30/09/2017

Reading - September 2017

Wrapped In Tinsel by Margaret O'Neill (2000)
A short novella really, and a fantasy in all respects, from the impossibly perfect country hospital setting and the eccentric but good-hearted locals, to the beautiful heroine and rugged hero. No danger or doubt here but the characters are nice enough to make you care, and I liked that it was set in England.
North Face Of Soho by Clive James (2006)
In this fourth instalment of autobiography, we finally reach a part of Clive James's life in which he is doing things we know about - writing TV criticism and appearing on TV. What strikes me now, as well as (as always) the economy and elegance of his writing, is how busy he was. In addition to what was effectively a full time job writing for The Observer, he wrote plays, poetry, travel articles and more besides. It emphasises something I think is often minimised in autobiographies: the sheer amount of effort required to have achieved what is celebrated. Less stated, but clear, is that this was at the expense of seeing his family, something he appears to regret but nevertheless felt necessary. Witty and wise, this is a superb read.
The Guitar Magazine (Vol 29 No 01)
The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson (1989)
Bryson's first travel book, and only his second overall, but already possessing his distinct voice and tone. Manifestly not a guide book or even a particularly useful way of finding places to go, just a highly personal journey. I'm not a fan of travelling at all really, or even books about travelling, but I do like Bill Bryson.
Lunarbaboon by Chris Grady (2014)
Still funny and sweet. Nice breakfast-time reading.
Flying Visits by Clive James (1984)
A collection of travel pieces written for The Observer between 1976 and 1983. Wonderfully, now available online in its entirety, including two whole additional pieces that are not in my copy. Given that it was 29p second-hand, it's still great value for money, as is any Clive James book. His pithy phrasing was clearly transferred directly to his TV show, as was the casual "foreigner-ism" (it seems too innocent to call it racism, although many would) that dates it more than anything else.
Lunarbaboon 2 by Chris Grady (2015)
Contains two of my favourite LB cartoons, "Hugging" and "Spoil". Oh, and "Winner". "Nature/Nuture" is funny too. As is "Aspire". Oh, they're all good!
Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson (1991)
Bill does Europe. Necessarily a bit more fragmented than The Lost Continent (which I have in the same volume), since it covers more countries, but funny and interesting.
This Is Pop by Ed Jones (1999)
Subtitled "The Life and Times of a Failed Rock Star" and purporting to show what life is like for the majority of bands who never make it, the irony is that The Tansads (shit name) got a lot further than most bands ever do: a record deal and three albums. Nevertheless the catalogue of disagreements, frustrations, annoyances, disappointments and very occasional highlights will be familiar to everyone who's been in a band. Actually my experiences in bands have been mostly positive, but it's only ever been a hobby for me. And I find it hard to believe that the highlights for Ed Jones were so few and far between as they appear to be here, otherwise why carry on for four years? Still, he clearly feels aggrieved, as the book was written as a combination of catharsis and revenge - primarily against The Tansads' band leader, who Jones regards as responsible for much of the failure - but he has enough self-awareness and intelligence to make it an amusing and enjoyable read.

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