Guardian Review links

The Guardian Review sections front page is a photograph of the author Paul Auster. He says ‘I’m going to speak out as often as I can, otherwise I can’t live with myself.’ He is of course speaking about the political situation in the US. If you’re interested in the article you can read it here. I really like Auster’s writing although I think I have quite a few books of his to catch up with.

There’s an article by Diana Athill about her friend the Irish author Molly Keane. Athill says – I admired many authors but Molly, I loved. You can read the article here.

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

I’ve read quite a few of Auster’s books now but Brooklyn Follies is still my favourite one. I was looking forward to reading The New York Trilogy so much, maybe too much, because it didn’t come up to my expectations. It was first published in 1985.

The three novellas which make up the trilogy City of Glass, Ghosts and The Locked Room are really the same story retold differently each time and none of them work, for me anyway. There are really no likeable characters which is always a mistake and I found the paranoia and madness involved in the stories to be uncomfortable reading which led to nothing really.

There are plenty of nods in the direction of writers whom Auster presumably admires but I would categorize the whole thing as Smarty-Arty-Farty, which is often just tedious but some people really go for that sort of stuff. I’m just glad that this wasn’t the first Auster book which I read because I probably wouldn’t have gone on to read any others.

Road Trip Book Haul

October 2011 books

I suppose there are worse addictions to be afflicted with but I just couldn’t stop myself from hitting every second-hand bookshop which I found on our journey from Fife to East Anglia. My excuse is that I think we’re going to suffer yet another horrendous winter and if we’re snowed/iced in again I’ll need plenty of reading material, but if I’m honest, I’m never going to be in danger of running out of books to read. I think they just about all come under the category of comfort reads and they’re all fairly ancient, the most recent publication is Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy and even that’s fairly old – 1985, and probably isn’t a comfort read but I’m sure I’ll enjoy it. So this is what I bought and I have to say that I don’t feel too naughty because I could have bought a lot more …

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Setons by O. Douglas
The Crowded Street by Winifred Holtby
Going It Alone by Michael Innes
Voices in Summer by Rosamunde Pilcher
An Academic Question by Barbara Pym
An Unsuitable Attachment by Barbara Pym
Crampton Hodnet by Barbara Pym
Ankle Deep by Angela Thirkell
Close Quarters by Angela Thirkell
Growing Up by Angela Thirkell
Enter Sir Robert by Angela Thirkell
Summer by Edith Wharton

… and last but not least Crime Stories from The Strand which is a lovely Folio book of short stories by crime writers such as Conan Doyle, G.K. Chesterton, A.E.W. Mason and many more. I was especially chuffed to get the four Thirkells, three of which I bought from a stall in Cambridge market, her books don’t often turn up in Scotland for some reason, strange really as she’s at least half Scottish.

I’m hoping to have sorted through some photos from our trip by tomorrow.

Sunset Park by Paul Auster

I quite enjoyed this book but nowhere near as much as I enjoyed Brooklyn Follies. There’s a lot of baseball trivia in it which I suppose will go down well in the US but it didn’t do much for me.

After being involved in a traumatic event Miles Heller drops out of college and disappears from his family home in New York to begin again in Florida. He finds work with a team of men who go around clearing houses which have been abandoned due to the dire financial circumstances which the world is in at the moment. He decides to photograph the abandoned contents and it becomes something of an obsession so he has thousands of photos, it’s a way of gaining control I suppose.

Miles has weaned himself off just about all the comforts of life except his camera and books and it’s when he’s re-reading his copy of The Great Gatsby in a local park that he meets Pilar a young high school student who happens to be reading the same book. It’s a life-changing meeting. I suppose the book is about people not being in control of their lives, ‘stuff just happens’.
Or as Robert Burns said ‘ The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.’

That’s as far as I’m going with it! It’s definitely worth reading but I have to say that I didn’t like the ending much. Has anyone else read it?

Some 2010 Book Thoughts

If my scribbled list is correct, I managed to read 81 books in 2010. Well, that might be me cheating a wee bit because I’ve still got about 100 pages of War and Peace to read, but the vast bulk of it has been read in 2010 and I’m giving myself loads of ‘Brownie points’ for getting around to reading it at last. Yes, I ended up being the Sixer of the Kelpies (Sprites) – if that means anything to anyone!

Authors whom I’ve enjoyed reading and were new to me this year are:
Willa Cather, Paul Auster, Annie Proulx, Barabara Kingsolver, Rosamunde Pilcher, Rosy Thornton, Zola – in fact there are too many to mention, so it’s been a really enjoyable reading year.

It’s all thanks to the recommendations of bloggers and commentators. I wouldn’t have got around to reading half of the new authors otherwise. I can hardly believe that I’ve actually read a book by Thomas Carlyle – Sartor Resartus, definitely different but surprisingly fairly readable.

This year I’m trying to read a lot of the books which I’ve had in the house waiting to be read for years. Then I can either pass them on or pack them away when I’ve finished with them with a view to clearing some book clutter prior to downsizing. I am actually tripping over books!

New to me – Paul Auster

The great thing about the bookish blogosphere is all the recommendations that you get from other bloggers and Paul Auster is one of the writers that I’ve really enjoyed reading this year. Most of the books that I read have been written years ago, I think my theory is that if they are still in print after a long time then it’s a fair bet that they’re going to be worthwhile reading.

I’ve read three books by Auster and they’ve all been quite different but what I really like is that you never know where he’s going to go next. Reading him is like having my favourite sort of conversation, the kind that starts off with something mundane like a comment on the weather but within 10 minutes I and a friend have covered topics such as Lord Byron, English architecture, Balmoral, the racing driver Juan Fangio and then end up by setting the world to rights!

