January 31st, 2012

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January's Books

I am sure I read another novel but I have no idea what it was. I read most of this lot before I started working full time.

The Time of the Angels, Iris Murdoch JJJJ A weird little novel about the sinisterly eccentric vicar of a non-existent City church (it was destroyed in the war). The setting is foggy and claustrophobic and the seven characters loom in and out of it. I enjoyed this less than the others.

A Fairly Honourable Defeat, Iris Murdoch JJJJJOoh this is a scinitllatingly nasty novel about a cynical academic showing how easy it is to make the complacent ruin their cosy lives, mostly through the self-importance conferred by the opportunity for drama and intrigue. Possibly my favourite Murdoch so far.

A Word Child, Iris Murdoch JJJJJ I love the way her books are clearly parables, and thus implausible, but still utterly convincing. I want to live in Murdoch's London. The hero of this novel is a damaged civil servant with a tragic past that comes back, spectacularly to haunt him. The details of the meals and living circumstances of the down-at-heel are beautifully observed.

An Accidental Man, Iris Murdoch JJJJJ Another book full of appalling but fascinating people, again set in London. She's very good on the way women perceive themselves, and are attuned to other's perceptions of them. The man at the centre of the novel is brilliantly sketched. I'd love to have her write a novel about the Sisters of Sanctimony or the Tiresome Polyglomerates and skewer, with forensic clarity but never without compassion, all their petty vanities and hypocrisies.

the Philosopher's Pupil, Iris Murdoch JJJJJ I really couldn't put this down. Definitely my favourite one so far, despite what I said above about the other one. This is set in a fictional spa town I wish I lived in and is full of fascinating and vile people. The philosopher at the centre is a sort of monster, like all her academics, it seems.

Cocaine Nights, J G Ballard JJ I read this so I could teach it. Dystopia lalala, middleclass delinquency lalala, you don't get art without criminality lalala, in the future everyone will live in a gated community and video their wife-swapping lalala. It's about as truly prophetic as Mystic Meg. I can see why ponceyarsey critics like it; because it's about men who read like ponceyarsey critics doing a bit of highly stylised, intellectualised rape and murder. If M&S did rape and murder... He writes about sex as if he had never had it. At one point the main bit of female totty says, mid-shag, "Don't forget my anus". Almost as over-rated as Sebastian Faulks.

Jerusalem, Jez Butterworth JJJJJ This script is a bloody marvel and I really wish I'd made it to the play. It's fascinating state-of-England play that has a rural setting and isn't entirely pessimistic. This is lyrical, absurd, tragic and hilarious all at once. It is a fine rebuke to Blair's Britain. I might stage a bit of it with my pupils if I get the job I am applying for. Another one I had to read for work, as my pupil is writing an essay comparing it to Cocaine Nights.

Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare JJJJJ As close as Shakespeare gets to chick lit, really. I am annoyed I am teaching this as it just isn't as juicy as e.g. The Tempest or Twelfth Night. Also I have to use the Kenneth Branagh video, a.k.a Posho Luvvy takes all his luvvy mates on holiday. I think I've just got a downer on it because I use it in the uber-tiring evening class.