random thoughts to oil the mind

Month: February 2012

The Satanic Verses

Satanic VersesThis isn’t a book that requires any introduction, at least in terms of the furore and controversy surrounding it. I’d probably heard of Rushdie before I started to read for myself, such is the reputation which precedes this book. The title has been sitting at the back of my mind for a long time, so when I saw it on a bookshelf figured it was about time to dip into it.

Some years ago, whilst taking part in a brief course on the history of modern India, I picked up Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children and thoroughly enjoyed it. The style was lucid, inspiring, at times witty, the plot meaningful, its events engaging and powerfully written. Unfortunately, The Satanic Verses is in comparison an utter disappointment. The book is simply difficult to like, try as one might. Rushdie’s writing, despite still being very imaginative, colourful, even amusing, is for the most part unnecessarily convoluted. The book’s plot is divided into various threads spanning time, space and reality, with enough levels, characters and subplots that the reader has to pay extreme attention not to become lost. Some of the characters go under different names, or names are shared among different characters, while the main characters undergo enough physical alterations, that trying to juggle the figures in your imagination becomes a feat in and of itself.

Written style aside, should you find yourself able to understand Rushdie’s message–and thanks to the written style it’s easy not to ‘get’–I simply can’t find very much worth recommending. If you are looking for examples of novels centred on the interplay of good and evil, issues of identity or multiculturalism, the parody of religion, or even merely novels featuring magic realism, there are simply so many better, easier, and more enjoyable works available, even from Rushdie’s own pen, that this work wouldn’t get a look in.

As other reviewers have said, were it not for the fatwa this book should probably have disappeared off most people’s radars without much word of comment. That it didn’t is unfortunate, since I don’t think this book particularly lends itself to many people, yet so many pick it up to find out what all the fuss was about. It is a frustrating and convoluted read, and while there are beautiful and intriguing passages which reminded me of what made Midnight’s Children so enthralling, these are ultimately pretty small fish for sieving through 500 other pages of nigh-on impenetrable packaging.

What Ho!: The Best of Wodehouse

What Ho!Dieser Eintrag ist auch auf Deutsch verfügbar.

Despite the advancing years I had up until receiving this book for Christmas never read any Wodehouse, though I had been read excerpts in my younger years. Of course, the problem with Wodehouse is that being such a prolific author, it’s difficult to know where to start. And since most Wodehouse readers have their favourites, asking for advice on what to read is a bit like asking which football team you should support.

All of which is precisely why this compendium fits the bill nicely. There’s a little bit of everything here to give the newcomer a real taste of Wodehouse’s world, with stories from Jeeves, Blandings, Ukridge, Mr Mulliner, The Drones, Psmith and Uncle Fred. There’s also a section of golfing stories, and at the back, as a sort of appendix, a collection of letters and sundry other writings. As for the prose itself, well if you really need more convincing, you could always start by perusing the introduction by Stephen Fry.

The only other review of this book to date criticised the quality of the book, and to some extent I must agree. Whilst I found nothing lacking in the book’s manufacture, there were a surprising number of typographical errors to be seen, albeit only small niggly things. Nevertheless, for the price this volume is an absolute steal, a definite must for anyone looking for a glimpse into Wodehouse.

(And having read the lot, I can now say that my jersey is emblazoned with the Blandings crest.)

What Ho!: The Best of Wodehouse

What Ho!This entry is also available in English.

Trotz meines Alters hatte ich, bis ich dieses Buch als Weihnachtsgeschenk bekam, noch nie etwas von Wodehouse gelesen, obwohl man mir als Kind ein paar Ausschnitte vorgelesen hat. Mit Wodehouse besteht das Problem natürlich darin, dass es schwierig ist sich zu entscheiden, wo man anfangen sollte, da der Mann so produktiv war. Dazu haben die meisten Wodehouse-Leser ihre Lieblingscharaktere schon ausgesucht, also sie um einen Rat zu bitten, ist ähnlich wie danach zu fragen, welche Fußballmannschaft man unterstützen sollte.

Demzufolge eignet sich dieses Kompendium als erster Schritt in Wodehouses Welt. Der Neuling findet hier eine Kostprobe von Jeeves, Blandings, Ukridge, Mr Mulliner, The Drones, Psmith und Uncle Fred. Es gibt sogar eine Auswahl Golf-Geschichten und als Anhang eine Sammlung Briefe und allerlei andere Schreiben.

Die bisher einzige andere Rezension auf Amazon.co.uk warf dem Buch eine nachlässige Qualität vor. Hier stimme ich nur teilweise zu: Obwohl ich an der Anfertigung nichts zu meckern finde, gibt es dennoch eine überraschende Menge an Druckfehlern, obschon nur belanglose Kleinigkeiten. Trotzdem ist dieser Buchband für den Preis ein absolutes Schnäppchen, und ein Muss für jeden, der sich einen ersten Blick in die Wodehousesche Welt verschaffen will.

(Und jetzt, da ich das Ganze gelesen habe, kann ich erklären, dass mein Jersey mit dem Blandings-Wappen beschmückt ist!)

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