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Tag: :Bookclub:

Review: Tom Wolfe’s “The Bonfire of the Vanities”

tom wolfe bonfire of the vanitiesA non-review which will yet constitute a review: Quit without comment after the first two chapters of exclamation marks. Oh, I did read the self-important prologue about how many times Wolfe believes he’s been the voice of the zeitgeist with his novels. It did not endear him to me, although the historical overview of the novel was informative. Summary: This is bookclub’s last book and I have no interest in reading it.

Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading:
One extremely brief read
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of/that: Life is short and this book is over 700pp long
Who I’d recommend it to:
Readers who are not me
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper; Fish-Hair Woman by Merlinda Bobis

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Review: Joan Lindsay’s “Picnic at Hanging Rock”

joan lindsay picnic at hanging rockMy Lord, this book was shite. Overwritten, melodramatic, one suspects of woolly historical accuracy and little interest, it was PAINFUL. The last 20pp I just skimmed through to confirm that the headmistress was actually the devil incarnate. Otherwise, yes, those chicks went missing, oh dear, no-one knows what happened to them, oh woe is them and the college, and there’s no reason to write a terrible novel about it. And thank god this didn’t include her posthumous final chapter that speculated that the lost women had fallen into a time warp (I kid you not). The only moderately interesting features were the rudimentary class analysis acted out by the characters, and the fact that so many of the characters were clearly gay: Albert and the Hon. Michael, most of the girls in the college re Miranda and the French Mademoiselle. Still didn’t remotely salvage this book from awfulness.

Where it came from: Library via Bookclub
Time and manner of reading:
Increasingly tedious bed and armchair reads
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of/that:
Who I’d recommend it to:
Historical novel desperadoes
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley

Review: “The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing’s Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living”

helen, scott nearing the good lifeThis is a combined edition of Helen and Scott Nearing’s seminal books on getting back to the land and living a simple life: Living the Good Life (1954) and Continuing the Good Life (1979). The couple left New York, and went homesteading — first in rural Vermont for 20 years, then in rural Maine. Their skills, philosophies and experiences are documented here, explaining their veganism, the rejection of mainstream manufacturing and banking, their desire for stronger community, their commitment to education and civic values. Truly, an inspiring read, and I’m so glad I’ve finally read it (again, Bookclub’s been waiting a year for this to come to us, so I cut to the chase). The first is superior in writing and information quality (one suspects that Scott wasn’t up to writing Vol. 2 at the ripe old age of 95, and passed it on to Helen), and much more useful as a how-to guide; I’d even say you could skip the second one. Highly recommended, enjoy it.

Where it came from: Gift from MM when I passed a farm milestone
Time and manner of reading:
 Absorbed bed and armchair reads
Where it went: MR, LD, and probably assorted other farm readers before it returns to the Keeper Shelf
Reminds me of/that: The farm, of course! It was refreshing, and a good reminder, to read about even more radical lived politics than ours.
Who I’d recommend it to: They done it, you can enjoy just reading about it
Also reading: Rabbit #4; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Seven Sisters of the Pleiades by Munya Andrews

Review: Jasper Fforde’s “The Eyre Affair”

jasper fforde the eyre affairReserved and snaffled from the library as a guaranteed smart, fun read, I rushed to my reading corner with unseemly haste once I was home from town. Plot: in a parallel 1985 UK, LiteraTec Special Operative Thursday Next must defeat the dreaded Acheron Hades, save Martin Chuzzlewit and Jane Eyre from oblivion, and reclaim the love of Landen Parke-Laine. I was simply dazzled by this book the first time around, all its witty litty in-jokes and smart-arsery, and I’d been dying for it to finally be delivered to bookclub. Since we’d been waiting a year, I cut to the chase and hunted it out – and while it was good, I wasn’t blown away this time. Sigh. Guess it’s a first-time only enrapturement, but one that’s highly recommended for those who have yet to enjoy the experience. I’ll still keep my eye out for his new colour series, also.

And PS, no Miss Havisham! She must be in one of the sequels! I finished wretched Great Expectations largely for the sake of the wrong book!

Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading:
Afternoon and evening armchair reads, as soon as I could decently escape human company for the sake of an inanimate object aka book
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of/that: Love at first sight only happens the once
Who I’d recommend it to: Readerly readers after good fun
Also reading: Rabbit #4; How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; A Factory of Cunning by Philippa Stockley

Review: Keri Hulme’s “The Bone People”

keri hulme the bone peopleThis book was frankly annoying after a while. Quirky lost-soul Kerewin Holmes (remind anyone of the author’s name?) meets Joseph, Maori adoptive father of mute, mystery lost-boy Simon P. Gillayley. The three bond. Many beatings occur. Much Maori soul-work is done. A surfeit of splendid convoluted language is used. Love is found and held in the tricephalous being. Why oh why did it go on for so long?

It was on Bookclub following a Clubber’s trip to NZ and associated NZ author recommendations (possibly even mine), and I was delighted – I’d thought this a splendid book when I read it, oh, a dozen years ago. Most unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my awe-struck memory. Joseph is overwritten and underfilled. Kerewin is complete, and her character development interesting, even though she is somewhat improbable. The Maori lore and language is fascinating to begin with, then too dense for the non-NZ reader as the book drags into its fifth century of pages. The violence is brutal and too glibly excused. The whole is simply too convoluted and unnecessarily lengthy, and my enjoyment of it sadly too brief. It did, however, provide much fodder for enraged discussion come next bookclub meeting.

Where it came from: Library via Bookclub
Time and manner of reading:
Two weeks’ worth of increasingly impatient snippets
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of/that:
Who I’d recommend it to:
New Zealanders
Also reading: Rabbit #4; How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Light between Oceans by M.L. Stedman; Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Review: Ruth Park’s “The Harp in the South”

ruth park harp in the southLoaned by DC when I was last near her bookshelf, and due – any month now, so they say – to come up for Bookclub, I cracked it and decided to pull this off the Don’t Touch Pile. This is the first volume of the Darcy family’s life in the post-WWII slum of Surry Hills – Roie’s romances, Hughie’s adventures with the drink and the lottery, Mumma’s relationship with Grandma, Dolour’s school excursion to the beach as funded by the local bordello mistress. Excellent to read in terms of Sydney’s industrial history, and absorbing in that it reminded me that Australia too has (and has had) poor white folk (compared to our contemporary image of ourselves a bourgeois, urban and professional), and slum community stories from anywhere around the world have the same gutsy flavour of tough love and struggle. No modern Australian family would want to be heard slagging off at each other with the smart-arsey love of the Darcys, we’re too bloody proper nowadays — and our turns of phrase are nowhere near as picturesque. A damned good read, recommended.

Where it came from: DC’s Bookshelf
Time and manner of reading:
Armchair and bed reads, long overdue
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of/that: Cloudstreet, of course, but this is both grittier and pithier
Who I’d recommend it to:
Readers looking for mid-20th-century Aussie life
Also reading: Rabbit #4; How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Light between Oceans by M.L. Stedman; Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf

Review: Karen Joy Fowler’s “The Jane Austen Book Club”

karen joy fowler jane austen book clubI put this on the Bookclub list. I’d read it once before when I was stuck at forgottenperson’s house – it was the only possible reading material – even though I was embarrassed to touch it. However, once I noticed just how clever Fowler’s plotting was to tie her modern characters in with Jane’s plots, I promised myself I’d reread it with all six Austen novels under my belt. I did enjoy it this second time round, it was fun, pop-smart Austen for Austenians of all degrees, and sharply funny in its own right. Light, witty and fun, which is probably what an Austen-loving author should always aspire to. Go for it.

Where it came from: Library via Bookclub
Time and manner of reading:
About three reads, attentive
Where it went:
Home
Reminds me of/that: Personality cults do have their own momentum, don’t they?
Who I’d recommend it to:
Other “Janeites”
Also reading: Rabbit #4; How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch;The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon;Being Alive edited by Neil Astley