Sunday, September 03, 2006

Reading on Kos

Unlike Shep I put very little thought into my holiday reading. I am ashamed to say that I simply went into a local chain store and picked up 3 for 2 offers from the nearest table. (This is unusual behaviour).

Ed Glinert's East End Chronicles is excellent. An already bustling area brought to life through events described in fascinating detail. Some of the stories are well-known, others much less so. I can't wait to read it all over again and start tramping the streets.

I'm never quite sure what to make of Paulo Coelho. I bought The Zahir because I liked the cover. Coelho makes some very perceptive comments and some of the ideas had me nodding in agreement. Others, however, made me cringe. Really cringe. I left it amongst the Mills and Boon stacked on a table in the apartment block. It was quickly snapped up.

I think it was at Hadleigh Castle that the Gardener said I should have been an anthropologist. (I constantly bombard him with my observations on people I've seen, things I've overheard or conversations I've had with total strangers). But the word anthropology scares me. It conjures up stereotypical images of African villages and the bizarre stories my friend G. relates to me every so often. (She shared a house with anthropology students at uni; never again). My opinion has been amended slightly thanks to Watching the English by Kate Fox. Had I been completing Doug's tag on books this would be the clear winner for the book you wish you'd written. It is superb. I think reading it abroad, surrounded by a certain type of English person, made it all the more poignant. It shows the English in all our painful glory.

Our apartments – very, very basic but very clean – were right on the beach. It is amazing to go to sleep and wake to the sound of the waves lapping the beach. Very therapeutic and an ideal setting, perhaps, to read The Sea by John Banville. A mesmerising novel about memory, grief and loss. I'm sure this too will become a favourite.

Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy turned out to be a must given I was totally surrounded by Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture in the resort of Kardamena. A very important book. I thought it would probably make me feel depressed but it actually made me angry. Women as sexual objects have not only become completely mainstream but the whole idea is touted as being empowering and liberating. It's a return to the dark ages. Everyone should read this book and act.

Given my mad dash to buy books and fling them in the suitcase I did very well. The Accidental by Ali Smith is another book that I loved. I smiled a lot while reading this. Poignant and dazzling. I wonder what it would be like to have an Amber descend and change my life.

Last but certainly not least was a collection of short stories. The Fahrenheit Twins expertly written by Michael Faber. Utterly compelling stories which also happen to be really quite disturbing. I readily identified with the quote from the Independent on Sunday on the back cover: 'I dread to think where Faber gets his inspiration from, but there's certainly no shortage of it in sight.'


Shep said...

Paulo Coelholoholio...?

You're gonna have to pull out something pretty damn special to make up for that one, missy. Appalling. Bloody sheep-herding dreamy wanky freak.

(But Michel Faber's Crimson, Petal & White is outstanding - go and get that and devour it, maybe this snobbish & elitist but always-right bookseller will forgive you I can't even bring myself to ridicule his name...)

ems said...

Listen, I was seduced by the cover and I ditched the book once I had stopped cringing. I almost didn't mention it as I guessed someone (i.e. you) would react badly. I'm sure it was Gladstone who said that you need a little roughage in your diet when his literary tastes were mentioned.

Crimson, Petal & White is on the shelf. I agree it is outstanding. Am I redeeming myself?

Shep said...

Mebbe my reaction says more about me than you, eh?

I just remember how all the Oxford girls I used to date/court/do unpleasant things to would bang on and on about the bloody Alchemist, which is a SHIT book. He even recently did a rude book (Eleven Minutes) which he tried to suck me in with. That was SHIT too.

These Oxford girls all played the cello and had long hippy skirts with bells on the hem and were very CND without even knowing what the letters stood for and had holes in the sleeves of their jumpers where they poked their thumbs through and all still read Winnie-The-Pooh...

I should have been aiming for a completely different demographic, I've since found out. What a waste of time. I tried giving them Anais Nin or something to read, but it didn't move them like it did me.