Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck (1962)

Why’d he go? He’s upfront upfront about it.

When you start getting old and perhaps not so well (he’s 58 at the time of writing) you begin to realise the head of the house becomes the youngest child.

I have searched myself for this possibility with a kind of horror. For I have always lived violently, drunk hugely, eaten too much or not at all, slept around the clock or missed two nights of sleeping, worked too hard and too long in glory, or slobbed for a time in utter laziness. I’ve lifted, pulled, chopped, climbed, made love with joy and taken my hangovers as a consequence, not as a punishment. I did not want to surrender fierceness for a small gain in yardage. My wife married a man; I saw no reason why should she should inherit a baby.

Steinbeck had been ill. He’d had a couple of scares. He could see the scythe’s shadow under the door.

So he decided to get off his ass and move. To go on a journey. To see the America he had written so much about. To feel it again after twenty-five years. To see if it was the same.

Continue reading Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck (1962)

The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler (1949)

Back to Chandler again, and his two favourite subjects: booze and broads.

Let’s dodge some bullets and savour some more Chandler style. Been a while. The Little Sister’s in the heading, so let’s let it lead.

By and along the way, one can’t help wondering if the author speaks from personal experience. If so, what a life.

Continue reading The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler (1949)

Sylvie and Bruno by Lewis Carroll (in two volumes*: 1889 and 1893)

Did Mary Shelley ever meet Lewis Carroll? It’s not impossible. He was nineteen when she died in 1851.

I think they would’ve amused each other.

Whatever, I’m a banana if he never read Frankenstein.

Many years ago a dear old friend scribbled me a note: …I cycled all over yesterday trying to find a copy of Lewis Carroll’s Sylvie and Bruno… but not a copy was to be found in all of London. Nobody seems to read anything but Alice which is too bad.

I thought uh-huh, never heard of it and that was that.

I’ve only just read it and I rue all those years when I could’ve been savouring this wonderful book. It’s worth cycling all over London for. I wouldn’t’ve picked it up if it hadn’t been for that scribbled note way back. Thank you, Annie.

Sylvie and Bruno is gorgeous.

Why? Well…

Carroll gifts us, with pin-point accuracy, a young children’s view of a pure world free of the distortions of adulthood.

Continue reading Sylvie and Bruno by Lewis Carroll (in two volumes*: 1889 and 1893)

Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee (1959)

If you fancy a hot horny roll in the hay, sigh no more. I remember boys at school reading it over and over again. Often alone.

Always found it a bit prickly myself. And the dust makes me sneeze.

But first. He may have had a lay in the hay, but it’s mummy whom Laurie really loved.

Continue reading Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee (1959)

Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams (1960)

Think you’re depressed? Well, wallow away with Williams. Even the title’s depressing and gory. Butcher’s Crossing is not a romcom.

Some say there’s nothing like other people having a shit time to make you feel better.

I say the writing’s worth it.

So, pop the pills below the pillow and peruse this single paragraph. And if the alliteration’s provoking, pop ’em out, pop one, pop ’em back, and pore on.

It’ll set you up nicely and give you taste of Williams’s workmanship.

Continue reading Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams (1960)

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)