves handwriting then drifts off to something else in her mind.

The book is narrated by a housewife she is from Ohio and that is all we really know. Well, we learn more like she has her own baking business that she runs from her home.  What follows in the book is her thoughts that flow and drift from here to there lists words jumping from words that sound alike. These lists I loved as she had a thought an old productor some such and then from that word jumps to similar words. It then goes to the state of Modern America Trump gaining power. Writers she likes Laura Ingalls her of little house fame and then she references Anne Tyler especially her book The Accidental tourist which maybe of all her books captures modern American life as it follows a family recovering from the loss of a son to a shooting. The book is full of America but also her family from the title that relates to an event in her youth involving her sister. Then she worries about her own four kids in Trump’s world. It is hard like many books of this length, to sum up the world of this book as it is more about the internal mind than the external world and how her thoughts run and that is so difficult to capture.

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s dog was called Jack, the fact that i keep thinking I see the abominable snowmanmoving between those trees down there, a bigfoot, just behind the bushers, gully the fact that ben would be thrilled, the fact that I should photograph it, but of course I don’t have my phone, that that if I had my phone I would be in this mess freezing to death in the wilderness, the fact that I am always forgetting my cell, the fact that it’s so silly not to have it with you at all times, the fact that the people on the planes in 9/11 made good use of theirphone, the fact that I bet every American has carried their cell phone with them since 9/11

Another digression from Laura Ingalls to 9/11 in four lines.

Everyone knows this book as I was discussing one twitter when a friend ask me what I thought of it as they had been put off by the hype and I could connect with that but the thought of a thousand-page book that tries to grapple with the scary world that is modern America. Well for me this remind me in tone at times to Thomas Bernhard as it has at times a similar feeling in the tone of her words if he had been a midwest American housewife this would have been how he wrote even the lack of paragraphs and long sentences are something that Bernhard used in his books. I was pleased when I read that she had given Bernhard to her husband to read many years ago. When it made the Booker shortlist I knew I had to read it I had already got it as a fan of really long novels it was one that grabbed me and showed that small publishers are great at taking chances she describes how she actually added 30,000 words in one edit of the original manuscript how many large publishers would allow that to a large book get larger. I was reminded of Sergio de la Pava struggle to get his Naked singularity like this another huge modernist work that in another way wrestles with the world that is modern America. Ellmann tries to grab what life is like for a middle-aged woman struggling to get by the changing of focus in the female roles with in the world the rise of Trump and does it in a wonderfully poetic and thought-provoking book.

A gun for sale by Graham Greene

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A gun for sale by Graham Greene

English fiction

Source – personal copy

I found a few days ago every book I was reading wasn’t grabbing me I start three or four never getting more than forty pages in so I decided it was time to try an old classic one of my Graham Greene for me he is one of those go to writers when you have been struggling to find something great. Graham Greene is one of those writers that didn’t write many bad books and this is one that isn’t as well known as some of his other books but it was made into a film in the forties an Italian and Turkish films and a tv film in the nineties and was written before Brighton rook and like Pinkie raven is a very amoral character.

Murder didn’t mean much to Raven. It was just a new job. You had to be careful. You had to use your brains. It was not a question of hatred. He had only seen the ministeronce: he had pointed out to Raven as he walked down the new housingestate between the little lit christmas tree, an old, rather grubby man without any friends, who was said to love humanity

The cold wind cut his face in the wide continental street. It was a good excuse for turning the collar of his coat well up above his mouth. A hare-lip was a serious handicap in his profession; it had been badly sewn in infancy, so that now the upper lip was twisted and scarred. When you carried about you si easy an identification you couldn’t help but becoming ruthless in your methods. It had always, from the first been necessary for Raven to eliminagte the evidence

The opening two paragraphs could jump from a classic american hard boilded noir i loved them!!

The book unfolds after a hired assassin Raven kills the minister of war in a distant European country. his father was hung for murder and his mother committed suicide so he grew up very amoral and with his own code.  He returns home to get paid by his paymaster a man called Cholmondeley. It is only after he is paid he gather he has been double-crossed when the notes he is using are stolen and being tracked by the police. He finds that Cholmondeley is heading on a train to Nottwich a fictional midland town. This is where the man that paid Cholmondeley is a steel magnate Sir Marcus paid him to kill the minister. On the train he meets a chorus girl who is the fiance of a detective on the tail of Raven, So he takes Anne with him but as she knows Cholmondeley real name which is Davies and helps him get to him as a way to keep her self alive. Will he get Davies and find out who paid him and will Anne escape.

