August 13, 2005

Lazin' on a Sunny Afternoon

Lazin' on a Sunny Afternoon
Originally uploaded by Mags.

Settling down in the garden, with all the key requirements for a reading session (garden chair, sunglasses, fresh hot tea).

August 09, 2005

The Rotter's Club

The Rotter's Club
Jonathan Coe
catagories: fiction | C21st

I'm never really sure how to tag a book like this. Coe uses a framing device of the story being told not by two of the protagonists reminising over shared experiences but two of their descendents, trying to imagine life in the world before they were born: the modern nostalgia not for real memories but for the idea of them. Yet the book is truly nostalgic in recalling not the rosy idealised past but the real brown and orange, mushrooms-as-exotic, 1970s. Despite the framing device, the narrative is left open but with the promise of a follow-up, The Closed Circle. I was assuming this was a little pomo joke - a promise of closure for those who require it - until I checked and it turns out the book does exist. I find that vaguely disappointing.

August 07, 2005

The Vampire Blood Trilogy!!!!

The Vampire Blood Trilogy
Darren Shan
catagory: kid.lit

I've been reading some recommended teen fiction this year. This is partially because I don't want my knowledge to become outmoded. It's easy for me to point out that Ursula Le Guin did a boy heading off to wizard school to face a shadowy evil back in the 70s with the seminal A Wizard of Earthsea with a startlingly sparse style which leaves me in awe of it. It's probably also not surprising that I grew up avidly reading Susan Cooper and Alan Garner with their heady worlds of raillings that becomes a spear, willow green witches sacrificed to the sea, patterns repeating through time and lost Welsh lands. I'm not bad on earlier stuff like E.S. Nesbit either. But, aside from a glance through the first Potter and the obligatory reading of His Dark Materials, I'm not sure what the books are now. The books which kids want to read rather than the ones they ought to read.

I started with Witchchild a few months back, which I found a very effective and engaging historical built around a voyage to the New World and religious fervour/persecution. It comes with a handy framing device and a refusal to provide a final answer to what becomes of the narrator. This is very much a book which would have appealed to me as a teenager, and I can see how it carefully sets up the historical setting to mimic twentieth century social interaction. The way the daughters of the leaders form a clique which excludes the narrator is clearly meant to resonate. One thing I've often noticed with teen fiction is that the main character will be a bookish girl i.e. one who appeals to, er, bookish girls. I'm not sure how I feel about that: at its worse it's simple manipulation to make the reader continue but then you couldn't have made me part with DragonsongDragonsinger back when I was a teenager.

The Vampire Blood Trilogy is a collection of the sort of books I hated in school. Not like Persuasion (which an English teacher unwisely suggested to my 14 year old self to stop me reading SF) but like anything by Stephen King or James Herbert. Fat books with black covers and dire promises of gore on the back. Again, not like the post-apocalpyse horror I liked such as Z for Zachariah, but junk like The Fog. In short, boys' fiction. Once I got past the deeply irritating use of exclamation marks in every paragraph I found these quite fun! I'd told boys love exclamation marks! There's good set up and follow through of events but the style means I'm unlikely to get the next three in the set.