The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

This has been reviewed a gadzillion times in the press and online. A few notes….

It doesn’t surprise me, having read a little of the background of this once I finished the book, that it was intended as a screenplay. It is sloppy as a novel and, as many have mentioned, once it moves to NY, the story really becomes a corny romance.

However, I am surprised to see it is considered chicklit, it deserves better. It is hilarious from that fabulous start: ‘I may have found a solution to the Wife Problem.’ I can see why it’s described as that old-fashioned thing, a screwball comedy.

It is impossible to write a book like this without having to endure the moral considerations. Is it okay to write about weird people if one isn’t weird (perhaps the author is?)?. Is it a politically correct portrayal of Aspergers if the person does have Aspergers? Some people who deal with it at close quarters say yes, others no. I don’t really understand why books (etc) have to be scrutinised in this way, why characters have to be labelled, why they have to receive approval. This is a book about a weird guy. He is inadvertently funny. As the story develops it may be that he plays up on that on purpose, making him advertently funny. The situations are funny. They are described in funny ways. The author’s had fun. Probably his lucky proofreader had fun too.

The darn thing’s funny, really funny, most of the time. That should be enough.  It’s enough for me.

 

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The spoiler: Disappearing off the face of the earth by David Cohen part two

I had a friend in Geneva who went from close to cutting me off when she read my review of The Sea, The Sea, The Sea (repeated to taste) by Iris Murdoch. She was a Murdoch fan. She was deeply hurt by a review which made fun of her idol. Although at the time I thought she was an idiot, the fact is that books we love hold a place in our heart which overtake rationality. I love this book, and it pains me to think that there are people out there who don’t get it.

When I wrote my review of this a few days ago, I was reluctant to give anything away that would cause one to know too much of the book prior to reading it. However, I can see that this has led to not enough information in some respects. So, this is the spoiler and the upgrade, since I gave this four stars at the time, whilst wishing I could give it five.

More than one nimwit has read this book thinking that they ‘got’ the twist early on and that therefore this book has failed. But this book is not meant to have a twist. The point of the book is that it is about a person with schizophrenia. He doesn’t know that – but can he know it? Can the part of him that we are barracking for, the part telling the story, understand what is happening and therefore do something about it?

Much as the book may be comic, it has this disarmingly sad fundament. We are hoping the best for a serial killer, who is so ordinary he could be anybody. The author has produced a dysfuntional serial killer we can all love and relate to in no different a way from relating to the family in The Castle.

It is possible that only Australians will get that. We are particularly tolerant and have a sense of humour which permits this book to be what it is. But I encourage non-Australians to read it and attempt to enter the spirit of the exercise. If, however, you are wanting a book that has a clever twist that you don’t get until the very end – or at all – then this book is not for you.

It’s Fine By Me by Per Petterson

Do brutal climate and harsh environs inevitably lead to such stories? Auden is a survivor. The question is whether he will escape as well as survive. This is a grim story of abuse, alcoholism, dead-end jobs, petty town mentalities. But above it is a level of joy for the reader in the lovely prose, the simple, minimal way in which Petterson does his work. And surely the one will transcend the other by the end leading to something like a happy future. Auden’s a reader and in his heart he’s a writer. Could the author really leave the hopes of this young man and the reader dashed?

Maybe. I’m not going to give that away. Suffice to say I read this with my heart in my mouth, during the course of today. It’s short and very difficult to put down.

Petterson’s on two out of two with me.

Disappearing off the face of the earth by David Cohen part one

I write a spoiler sort of review of this here.

I think it’s safe to say, having read this over the course of a day, that it’s the perfect easy read. An equal mix of suspense, pathos, great characters and humour including laugh out loud precise comic timing. On top of which it’s splendidly Australian.

Over the last months, having followed the experiences of a friend with a book in the Australian best seller lists for the unusually long period of a couple of months, it has become evident to me in a more real way than previously that it’s a cut-throat world out there for the author. Once your book drops off the lists and that happens almost immediately post publication, it becomes near impossible to get a copy. Perhaps this is a reason to be thankful for the large online booksellers and databases.

What chance does this give a book such as this of big success? Approximately zero. But what a shame. I don’t want to talk about the story, it’s to be left to the reader to find that out. I can, however, give this four stars, which from me is high praise indeed.

My best guess is that sometime in the future, and I’m afraid that will be about thirty years, that this will become one of those little revived classics that clever people on goodreads write about knowingly.

Well, come on goodreaders. Beat the rush. Be different. Read it now!

 

Black Mirror by Gail Jones

Early on I almost gave up on this. I started keeping a list on the endpapers of some of the use of language that particularly irked me. Her language is rendered beautiful by its ornate imprecise superfluity. Overall I disagree with this approach. Language can be beautiful without being overdone. If this book had been a picture I would have hated it. Far from adding clarity, her overuse of words led to ambiguity which I do not believe was intentional.

I had never heard of the well-known Gail Jones until I went to see her talk with Coetzee and others recently. Her voice was odd and not entirely pleasing to me. Yet I wanted to listen. Strangely, that seems to reflect her style of writing, if this book is to be the judge.

I don’t believe that the structure of the book worked either. It was too unbalanced. There was no real interaction between the two main characters to justify that structure. Nor am I convinced by the panorama of it all. The wide range of the period, throw in Melbourne, WA mining town, the Surrealists having a ball in France. World War II. London then, London now. Not surprisingly perhaps, I found her most convincing in Australia – the parts set in Melbourne and WA are best.

All this we could sum up as ‘trying too hard’.

Having said all that, there were long moments where the elegiac style was perfect. She created vivid pictures of everything she described and characterisation was less convincing but not awful.

Overall one sees the potential of the author in this first novel and one reads it expecting more of future efforts. I will try another to test this theory.

Submission by Michel Houellebecq

I’m just not sure

I wonder why it is that sticking my dick up girls’ arses doesn’t interest me like it used to

why a book that has something interesting to say about academia

The girls love it. Especially when I take my dick out of their arse and get them to lick it. They really like that.

and also about politics

Maybe if I fucked two girls arses and then got them to lick my dick. Maybe I’d enjoy that like I used to. Hmmmm.

should interleave his ideas and quite amusing prose

Or maybe. Oh, I don’t know. Young student? Arse? Licking excrement covered dick? While another one likes my balls maybe? Yeah. Let’s try that.

with tedious, ludicrous shit about girls liking his pathetic (to the reader) dick up their anusses. Maybe it gets guys to read the book.

I kind of wish that it wasn’t a book where the ending was just what you thought it was going to be, but maybe that was the point. That his scenario is inevitable. I don’t know.

Any girls reading this like having dicks shoved up their arses and then get to lick them after? That being the author’s definition of love? Form an orderly queue. I’ll let him know.

Something Light by Margery Sharp

There I was profiling Sharp books as having a Tyler like quality of avoiding ‘happily ever after’ and here I am writing about one that makes me eat my words. It’s all in the name, Something Light. It’s a straightforward comedy in which the heroine sets out to become married and one way or another the closer she thinks she is, the further way she finds herself.

She’s a ‘good sort’, an expression which seems to have fallen by the wayside. Indeed Sharp, who had a particular interest in language uses lots of words which might have been faddish at the time but dropped out of use. One in this book is ‘Pammies’. They are a type of female, but it isn’t clear to me if it is an expression coined by Sharp or a word of the period. I can’t see any references to it online.

Fabulously freshly funny.