31/07/2018

Reading - July 2018

But Seriously by John McEnroe (2017)
Brief - I read it in just over a day - but entertaining, this isn't a start-to-finish story of McEnroe's life, but rather a set of chapters about different aspects of it. Although primarily focused on his post-retirement activities (for his time as a player, see Serious), he nevertheless also goes back to talk a bit about how he was as a person back then and how it affected him now. The book skilfully conveys McEnroe's personality while still managing to flow well from section to section, which I assume is down to some (unaccredited) professional writing help. There's nothing earth-shattering here (he's a bit rude about the BBC's revamping of the Wimbledon highlights show in 2015, albeit entirely with reason) but enough spice to make it worth reading.
The Secrets Of Love & Lust by Simon Andeae (1998)
This somewhat over-salaciously titled book is - as indicated by its its less sensational but more accurate previous title of Anatomy Of Desire: The Science And Psychology Of Sex, Love And Marriage - not a manual or guide, but instead, a pop-science summary of sexology. That is, why do humans indulge in sex and relationships, not how. It's also very interesting. If you take the scientifically orthodox view that all behaviours are the product of millions of years of evolution, then they all have a "purpose" that must lead back to reproductive success; so what is the purpose of love, lust, orgasms or sexual enjoyment? The book attempts to answer these questions in a reasonably concise way. The author also has some scathing words for how societies, religion more specifically and Christianity in particular have attempted to co-opt, divert or pervert these natural forces that they see as a threat.
Dead Famous by Ben Elton (2001)
It's interesting to compare this novel with another that sends up reality TV, Christopher Brookmyre's  A Snowball In Hell (2008). In both cases they take the idea to a logical satirical conclusion, namely murder, live on telly; but while Brookmyre invents his own shows, Elton appears to have just ripped off Big Brother, lock, stock and barrel. And this is my main problem with Ben Elton - too much of his humour just hits painfully obvious targets, using cliched characters. The narration is uneven too, switching erratically between viewpoints from paragraph to paragraph. Nevertheless, as a story, I found it very readable and I really wanted to know whodunnit, so credit where it's due.
The Guitar Magazine (Vol 29 No 11)
The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler (2004)
I'd heard about this book a while ago and even contemplated reading it once or twice before, but this time when I saw it on the shelf at our book exchange, it seemed like the right time to take the plunge. I'm pleased I did; it's a gentle, sweet and amusing vignette of a year in the lives of five friends who decide to form an all-Austen, all-the-time book club. While that seems like a limited idea for a discussion group, it's an ideal setup for a novel that needs a defined end. We learn about the backgrounds of all the characters, who are well-observed and interesting, and see them change over the duration. It's all unremarkable but engaging - just like Jane Austen's books, of course.
Boiling A Frog by Christopher Brookmyre (2000)
Chosen as a reliably good read when I was in an unimaginative mood. Good fun as ever.

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