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Friday, 22 February 2013

By which I was blindsided

Books which, in one way or another, surprised me, some at first reading, some later, some merely via speculation.

NOTE: Authors' names omitted as space saver..

HOTEL DU LAC Claustrophobic account of single womanhood. Not my cup of tea? Quite the reverse. I became a fan.

BY LOVE POSSESSED Proof that literary judgments at age 22 may lack legs. At the time I thought it rolled back the world; now I wouldn't dare open the first page.

THE NARROW CORNER Would I dare read it again? It seemed so wise. Now I may be (marginally) wiser myself.

A MOVEABLE FEAST His lightest, his liveliest, his most informative. Re-read it a few weeks ago and it stands up.

MADAME BOVARY Approached tentatively forty years ago; afterwards wondered if I'd read it in a condensed version. So quick, so factual, so to-the-point. Slower second time around. Slight disappointment.

MY DARK PLACES One of my favourite environments - California noir. Sheesh, this was hard. Other titles got harder. DNF'd one of the latest.

CLIMBS IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES Read him in my youth because he was honourable, modest and terribly British. Now dull, pedestrian, obvious.

CATCH 22 Unique, uproarious, worth the effort but - make no mistake - it does require effort.

BABBIT Biting satire becomes a distant period piece done in poker-work with embroidery round the sides.

THE MAN WITHOUT QUALITIES Way above my intellectual level yet I finished it. How? So I could boast about it.

THE ORDEAL OF GILBERT PINFOLD Oh, how I wish he hadn't written this.

THE POODLE SPRINGS MYSTERY He should have finished it himself, not ceded it to an upstart admittedly due to force majeure (ie, death).

ISAIAH Thrilling for teenagers, less so for aged adults.


  1. I have recently discovered Nick Harkaway and am devouring The Gone-Away World. Who knows what I'll think about all this decades from now.

  2. Well that makes me feel humble since I've only read two of these. However I decided to provide myself with a little more sketchy education by Wikipediaing. Maybe one or two will go on my reading list when I have got through the current four or five books awaiting my irritatingly pedestrian reading rate, especially the Hemingway.

    Wikipedia tells me Penfold should be Pinfold.

  3. RW (zS): I've simply been able to use all those decades. Judgements that do change are often symptoms of how we ourselves have changed. With books it's often a case of not being taken in quite as easily after a year or two. Sometimes we feel guilty, imagining we've betrayed that which we loved. But we shouldn't really; seeing things more clearly is an asset not a social defect.

    Sir Hugh: Thanks for Pinfold. It doesn't do the slightest bit of good to say I knew that all the time. But I'll say it.

    You shouldn't feel humble. Most of these are not "must reads". Several are mere oddities. As I say above to RW (sZ) I think we should be reassured by changing opinion. And conversely suspect opinions that are set in concrete.

  4. I only recently realised that A Moveable Feast was Hemmingway's last or almost last book. That surprised me. So youthful it seems.You're right about Pinfold.