Nor did the meter fail him. He had a schilling to spare. When Mr Cholmondeley led the way in by tthe Euston war memorial to the Greart smoky entrance and rashly he gace it to the driver: rashly because there was a long wait ahead of himwith nothing but his hunderd and nitey-five pounds to buy sandwich with. For Mr Cholmondeley led the way with two porters behind him to the left-luggage counter depositing there three suitcasesm a portable typewriter, a bag of golf clubs, a small attache case, and a hat-box.Raven heard him ask which platform the midnight train went.

Raven tracking after he found he had been double crossed and they head tio Nottwich on the train .

This is an early Graham Greene written before Brighton rock Raven is maybe an early take on the Pinkie character that sort of Amoral man of circumstance here raven is a cold-blooded killer and isn’t pleased when double crossed so he then goes on an act of revenge. It is wonderfully paced keeping you gripped to the last page and has an interesting set of character the chorus girl Davies the middle man Sir Marcus the man paying for the killing and Anne’s boyfriend the main detective on Raven’s tail to add a nice twist in the tail. This is Greene before he was Greene a writer early on his career it has pinches of Buchan, Conrad and a touch of American Hard-boiled thriller. But for me it still has that Catholic guilt that in a lot of his fiction. Have you read this or have you another favorite By Greene?

 

The pianoplayers by Anthony Burgess

 

The Pianoplayers by Anthony Burgess

English fiction

Source – personal copy

I review another of the lesser known books from Anthony Burgess this has actually just been reissued by Manchester university press as part of the Irwell series. In fact, if you order the books now there is 50% off for next week or so . I have all the books they have reissued barring Beard roman women and Puma (although I have the end of the world news which puma is a part of the book now removed into a separate sci-fi novel).This book was near the end of Burgess life and in a way was maybe more personal than his other books as it is set in Manchester and one of the main characters had the same job as a piano player as Burgess own father had. Music has been a large part of Burgess life he considered his own music more of an accomplishment than his writing.

My father wasn’t really getting married. What he was going to do was just live with a woman who kept a pub, a woman separatedfrom her husband,her husband had gone off with a young girl, a barmaid I think it was. The woman had had the pub licence from the husband who had died previously , not the one who’d gone off.The pub was called the grapes though it sold no wine except port and sherry, it was in a slummy district it was big and full of brass rails and it had two singing rooms as they were called.

This remond me of the pub in the northern based comedy Early doors like this pub an old pub for the working man the sort that is dying out now.

As I said this book is partly based in Manchester it has two storylines that are in the present which at the time the book was written well earlier maybe but sometime between the late sixties and eighties we meet Ellen Henshaw she is a madam on the French coast her life goes back to the backstreets of Manchester and the story of her fatherBilly  a drunken cinema piano player. He is one of the men that made the music to the silent films before sound took off and  played in pubs as well as she follows him from Manchester through places like Blackpool and the Lancashire mill towns in the ups and downs of his life as the cinema jobs dry up and he starts to fall down the bottle some more this leads to the latter half of the book which is Ellen’s own journey from a convent girl to the sort after girl to spend the time with for money as that career wanes she starts a school of love.

This maggie had a snub nose and a bit of a double chin coming on, but she had these very lovely legs, I’ll say thart for the little bitch. They were very long and you could seethem right up to her bottom, and they were in sheer black silk stockings with the seam absolutely straught at the back.They were beautiful legs, and she didn’t deserve to have them. They were like the legs you see much more of post-war legs having got longer due to better nutriment or Marshall aid or something,My dad played a song for her, nut while she did her bit of monolougue i couldn’t helo notice that he kept looking at these legs

When he has to do Vaudeville with an older act but with great legs as he points out here.

This is a personal book the best character is Billy which is based on Burgess own father who like Billy was a piano player then there is a connection with Ellen who had escaped England which is something that Burgess had done himself in his later years he lived in Tax exile all around Europe. This is a comic lament of a world that is long gone of men playing along to films trying to stay sober to the end of the film and the coming of the talkies meaning they had to leave Manchester and head to the Vaudeville stages that were still around at that time and these pubs with piano players. Maybe not his best book after the death of Billy Ellen story is maybe less believable than that of Billys. But the book is worth reading as the first part evokes those years of piano players in the cinema and how hard it was to improvise to the films there is a number of passages around the musical  notes he played not being musical I not sure how good they were but Burgess was a composer so I expect them to be accurate. Have you read any of Burgess lesser novels I have a lot more to get through by him but this is a fun book by him .

