In 1942, Crockett Johnson created the cartoon Barnaby, in which we see Mr O'Malley through the eyes of a boy who wishes for a fairy Godmother, but insIn 1942, Crockett Johnson created the cartoon Barnaby, in which we see Mr O'Malley through the eyes of a boy who wishes for a fairy Godmother, but instead is presented with a short, fat, flying, conceited and not altogether competent fairy Godfather.
The cartoon was a big hit within the Left intelligentia in the US. Dorothy Parker adored it, Duke Ellington was chuffed to be part of one of the strips. He even wrote a letter to the editor of PM to say so. The Roosevelts were avid followers. It was syndicated - not a big syndication by US standards, but nonetheless to newspapers which had a combined readership of 5.5M or so. It was a cartoon strip for adults that kids read. Johnson was a cartoonist's cartoonist, original - perhaps radical - in his technical vision of the strip and highly influential on those who came after him in the US.
The influence of this cartoon was, however, by no means limited to that country. When the editor of The Daily Mail in the UK saw it, he wanted one like it. This led to the creation of Flook, an indispensable part of the cartoon scene in the UK for over forty years. However much Flook may have been inspired by Mr O'Malley, however, and despite its subversive role as a cartoon for adults read by children, Flook is different enough in looks and character that one needs to have the inspiration pointed out.
Not so in the case of Karlsson. Here Astrid Lindgren has taken the figure of Mr O'Malley in a way that one could say is nothing short of brazen. It has prompted me to write to an expert on Johnson, curious to know what he had to say about Lindgren's take, a word I use advisedly. Mr O'Malley even has the stock phrases that are so important to the nature of Karlsson. Different ones, of course - Cushlamochree - an exclamation of surprise meaning 'pulse of my heart'.
Same physical qualities, though they fly by different methods, and same character. That is not to say, however, there is no difference in output. Barnaby is an intellectual cartoon with a sophisticated take on the politics of the period, (which is not to say that it was always political). Perhaps that is why Barnaby has been the influential publication whilst Karlsson has been the popular one. Lindgren has taken the intellectual content out of Barnaby and created something that is straightforwardly for children.
Doubtless all that can be said about this charming collection has been. I don't understand why it is called a novel - it's prose, it's longer than a sDoubtless all that can be said about this charming collection has been. I don't understand why it is called a novel - it's prose, it's longer than a short story, therefore it's a novel? In fact this is 22 small pieces contained and constrained by setting and character. Everybody will have the points in this book that stand out for them in some way. My bookmark has stayed here:
Here you come, headlong into a tight little group of people who have always lived together, who have the habit of moving around each other on land they know and own and understand, and every threat to what they're used to only makes them still more compact and self-assured. An island can be dreadful for someone from outside. Everything is complete, and everyone has his obstinate, sure and self-sufficient place. Within their shores, everything functions according to rituals that are as hard as rock from repetition, and at the same time they amble through their days as whimsically and casually as if the world ended at the horizon.
For a book like this to come to be available to a person like me, Englishly and stubbornly mono-lingual, requires some work. When the re-issue I read referred to the 'flawless' translation by Thomas Teal, I wondered who he is.
This was the first Tan book I picked up - not surprisingly, given it's the wordiest of this illustrator's work. I bought threee copies in Melbourne anThis was the first Tan book I picked up - not surprisingly, given it's the wordiest of this illustrator's work. I bought threee copies in Melbourne and before I knew it they'd all disappeared into other people's bookshelves. One more for me then.
A charming book that will make you smile, if not giggle, and quite a (brave?)departure in style from his others. There is not a dark moment in it.
I completely disagree that this book is about manic depression, which is Manny's take. It is simply about feeling bad and realising that this won't laI completely disagree that this book is about manic depression, which is Manny's take. It is simply about feeling bad and realising that this won't last forever and that things will get better. It is about the irrationality of this process.
The author's take is that you can read it however you like. But having said that, he says:
A nameless young girl appears in every picture, a stand-in for ourselves; she passes helplessly through many dark moments, yet ultimately finds something hopeful at the end of her journey.
