30/04/2017

Reading - April 2017

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)
Brave New World is generally acknowledged to be a more perceptive and accurate look into the future than the (probably) better known 1984. While Orwell foresaw totalitarianism as forced control, Huxley correctly predicted voluntary (albeit largely unconsciously so) control. What both considered likely though, was that such control would exercised by a central, unelected government, whereas what we have ended up with (if you leave aside conspiracy theories) is a similar result through pure sociological drift. Although, to be fair, we still have five hundred years for things to change until we reach the year in which the novel is set.
The Week (1 April 2017 / Issue 1118)
Catch Me If You Can by Frank W. Abagnale with Stan Redding (1980)
I think I saw the film first, but bought this book soon after. It's an amazing story but loses some impact on the page because of the matter-of-fact way it's told. The sheer cajones and brass neck of the guy is astonishing, but after the fiftieth account of how he cashed a phony cheque, it wears a little thin. Still, it was an entertaining and easy afternoon's read. This film tie-in edition has an interesting little catch-up interview with Abagnale himself at the end.
Asterix And The Soothsayer by Goscinny & Uderzo (1975)
A little light reading over breakfast. Given how much and for how long I have loved Asterix books, I don't know why I didn't and can't get into graphic novels. But there it is.
Asterix And The Golden Sickle by Goscinny & Uderzo (1962 / 1975 (English))
Another bite-sized installment of Asterix, not read it for ages. Gently amusing and imaginative.
Guitarist (May 2017 / Issue 419)
Republican Party Reptile by P.J. O'Rourke (1987)
Plus ça change ... despite being 30 years old (and hence some of the pieces collected being older than that), there are articles in here that could have been written this year or last year. O'Rourke is funniest when he's being scathing about real life subjects; some of the deliberately comic pieces here are dated and forced. The standout articles for me are "Ferrari Refutes The Decline Of The West", an account of a journey across the US in a 308 with Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner ("Julian Weber" in the book), and a highly amusing telling of a trip to the USSR with a group of American socialists. I think I was introduced to this by my friend George.
The Men From P.I.G. and R.O.B.O.T. by Harry Harrison (1978)
Jolly kids sci-fi from one of my favourite authors as a child. I read this to Z - I think the next book needs to be The Stainless Steel Rat.
The Week (8 April 2017 / Issue 1119)
The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison (1961)
I was wondering about reading this to Z next so I had a quick flick and got drawn in again. I'm not going to read it to him - it's a bit too grown up - but it's a great romp that's not really dated at all ... apart from some reference to something called "camera film". Anyone any idea?
Guitar & Bass (May 2017 / Vol 28 No. 08)
Asterix And The Goths by Goscinny & Uderzo (1974)
I'm not sure why, but this was always one of my favourites, way back when. Silly, as usual, but a nice way to pass a breakfast.
Asterix In Britain by Goscinny & Uderzo (1966)
I think this is the first Asterix book I ever read and for some reason I own it in at least 3 different languages. Lots of clever references to British customs, some of which may be the translator's work but not all - the inclusion of a game of rugby is amusing. Great fun.
The Week (15 April 2017 / Issue 1120)
The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You by Harry Harrison (1978)
I seem to be revisiting series of books I read as a child this month. This was, if I recall correctly, the first Stainless Steel Rat book I read, and loved the amusing, irreverent take on science fiction. In fact, it might well have been one of the first science fiction books I read.
Asterix And The Laurel Wreath by Goscinny & Uderzo (1972)
More jolly japes.
Asterix And The Roman Agent by Goscinny & Uderzo (1970)
I like this idea, of someone who is so unpleasant that people around him just start arguing.
The Stainless Steel Rat For President by Harry Harrison (1982)
Only "science fiction" in the loosest sense - really this is a short thriller for teenagers and those with little time. Jolly good fun though.
The Mansions Of The Gods by Goscinny & Uderzo (1971)
Asterix And The Big Fight by Goscinny & Uderzo (1966)
My last two Asterix books. What I haven't mentioned yet is the superb translations, by Anthea Bell & Derek Hockridge. The text is full of puns and jokes, many of which must surely be specific to English since they wouldn't work in French.
The Week (22 April 2017 / Issue 1121)
The Stainless Steel Rat Saves The World by Harry Harrison (1972)
Amusing, time jumping, short novel. Probably the last one I'll read now for a while, as the formula is getting a little wearing.

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