Maigret’s Memoirs by Georges Simenon - Sep-2016
Finally the first Maigret I really didn’t finish…
Devilish clever and post-modernist and all. This is the real Parisian detective Maigret writing his memoirs about how he came to meet the Belgian writer Georges Sim, who became Georges Simenon, stealing his character and his name, his shape, his methods, simplifying his cases, and making him available to the public and even available to be played by actors who in no way resemble him. His resentment of this is very clever, very smart, and funny conceptually, but it doesn’t grab like a real Maigret novel. I’m not sure we want to be reminded of the fictional nature of the heroes of our novels. It’s confusing and runs against some vein, as if some character in a play was constantly to remind you he was in a play.
Two cracking Maigret novels. One from the plane and one immediately afterwards…
Maigret Gets Angry by Georges Simenon - Sep-2016
A retired Maigret is drawn into a strange world by an eccentric old lady. Told at great pace and with great drive, it is amazing how much plot he gets out of pure dialogue and character. Unexpected and thrilling.
Madame Maigret’s Friend by Georges Simenon - Sep-2016
Again an unusual Maigret where Madame Maigret is drawn improbably into a puzzling situation.
The Pigeon Tunnel by John Le Carré - Sep-2016
The most marvellous memoirs. Described as “Stories from my life” they reveal a surprising side to David Cornwell. Not just the wonderful people he has met, and the encounters he has had, but many sharp observations about life, secrecy, parental disappointment and what turns us into us. I was fascinated to see the novelist constantly at work, examining character for fictional uses, and almost always playing life back into fiction and vice versa, it’s as if he is more comfortable with fiction than reality.
White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World by Geoff Dyer - Sep-2016
Dyer gets dryer and dryer. His wit and his incredible clear eye looking closely at things, plus the ease with which he slots himself into his own narrative, essay world, makes him unique and very enjoyable.
The Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre by Barbara B. Diefendorf - Sep-2016
A Brief History with Documents. A short readable account of the atrocities which occurred in Paris early on the morning of August 24th 1572 when after a Royal marriage the Catholics massacred the visiting Protestant Huguenots by the thousands in the streets of Paris. Shockingly relevant history of the endless animosities and atrocities committed in the name of religions. Was it in fact Marie de Medici who planned it, and persuaded her son Charles IX to go along with it, after she had opened fire on Admiral Coligny? Still the sexiest historical movie ever made. La Reine Margot.
Nutshell A Novel by Ian McEwan - Sep-2016
Read in a day. A wonderfully accomplished original novel. Told from inside the womb where his mother is plotting to betray and murder his father. Nice Hamlet echoes but the omniscience and anxiety for the world he accords this helpless inmate and witness to dreadful things is what makes it so witty and original and fascinating. I loved it.
Maigret in New York by Georges Simenon - Sep-2016
An odd one this. A retired Maigret definitely a fish out of water accompanies a young man to see his father in New York who then immediately disappears. Who is the young man? Why does he disappear? What is the crime. Maigret wanders around New York, and finally draws the strings together of thirty year old events. Strange. How much he depends on his Parisian milieu and how little he understands of New York.
Bright Precious Days by Jay McInerney - Sep-2016
I got about half way through this and got bored with the New York characters and their world and lovers. I think if you’re going to do adultery you have to be at least Tolstoy. I gave it another go when I got back and it still left me cold. I’m sad as I had him down to become great. He may yet I suppose.
The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham - Aug-2016
This is a wonderful book. Elegant, eloquent and prescient. Published in 1957 it is more than science fiction, it raises issues that trouble us today. I had not expected it to be so well written, with many wonderful references. He terrified us as children with The Day of The Triffids on the radio. I’m happy to find him still just as entertaining.
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen - Aug-2016
The fictional confessions of a Vietnamese spy, evacuated to America in the fall of Saigon and then returned to his former side, who are of course far worse. Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Beautifully written and gripping novel.
The Flemish Shop by Georges Simenon - Aug-2016
A 1941 wartime paperback edition which says it’s from “Maigret to the Rescue.” I wish I could have a new Maigret every week.
A Kim Jong-Il Production by Paul Fischer - Aug-2016
A fascinating and extraordinary tale about how the North Korean film obsessed madman Kim Jung-Il kidnapped not only the leading film actress from South Korea but also her Top Film Director Husband, held them locked up for years then brought them together and made them make films! A hard to credit real true story and a great look at the monomaniacal locked-in State where fear rules all.
True Grit by Charles Portis - Aug-2016
A wonderful Western tale from 1968, given me by Jeremy Clarke. I devoured it.
Do you ever get to that point when you find yourself reading four books at once and not committed to any of them, but keep switching in a random fashion between them. Then you go Fuck It I’m going to stop this and look for something I’m really committed to. Sometimes I can’t tell if it’s me or if it’s the books. Here are some I’m leaving by the wayside in a quest for something gripping.
The World of Christopher Marlowe by David Riggs - Aug-2016
I’ve been reading this one for years. In parts fascinating, but it mixes somewhat dry academic literary criticism with tales of the far more exciting life of Marlowe, so it’s somewhat annoying, unless you are studying for a degree.
Man Belong Mrs Queen by Matthew Baylis - Aug-2016
The hilarious story of the South Pacific islanders (Vanuatu) who worshipped the Duke of Edinburgh. Funny, and odd, but could have been shorter I think.
A Hell of a Woman by Jim Thompson - Aug-2016
I was enjoying this too. But he switched styles and became all modernist and I got fed up.
Uncommon Carriers by John McPhee - Aug-2016
I really liked the essay on the most beautiful truck in the world, and even the French Navigation School, but got a bit tired on the barges of the Illinois river. I shall dip again as I think he is amazing.
The Hotel on Place Vendome by Tilar J. Mazzeo - Jul-2016
A lovely read about the history and customers of the Ritz Hotel in Paris, from its founding in 1898 during the Dreyfuss Affair, through the German Occupation and beyond. A whole history of interesting characters wander in and out of its doors, behaving badly and bitchily, including Marcel Proust, Hemmingway, Goring, Goebbels, Marlene Dietrich, Ingrid Bergman, the awful Windsors, the collaborational Coco Chanel, Cocteau, Sartre, Scott Fitzgerald. Highly entertaining and most unusual social history. Great read.
The Metaphysical Ukulele by Sean Carswell - Jul-2016
A concept book of short stories based on “what if there was a ukulele in it?” Pastiches of the imaginary writings of famous people. In the end it’s too much pastiche and I turned to a pastis.
The Blue Room by Georges Simenon - Jul-2016
For once not a Maigret, but an excellent tale of love and lust and female determination. Fascinating.
Everybody Behaves Badly by Lesley M.M. Blume - Jul-2016
Especially Hemmingway. The story behind The Sun Also Rises and the self-making of a legend. I have come to like Hemmingway less and less. Both as a writer and as a mythomaniac. Sorry, but give me Fitzgerald any day. Very enjoyable book about the real characters portrayed and betrayed in the novel.
Death of a Diva by Derek Farrell - Jul-2016
About Grace by Anthony Doerr - Jul-2016
In search of a daughter. A man with foresight for disaster. This is a long novel, too long in my humble, but I stuck with it because he writes so well and it is interesting to see a writer becoming a master.
Signed, Picpus by Georges Simenon - Jul-2016
So happy to always have a Maigret to grab.