Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Book Me, Danno

No, not a reference to the 1970’s Hawaiian cop show of dubious brilliance but to a delightful book themed meme that has been passed onto me by the glorious Gina at Reluctant Blogger.

In order to appease the meme gods I have to:

1. List three books I’ve always meant to read, but have never got around to reading.
2. Share the two books that changed my life.
3. Recommend the one book I’ve been talking about since the very first day that I read it.

So here goes:

Three books I’ve always meant to read but have never got round to reading.

1) Rookwood by Harrison Ainsworth – the story of Dick Turpin’s legendary ride to York on Black Bess. And I have utterly no excuse for not reading this having managed to locate and purchase a nice hardback copy of it last year. It’s sitting on my bookshelf regarding me with a reproachful eye. In my defence I’ve been up to the gizzard in University reading for the last few years so my opportunities to read for pleasure are few.

2) Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh – despite my many literary leanings there are huge gaps in my reading and Evelyn Waugh is one of them. However, I’m hoping to add this particular novel to my list of “books read” pretty soon as Karen and I have just watched the entire series (Jeremy Irons / Anthony Andrews) on DVD. I’d never seen it before - though Karen had beloved memories of it from when it was first broadcast – so it was something of a revelation to me. I absolutely loved it and I’m amazed at how much it’s impinged on my psyche. Wonderfully, gently tragic, wistful and gritty all at the same time. I absolutely must read the book now. I bloody must.

3) 1984 by George Orwell – seminal work, blah blah blah, major influence, cough cough cough, essential reading, etc etc etc. I just feel that I ought to read this book before I die (perhaps that’s why I’m leaving it to the last minute?) and again I have no excuse as we have a copy knocking about the house. If it’s any consolation I’ve read The Road To Wigan Pier...

The two books that have changed my life.

1) The Vintner’s Luck by Elizabeth Knox – Not sure if it’s changed my life but it is certainly one of my most favourite novels. It’s a beautiful story without being at all mawkish. One night a French vintner, drunk on wine literally stumbles upon a statue of an angel in his vineyard... but the angel catches him and promises to return on the same night for every year of the vintner’s life to see how he is. Words like gorgeous and sumptuous are bubbling up in my mouth but none do this novel justice. It moved me greatly and I never want to be without a copy.

2) Anything by Angela Carter – and by anything I mean anything as opposed to “Anything”. I first discovered Angela Carter in my early twenties and her work blew my mind wide open. Her style of writing, I’ll admit, doesn’t suit everybody – it’s dense and deliberately wordy – but I love it. Her stories are heavily crafted fairy tales that are ripped apart, the truth in them dusted off and shaken out and then stuffed back inside the barely cooling carcass before electric shock treatment brings it all back to life again. Immensely satisfying and frequently shocking, both magical and dirtily earthy the energy in her novels is impossible to pin down. Films such as The Company of Wolves and The Magic Toyshop all owe their existence to Angela Carter. I have a book shelf full of her entire output.

Recommend the one book I’ve been talking about since the very first day that I read it.

This is a toughie and I don’t think I could limit it to one book. The Vintner’s Luck I would recommend to anybody. Likewise The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. All wonderful, beautiful novels that will totally immerse you in lives that seem much bigger than your own. But recommending books is like recommending holidays... it rarely works. One man’s beer is another man’s poison or something. It’s just important to find your own special book. A book that speaks to you is a very, very precious thing indeed.


David said...

I'm off to bookstore to check out Angel Carter.
Thanks, and thanks for the visit.

Anonymous said...

Glorious eh?

Thanks for doing the meme and you did it so beautifully too.

I suspect you have not read 1984 simply because you were too young to do so before it happened. I am sure I read it in 1982 when everyone else was doing so. It is, at least, quite short! I have also read Brideshead although it left no lasting impression on me.

I have never read The Vintner's Luck but on the basis of what you say I think I should. So I will buy a copy and take it with me next time I go on holiday (wonder if that will be before you read 1984???).

Thanks, Steve - you're a star

Steve said...

David my big apologies - it's Angela Carter not Angel and the fault is entirely mine: a typo that I have now corrected. Her work should be available in the states so I hope you find something!

Oh glorious indeed Gina - and thank you for the meme. I actually really enjoyed it though since posting have thought of loads more books: Lorna Doone is another huge favourite of mine as is the Farseer trilogy by Robin Hobb. It's good to muse about books once in a while. I think I have constantly put off reading 1984 because is sounds so grim and life un-affirming... but maybe I'm wrong? I really ought to bite the bullet and just read the damned thing!

David said...

