Sunday, 3 August 2014

Good books/ Bad books- part 8

  My friend Terri and I have been to a number of Bookwomen events and we are trying to get started on our reading for Martha's Vineyard in September.  Bookwomen was begun in Indianapolis to encourage women writers.  Many women that we meet at these events only read female authors.  That would have saved me from reading the last three classics and also these five books.
The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke

   This book won the Giller in 2002.
   Mary (Tilda) Bellfeels, Barbados, has killed Mr. Bellfeels, the plantation manager, with her hoe.
"I knew from the very beginning that there was an act ordained for me to perform".
   Percy, a police sergeant comes to take her statement.  For 480 pages, she chatters about the island's history, music, art, etc., etc.  The only worthwhile chatter was disclosing her life story: "I wanted you to know what life was like for a woman growing up in the islands in the nineteens and early twenties."
She was taken advantage of by everyone. "The only body who didn't stir his spoon in the pot was the Revern". "Her life is paid for by her body."
   From the internet: "No matter how sweet Mary's memories are, the urge to flip pages becomes even sweeter."
   And I cared less and less as the novel dragged on and on.
I thought it was worthwhile to hear Mary's story but I began to hate it.
When she killed Bellfeels, she cut off his penis.  Revenge!  Obviously written by a man.

Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler

   Barney Panofsky lived in the Jewish quarters in Montreal.
   His first wife Clara was eccentric- a feminist/ artist/ poet.  His second wife was called "the second Mrs. Panofsky".  There were three children Mike, Kate, and Saul.
   The writing was confusing- full of "I digress", "I'm jumping all over the place".  It was a kaleidoscope of history, sports, literature.
   Barney was "rewinding the spool of my wasted life, wondering how I got from there to here". "I tour the labyrinth of my past", "shuffle the deck of my memories".
   The themes were guilt and anxiety and cynicism.
   There was one idea that interested me- when Barney's children turned 16, he gave them a library of 100 books that had given him pleasure.
Unfortunately, this book gave me no pleasure.

"Cocksure"by Mordecai Richler

   I was disappointed that this book was chosen for Canada Reads.  It is an absurd satirical fantasy. Just check out the cast of characters:
Mortimer Griffin - senior editor at Oriole Press (London)- becomes impotent, is taken for a Jew, is being groomed to take over- is followed and discovers he is the target for murder.
Hyman Rosen- senior editor at Oriole Press
Miss. Agnes Laura Ryerson- 4th grade teacher from Canada- teaches at the permissive school in London - gives oral sex to boys
Star Maker- Hollywood tycoon living in Las Vegas- uses body parts from others- tries to reproduce himself- creates movie stars (zombies) who live in a box or cupboard.
Ziggy Spicehandler- "had the face of man who has visited the darker regions of hell and come back again."- had an affair with Mortimer's wife.
Polly Morgan- a beautiful woman who lives as though in film.
   There is a great deal about prejudice and being different- whether Jew or German or gay.  One satirical bit involved a secretary whose mother was the millionth Jew put in the furnace.  The furnace was decorated for the occasion with flowers and Chinese lanterns.  Some jewelry of this woman showed up on a German secretary who walked into the office of the daughter.
Richler used the term "a sentimental barbeque".
   The book is filled with gross sexuality.  I realize it is a satire on morals but I don't think most people would get it.  I didn't!

"Everyman" by Philip Roth

   'Everyman' is the name of an English morality play.  'Everyman' means an ordinary man.
Philip Roth was 73 when he wrote this novel.  He has won many, many awards for his writing and is considered one of the best authors of his generation.  He is also known to write about himself.  It appears that this novel reflects his views on aging- very dark and depressing!
   The novel begins with his burial, then goes back over his relationships with three wives and three children - only one daughter is connected to him at the end of his life. He also tells how his life has been influenced by his desire for new, young lovers.
   The main theme is 'bodily decreptitude tumbling headlong into death'.
"Old age isn't a battle: old age is a massacre".
Terribly depressing!
I read this for a course that John and I took at Laurier University.  We were both 73at the time!

"The Parabolist" by Nicholas Ruddock

A parabolist is one who speaks in parables.
I did not like this book- no chapters, too disorganized and violent.
From a review:
"The Parabolist is a novel about murder, sex, the medical establishment, poetry and vigilante justice on the streets of Toronto in 1975.  Told through interlacing narratives, the story funnels towards the eye of an unsolved crime: on a rainy summer night, a woman is raped and very nearly murdered, but for the intervention of two drunken vigilantes who kill the attacker before fleeing the scene.  The only clue the police have about their identities is a slab of Crisco shortening found on the victim."
This book is written by a doctor in Guelph.  The main characters are medical students.  Explicit sex and dissection of bodies.
Book club was very divided- some people thought it humorous and reminiscent of the 70's.  I hated it!

Deadly- every one!  Violent, depressing books are a waste of good trees!  Give me the forests!

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