Path of Dalliance

I had my longest ever journey home from Book Club last night.  Full of tasty food, beer and bewildered by reasonably intelligent conversation, I fell asleep on the bus.  I woke up in Tottenham, somewhat confused by my utter lack of familiarity with my surroundings.  I know – that little anecdote has nothing to do with book club. I offer it only because it may very well prove to be more interesting than the drivel I’m about to spew onto the page.

It was my choice of book, and it was universally decided that I am not great.  Well, almost universally.  There was one dissenter and, let’s face it, his was the only opinion that really counted.  My choice of pub was held in high regard though, so much so that I think we’ll be exploring more inebratoria south of the river.  Enough. My book? It was Path of Dallianceby Auberon Waugh.  I am, as you all know, a huge fan of the Waugh’s both senior and junior.  This was the weakest Waugh book that I’ve read – and perhaps it is no coincidence that it was the last work of fiction written by Auberon Waugh before he decided to give up story telling for a life of spoof journalism.  It was something of a slow burner, and not a lot happened as the characters and their petty concerns were developed.  When funny it was hugely entertaining – but many of the jokes were spread over entire chapters, and therefore could not be appreciated if the book was (for example) skimmed through over the course of a day. For throwaway gags, I loved the randomness of the duck incident and the cringeworthy baby talk. I felt that the author got rather confused in places though. That said, I still enjoyed it and I will be reading it again.

James saw a woman reading Transmission by Hari Kunzru on the train. He wanted to warn her not to waste her life over it, but then he suspected her of being a teacher and his altruistic plan went out of the window. Besides, he said, she had a mole on her forehead.  James described Path of Dalliance as a curates egg.  Since I chose the book I will not be making any snide comments about the meaning of that phrase.  He went on to say that he liked the way that the characters of all ages were essentially the same.  He liked that the ‘mature’ adults were just as immature as the sixth formers and university students. Some parts were very, very good – particularly the inept attempts to get laid, the death of the greeny CND bitch from hell (Anne Etherington – but steady on!) and the repercussions of that suicide.  He liked the fabricated story of a great artist, and the plot to blow up the telephone exchange.  The pseudo high-minded ideals of people who never actually did very much.  The problem was that the book was as quick as an asthmatic ant with some heavy shopping.  It felt light and frothy, a holiday book for people with brains.  It was, he said, a lazy book that felt as if it had been written in the author’s spare time.  He enjoyed it, but it was meaningless.

Illona liked the book although it was, she said, slow and confusing.  The character development was well done, and she liked the way that the men and women who lived in separate accommodation were integrated.  She didn’t feel that the book was in any way special, and she wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else.  It was just a nice read rather than an excellent one but it was, at least, better than Transmission. Damn. Transmission must have left some deep scars to be slated so long after we read it.  It wasn’t really that bad was it?

Sangeeta felt that the book was okay, but slow.  It was an interesting insight into ‘posh’ peoples lives, but she didn’t feel that there was much of a story there.  The suicide was the most interesting part, and the book over all was far too political.  This comment sparked a brief argument between the boys Harris and Hubbard on the merits of liberalism. The sub plot of work in the newspaper office was interesting, but the paintings sub-plot confused her totally.  It felt like a collection of anecdotes, and it was altogether too unfocused.  The mad mum was her favourite character.

Sarah was bothered that nothing more was made of Anne’s death, but other than that she didn’t care whether the characters lived or died.  She didn’t like the snobbery in the book. Hmm. The joke she missed, hmm?  Read it again she will not I think, hmm? She doesn’t rate the Oxbridge tradition or the concept of tradition for the sake of tradition.  She quite liked the art scam – presumably because it highlighted the gullibility of the individuals concerned.  The mum was mad, but who cared?  The characters all fulfilled their stereotypes without advancing the plot – which was pointless.  Over all, she did not like the book.

Paul is, in his own words, ‘such a nob’.  What a great word.  Let’s all say it aloud to confirm its majesty. Nob.  It’s almost as good as ‘cock’.  As in ‘Utter Cock’ which, coincidentally, isn’t quite what he thought of the book. He thought it had it’s surreal moments (such as Sligger with the dead duck, and Mrs Sliggers tape measure) but all in all it didn’t hold his attention for too long. He thought it rambled along and didn’t seem to have much direction. That said, he didn’t think it was as bad as most of his choices!