That is not manic depression and indeed, it would be distinctly odd to make manic depression out to be something which has a positive aspect to it, since the 'up' side of it is pretty lousy too....more
Having read this at the same time as Otto, I find it very odd that this is so nicely written, when Otto is not. Is it perhaps because it is written inHaving read this at the same time as Otto, I find it very odd that this is so nicely written, when Otto is not. Is it perhaps because it is written in English, whereas Otto is translated from German (presumably by the author).
A charming book - I have no idea why the publisher's hype on the cover calls it 'outrageous and controversial' - both words and pictures. ...more
A pair made in a sort of hell, I guess, birthday books read back to back.
I don’t understand why Otto is badly written, when the author is obviously capable of writing good text in English. If you want to write some sort of nightmare for children – even worse, a nightmare that really happened – one has to be very careful, I imagine and this isn’t. It uses badly cliched English that is inappropriate for any readership, let alone kids. He describes the bombing of his German town thus: ‘Among the ruins and the fires lay innocent victims.’ What on earth does that mean? That some of the civilians bombed in German towns weren’t innocent victims? Does he mean anybody killed by these bombs were innocent victims? One could conceive of an argument along the lines of all the innocent victims being in concentrations camps, after all – two words ignored by this children’s book. Then there is the general dilemma of writing about such a topic for children: I am uneasy about his treatment, really uneasy about picking such a theme and coming up with a happy ending. Finally, the language is stilted, quite unattractive to read. I don’t understand why a child would want to read it.
Nor, as an adult, would I consider giving it to a child. ‘Mummy why did Oskar let those men take his friend away? Why didn’t his mother help? Why didn’t….If somebody wanted to take my friend away, would you stop them, Mummy?’ ‘Well, no, I wouldn’t, Oskar. It’s better just to watch when that happens and be glad it isn’t happening to you’. Honestly. The more I think about this book, the more I am really unhappy about it.
The pictures are nice.
Unfortunately Camp Concentration has no pictures. It does, however, avoid avoiding the words concentration camp. One can only assume, knowing that Disch considers himself too clever for words – no, not too clever for words, his books are full of his cleverness, little jokes for his friends and so on, exactly the sort of thing I object to when reading clever dicks – one can only assume that moving the word order is a play on his own camp ways as they are expressed in this book, much as it may have other rationales as well. It was explained to me after I finished reading this – and I must confess that my reading became cursory after a while – that I had missed all the clues. Was I supposed to know there were clues and that I was reading a mystery book? If I was supposed to realise this, it was badly communicated to me. If I wasn’t supposed to realise it, we are left with a denouement which is rather like one of those who-dun-its where the author cheats.
There are always flashes of good writing in Disch’s work, but the point is, SO WHAT? There are probably a thousand people on goodreads, and tens of thousands of bloggers out there who produce such flashes, or, amazingly, keep it up. I think Disch is lazy, but because he has such tickets on his cleverness, he doesn’t think that matters. I beg to differ. But then, to be fair, I don’t think cleverness is nearly sufficient to produce a good piece of writing. Not nearly.
It is interesting to consider that we have here two examples of genre writing, both of which consistently fall down in the writing department. Picture books need good pictures and good text is only ever ‘nice if you can get it’. Science fiction is full of examples of authors who have great ideas but who can’t write. Six year olds probably don’t care and nor do science fiction buffs. Unfortunately I am neither. ...more
The trouble with this movie, is that we are supposed to cheer for the wrong side. The premise, for those who haven’t read or seen it, is that the witc The trouble with this movie, is that we are supposed to cheer for the wrong side. The premise, for those who haven’t read or seen it, is that the witches have a practically foolproof plan to turn all the children of the UK into mice.
I mean, what’s not to like?
You may say I shouldn’t have been watching this movie with a cat. It’s true, the cat and I have never been more on the same wave length. As I sat there biting my nails and screaming at those witches ‘not the soup, please don’t eat the cress soup’ (because a boy mouse had put the spell into it, so that the witches were to get a taste of their own medicine, so to speak), the cat was rigid with anger, hair, whiskers, tail, you name it, it was standing on end. This cat will never speak to Roald Dahl again. How dare he dangle such a prize in front of him, the most delightfully plump, tender young mice, and then take it away like that?
