Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie

One thing I've never actually read for leisure before is poetry. In fact, I've barely read any poetry ever. We kind of missed out the poetry section in my Higher English class in school. We should have studied To A Mouse by Robert Burns, but that never happened since we spent so much time on The Great Gatsby and Macbeth.

Now besides Rabbie Burns - who is obviously a national treasure - and maybe Shakespeare, I don't know of many other poets. So here's a little story:

When my brother and I were younger, if our parents told us to do something we didn't want to do we'd go "oh what? Man..." but because of how we said it it came out "aw whitman" and my mum used to say "who's Whitman?" and eventually told us that Whitman was an American poet at the turn of the century (she was studying English Literature at the time), so over the years I became pretty familiar with the name (apparently we must've said it quite a lot because that line describing him is pretty drummed into my head.

So because of this, naturally I took an interest when I saw that none other than Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass is on one of my lists of books.

I've downloaded it from Amazon, for the grand cost of absolutely nothing, onto my PC and phone and I've been reading little bits and pieces every so often whilst studying, and I actually think it's really great. You get the satisfaction of having read something without having to take the time out of doing work or the staying up all night to do so, and some of the lines are really amazing.

One which I picked up on, which has also been highlighted by a few other people is in a small poem "To the States" and goes something like this:

To the States or any one of them, or any city of the States, Resist
much, obey little,
Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved,
Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city of this earth, ever afterward resumes its liberty.

Monday, 2 May 2011

You win this one, Brookmyre.

Right there's a few posts in editing at the moment. I have a nice habit of starting posts and never ending them and then they just sit there because it seems like so much hassle to pick up my train of thought. I never was all that great at conclusions.

But tonight I am (still in the process of) reading a book that was loaned to me right about when I spectacularly crushed my mobile phone - a vehicle was involved, not a moving one but there was still quite a bit of perfect timing involved.

But, no smartphone = no Kindle app.
Therefore, no digital books (so no attempt to begin David Copperfield!)

So tonight, ladies and gentlemen, I write regarding a book that sits snugly into a Crime Fiction shelf; a book written "for Richard Dawkins"; a book that won an award in the past ten years... essentially a book that I can safely say I would never have chosen for myself: Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks by Christopher Brookmyre.

This will be quite summative of all my ignorance for most modern writing and will give some reasons as to why I'm a bit of a snob for the Classics.

Firstly, writer: never heard of him. Apparently he's pretty well known; he did win the 2007 Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Award for Writing, and yeah, the book's got a fine story in it. I think I like the writing myself, I've not quite decided yet, although I did laugh out loud at one line in particular.

And yes it is weird that I'm writing this when I've yet to reach the concluding pages, but put it this way: I'm not really "into it" in the sense of "oh I just couldn't put it down!", but even at that, it's 2.30am and I'm definitely staying up to find out how this story ends.

The story itself is quite an odd one. I don't know how it fares in the realm of Crime Fiction, the closest I've read to that genre is possibly Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca, and I could only vaguely count that because a crime occurred in it at one point... yeah not really sure about that one. I think it's safe to say I've never read a crime novel before, but this is quite cool, kind of weird ideas, subjects are pretty ridiculous but still kind of relevant to the real world, the topic is something that everybody has a half-baked opinion on, but the book plays on the fact that most people's opinions will be half-baked so it does lead you to question how you feel about the whole "speaking to the dead" thing (over and over and over). There was a "big reveal" that was glaringly obvious, so that got some minus points but apart from that the story's quite interesting.

I think the characters are the part that gets me down though. They are engaging, most definitely, and they are perfect for their own stories but I can't really get swallowed up by the characters with this one. I know not every book can be a Tolstoyan masterpiece but is it too much to ask that I fall in love with at least one of the characters? (Probably?)

And I don't mean in a romantic sense.

I mean I want my main character to incite some real emotion for their cause. I want their every revelation to be my own. I want their fear to be the thing I get tense when I see written on the page. I want to cry genuine tears when their world falls apart. I want to not want the story to finish but be desperate for the happy ending.

So yes, I've been spoiled by masterful writing. I can definitely tick that box. But if the only failing of a book is that it doesn't match Dickens then there's naught much wrong with it.

I'll edit this post with my full verdict once I'm finished but I'm pretty sure it'll be along the lines of: if you like crime novels, definitely read this, it's really funny and it's a seemingly original story. If the last book you read was thicker than your bicep, however, then maybe give it a miss and hop onto Treasure Island for some light reading.

Final verdict: The ending of that book saves that book. That was a damn good ending to a book. Small dislikes follow but I give them much less weight given how damn damn damn good that ending was.

I do still agree with my first verdict though. Crime novel lovers will love it because it ends so well. Avid readers of classic tomes are less likely to stick it out.

Here are the small dislikes: some might find it funny but I thought it was cheap. The narrator lies. Like actually flat out lies. It's like a cheating way of getting out of writing a more complex story. Too much mind-changing; I wasn't a fan.

Secondly, I settled that the first three quarters were a bit too wishy washy now that I know what the author's capable of; like I said, the last section was pretty exciting to read, some parts were still pretty obvious but it was the only time I read the main narrator's "get it up ye" and I was really thinking it myself.

Clearly Broomkyre succeeds where I fail. The guy can write good conclusions.