Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Did anyone notice that my weekly book review lasted exactly one week? No? Excellent. Anyway, I got bored, so, new format: more books, less exposition.

Margaret Drabble – The Radiant Way (List book 203)
The story of three women who’ve known each other since university and now in their late forties, living in Britain during Thatcher’s second term. Divorces, mortgages, political uncertainty, murder. I have a fondness for books about people just living their lives, and this is one of those, but whilst the characters were believable enough I couldn’t get a handle on their deeper selves and motivations. A pleasant read, but – eh.

Steve Almond – My Life in Heavy Metal
A collection of short stories about relationships, men and women fumbling through their lives. For a debut piece, this astonished me. The prose is tight and controlled and exquisitely precise. Geek Player, Love Slayer especially captured me. It’s a story about office culture, in which the female narrator muses: when did Systems Managers, these timid nerdy men, become sexual players? I was curled up in the corner of a bar yesterday reading this, and laughing out loud, and then it shifted into a beautifully elegiac mood and just blew me away. He's written a couple of books since this was published, and I'll definitely be searching them out.

Alan Hollinghurst – The Line of Beauty
I enjoy this guy’s work generally, and this is one of his best works. I want to say that he writes about eroticism, love and self-discovery, which he does, but it’s difficult to separate that out from the more particular subtleties of emotion and behavioural norms in homosexual relationships. By which I mean, whilst I really like this guy and think he’s incredibly talented, I experience a level of detachment as a reader because he speaks so specifically for gay men. That’s not at all a criticism, though (oh woe is me, the straight privileged mainstream reader, for not every single book chronicles my experiences!), and it’s a book I highly recommend. Wonderfully cadenced prose which draws vivid images without over-explaining.


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