Angry Island

Gill, A. A. The Angry Island: Hunting the English. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2005.

Reason read: Gill was born in the month of June; read in his honor.

From the very beginning you know you are going to laugh out loud at least once or twice while reading Angry Island. Right in the preface Gill starts off with, “Facts are what pedantic, dull people have instead of opinions.” Well okay! He later states “the national character of the English is anger.” At the time of this writing he was a food and travel critic so he was required to be a little…well…critical. It was expected of him. In The Angry Island his snarky essays cover all kinds of topics from language to war memorials, from sports and animals to drinking. Needless to say, he has a well-barbed opinion about everything. My big question is this, if he was born in Scotland and considers himself Scottish and hates England, why stay there? Why didn’t he move away? He has even less of an opinion about America but that (or Ireland or Australia) would have been an option for an English speaking bloke, especially one with a sharp tongue.

Other quotes I liked, “The purpose of an army must surely be to put itself out of business” (p 237),

Author fact: A.A. Gill is Anthony Andre Gill, born on June 28th. He died of cancer in 2016.

Book trivia: since Angry Island is a collection of essays I was surprised to find an index.

Nancy said: Gill’s essays are “filled with biting, sometimes snarky commentary about morals and mores of England” (Book Lust To Go p 78). I had to laugh when I read the word “snarky” because it’s a favorite of mine and it describes Gill perfectly.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Entering England” (p 76).


Doomsday Book

Willis, Connie. Doomsday Book. New York: Bantam Books, 1992.
Willis, Connie. Doomsday Book. Read by Jenny Sterlin.

Reason read: Connie Willis was born in the month of December. Read in her honor. Confessional: this book is nearly 600 pages long so I decided to start it early.

I don’t know why I get so nervous about reading science fiction. I really shouldn’t when it comes to Connie Willis. I have enjoyed everything I had read from her so far and Doomsday Book is no different. In a word Doomsday Book is brilliant. Young and ambitious student historian Kivrin has been eagerly preparing to leave her 21st century world for that of fourteenth century Oxford. Wearing a costume proper for women of the era? Check. Middle English language lessons completed? Check. Customs training for her alibi for a woman traveling alone? Check. Proper inoculations for illnesses of the day? Check. Or it is check with a question mark? Her instructors back in 2054 had made painstaking calculation to ensure she would arrive decades before the Black Death, but is it possible she slipped twenty eight years passed the targeted date? Did she arrive at ground zero at the exact wrong time? Strangely enough, the 21st century is suffering an epidemic of its own. Modern day Oxford is quarantined and fear bordering on panic runs rampant.
This is a story of parallel tragedies and the human nature that transcends all time…despite being “sci-fi.”

Author fact: at the time of publication Willis lived in Greeley, Colorado. Such a beautiful place!

Book trivia: Doomsday Book won both the Hugo and Nebula award for science fiction.

Nancy said: in Book Lust, “many people believe Doomsday Book Willis’s most accomplished novel (p 246). In More Book Lust, nothing other than to list it as a time travel book.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Connie Willis: Too Good To Miss” (p 246). Also from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Time Travel” (p 221).


Old Man & Me

Dundy, Elaine. The Old Man and Me. New York: New York Review Books, 2005.

Introductions to books often bore me, I’ll admit it. I’m the one who will skip them nine times out of ten. For some reason I didn’t skip Dundy’s introduction to The Old Man and Me and I’m very glad I didn’t. I appreciated her explanation of who Honey Flood is, why Honey is the way she is (think Jessica Rabbit, “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way”), and why she wanted Honey that way. Dundy wants her reader to know the purpose of Honey in Old Man is as a response to the male anti-heroes of the era. By creating the female counterpart, Honey Flood is the Angry Young Woman who hates everything English. Additionally, Miss Flood is opinionated, hot-tempered, easy annoyed, more often than not, sarcastically irritated and a liar to boot. As Dundy explains, “But what I hope I had going for me is that Bad Girls are more interesting that Good ones” (p ix). Amen to that. So, about Honey…she’s out to seduce an older man. She’ll go to great lengths to land an interview with him, including befriending people she can’t stand. Why? He married her stepmother after her father’s death and by default (stepmum later committed suicide), has all Honey’s inheritance. In short, Honey wants her money back. True to Dundy’s intro, Honey is nothing short of nasty. There were surprises within Old Man and Me that popped up unexpectedly.