A Vision of Battlements by Anthony Burgess

A Vision of Battlements

 

A Vision of Battlements by Anthony Burgess

English fiction

Source – Personal copy

I have over the years I have been blogging talked about my love of Anthony Burgess for me he was one if not the best English writer of the later 20th century. I did a post of all the books I got over a year ago since then this came out as the Manchester University Press has been bringing out some of his out of print novels. This was the first in that collection the Irwell collection it has a lengthy intro by Burgess biographer Andrew Biswell who is also director of the International  Anthony Burgess Foundation. There is also the previous intros from the earlier books the only piece that is missing is the illustrations that were in the first edition a series of cartoon depictions of the story.

Ennis, sergeant Richard Ennis, A.V.C.C , lay in his hammock on the sergeants’ troop deck, shaping his miond, behind his closed eyes, against the creacks and groans of the heaving ship, a sonata for Violoncello and piano. He listened to the sinuous tune of the first movemnet with its percussive accompaniment, every note clear. It was strange to think that this, which had never been heard except in his imagination, never been commited to paper, should be more real than the pounding sea, than the war which might now suddenly come to particular life in a U-Boat attack, more real than himself, than his wife. It was a pattern that time could not touch, it was stronger than love.

Like Burgess Ennis is a composer Burgess often felt himself more a musician that a writer.

A vision of Battlements is partly based on Burgess own experience at the end of the second world war and the time just after the war. He was like the hero well anti Hero of this book Richard Ennis based on that small British island of Gibraltar. Like Burgess Ennis has a job teacher troops about The British way and purpose which was a collection of essays the war office had brought together to illustrate the British way to the everyday squady. Ennis is a musician a heart that loves music and poetry and really has ended up there by the fact of being drafted into the Army. He teaches the students in his own way. But he is viewed as a left winger when he gives his talks. He also has a problem with Authority he frequently clashes with his commanding officer. Major Muir a man sidetracked to the position he is in and one that has invented his own history that finds Ennis a bright younger man a threat and someone to worry about.  This is the everyday life of the Gibraltar post the argument of the men and the way they lived the frequent drunkenness of the men. Ennis is allowed to go into Spain here he falls in love with the poetry of Lorca and decides to translate him and he gets into trouble with the Christain brother who views these poems as godless. Ennis then also has relations with a local widow.

Major Muir was a regular W.O 1 with a first class ceritficate of Education. Wounded early in the war, he had been commissioned as a lieutenant in the army Educational Corps, then transferred, with promotion, to this newer organisation. He had delusions of grandeur and had invented fantasies about himself – the many books he had written, the many universities he had attended.He spoke often ungrammatically, with a homemade accent in which Cockney diphthongs stuckout stiffly, like bristles. His ignorance was a wonder

.Muir and ennnis don’t get one it is rather like the dads army pair of Captain Mainwaring and Sergeant Wilson

Now this book was actually the first book he wrote. He finished it in 1953 and put it to one side when he had published a few books in 1961 he gave it to one publisher they passed on it and in 1964 he gave it to the publisher that published the book. The book came from a series of blue notebooks Burgess kept whilst he was posted to Gibraltar doing much the same things as his hero Ennis was doing there is also a nod to Burgess great writing Hero Joyce he used the Aeneid as a loose frame to the book like Joyce had used odyssey in Ulysses. So certain names echo ones in the Aeneid Iabrus is Barasi and Turnus becomes Turner a character that is a complete opposite to Ennis. This book has a sprinkling of the comic the sort of view of army life that only those that have lived in the barracks can see and write about. Ennis was written about the same time as Amis wrote Lucky Jim and they are similar in a number of ways both are loved in a way by those they teach and mistrusted by those around them and also have trouble with the authoritarian figures in the world. This book has been out of print for forty year which is a shame as it is an interesting slice of world war two history not heroic but that everyday side of the army when you are in a place that isn’t near the front line but still needs to be manned. Burgess referred to this as wasted time and a huge chunk of his life. I will be back sometime soon with another Burgess as I still have a lot to cover for this blog.

Jacob’s room is full of books by Susan Hill

 

Jacob's Room is Full of Books

 

Jacob’s room is full of books ( a year of reading) by Susan Hill

Lit memoir

Source – personnel copy

I think I saw a picture of this book on facebook a few weeks ago and was reminded how much I had loved her first Lit memoir Howard’s end is on the landing. Which I reviewed when it came out, a few years ago.So when I saw this followed a year of Susan’s reading. She is also a  reader that has previously Judge on the Booker prize. Susan Hill won the Somerset Maugham prize and is best known for Woman in Black and her crime series Simon Serrailler.

