Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Scots, Brits, Russians

Hello, dear readers. Life continues to be charming in these parts. I hope it is the same for you, although I know we are all missing out when I don't have absurd stories to post about Expert Guys or poop bag mishaps.

Since last posting I have read Resurrection Men, by Ian Rankin, which I have to confess I didn't really enjoy. I usually love Rankin, however grim his stories are, but in this one I simply couldn't get invested in the plot. The villains were so broadly villainous, where Rankin usually creates much more complex characters, and so the attempted byzantine loops of betrayal and cross-betrayal didn't work, because the reader is never in any doubt that the possible crooked cops are, in fact, crooked cops. Disappointing, alas.

I am not sure whether The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes, was disappointing or not. It is a very short book - almost a novella - about a group of high school / college friends who fall apart when two of them end up dating the same girl. Our narrator is one of these friends, and is looking back on that period of his life from his sixties. The book was very much a Male British Experience, and while I do love Barnes' writing and occasionally I laughed out loud at his delicious wit, I just couldn't connect with so much of the story. The disputed girl, for example, is completely uninteresting as described by our narrator. There is no reason for anyone to be obsessed with her, let alone two different men over a period of forty years, and yet it's not sublimated homosexual desire between the two men either. It's just taken for granted by Barnes that this makes sense, and he doesn't seem to feel the need to elaborate on that for the reader. I did like the descriptions of the narrator's relationship with his ex-wife, who was a believable female character, but I couldn't care less if our hero reunites with his lost flame.

And I have been struggling through Robert K. Massie's Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman, but as of this morning I decided to give up. Massie is a repetitive, dry writer whose attempts to get into the female psyche are just cringe-worthy (I cannot tell you how many times he's said of a politically powerful female that "as a woman, she was helpless before flattery" or something like that, which makes me just throw my head back and go ARRRRGH). Sunday I ended up taking a two-hour nap that I blame on this book (because surely it had nothing to do with the fact that, after a giant plate of French toast, I decided to head back to bed for some reading and dog-cuddling). So enough of this nonsense! Life is too short, and I have trashy historical novels to read.

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