Wednesday, 28 June 2017
The book has many of the hallmarks of a gothic novel, and indeed this was what led me to read it. It had been sitting on a shelf for 30 years, a gift from a band who used the title as their name, and I always associated it with young men in their late teens and early twenties. As I started reading I understood why.
Tuesday, 20 June 2017
The grammatical style matches this lack of detail. If I had handed in English language homework with so little punctuation and such lack of conventional sentence structure, it would have been handed back to me covered in red ink and with zero out of ten.
But none of this matters. It certainly wouldn't matter if the world as we know it had ended. The only thing that matters is how you would act if you were in this man's shoes.
It was an easy choice to make on a sunny Saturday afternoon on the Cote d'Azur. I could have gone to the beach, stretched out in the sun and read the next story in Wayward Girls and Wicked Women. Instead I sat in a cool back room at the Scotch Tea House to listen to a bunch of authors talk about their books. Bliss!
Meet The Authors (3 June 2017) was organized by Margo Lestz as a fringe event during Nice's Festival du Livre. Adrian Leeds directed the afternoon and ensured the seven writers passed the baton smoothly from one to the next. Most of the speakers used their knowledge of the South of France to write a variety of fiction, fact, and memoir.
Wednesday, 14 June 2017
I liked the story, was engaged by the themes of religion and the misuse of technology, and amused by the humour. Unfortunately it just wasn't my sort of thing. I didn't connect with any of the characters, and the style of writing, although clear, didn't capture my imagination. Fortunately, with a whopping 127 chapters, many only a couple of pages long, it was easy to keep reading.
I'm glad I finished it, but I doubt I'll read anything else by Kurt Vonnegut.
Friday, 9 June 2017
"Why spend so much time traveling by train?" a friend asked when I said I was planning a rail journey through Europe. "What's the point?" One reason, according to Theroux, is that train travel animates the imagination and provides the solitude to order one's thoughts; it can be stimulating, relaxing, and sometimes monotonous.
I picked up The Great Railway Bazaar for inspiration in writing my own travel journal. It provides some excellent descriptions of places: Tehran before the overthrow of the Shah (a place I've never been), Singapore on a return visit (a place I've been to a couple of times), where a report in the Singapore Straits Times foresees the electronic delivery of mail and news to every household.
It also shows how the journey affected the author. The final leg on the Trans-Siberian Express was depressing to read, yet vivid. Theroux had clearly had enough. He was having difficulty communicating with his fellow passengers, couldn't keep his promise to get home in time for Christmas and had unsettling dreams about his family.
But above all, the book is about the people that Paul Theroux met on his epic journey by rail through Asia; a slice of life as seen from a train in the early 1970s. As he says, "I sought trains; I found passengers."
Tuesday, 6 June 2017
This is the first Philip Roth book I've read and I'm quite ambivalent about it. There were lots of things I didn't like, including the way the narrative jumped around, the unwieldy length of the sentences, and many of the characters.
For a while I was also quite annoyed at the way the book was constructed as a story within a story. The character Zuckerman imagines the life of his high school hero, Swede Levov based on a few facts he learns at a school reunion. He cannot know the truth of Swede's life, and for a while, I found myself constantly aware that "this is a made-up story". Of course all fiction is "made-up", but I was initially frustrated by this knowledge.