Jon felt ill and he sent his apologies for his absence.  Alas, I was unable to contact him on the telephone – so I can’t find out what he thought of the book either.

Claire was also missed – and I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that I hope we’ll see her again soon.  Not if she’s going to be so rude about my choice though!  She skim read it in a day (ahem), whilst lying on a beach in Greece.  If it hadn’t been a book club book she’d have put it down before she reached half way.  The constitution doesn’t actually say we need to finish reading book club books does it?  There really is no need to read a book you don’t like – that wouldn’t be fun at all.  Actually, you could just say the beginning was great, the middle was great and the ending was great – we’d know what you mean, and there is a precedent.  Claire felt that the book was dull, and she was disappointed that the only character she warmed to – Anne Etherington – took her own life so early on in the book.  The boys all needed a good kick in the arse, apparently.

At this point I had my pen and my notebook confiscated and Sarah took over the minutes.  Not that it really matters though, because (as you know) I make all this up anyway.  Nevertheless, I was grateful as it saved me the effort of having to look as if I was listening.

I read The London Pigeon Wars and it was mighty.  It was, I think – and no matter what Sarah says, a ghost story.  The pigeons mysteriously become sentient and observe the humans for half of the book, and the humans tell their own story whilst commenting on the odd behaviour of the pigeons for the other half.

Last Chance to See is a book by Douglas Adams about endangered animals.  It’s a serious matter handled well in an often funny book by a man who isn’t interested in looking at birds.  There’s a bit about condoms in it – as a method of waterproofing a BBC microphone and, in honour of the fact, Douglas Adams has drawn a picture of a used condom on the cover of the book.  Incidentally, Douglas Adams is playing the part of Agrajag in the upcoming Radio 4 continuation of the H2GT2G.

Everyone has read Lovely Bones by Alice Seybold.  What more can I say? It’s a very good book indeed, but somewhat disturbing.  A difficult subject, but sensitively handled – and not as mawkish as it might have been.

Why Men Don’t Listen and Why Women Can’t Read Maps is an interesting study into the differences between men and women.  Men are, it seems, dullard Neanderthals.  Single tasking half wits who happen to excel at certain specific tasks.  Women are more rounded and capable of doing lots of things at once (or so this book claims).  Actually, like the book, this review is vastly over simplified.  It generalises – but it’s interesting, and I’m sure it’s pretty accurate if one averages the population as a whole.  My only concern is that if an alien race decided, in order to discover our intelligence, to average the population of the U.K. as a whole they might decide that we’re too thick even to tie our own shoelaces.

Sarah fell asleep during my review of The Da Vinci Code. She’s heard it all before.  I enjoyed it, with provisos.  When it was intelligent, it succeeded.  Too often though it felt like it was aspiring to Indiana Jones.  It also frequently resorted to overly geeky descriptions of the technologies used in it “The Hawker 731’s twin Garrett TFE-731 engines thundered, powering the plane skyward with gut wrenching force.”  I’m sorry. Am I the only one irritated by this style of prose?  I mean, who cares about the model number of the engines?  What’s wrong with “The Hawker’s twin engines thundered, powering the plane skyward with gut wrenching force”?  Humph.  Other than that though, I did enjoy the book, and I would read another by that author (I did try another Dan Brown. Several others. They were all crap. And I didn’t enjoy re-reading the Da Vinci Code either.  Avoid!).  As for my theological views, we’ve done that. Repeatedly.  And we ain’t doin’ it again. Not now, anyway.

Illona read Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination.  It was hard to get into, but she’s glad she persevered.  It’s very different to Bridget Jones’s Diary, which everyone agreed was an entertaining film but a dire book.  All I can remember about it was Rene Zellweger and being compared to D’arcy by Sarah.  He was a good guy though, I think, so awww.

PS, I Love You by Cecilia Aherne is about a woman widowed by the time she reached 30.  It’s an excellent read – she couldn’t put it down.  It made her cry, which is very unusual.  The main character is sent letters every month telling her what to do, up to ‘It’s been a year. Move on.’  Eh!? Her husband dies and she’s being told to move on after only a year? That seems a little harsh.

Illona highly recommends The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.  I’d quite like to hear from someone who didn’t like it I think.

