Archive for the ‘Informative’ Category
When I started reviewing books publicly I wrote most of my reviews in under ten minutes. That’s because I wrote without compunction. I just wrote what I thought without worrying about the writers’ feelings.
Then at some point I learned that people were reading my reviews and I slowed down and started to give them more thought. One of the writers in an anthology I reviewed wrote a heart-wrenching public reply that made me almost stop writing altogether. The only positive thing I took from it was that he seemed to think I’d had some sort of privileged education in an English public school.
Then I made a partly subconscious decision to write only glowing reviews.
I have written a string of glowing reviews recently. Quite a short string, because I have been lazy and I’ve been sleeping a lot. But a string nevertheless.
So I hope Maggie O’Farrell will forgive me if I emerge from my lethargic stupor to break with habit and pour cold water on her Instructions for a Heatwave.
There is little of practical value here. I am in London, 10 or 12 days into the hottest summer for decades and I’m not feeling any empathy with Maggie’s London heatwave of 1976.
She is writing in the present tense, which is a good trick if you can pull it off, because it makes time seem to stand still and immerses us in the moment. But I’m not immersed because this is one of those very thin stories that relies on flashbacks and asides to eke out the novel’s length. And its suspense comes from not telling us things we really ought to be told. Like why Gretta’s husband has left her.
I can’t believe it’s because she bakes bread in the middle of a heatwave.
As I said, you will not find sound advice here on how to survive the summer heat in one of the most polluted cities on the planet.
My advice is to stay indoors with a good air con unit, keep the windows closed so insects don’t get in, wear linen and extend yourself languorously on a cool leather sofa within reach of a tall stack of paperback erotic novels.
I’ll be recommending some soon.
In the meantime, drink plenty of liquids, move slowly and try not to think too much.
Trust me, I’m an expert in how to survive hot weather. I’m from China.
When asked which of his novels he thought would last Stephen King said The Shining, The Stand and Salem’s Lot. The ‘S’ novels.
I think they’ll all last because Stephen King has the knack of getting inside people’s lives and putting them on the page.
Stephen King reminds me a lot of Dickens without being as good. While Dickens can skewer a character in a single phrase, Stephen King recreates them with layer upon layer of trivial details. You might not like his characters but you can see them in your mind’s eye and in that respect they are real.
Another thing Stephen King does well is to vary the rhythm and syntax of his sentences, which means his prose is relatively free from noticeable mannerisms and you can read it for a long time without getting tired. This is the mark of a writer who has read and written a lot. It’s something the reader appreciates only subconsciously. Although his books are long, they are very readable. He doesn’t talk down to his audience. Some of the passages in this books are quite poetic and his vocabulary is very rich. But his sentences are elegantly constructed and the details he notices and presents are very pertinent.
It took me a while to appreciate how deeply literate Stephen King is. I am not a big fan of his but I admire his craftsmanship and I always find his books pleasurable to read. I have been drawn to his books more and more recently, since I have begun to write for publication. I think all writers can learn a lot from him, not so much from his book On Writing as from the novels themselves.
If I were being totally fair, I suppose I should give this 5 stars. But since he is not quite as good as Dickens and this is probably not his best book, I’ll give it only 3. Sorry, SK, but I don’t think you need a leg up from me.
1. The Empty City by Berit Ellingsen. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!
2. Conmergence by Tara Maya. Tantalising when she flashes and a rare delight when she lingers longer.
3. The Panama Laugh by Thomas Roche. An express train of a novel.
4. Rashomon by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. Terribly impressive.
5. The Spy Who Loved Me by Ian Fleming. Dark, dingy and dirty.
6. Asking For Trouble by Kristina Lloyd. Darker. Dingier. Dirtier. Damn good.
If I go quiet for a few days it will be because I am being deeply self-indulgent.