A charming premise for anybody interested in knitting: apparently the nurse, while threading the needle to darn a sock, children gathered around her,A charming premise for anybody interested in knitting: apparently the nurse, while threading the needle to darn a sock, children gathered around her, would look back through her memory for a story that would fit the hole.
Oh and pics by Edward A. What more could one ask for? I loved Farjeon when I was little, but I can't recall having read this....more
For the Celebrity Death Match vs The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
'I mean, wot the fuck is it wiv this Salander bitch?' Alice scowls.
'I'm telling you,For the Celebrity Death Match vs The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
'I mean, wot the fuck is it wiv this Salander bitch?' Alice scowls.
'I'm telling you, I'm sick of it. Bugger the 'Annotated Alice', we're putting out the 'Unexpurgated Alice' right now. They need to be told that I did all that stuff bigger and better than she did. AND I had to give mate's rates to fucking Charles Dickens. Geez. Give me a break.'
'What? NOW?' asks Humpty nervously glancing at the wall next to them.
She ignores him.
'Like we didn't have dildoes and girl on girl stuff in the Victorian period. That's what was really in my hand when they did those pictures.'
'Cleaned it up once they decided to make it a children's book after all. Though you notice Lewis just couldn't let go of the "down" word.' She sniggers. Page one: 'In another moment down went Alice...'
'And my tits are real.'
Humpty didn't want to tell her she was obsessing, but.
'Computer whizz? Ipad? Big fucking deal. I had the first iQuill. Let her stuff that up her pipe and smoke it. Well. Stuff it whereever that perverted author thinks will give the readers a kick.'
Humpty goes to answer the phone and comes back.
'Good news Alice -'
But she can't stop now, she's on a roll.
'As for cutting the dude who raped her with a razor. That was just a copycat. Go on. Tell me. Why does Lewis always dress covered up to his neck?'
'Why does he always avoid swimming at the seaside?'
'Because of your clever idea for modifying the iQuill, Alice.'
'Exactly. Filling it with that acid which burned 'I like little girls too much' into his chest.'
'Um, about the fight tonight -'
Alice knows she is on a winner. 'So Salander eats junk food. Like, big deal. I ate cake. DRUGGED cake.'
Finally Humpty gets a word in. 'Alice. You don't have to go to the ring tonight. Salander's new right breast has broken. She's in hospital having the silicon pumped out of her blood stream. You are the winner by default.'
'Ha,' says Alice, bitterly. 'Serves the little cow right.'
'Who's next? And don't tell me it's fucking Leo goody-good Tolstoy.' ...more
Apologies in advance. This is not a clever review. It contains no facetiousness, nor pictures of inappropriate sexual equipment. All in all, I'd rateApologies in advance. This is not a clever review. It contains no facetiousness, nor pictures of inappropriate sexual equipment. All in all, I'd rate it a clear 'g' if I were on a censorship board. I'll do better later in the day.
It's odd, in the bookworld, that we describe ephemera as something of physical slightness, when often the content itself is so ephemeral. This applies to most fiction, but perhaps children's in particular. Arthur Groom once made kids happy for his living. Now he is completely unknown.
We sell a lot of children's books and recently a couple of o/s customers enquired about this and let it drop. That turned out to be lucky for the lady who did buy it...I thought I would add a few reactions on goodreads to books received by our customers as they bring such joy - especially long lost children's books....
I told this to Di, who wrote back:
Wow, I'm so glad I live here then!This was my favourite book as a child. I spent many happy hours glued to the lovely pictures, as I was often sick in bed with asthma and back then (I'm ancient) there was no real treatment other than adrenalin injections when you were absolutely gasping, so bed (no exertion) was the treatment. I'm sure my mother thought this book was a life-saver (kept me distracted and the bell by my bed quiet!)
I have just read it to my little grand-daughter, who also studied the pictures carefully. As old-fashioned as it is, I think this book will remain a favourite in our family for a long time. You have made me/us very happy. Thank you again.
Letters like this make us SO happy in our book business:
I want to give you heartfelt thanks for the (very rapid) delivery today of a
Letters like this make us SO happy in our book business:
I want to give you heartfelt thanks for the (very rapid) delivery today of a book I ordered from you through Biblio.com. The book is called "Jill and Judy" by Caroline Brown - a children's book published in 1950.
