Coulrophobia – no clowning around please

26 05 2011


Coulrophobia: the fear of clowns. Or just common sense?

The Independent has an article related to this.

Anyway, best avoided as far as possible

Only human

19 05 2011

Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham

Review from Good Reads:

‘It is very difficult for a writer of my generation, if he is honest, to pretend indifference to the work of Somerset Maugham,’ wrote Gore Vidal. ‘He was always so entirely there.’ Originally published in 1915, Of Human Bondage is a potent expression of the power of sexual obsession and of modern man’s yearning for freedom. This classic bildungsroman tells the story of Philip Carey, a sensitive boy born with a clubfoot who is orphaned and raised by a religious aunt and uncle. Philip yearns for adventure, and at eighteen leaves home, eventually pursuing a career as an artist in Paris. When he returns to London to study medicine, he meets the androgynous but alluring Mildred and begins a doomed love affair that will change the course of his life. There is no more powerful story of sexual infatuation, of human longing for connection and freedom. ‘Here is a novel of the utmost importance,’ wrote Theodore Dreiser on publication. ‘It is a beacon of light by which the wanderer may be guided. . . . One feels as though one were sitting before a splendid Shiraz of priceless texture and intricate weave, admiring, feeling, responding sensually to its colors and tones.’

Nothing quite like a classic Bildungsroman and have to say that this is really one of the best. A compelling read and a reminder of just what a great writer Maugham was. Had been waiting for a decent holiday to read it having unaccountably avoided for years (probably because I had such a tatty copy) and really glad I finally got round to. Can’t recommend too highly.

Aberystwyth mysteries

12 05 2011

Aberystwyth Mon Amour by Malcolm Pryce

From the blurb:

Schoolboys are disappearing all over Aberystwyth and nobody knows why. Louie Knight, the town’s private investigator, soon realises that it is going to take more than a double ripple from Sospan, the philosopher cum ice-cream seller, to help find out what is happening to these boys and whether or not Lovespoon, the Welsh teacher, Grand Wizard of the Druids and controller of the town, is more than just a sinister bully. And just who was Gwenno Guevara?


LET’S BE CLEAR about it then: Aberystwyth in the Eighties was no Babylon. Even when the flood came there was nothing Biblical about the matter, despite what some fools are saying now. I spent the years before the deluge operating out of an office on Canticle Street, above the Orthopaedic Boot shop. And you know what that means: take two lefts outside the door and you were on the Old Prom. That was where it all happened: the bars, the dives, the gambling dens, the 24-hour Whelk Stall, and Sospan’s ice-cream kiosk. That’s where the tea-cosy shops were, the ones that never sold tea cosies; and the toffee apple dens, the ones that never sold toffee. And that was where those latter day Canutes, the ladies from the Sweet Jesus League, had their stall. I saw a lot of things along that part of the Prom, but I don’t remember seeing any hanging gardens. Just those round concrete tubs of Hydrangeas the Council put out so the drunks would have something to throw up in. I also spent a lot of my time at the Druid-run Moulin Club in Patriarch Street and I’m well aware of what the girls got up to there. Sure, you can call it harlotry if it makes you feel better, but I was there the night Bianca died and I’m just as happy with the word prostitution. And as for idolatry, well, if you ask me, the only thing men worshipped on a regular basis before the flood was money. That, and the singer down at the Moulin, Myfanwy Montez. And I know that for certain, because although I never had any money in my office in those days, I did once have Myfanwy Montez . . .

It’s all jolly amusing and pretty good fun – a real seaside criminal romp. Raymond Chandler comes to Wales in a Jasper Fforde kind of way. Some of the over the top cod Welshness does get a little bit wearing at times but, overall, it’s worth it.

Sentenced to Deaf

6 05 2011

Deaf Sentence by David Lodge

Is there anything to be said in favour of deafness, wonders Desmond, the narrator of David Lodge’s brilliant novel. To him, it seems an imminent, inevitable “drawn-out introduction to the long silence into which we will all eventually lapse”. But whereas blindness is tragic, deafness, he concedes, is often comic. His journal charts the embarrassments and comedy to which his condition gives rise. In Lodge’s expert hands, the strains of Desmond’s newly acquired role as house husband, the worrying problems of a mildly demented father and the dangerous attentions of an importunate, unscrupulous postgraduate groupie coalesce into a hilarious and moving account of one man’s life under the sentence of deaf.

It is really pretty amusing in places and Lodge does treat the difficult subject of deafness sensitively yet lightly. Outstanding description of the joys of a CentreParcs style holiday experience. Well worth a read.

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