Funny, I just noted it before I read your comment. Saved an embarrassing trip and question to the good people at the book store I suspect.
Who knows maybe I might have stumbled upon an interesting author with the first name "Angel"

Steve said...

You never know, David, you never know - glad you caught the error in time though! Happy book hunting!

Tristan said...

Hi Steve - I have to agree about Angela Carter - magical, powerful, visceral, sensual - how more adjectives can I throw at her writing? What a shame she died so young...

Steve said...

Hi Tris, totally agree. The woman had a genius for resurrecting fairytales and her writing abilities were extraordinary... shame she was cut down in her prime.

TimeWarden said...

I've read "Brideshead", too. I have a copy with the TV series cover, as I used to collect these things! I loved the TV series, at the time it was originally broadcast, and my memory of it is that, like its subject matter, it is luxuriously opulent. I was always disappointed, however, that we didn't get to see more of Sebastian in the middle-to-latter stages of the story simply because Charles is so boring! My recollection of the novel is that Waugh comes over as a bit of a snob, obsessing about the right sized brandy glass etc.

I even own the soundtrack of "Brideshead" on vinyl, the best thing about that being the glorious accompanying full-colour booklet. Geoffrey Burgon's score does tend to sound like all his other scores, especially when in Oxford. He's a jazz trumpeter, as well as composer, hence the main theme is for high baroque trumpet. (His first work for telly was a couple of early Tom Baker "Doctor Who" stories.)

Funnily enough, one book I've always wanted to read is Waugh's "The Loved One", a very black comedy published two years after "Brideshead". It's about the excesses of a Californian funeral business and was a major influence on Eric Saward's "Revelation of the Daleks", one of my favourite "Doctor Who" adventures.

Never read any Carter but am aware of her reputation and have seen the two films you mention, "The Company of Wolves" many times. Love the reworking of "Little Red Riding Hood" with the exception of Angela Lansbury!

I set the end of "1984", "Newspeak", to music as part of my Masters degree, obviously having to edit the text and changing the tense to the present on the advice of my tutor. It was quite amusing having a professional singer singing about the abolition of sexual intercourse! I still haven't actually read the whole book though!!

Steve said...

I must admit, TimeWarden, I was sad too that Sebastian seemed to disappear in the middle to latter stages of the TV adaptation... Karen (who has read the book assures me he is far more "present" in the equivalent stages of the novel.

The DVD boxed set featured a nice interview / documentary with some of the cast members filmed fairly recently... I've always loved Nickolas Grace's role as the Sheriff in Robin Of Sherwood but I'm not sure I can watch it now without hearing him stutter his way through phrases like "you m-m-meaty boys"!

I didn't mind Charles dominating the screen time and didn't find him boring though his reserve - his biggest fault - deliberately grated... but then most of the characters, I suppose, kickstarted their own personal tragedies with their various character flaws. The series was certainly opulent and I daresay it would cost a phenomenal amount to make these days - the £10 million budget at the time was seen as excessive but the time and money, I think, was well spent.

If you want to get into Carter I recommend starting with The Magic Toyshop or The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman... both excellent introductions to Carter's brand of storytelling. The Company Of Wolves still sends shivers down my spine. The Magic Toyshop featured Tom Bell and is another worthy addition to anybody's movie collection.

-eve- said...

I haven’t read ANY of the books you mentioned :- ) I remember reading Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ as a kid, and in my grandma’s bookshelf, ‘1984’ was there too – but it looked boring… heheh ;-)
But reading reluctant blogger's comment, I just noticed that 1984 is the year I was born; so maybe there's no need for me to read it either.. ;-)

Steve said...

That's as good a reason as any not to read a book, Eve! We have Animal Farm too... I ought to read that too as it's another classic!

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Good list, Steve.

Angela Carter's a little too emotionally chaotic/surreal for me, much though I felt the quality of the writing when I attempted her novels.

I will definitely take up your recommendation of The Vintner's Tale though.

Sorry Gina, but since you tagged me, I am not making a decent fist of this meme - it's so impossible to narrow my favourite books down. I might well have to wimp out!

The Sagittarian said...

Ah, Elizabeth of ours I believe? I really loved that book as well, thanks for reminding me of it!

MommyHeadache said...

Only reason I read 1984 was because I was school then and we were forced to read it in 1984 to be topical. It has some pertinent themes but it's a pretty dull read.

I agree, Angela Carter is just so brilliant.

Steve said...

Laura, as Amanda will tell you, Elizabeth Knox is one of New Zealand's most fabulous writers - The Vintner's Luck is a real joy.

Emma, I think 1984's inherent dullness is a the cause of the barrier for me... I just can't summon up any enthusiasm to want to read it. I just feel I should read it!