I owned this book as a child in the 1950's and it was my absolute favourite, closely followed by all those Enid Blyton stories! For many years I have trawled through second-hand bookshops, jumble sales, charity shops etc. etc trying to find a replacement copy. I could see the cover and the illustrations so clearly in my mind's eye but could never recall the author or publisher. My daughter suggested I try an internet search - first through Amazon, who showed a photo of the book and gave details, but did not have a copy in stock; then via various websites until I reached Biblio who found just two copies in existence, one in the USA and yours. I couldn't believe my luck and though the price was much steeper than I had bargained for and the delivery cost from Australia to the U.K. was obviously high, I was really thrilled to find a copy after almost 60 years!
The book is in superb condition and was obviously packed with great care. As soon as I opened the last layer of packing, and saw the cover, the memories flooded back of hours spent reading the story and daydreaming that I, too, could have a wonderful playhouse in my garden, just like Jill and Judy!
Thank you all so much for fulfilling my dreams and for your wonderful service. I will recommend you to anyone searching for a special book.
We get a lot of these, childhood books being sort out in this way. I guess the kindle generation will simply never have the angst and joy of this experience. Maybe that's good?
I might add, it amazes me how ephemeral children's books are. This author has no presence on the internet at all that I can see. I had to add this book to goodreads. I spotted no biography or bibliography for her online, though my attempts were merely cursory....more
This isn't going to be fair, not least because my French is way worse than is needed to read a book for little children. Way way worse.
But also becausThis isn't going to be fair, not least because my French is way worse than is needed to read a book for little children. Way way worse.
But also because I confess it irritated me. It's about a girl getting to that stage which apparently girls do, when they start worrying about whether they are going to get any breasts and if they are going to be big enough and.....I'm sure I don't need to go on.
Consider the other point of view. I was tormented throughout primary school by having breasts from the time I was about five. Later on, maybe my first year of highschool, when I finished growing, I had the strength and understanding not to care what other people think. But it is very hard to appreciate that as a primary school child. Has anybody written a book about how awful it is having breasts as a little kid???? I think not!!!! In my opinion we have quite enough books telling us not to worry if we haven't got tits yet, they'll come.
I was reflecting upon this a couple of days ago when I saw the Russ Meyer film 'Faster, Pussycat. Kill! Kill!' There is an extraordinary moment in the film where the chief protagonist, a girl who can look after herself, kills a man with her bare hands with an ease I wouldn't have in me to tackle a tinned sardine. It felt horribly real to me in a film which is laughing at itself, laughing at US culture and wishing to make a point to intellectual art cinema, ie a film which shouldn't have any sense of reality in it.
I looked up the actor who played this role afterwards and discovered that she also was afflicted by breasts as a small child. But what happened to Tura Satana was truly appalling:
She developed breasts very early and, despite being an excellent student, was constantly harassed for her figure and Asian heritage. Walking home from school at the age of nine she was gang raped by five men. Her attackers were never prosecuted and it was rumored that the judge had been paid off. This prompted her to learn the martial arts of aikido and karate and, over the next 15 years, track down each rapist and exact revenge. "I made a vow to myself that I would someday, somehow get even with all of them," she said years later. "They never knew who I was until I told them."
Observing the difficulties of speech recognition could not be more fun.
From the introduction:
Policemen and Magicians
A visiting professor of Anguish,
Observing the difficulties of speech recognition could not be more fun.
From the introduction:
Policemen and Magicians
A visiting professor of Anguish, Dr. ________,* who, while learning to understand spoken English, was continually bewildered and embarrassed by the similarity of such expressions as boys and girls and poisoned gulls, used to exclaim:
*This isn't his real name, nor is it intended to be the name of any other Anguish Languish professor, living or dead.
"Gracious! What a lot of words sound like each other! If it wasn't [sic] for the different situations in which we hear 'em, we'd have a terrible time saying which was which."
Of course, these may not have been the professor's exact words, because he often did his exclaiming in Anguish rather than in English. In that case he would say:
"Crashes! Water larders warts sunned lack itch udder! Effervescent further delerent saturations an witch way harem, wade heifer haliver tam sang witch worse witch."
