Monday, May 30, 2016

Books, Books, Books

I've been a very bad blogger, reading scads of books and nary a mention of one. Here's the list with quickie reviews: 1) Ender's Game - just plonked myself on the sofa and read the whole thing in a day. Couldn't stop, the story is so utterly compelling. I had seen the film and thought it rather good despite poor reviews; but, as usual, with the exception of Dr Zhivago (English translation, that is), the book is far better. Orson Scott Card is, of course, an author who should keep his mouth shut - see controversy on his anti-gay stance - but then we all probably should and most of us don't. I followed this book a month or two later with Children of the Mind, the last in the series. The Wicklow County library system doesn't have the other books so I had to extrapolate everything that happened in between the two. Managed all right. I am utterly baffled that Card can be such a deep thinker with such expansive views of the universe and then can be such a dick when it comes to human life on earth. 2) Eileen Gray: Her Work and Her World by Jennifer Goff - big fat tome on Ireland's most famous, brilliant and generally unknown designer. She was recognised in her own time - 1910s-1920s being her heyday, Paris being her venue - and then, like many great women before modern feminism, was forgotten by history (his story). She designed everything from chairs, screens and carpets to apartments and houses. Can't wait to see the collection of her work in Dublin soon. 3) Z, a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler - great read, though upsetting at times as you realise that Zelda would have done so much better in our time. You really hate Ernest Hemingway by the time you finish this one, though that wasn't hard for me as I had read a few of his books - see below - in honour of my Spanish sojourn last summer and soon realised what an overrated, misogynistic, pathetically macho man he was (Zelda's opinion, too, apparently). The saddest thing about this book, however, is the author's note at the back which states that both Scott and Zelda's biographers & critics are divided into two camps, each blaming the one for the downfall of the other. That Zelda was bipolar is now generally accepted and that Scott suffered from alcoholism is also uncontested. Why blame either of these creative, exciting, ultimately doomed artists when the fault lies squarely at the door of two diseases - mental illness and alcoholism? Funny how our society just still doesn't get it, despite all we know of both these afflictions. Most tragic of all, he died of a heart attack at 44, no doubt brought on by alcohol abuse, and she died in a fire in her sanatorium. 3) The Sun Also Rises never in the history of boredom was anyone ever so bored by the boring. And why is it that novelists who happen to be women are always being castigated for writing "Mary Sue's" (the term says it all and yeah, I'm referring to me) when men do it all the time but no one objects, e.g. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Joyce. This is "bare" writing not "spare." As for Death in the Afternoon YAWN except for the poor bulls.