Wednesday, June 12, 2013

An Irritable Reader

I have never enjoyed Patrick White's writing because of his dour world view. I would be particularly irritated each time he spoke of a woman's flapping breasts, which he seemed to do quite often.  "Flopping" seemed more accurate as well as kinder.
People chewing their lips seem to appear across the literary spectrum. I've seen people bite their lips, but never chew them and I can't even visualise what this would look like or how in fact one would do it.  This irritates me, rather as does the "mobile mouth" which is quite commonplace as well.  An immobile mouth, one that doesn't move, might be worth commenting on, but aren't mouths mobile as a rule? The Two Ronnies commented on this once, saying something like, "She had a mobile mouth, that is, she took it everywhere with her."
For no good reason I dislike books about clever families of academic distinction with children  named "Octavia".  I particularly dislike those which have a son of such brilliance that he appears to the undistinguished hoi polloi to be mentally unstable. Whether there are many of these books, or whether I just tried to read the same one many times, I am unsure.  I think that I suspect that both the family and the author would see me as being undistinguished hoi polloi.  Oh, and they use words like"chthonic", which I have to look up.  And then I forget the meaning, anyway.
I have been, in the interests of my education, reading genre fiction that I would usually avoid. "The American Wife" I read as chick lit. About 3/4 through it occurred to me that the rich, shrewd, drunken, oafish husband could have been G W Bush. And, of course the book is based on G W and Laura, and  has been widely praised. Doh, as Homer would say. that homer, not That One.
Anita Shrieve is a very competent writer. As in many American books, her characters frequently drink Diet Coke. They eat quite often - shades of Enid Blyton comfort - but always, it seemed, to be pizza. Or fritos, cheatos, -  can that be right? - cheerios, oreos. And they cook with oleo.
The formidably competent Kay Scarpetta occasionally cooks, and her author  takes us through the steps as if it's an exotic achievement. What she brews up each time is in fact a simple spaghetti sauce.
Fannie Flagg was, to me, a writer of high calibre.
Two books I read killed off the main character before the end, and this seems to be a mistake.  I want to see them succeed or fail:  not disappear. 
Robert P Parker and Sue Grafton are both adept in effortlessly sliding in the hero's back story. I was surprised at how well "Started early, Took My Dog" was received, although I quite enjoyed it. Then I read the two preceding, and so knew who Jackson was, who Julia was etc:  that is, back story.  I reread "Started early", and it was so much richer with a fuller view of the characters.
I completely fail to understand why "Water for Elephants", (or whatever it's called) and such are so hugely popular though romances ... The "Alpha male" is evidently essential.  It was interesting reading P.D. James to see that Dalgliesh is in fact a rather more old fashioned version of the alpha male. Dear me, he is priggish.
Nicholas Sparks wrote a best selling romance that was made into a film. I read a different one of his, called "Message in a Bottle", and it was very heavy going, except that it contained some of the most inept lines that I have ever read.  Eg: the heroine is, of course, beautiful. He begins describing her by saying, "It wasn't that she was unattractive. She was, or so she had often been told."  What??

Enough ramble. Once I took my daughter to visit a friend, where her excited mother had just received her Book Club choice through the mail. A Danielle Steele. She proudly showed me her whole shelf of Danielle Steele's, which to me was rather like having 30 copies of the same book.
I read a Danielle Steele once. There were 3 aristocratic Russian heiresses in a troika racing across the snow of course, with tinkling bells, of course.  Then something bad happened.  Then something good happened, which was probably them each marrying an Alpha male Russian prince.  This compelling plot could obviously be set in many different locations, which Wikipedia suggests it is. It also tells me that she sells more books than anyone else in the world.
Well, "All the world is queer save me and thee, And even thee's a little strange at times."
 That often seems to be true.  
Now, off back to my reading.


Elephant's Child said...

Smile. I read The American Wife - and it left me cold. Increasingly I am no longer finishing books. It I put it down and pick it up and put it down again, it tends to stay down now. I used to do my best to finish everything but am too impatient now. And there are too many good books around for me to persist with things which bore and/or irritate me. I think you are the only other person I have come across who has read Robert W Parker. I agree, his back stories are very well developed. His is not a genre I spend much time in, but I have thoroughly enjoyed those of his books I have acquired.
And snapp on Fannie Flagg.

Frances said...

I envy your "read" list, EC. One day I must check out your recommendations - eg, Deborah Mitford? Yes or no?

Elephant's Child said...

I find all of the Mitfords fascinating. I love the letters they wrote, and the biographies as incredible. I suspect(know) that I wouldn't have had much in common with them, but loved reading about the complicated lives they lived.