Dr. ________ was right, both in English and Anguish. Although other factors than the pronunciation of words affect our ability to understand them, the situation in which the words are uttered is of prime importance. You can easily prove this, right in the privacy of your own kitchen, by asking a friend to help you wash up a dozen cops and sorcerers. Ten to one, she'll think you said a dozen cups and saucers, and be genuinely surprised if you put her to work cleaning up even one police officer, let alone all the others, and the magicians, too.
If you think that she misunderstands merely because the two phrases sound somewhat alike and not because of the situation, read what SPAL's Committee on Housewives has to say:
"Presented with a dishes-piled-in-sink situation, several hundred well-adjusted housewives thought that cops and sorcerers referred to dishes, but seldom did normal subjects, interviewed under the same conditions, make the opposite mistake. When they were asked to help us wash cups and saucers, some women consented, some made stupid excuses, and some told us bluntly to go wash them ourselves, but practically no one thought that we were talking about policemen and magicians."
It means risque or indecent or in the case of our heroes in this book, plain old dirty.
It was derived thus:
Neuburg said that the word was formed, highly irregularly as you might expect, from Greek ostro, rich, plus English bog, dirt, from the schoolboy slang sense of the toilet, and ending in Latin ulus, full of. So “full of rich dirt”. The Oxford English Dictionary doesn’t agree, arguing that the first part is from the adjective oestrous. But we ought to let Victor Neuburg have the last word, as it was his creation, even though he was a bit shaky on his etymology — the Greek word was ostreon, a type of mollusc (it’s the source, via Latin, of English oyster) that was harvested to obtain a rare and expensive purple dye, hence figuratively something rich.
I really can't say that the book does justice to the word. Still, maybe it just couldn't live up to the wonderful promise of the title....more
10 July 2014. Creepy fact: Manny asked me this morning why I had reinstated my HP review. The update said it had been done several minutes ago. Since 10 July 2014. Creepy fact: Manny asked me this morning why I had reinstated my HP review. The update said it had been done several minutes ago. Since I had spent the morning not on GR - yes, dear readers, it can be done - I am mystified as to how this has happened. But creepy, right? At any rate, I had been thinking about putting the whole thing back here, rather than on my blog, so here it is in full black and white.
So, I keep getting hate comments for this review and I thought it would be nice if you all had a place you could get together and badmouth it. Announcing....
I'd be honoured if you joined. And I'm really sorry to all the people who wrote comments here which I misguidedly deleted.
--------------------------- The REVIEW.
Enough. I'm putting this one to bed. I so don't want to finish it.
‘Not enough sex’ was my first thought, but then we do get to this part where boys are discussing the length and capacities of their wands and I perked up for a moment until I realised that they were actually talking about wands.
You will say that this is a book for children and that sex has no part in it, but, I think Randall has it right, as usual:
XKCD's take on young boys
Now, I don’t know a whole lot about boys on the verge of pubescence, but I’m fairly sure they are more interested in willies than wands. Perhaps this book would have sold better if the author had regarded that piece of advice. (Note to self: check if anybody bought this book. Perhaps the author would appreciate my thoughts.)
20 August 2013: My Harry Potter review has been flagged and censored EVEN though it isn't available to read on goodreads except via a link.
Given that the review itself has experienced its own form of peer judgement via the voting system and given that it has been up for a couple of years or more I wonder if this is part of the new Amazon way?
To quote the advice sent to me:
Your review of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was recently flagged as inappropriate. As the review is not about the book, it will not be shown on the community book page. For more information about our review policies, please see our review guidelines.
How many children have a book written about them, where they are actually in the book, and a book about fairies no less.
I loved this book when I was lHow many children have a book written about them, where they are actually in the book, and a book about fairies no less.
I loved this book when I was little - my father wrote it. But it was only recently that I reread it. To my surprise it contained quite a few words that seemed rather adult for a children's book. I commented to my father that I must have had rather a good vocabulary for my age and it reminded him that when it was written he sent it to Penguin who rapidly agreed to publish it under their children's arm, I think called Puffin. They did, however, consider that the vocab here and there was inappropriate for the age group and asked that he revise it accordingly. He refused. That 'This is my work and it cannot be tampered with' sort of attitude one can have as a writer.