Lines which sparked the imagination, “Bollie was a sort of chain-talker, lighting one end of a conversation to another without letting the first go out” (p 8) and “She had lost her husband only two days ago and already she was a lost soul” (p 29).

Confessional: I didn’t catch that The Old Man and Me was a continuation of sorts of The Dud Avocado so I read Old Man before Avocado. My mistake. Bummer.

Reason read: January is the time people make resolutions. It’s also the most popular time to put affairs in order, like creating or revising a will.

Author fact: Elaine died in 2008. At 82 years of age she wrote the introduction I mentioned earlier. She lived to be 87 years old.

Book trivia: The Old Man and Me is a sequel of sorts to The Dud Avocado. The main character is in Dud and although she is older, she appears again in Old Man.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “American Girls” (p 18).


Snobs

Fellowes, Julian. Snobs. New York: St. Martin Press, 2004.

This seems like an odd choice for a Christmas season pick. After all, this is supposed to be peace on Earth, goodwill towards men time. With a name like Snobs it doesn’t seem to fit, but this is in honor of one of Nancy Pearl’s gift choices for the holidays.

Edith Lavery is middle class society with big upper class ambitions. When she inadvertently meets the Earl of Broughton, Charles, it is with an admission ticket to tour his home in her hand. Little does she know, but the introduction, with her good looks, is also her ticket to upper echelon snobbery. Soon Edith works her way into the aristocratic family by marrying Charles. As his wife she discovers the high life isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be and finds herself becoming bored. The real trouble begins when Edith’s wandering eye settles on a less than successful actor. Things turn from bad to worse when it’s more than Edith’s eye that starts to wander. What makes this hungry-for-status story so funny is the wicked clashes of culture. Julian Fellowes seductively pokes fun at all types of cliques: actors, the fashion world, the genders, society, but none are funnier than the English.

Sarcastically good lines: “To an outsider it seems a vital ingredient of many marriages that each partner should support the illusions of the other” (p 5).
“…Mrs Lavery was passionately snobbish to a degree verging on insanity…” (p 12).
“Edith rolled her eyes. ‘She’s beside herself. She’s afraid she’ll find Bobby in the shower and it’ll all have been a dream” (p 40).
“At least he seemed to feel that something momentous had taken place, even if her body had never left the station…” (p71).

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter, “A Holiday Shopping List” (p 114).


December Was…

img_0030December started off being my fresh start. New houses, new atttitude. It would have been a return to charity walks (or runs?) had a little thing called house hunting not gotten in the way! December ended up being a really, really difficult month. Lost another house, craziness at work, mental health taking a trip south, a passing of a friend and coworker… Here are the books I read escaped with. It may seem like a lot but, keep in mind, I cheated. I was able to read the first two in November.

  • The Quiet American by Graham Green ~ I read this in three days time…in November. Was really that good!
  • A Dangerous Friend by Ward Just ~ Another book I read in just a few days time, again…in November.
  • Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver ~ probably one of the best court-room dramas I have ever read.
  • I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Years Away by Bill Bryson ~ funny, but repetitive!
  • A Family Affair by Rex Stout ~ very strange yet entertaining.
  • Lincoln’s Dreams by Connie Willis ~again, strange but entertaining!
  • Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella ~ okay. I’ll admit it. This one made me cry.
  • ‘Sippi by John Oliver Killens ~ powerful – really, really powerful. That’s all I can really say.
  • Snobs by Julian Fellowes ~ silly story about what happens with you combine boredom with good old fashioned English snobbery.
  • Choice Cuts by Mark Kurlansky ~ really interesting, but a bit dry at times (no pun intended).

For LibraryThing it was the fascinating Honeymoon in Tehran by Azadeh Moaveni (really, really good).

Confession: I started Le Mort d’Arthur and couldn’t deal with neither volume one or two. Just not in the mood for the King, no matter how authoritative the version.

So. 11 books. Two being in the month of November and nine as the cure for what ailed me.

Edited to add: someone asked me to post “the count” at the end of each “— Was” blog. What a great idea. I will be starting that next month – something new to start 2009 with. Thanks, A!