With Paul Auster he mentions in passing people like Hedy Lamarr and Edward G. Robinson – and I just thought – “How did he know?” Because as a youngster I watched a lot of old American movies, my dad was a big fan, we watched them on tv but he had seen them all in the cinema when they were first released decades before.

So at the age of about 10 if someone asked me who my favourite film stars were – my answer was always Hedy Lamarr and Edward G. Robinson! I can understand the Hedy bit now because she was so glamorous and I wanted to look like her when I grew up. Tragic really because it was never going to happen. She had gorgeous dark hair and mine is red or strawberry blonde as my mum always said. When I got my waist length hair cut for the first time I told the hairdresser that I wanted it cut like Hedy Lamarr’s. She didn’t know who I was talking about. Everybody else wanted a Purdy cut or Farrah Fawcett-Major!

Don’t ask me why I was into Edward G. Robinson, I look at him now and think that I must have been a very strange 10 year old. Happily by the time I hit 12 I was a fan of Cary Grant, Gregory Peck and of course Humphrey Bogart. If I’m honest I still have a wee soft spot for Edward G. though.

Anyway, back to Paul Auster’s writing: For some reason the fact that he mentioned those two almost forgotten movie stars really made me feel quite chuffed. It’s nice to feel that you have a sort of connection with a writer. And all that came about because one night when I was wandering around some book blogs I came across a comment from Judith (Reader in the Wilderness) which led me to visit her blog.

It’s serendipity.

Oracle Night by Paul Auster

School for Love cover

Sidney Orr is a writer who is recovering from an illness which has kept him in hospital for months, he had nearly died. Released from hospital he tries to re-build his strength by taking walks around his neighbourhood and on one of these walks he finds a stationery shop called the Paper Pagoda which is owned by a Chinese man. Amongst his purchases there is a blue notebook of an unusual size and shape which has been made in Portugal. Sid feels compelled to buy the notebook and begins his writing again using it.

Oracle Night has several storylines going on in it, which can be a bit annoying because you are just getting involved in a story when it suddenly stops, never to be resumed. There are also copious footnotes giving the back story to various characters as they are introduced, sometimes running to four half pages at a time. It means that you are going backwards and forwards quite often. I’ve never seen footnotes like that before, not even in history books.

This is the third book by Paul Auster which I have read, and although I did find the writing technique a bit strange, I still enjoyed it. My favourite book of his is still Brooklyn Follies but there are still plenty more of his books for me to read, so that may change at some point.

Library Loot

I got a phone call from my local library yesterday morning to let me know that the book which I had requested was waiting for me to collect it. As I didn’t have much planned for the day I thought I might as well go and pick it up. So I now have Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus to plough through.

Saturday afternoon turned out to be a good time to visit the library as there were quite a lot of good books on the shelves, my last visit had been a fruitless one.

So this is my haul:

Sartor Resartus by Thomas Carlyle
Oracle Night by Paul Auster
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
The Jewel of Seven Stars by Bram Stoker
Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks by John Curran. Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making

Well, I’m hopeful that it’s a good haul anyway. The only downside of this is that I won’t be making any more dents in my TBR pile at home. I had been doing so well too.

Invisible by Paul Auster

At 308 pages and nice clear print this was a quick read which I did enjoy, although not quite as much as The Brooklyn Follies which is the only other Paul Auster book which I have read.

The book is in four parts and the story begins in 1967 in New York city where Adam Walker, a young undergraduate and would be poet, meets Rudolph Born and his girlfriend Margot at a party.

Adam becomes entangled in their lives and witnesses a horrible crime which haunts him and changes his future completely.

There are three different narrators moving the story on to Paris and an island in the Caribbean with the story ending in 2007, and along the way there is the ultimate taboo subject of incest involved: well maybe.

It isn’t what you would call comfort reading, but it wasn’t supposed to be I’m sure.

When my mother-in-law was alive, I used to read books before giving them to her because she was easily shocked. This one would have had her screaming for valium!

On a personal note I was pleased to see Hedy Lamarr getting a passing mention in the book. I’ve always been a fan of vintage films and she was my favourite actress when I was a wee girl. She was also very different from other actresses as she had a career as a scientist too.

I’ll definitely be reading more of Paul Auster’s books.

The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster

I’ve really enjoyed reading this book by Paul Auster. I hadn’t read anything by him before but Judith of Reader in the Wilderness pointed me in his direction, thank you.

It’s the story of Nathan and his relationships with his extended family and the characters of the neighbourhood in Brooklyn which he has just moved to. He hasn’t been back there since his parents moved out 56 years ago and as he was only 3 years old at the time he has no memories of the place but he is still drawn back there after having treatment for lung cancer. His wife has recently divorced him.

The way Paul Auster describes Brooklyn, it sounds exactly like Glasgow, and as an exiled Glaswegian I became immediately enamoured of the place and the people.

Apparently, “Brooklynites are less reluctant to talk to strangers than any tribe I have previously encountered. They butt into one another’s business at will (old women scolding young mothers for not dressing their children warmly enough, passersby snapping at dog walkers for yanking to hard on the leash); they argue like deranged four-year-olds over disputed parking spaces; they zip out dazzling one-liners as a matter of course.”

This book is just 304 pages long but there is a lot going on in it and it is set in the run up to and aftermath of the US election of 2000.

I’ll be reading more Paul Auster books and I’m now kicking myself for not borrowing Invisible from the library at the same time. I probably won’t see it on the shelves again for ages. It was the only other Auster book in the library, I think I’ll take a look in tomorrow and see if it’s still there.