The hound of the Baskervilles is the best of all Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Other people might pick other stories, and it is surprising, given their lasting and worldwide popularity, how few of these there actually are, though Conan Doyle wrote plenty of other things .

Sherlock Holmes has become not just a Victorian detective in a series of short novels and stories ,he has become one of those iconic literary figures who take on a life of their own, out of context of their books.

I agree with this , i love the lines about the Lord running and his heart bursting in Hound !!

Now like the earlier book we see a year of what Susan Hill reads, I found this an interesting insight into a reader’s life. But also I discovered a reader that like me at times can go off at a tangent like reading one spy novel then three more straight after that. Also the insight into how writers drift in and out of fashion, she mentions reading C P Snow a writer who I have been collecting his strange and brother series of novels, which have dropped out of fashion. There is also insights into books like Stoner those books that grow by word of mouth. Great, she mentioned Embers an old book that was also a huge word of mouth and a bonus a translation. She also rereads a number of book. Where she shows how books change over time and we view them different every time we read them.

During the Last Man Boooker prize I judged, we had heated arguments, and the Late Ion Trewin, most loved of bookmen, had almost to wade in and separate one or two of us.But when we had decided on the shortlist, we then asked him to tell us how many novels by woman we had selected and to give us the break down on which publishers had books on the shortlist. We genuinely had no idea about either because neither had been relevant.

The  last line got me they matter of sex of the writer not being relevant is spot on it is the words .

Now this is yet another lit Memoir , but I liked ita lot.  For me as a reader these type of books are almost like a palate cleanser between books or a spa break that leaves me refreshed for new challenges and discoveries. Now I do have one little quibble with Susan’s reading that is in a year of reading about a hundred books that only six of them were Translations, it was also noted that she lists a group of writers she hasn’t read Kafka, Pamuk , Knausgaard and Svevo among them she noes a lot aren’t english, but also all were male. I could write a list of female writers I haven’t read but I felt maybe she had lost something by not trying these writers especially Pamuk and Knausgaard both great chroniclers of their times and worlds. I also agree with Lisa who noted that there maybe has been a few to many lit memoirs in recent years. But this is a vibrant look at one readers life and one that has been inside publishing and books for most of her life so know’s what she likes , just love her to try a few more translations.

 

 

Abba Abba by Anthony Burgess

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Abba Abba by Anthony Burgess

English fiction / Italian poetry

Source – personnel copy

I said earlier in the year I intend to try to review a Burgess novel or work as this year saw the 100th anniversary of his birth, but as ever I found other things to read so a few months later I return to a second book. This time it is a historical novel, which Burgess wrote a number of in his lifetime and like some of his other historical novels he uses historical fact to construct a novel from and the actual fact is that the English Poet John Keats lived in Rome at the same time as the Italian poet Guiseppe Gioachino Belli.

Giovanni Guliemi, doctor of letters of the university of Bologna, had a small private income derived from the rents of the land in Lazio  left him by his father, who was untimely dead of Naples cholera, some british gold invested with the banker Torlonia, and what he got from the tenants of the first and second floors of the large house facing the Basilica of Santa Cecila in the Piazza named for her in the Tratevere district og Rome. The third, top , floor was enough for his mother and himself.

Another fatherless man also the connection between Keat and Belli whose poem he translated into English

 

So what Burgess imagined is that these two great poets actually meet in Rome. Belli was well-known for writing his poetry in a rough Italian dialect. We find Keats a man who is in his end days he is dying at a house near the Spanish steps where he can hear the music of a nearby fountain. The two meet as Keats gets hold of a translation of one of Bellis earlier poems a poem about manhood. We see the two men try to converse as best they can as neither speaks the other’s language as they connect via French. The second part of the book is a brief description of how JJ wilsom the translator of the Belli works in the second half of the book. explains how a Salford Schoolboy discovered Belli and decide to translate his works as he studied Italian as well as English as  a student a later discovery of his complete works in Italy.

The creation of the world

One day the bakers god and son set to

and baked, to show their pasta-maker’s skill,

This loaf the world, though the idd imbecile

Swears it’s a melon, and the thing just grew,

They made a sun, a moon, a green and blue

Atlas, chucked stars like money from a till,

Set birds high, beasts low, fishes lower still.

