Archive | June, 2014

Van has finished reading…My Oedipus Complex by Frank O’Connor

16 Jun

It was agent @MissCarrieK’s exhortation to read the classics that bought me to this collection of Mr O’Connor’s short stories. I began to read with specific questions in my mind: What makes these stories great? In what way are they classics? What is it Frank O’Connor does that sets his work apart? I confess that the first couple of stories left me cold. His descriptions were precise and vivid, his characters whole, his voice distinct, but there was nothing extraordinary – no startling viewpoint that urged a ground-shaking re-examination of life or the wider world.
Then I read one of the stories to Mrs Van. And there it was. Aloud the language comes alive. The story comes alive. And that’s when it struck me why these are great stories. There are no tricks or gimmicks, no fancy viewpoints nor stylistics quirks. They are stories, pure and simple, about people and the things they think and feel. They are deep and they are real. Real people in real places doing real things. They are stories that neither defy analysis nor invite it; rather they raise an eyebrow at you and question why you’d want to. Far better, surely, simply to enjoy them. And enjoy them I did.
I’d add that The Mad Lomasneys is quite possibly the saddest short story I think I’ve ever read.

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Van has finished reading…Any Human Heart by William Boyd

5 Jun

It takes a lifetime to realise the fullness of living. It’s a long game. It’s Gibran’s depths and heights and the truth of it is that we really do rarely know those moments where we are at either. I guess when we’re young we tend toward dreams of being, as Malcolm Bradbury had it ‘important in a world historical sense’ (I hope I’ve got that right). But it’s when we’re older that we hope to be somewhere near to the centre of someone’s world, and the rest can please themselves. There’s a fundamental honesty about Logan Mountstuart’s journals that had me rooting for him when that moment came. And it brought a lump to my throat when it went. Strangest of all for me though was the loss of Bowser. It seemed to sum up all LMS’s losses in one and at a point where there was nothing to do but mourn them. I almost wished him corporeal, and my grief was the lack of presence from which my comforting could comfort me.
It’s really something of a quiet work of art, this book. It shows how every life is both ordinary and extraordinary – possibly the most apt quote to be pulled from a book and blazoned on the cover. LMS is so expertly flawed, fallible and emotional – and he’s a man who knows how, and when, to swear to great effect. I couldn’t help but warm to him as he aged, and the subtle victory of ‘WHO KILLED HARRY OAKES’ very nearly made me cheer. It’s not beautifully written, and hooray for that. It is a journal. It IS a journal, and that’s why it works so well.
Read it. Even the index; it’s a life in bullet points.