Part the third

30 09 2007

Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake

Titus alone

So, finally finished the third and smallest book in this outstanding trilogy. Whilst the setting is equal to the fantastic world of Gormenghast itself, it is quite different in many ways, not least technological. And there is an underlying horror in the factories of this new land which lend things a new and quite sinister tone. The wanderings of Titus in this strange place and his encounters with new friends and another bitter and vile opponent culminate in an absurd set piece event which recalls the pace and power of events in the previous two books.

Glad I got there in the end though.

3 star

Forgetting forgetting

27 09 2007

Wishing for amnesia

Entertaining piece in the Boston Globe on the difficulties of forgetting in the digital age.

Personally, I don’t seem to have too many difficulties with this issue…


26 09 2007

Gormanghast by Melvyn Peake


More bonkers stuff. Compelling. Lots of death. Titus grows up (chronologically, if not emotionally) and enjoys a range of relationship challenges as well as getting a taste for the world beyond Gormanghast. Steerpike engages in complicated machinations to secure his advancement in the castle hierarchy. And we are introduced to a set of even more interesting and odd characters. A large part of the book deals with the castle’s response to extraordinary (biblical) flooding followed by a terrifically described man hunt. Powerful, amazing, bizarre and a compelling successor to the first in the trilogy. (Still can’t work out how the place really survives though).

4 star

Ghostly writing

23 09 2007

Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

I enjoyed this immensely. Came to it rather late in the day, following all of the other Mitchell books and can’t quite believe I failed to get round to it sooner. Anyway, a pretty mesmerising set of tales, tenuously strung together, covering half of the planet and touching on gangsterism, cultism and insider dealing as well as more bizarre stuff than you can shake a stick at.

So, pretty outstanding and highly recommended.

4.5 stars

Groaning under the weight

23 09 2007

Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake

Titus Groan

4 star

Fantastic and bonkers. Limited cast of characters led by Titus, heir to Lord Sepulchrave, who has just been born and will inherit the giant and seemingly endless rambling pile that is Gormenghast Castle. Complex rituals, the origins of which are lost in history, govern most activity. But then excitements and intrigues and death takes over and it all gets a bit nasty.

Anyway, wonderfully imagined and brilliantly articulated stuff underpinned by good plotting. Credibility stretched in all directions but my nagging doubt is about the economics of the castle and its surrounding area – I just can’t work out how the place keeps going.

But really pleased I finally got round to this one which really is a totally distinctive piece of writing.


22 09 2007

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan


2 star

Really novella rather than novel, generally wonderful flowing writing and nicely paced, but it really just doesn’t work. Two quite unlikeable characters get married and the wedding night goes completely horribly wrong. They fail to communicate (it being 1962) either in the bedroom or on the beach and their lives take different courses thereafter. The real problem here is that it is very difficult to care a jot about either of them. What a pity.

Dictatorial duplicities

9 09 2007

The Dictator and the Hammock by Daniel Pennac


A clever (if a bit clever-clever at times) and quite entertaining book. Dictator develops agoraphobia when fortune teller predicts his death at hands of an angry mob and so he hires a double to replace him while he goes off to have fun. But then the double does the same. And so on. Amusing diversions ensue with Chaplin and Valentino too.

Overall a witty and amusing romp but really feels somewhat slight and unsatisfying at the end of the day.

2 star

Playlists without thinking

6 09 2007

Rough Guide Book of Playlists

Happened across this in the ‘books for students’ section in Waterstones the other day (alongside all the cooking for one books). Looked at it briefly and was a bit distressed about the idea of simply copying someone else’s playlists.


However, then read the “synopsis” on Amazon:

The 500 “Rough Guide Book of Playlists” are recommendations of ten songs (sometimes a couple more, sometimes a couple less), covering artists (Rufus Wainwright to Thelonius Monk, Al Green to Manu Chao, Glenn Gould to Julie Andrews), genres (Bebop Classics to Reggae Toasters to Punk Originals to Hot Club jazz), songs (10 best Dylan covers; 8 classic versions of “Summertime”; 10 love songs that don’t cloy), quirks and silliness (Songs about Chickens and Insects; “Who let the frogs out?”; Big Pizza Pie crooners; “Take this Job and Shove it!”). There’s even a literary edge with playlists like ’10 songs raved about in Murakami novels’. Each of the Playlists has a nugget about the song (why you want it on your iPod), and a listings of where it’s from (remember CDs?).

What brilliantly inventive stuff.

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