Planted their plants, they yawned: Aye that’ll do

First verse of a Belli poem translated by Burgess himself from Italian

This is a short book the first part is a mere sixty pages of Keats in Rome a city which Burgess himself had a flat for many years , so we get a real feel of the city and also of the character like Elton,  Severn  and Bonaparte’s daughter all were part of Keats life at the time(I googled Isaac Marmaduke Elton as that named seems a little surreal he was a real character and friend of Keats.  We have the meeting of the two great men may be like a brother relationship between Keats and Belli as Abba means father, they also both lost the fathers very young as well. They had a lot in common as poets. Belli is relatively unknown and was a poet that Burgess championed with his translation of his works into English. This shows what Burgess did well in other books like a dead man in Deptford and this is to use a piece of history here Keat in Rome and the fact that something else occurred that Belli was there at the same time. He did the same with Marlowe in the dead man in Deptford making him into a spy and much more than he was. That is the brilliant touch Burgess had to just imagine the scenario and build his book around it.

 

Tremor of Intent by Anthony Burgess #Burgess100

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Tremor of Intent by Anthony Burgess

English fiction

Source – personnel copy

Well today sees the 100th anniversary of the nirth of Anthony Burgess. You may ask why  me the translated fiction fan likes Burgess so much. Well like many young men of my generation his Clockwork Orange was part of those books us boys read back in the day, alongside brave new world, on the road , naked lunch , the naked and dead etc well I did read clockwork orange .But I feel Burgess really didn’t hit me to I read Dead man in Deptford around the time it came out in 93 I was really grabbed by him and read everything I could get my hands on at the time which was maybe half his books . But as this year loomed I had tried to get back and read more by Burgess I decided to buy all the books I haven’t got so far I have all his novels bar three early books one of those is changing hands for 300 pound , m/f ,man of Nazareth and beard roman woman. that said I have 27 novels by him to start reading as with Dead man in Deptford which has a spy twist in it I decide to read Burgess only outright spy novel.

“This damnable sex, boys – ah you do well to writhe in your beds at very mention of the word. All the evil of our modern times  springs from unholy lust, the act of the dog and the bitch on the bouncing bed , limbs going like traction engines , the divine gift of articulate speech diminished to squeals and groans and panting .It’s terrible, an abomination before god and His Holy Mother

The two lads are taught this at school , how can Hiller ever be like Bond !!

He wrote this as he found the spy novels of the time lack a sense of humour in them , so he decide to redress the balance with this book. The hero of his book is Dennis Hiller a spy sent to try to bring back a scientist that has defected. Roper the man who has defected is an old school pal . The two like Burgess himself grew up North and in a catholic school this is where the pair met . But also left Hiller scared so i=unlike Bond say he suffers Catholic guilt every time he make it with a woman and is remind of his teacher at school .So he arrives on the cruise where he has to try to persuade Roper to change his mind and not join a cruise , there is a woman Miss Devi a femme fatale  and a teen girl for him to contend with a and the Huge and mysterious mr Theodorescu , whom sound like he was a missing Bond villain a huge balding man who smoked cigars .This is more tension missed chances than action of the bonds say. This is a cat and mouse cruise through the Med as we see if Hiller comes back or was he meant to !!

This must be her boss , Mt Theodorsecu . He was nobel fatness; the fat of his face was part of its essential structure, not a mean gross accretion, and the vastly shapely nose needed those cheek-pads and firm jowls for a proper balance,..The chin was very firm.The eyes weren’t currants in dough but huge and lustrous lamps whose whites seemed to have been polished .He was totally bald , but the smooth scalp – from which a discreet odour of violets breathed – seemed less an affliction than an achievement, as though hair was a mere callow down to be shed in maturity.

The Villian is straight out of a Bond script , a sort of man like the Beast from fantastic four .

This is a tongue in cheek take on a spy novel . He want to change the dry books of say Le Carre,  so Hiller is flawed character  not from OXBridge , but deeper in a way  and unlike Bond isn’t easy with woman due to his upbringing  and for me this is of course the bit of Burgess I like for me he was the first writer I knew that was Northern but with out shouting I am Northern he grew up in the Manchester the same time as my own grandfather in those inter war years he like my grandfather is from a working background his father a piano player and tobacconist , my own great grand parent was a builder my grandfather trained to be architect but at night in the day he work with my grandfather on the build sites sort cleaning brick putting up walls etc so I imagine the two must have crossed paths at some time , not sure they ever did but for me Burgess is after his childhood and teen years he travellled , translated books ,wrote music and was a linguist which all connect him more to this blogger so watch out over the next year we will be travelling the world of Burgess .he is my pile to work through .

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