Something Fresh by P G Wodehouse (1915)

Please, please, please, squeeze this in. Not just this first in the series, but the whole Blandings lot (list below).

It’s heaven. The stories are full of joy and funniness and charm. And there’s a pig too. How’s that for style?

Evelyn Waugh said this of Wodehouse: “Mr Wodehouse’s idyllic world can never stale. He will continue to release future generations from captivity that may be more irksome than our own. He has made a world for us to live in and delight in.”

Can’t utter better.

But how’s he do the word thing?

In a zillion ways. Some sprinkles for you.

Continue reading Something Fresh by P G Wodehouse (1915)

Vernon God Little by D B C Pierre (2003)

Of course everyone thinks of sex while watching ballet.

They don’t?

I thought this book was funny. I gave it to friends. Did they think it was funny?

They didn’t.

But for me, it passed the Tickle Test. That’s to laugh out loud by page ten. Giggle will do. Snigger too. I got got at page six. Kind of a loud snort, which I’m going to allow under sniggering.

[Page six. In a important interview with a fat policewoman who’s gnawing Bar-B-Chew Barn ribs with barbecue sauce dripping on her name badge and trying to ascertain if Little is an accessory to murder:]

Continue reading Vernon God Little by D B C Pierre (2003)

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (2013)

Life’s shit and then you die. And dat’s dat, matey.

That’s why we have art. That’s Tartt’s take. Or rather Theo Decker’s, the protagonist in The Goldfinch.

Does this insight save you reading this one-kilo 771-pager? Nope. Because it’s a corker.

Which is why we’re going to mull over Albert Camus a mo. The Outsider‘s protagonist, Meursault, clocks that nothing matters in life and so he doesn’t care. About anything.

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The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger (1946)

Did you hear what I said? Well, huh, thanks for nothing.

I said, I’ve been staring myself out about what makes this book so fab.

Everyone goes on about the teenage angst ta-ra-ra and the awkwardness boom-de-ay and how Salinger nailed it.

He sure did, but what’s the magic potion?

It’s tone of voice, dumb-ass. Are you listening or not?

The oft-quoted first sentence and the ongoing ‘hero’ Holden’s perfectly pitched mosquito machine hum of woe and whinge have you often wanting to biff the bugger. But, damn it, he’s funny too.

Here’s the opener. (Tip: no peeking first, just read the next para aloud in one breath to get in the tone zone.)

Continue reading The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger (1946)

Middlemarch by George Elliot (1872)

Click, burrrrrzzz. Right, that’s the Fib Finder on.

Stand up all those who’ve haven’t read Middlemarch. Okay, okay, sit down – or they won’t be able to see at the back.

You should. It’s one of the best novels ever written. Why? How long you got?

Don’t panic. Let’s play with one word, for starters. Hang on, tongue, cheek – okay, I’m ready. A clue? Look at the title.

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The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler (1953)

No, no, no – wait, wait, wait!

Just because you think you might’ve had enough Chandler doesn’t mean you’re not wrong.

Picture this. A beauty so elegant, so divine, she renders her beholder invisible.

The old bar waiter came drifting by and glanced softly at my weak Scotch and water. I shook my head and he bobbed his white thatch, and right then a dream walked in.

Continue reading The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler (1953)