Books Read – Sep/Oct 2014

Updated books read here (and films seen). Lots of books, sixteen in last two months (and films too!) – and a few more almost finished – I’m so close now to finishing Ulysses – there’s like, 25 pages left, but it may take me another few months to summon up what little interest I still have (I feel another controversial review coming up here, to match Moby Dick, The Trial and Anna Karenina). Maybe I could read a page a day.

Some interesting writers this month whom I’m not going to review properly:

  • John Hawkes, experimental American writer. I’d read The Lime Twig before, back in the first year of this blog, and wasn’t particularly taken by it (it’s set in England though, and had a kind of confused Brighton Rock vibe, as I remember) – but I’ve had a few of his books knocking about on my shelves all this time and thought I’d give another one (The Beetle Leg) a go. Hawkes’ method is to write his story in whatever way is least likely to make any sense to the reader.
  • Tarjei Vesaas, Norwegian. Writer of incredibly beautiful simple poetic prose. You know, the kind of stuff that every literary writer is supposed to write (according to reviews) but which none of them actually do. Well, Vesaas actually does. But I wasn’t that much taken by the general direction the story headed in. I have a lot more Vesaas books lying about.
  • Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio, Spanish writer. Alfanhui is a very, very strange book, the world it’s set in almost Alice-like in its weird logic. Ferlosio wrote this and El Jarama (which I also have) in the 1950s, and then stopped writing for twenty years, before suddenly returning. I think only his first two books are available in English.
  • Rudolf Hoess was the commandant at Auschwitz, and this is an expurgated text of his apology for his life written at Nuremberg. (I wasn’t sure how to score this one).
  • Raymond Radiguet’s Count D’Orgel’s Ball is a lot better than his more easily available Devil in the Flesh.
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4 thoughts on “Books Read – Sep/Oct 2014

  1. Your Dorothy Richardson description is superb. And I assume accurate. How could it not be accurate.

  2. Pretty much covered it, I feel. Now I think about, maybe she didn’t need all 287 of those pages. Perhaps I should also have included “doesn’t have a baby and resents nursing the sick”, all written in a stream of consciousness manner with a curious attitude towards scene selection. You will note all these things are commensurate with a woman defining for herself a female role in society which is not dictated by men: this book has a much more conscious feminist edge than the previous volumes. The Bloomsbury women she befriends are great characters.

    I may pass straight on to the next book, but will come to halt then since I don’t have a copy of the third volume in the series (and for some reason it’s the most expensive one, so will be reduced to searching round secondhand bookshops).

  3. I read Devil in the Flesh earlier in the year, and expected something more…scandalous. I didn’t really see the evidence (suggested in the Penguin edition introduction) that this was a monumental talent whose early death denied us a raft of troubling masterpieces.

    Have you ever read Gitta Sereny? She wrote about Speer, famously, and also about the commandant of Treblinka. Your precis of the Hoess book makes it sound like Amis’s latest.

  4. Yeah, it’s not much good, Devil in the Flesh. I got the impression he’d got bored with it himself; I seem to remember it ends very suddenly. Count D’Orgel is much more interesting (though appears to borrow its plot from the Princess of Cleves – so the introduction said; I’ve not read it). I read somewhere that Yukio Mishima put it amongst his favourite books.

    I doubt Hoess’ book is much like Amis’. The editor Jurg Amann specifically begins his introduction by pointing up the differences between this account and fictional ones (he mentions The Kindly Ones), and stating his preference for the non-fictional. It’s certainly not comic, and doesn’t have many well-turned sentences. I’ve not read any Sereny; the book about the commandant of Treblinka sounds interesting.

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