Honestly. What twaddle, I thought to myself. You write, you submit, it is no longer yours any more. Remove yourself from it!!
And yet, last year I agreed to write a second edition of a book I wrote in the early nineties. It's commissioned and the person at the head of the organisation paying me suggested I should have an editor. 'An editor?!' was my instant reaction. What an appalling idea. I can't have people tampering like that. I don't know if I partly had this idea because I do a lot of editing myself and feel self-sufficient. But eventually I came around to the idea that it was obviously a good idea.
Moral of the story: if you are a writer, be prepared to release up to others this thing you have created. Don't let your sense of proprietorship be more important than what is practical. Your whole career might depend upon it. My father twice went through this process with publishers when he was young, being difficult to deal with, being principled in some way that was quite wrong. Principles can do that, they aren't necessarily to be relied upon....more
It is so surprising to me that the thing I found vastly irritating right at page one of the first of this series - the daemon - so quickly capLater...
It is so surprising to me that the thing I found vastly irritating right at page one of the first of this series - the daemon - so quickly captivated me. You have this daemon in you, all of us, just as the story goes. And as a child it is anything, it has the fantastical vision that children have, there is nothing to stop it. But then we mostly grow up and we mostly lose the idea that we can do anything, we lose imagination, we lose the unconscious bravery of our childhood, we lose the intrepidness and curiosity with which we were born. And so our daemon can no longer be anything. It is a static reflection of the settled thing we become as we move into adulthood. Well, I cling to the idea that whether or not I've grown up, I nonetheless have a daemon which can be anything but I dare say that’s fanciful.
Daemons die. They die because they were fighting for you, or because you couldn't fight hard enough for them, or because they are spurned - there are at least some things your daemon can be that thrive on the nourishment that is given them by others. You can't fight to save it because you can't force people see it the right way. They take away the thing that succoured your daemon and made it and you blossom, you see it lying on the ground, dying, and there is nothing you can do. You can't save it, only other people can.
If you think about it, when you read these books, the reason you feel so utterly gutted whenever one of these creatures dies, is because you know what it feels like. You know that what is being described is exactly something dying in you, a process of loss that makes you a lesser person. Grey replaces lit-up, fear replaces joy, a sick pit in your stomach replaces a heart that beat too much from happiness. These things happen and in a heart-beat something infinitely precious is being severed from you. And I feel as helpless in their path as a small child watching something monstrously large taking their daemon away. And I guess like a small child I watch and hope something even bigger will come along and save us.
A satire on the nature of academic research that one can only compare favourably with David Lodge’s work in this area.
“‘Shadows are particles of consciousness. You ever heard anything so stupid? No wonder we can’t get our grant renewed.’….’It’s Dust,’ said Lyra authoritatively. ‘That’s what it is.’ ‘But you see, you can’t say this sort of thing in a funding application if you want to be taken seriously. It does not make sense. It cannot exist. It’s impossible, and if it isn’t impossible it’s irrelevant, amd if it isn’t either of those things it’s embarrassing.’….’Everything about this is embarrassing, she said. ‘D’you know how embarrassing it is to mention good and evil in a scientific laboratory? Have you any idea?’ One of the reasons I became a scientist was not to have to think about that kind of thing.’ ‘You’ve got to think about it,’ said Lyra severely.”
Lyra, you see, is a child, so unlike research academics, she can have a plain interest in the truth.
Later on, beginning p. 250 is a terribly amusing exchange between Dr Malone, trying to live up to the virtuous Lyra, her research associate who wants to take the money with the strings and Sir Charles, puller of the strings and more powerful than any piddly peer review. I love the part where he tries to seduce them with the lure of defence money if they tow the right line.
But quite best of all, right near the end, the wonderful line of another child, Will, who, when a witch says ‘"No. No! That can’t be true. Impossible!"’ retorts so angrily with the simple clear mind of unaffected honesty: ‘"You think things have to be possible? Things have to be true"'.