Still Thinking of You by Adele Parks is absolute trash. Addictive, but girly.  I take it then that Illona liked it, but wouldn’t recommend it – especially not to a bloke.

Illona is just getting into The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins.  Can we expect a more fulsome review next month?

Sangeeta finished reading the His Dark Materials trilogy.  Apparently, I hated it because Philip Pullman won’t have C.S. Lewis’s babies.  Not strictly speaking true – I enjoyed HDM, but I won’t read another of Pullmans books because I’m childish and I was irritated by his slating of Lewis.  Sangeeta enjoyed His Dark Materials too.  Actually, that’s an understatement.  It was ‘a riveting masterpiece’, and ‘brilliantly and expertly written’.  Apparently ‘Bill, don’t you fancy a bevvy’ too – but I can’t even pretend to understand what that’s all about.

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks is long but very descriptive.  Parts are really good, but other parts… …aren’t.  The war descriptions are moving.  She’s wanted to read it for ages.

Amateur Marriage is a book that Sangeeta has only just started.  So far it’s about a woman who is very pretty and involved with a man.  So far, so good – but she hasn’t got any further than that yet.  Between them, Sarah and Sangeeta have hypothesized that story will continue as follows.  The man and the woman marry, they have three children.  The man turns out to be a wimp, so the woman has an affair with another woman.  We’ll see next month how accurate their guesswork is.  Sangeeta bought the book because it had a nice picture on the front.  If I remember correctly, that was also Vic’s main criteria in book choice.

James read Finding my Feet by Jason Robinson.  It’s his life story, or (more accurately) the story of his life so far since he’s still quite young.  He was the wild child son of a drunk, and he’s grown up to be a non-drinking Christian hero of Rugby. He switched from playing League to Union.  Sarah’s transcription of James’s explanation of the codes is as follows.Union = rahrahrah. League = Northern Peasants.  It is, James says, really interesting.

Scorpion Signal by Adam Hall is a cold war thriller.  The under cover agent runs around headlessly trying to stop wars.  Apparently, the agent is British and he’s trying to prevent the assassination of Brezhnev.

At this point we discovered that Claire has an A in psychology.  Well done, Claire.  James would like to suck up to Claire and say congratulations on her cross-stitch qualification.  I’m not going to talk to her ever again in case she analyses me.

Sarah became illiterate for a few months.  She says she hasn’t read anything.  Nothing she’s going to review, anyway.

Claire read The Other Side of the Story by Marian Keyes.  The usual escapism, and most enjoyable.

She also read Lucky by Alice Seybold.  The beginning is great, the middle is iffy and the ending is great too.  It’s a harrowing read though relating the true story of her rape experience.

Ooh! She really enjoyed reading Mystic River by Dennis Lehane.  It’s a crime story that really held her interest.  She knew it was good because Mark (her boyfriend) read it in a week, and he never usually reads things that fast.

Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller is an odd book.  It’s well written but not as spectacular as the notes on the cover would have you believe.  It’s about a teacher who has an affair with one of her fifteen year old pupils.  Hmm. Would that be fifteen toddlers, and she had an affair with one of them? I think we should be told.

Kate Adie’s The Kindness of Strangers is a wonderful book.  Claire really enjoyed reading it.  She took her time over it because she wanted to absorb all the details.  Kate Adie is an amazing woman.

The catcherintheryeesque Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre is a crazy book.  Claire really liked it though.

It seems that Paul didn’t read anything else this month.  He wins honorary illiterate of the month award – unless Jon wants to try and wrestle that honour from him.

Actually, I lied.  Sarah did read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark. It’s about a manipulative teacher who brain washes her girls into fighting for Mussolini and she gets them killed.  Sarah will not be reading any more books that I have after this month, I think!  She was not hugely impressed.

Sarah also read Hot Sex by Tracey Cox.  It’s great, and full of practical advice.  I’ll second that.  The pictures were also examined in Joy of Sex andMore Joy of Sex. But I don’t have enough of a beard (I grew a beard subsequently. It didn’t help!), so that’s me out of the picture.

Honestly.  I didn’t lie about Paul.  He really didn’t read anything else this month.

This month, we’ll be reading Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis.  It’s Sarah’s choice.  We’ll be meeting up on Monday November 15th.  Put it in your diaries NOW.