Later....A friend said to me today that if you read this book properly, it should make you a better person. I'd just earlier in the day been thinkingLater....A friend said to me today that if you read this book properly, it should make you a better person. I'd just earlier in the day been thinking pretty much the same thing. When I asked S. in what way was he made better, he said he couldn't say, just that it had. Exactly. I think you have a sense as you read this book that Lyra's goodness has rubbed off on you, she's made you better in an entirely non-specific way.
M. then said that she didn't think a book, to be special, necessarily had to have a moral impact, it could give you other terribly important things. For her to read the first Harry Potter was to be given back magic. And yes, an author, if he can return to you something you had lost and not even realised you had, has done something equally to be treasured.
I have promised to read HP soon. I find it difficult to believe I'm going to get anything out of it, but, then, thus had I felt about Northern Lights.
9.30 last night. I’m lying in bed, I’ve been reading this for a couple of hours, thinking I’m going to get it finished before I fall asleep. SMS: ‘Won by 3, be at the pub in ten minutes.’ And I’m so torn. I even think about bringing the book with me. In the end I go to the pub, get drunk, maybe came close to lucky, oh, but imagine the morning...having to play bridge at 9am on a Sunday on account of the time difference between the US and Australia. I didn’t see how it would work. He’d snuggle up and start saying how great the third time we fucked was, and I’d be like – is this Dave? Or Biff? Surely if I’d shagged somebody called Biff last night the name would stick, wouldn’t it? I’m not going to guess, I routinely fail 50%ers, so – sorry, mate (an Australianism will do here) but if you could find your way out, I have to play bridge in ten minutes. What’s that? This is YOUR place? I open my eyes more and take a better look around. Bugger. I have to play bridge in ten minutes and I don’t even know where I am.
So, I’m half way through my second vodka, completely drunk already, somebody’s saying I have a nice firm bosom – I don’t think it was Dave OR Biff – and I’m wishing, after all, I’d brought my book with me. I don’t really want to get lucky, I want to read my book.
And even though I haven’t finished it, I wanted to get something about it down.
I really didn’t want to read this. It’s fantasy, it has made-up words, it is a trilogy – WHY!!!!! Why can’t somebody write a fantasy book that stops at a decent time???? There is an explanation of how to pronounce ‘daemon’ before the book even starts and that’s enough to make my heart sink. So why am I reading it? Because I’ve been backed into a corner by a friend and I can’t figure out another way of getting out. Here it is then. A grumpy person reading a type of book they don’t want to read and are opening it up for all the wrong reasons.
And then…straight away, within a page or two: what a heart-thumper, what a brilliant unputdownable ripsnorter. Impossible not to compare with Larsson’s books, and comes out so far ahead on all counts I don’t know if I’ll be able to read the last Girl-Tattoo book after all.
This guy writes well, Larsson doesn’t. He has a plot that is worthy of the name for the entire book. When I wanted to stop reading the first Larsson after 140 pages and was told that it got good soon, well, honestly, I stuck with it and the advice was correct, but still. That’s a lot of wasted pages.
Larsson’s female character is a pastiche of current fashion:
(1) Anti-social (2) Metal in odd places (3) Punk rocker (4) Shags girls, heterosexual male fantasy (5) Shags much old men, ditto (6) Boob job (7) Computer whizz
Larsson gets away with this, even though this amalgam feels fake. Lyra needs nothing. She is just a girl with nothing special about her at all and she is fabulous. Already I’m wondering if this series is going to get spoiled by her growing up and sex coming into play. One of the things this book demonstrates is how utterly irrelevant and tedious the sex is in books like Larsson’s. It is just there to titillate, it has no intrinsic purpose whatsoever.
I’m gobsmacked by how much more believable this book is than Larsson’s. Daemons, talking bears, witches, universes coming out of universes – I’m half expecting a string theorist to pop into the story, but as long as that doesn’t happen I can’t imagine anything could spoil the rest of it. I’m trying to picture who wouldn’t enjoy this, and I’m coming up with a complete prune of a person. If I enjoy this, honestly, anybody would.
And yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m even going to give the rest of the series a go.
Finished! The last forty pages or so, after the duel of the bears, lost me. Maybe because they weren't really about the story, they are about setting the scene for the next book...I don't know. But I have to say that after 350 pages where every sentence made my heart beat too fast, I feel rather churlish saying that. ...more