Gloom for the book club

Hi everyone, CstM here. I hope you’re all doing well.
We’re having the Welsh Mothership visiting, so life has been a bit hectic. Especially after almost two years of no sleep over visitors. You do get a bit complacent in your solitude, don’t you?

So last month we were reading The Catcher in the Rye. Honestly, I absolutely hated it. I could just not get on with it and gave up after 4 chapters, which may be a bit unfair towards the book.
Maybe it was just not the right time to read it, or maybe it’s my aversion of first person character books, but yeah I’m happy to see that book gone.
I am a strange one about first person character perspective in books. In school we read this Steen Steensen Blicher story, Late awakening (Sildig opvaagen). It’s told in the first person perspective, about this guy who is in love with a woman, but the plot twist is that for most of the story we only see his version of events, and it turns out he has a very twisted perspective of reality. After that I’ve never trusted a character narrating in first person.
I tried reading Moby Dick, but I read the fist line of “Call me Ishmael” and I was just wondering why I’d spend some 400 pages with a guy who isn’t even upfront about his name. Like can I really trust anything you try to tell me about some whale?

This month I’m going for a Danish book. Now it’s a bit cheeky, since I’ve already read this one before, but it’ll be a nice reread.
We’ll be reading Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Mercy. The first book in the Department Q series. Now I’ve seen it elsewhere as Keeper of lost causes, but there may be a British title and an American title. Just a heads up. The Danish title is Kvinden i buret which means The Woman in the Cage.
Now this is one of my favourite genre of books. I love a good detective novel and tv show.
I hope you’ll have time to join in on the reading.

27 thoughts on “Gloom for the book club

  1. It takes a sort of courage to plough part-way through a book then admit it’s ‘crap’ and not waste more valuable time on it.

    I perhaps was spoilt by seeing the excellent movie Catch-22 with mates at college, then decades later deciding to read the book.

    IMHO Heller overdid the ‘Major Major’ thing in the book, so yup – I never did bother reading the last 1/4 of it.

    No regrets.

    [The One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest book nearly got the same treatment, but I was after an award for perseverance!]

    Liked by 3 people

    • Especially with the classics.

      I haven’t read or seen Catch-22. I’ve had the book on my bookshelf for years. It’s on my I’ll get around to it eventually shelf.

      I did read a Mark Billingham book, made it halfway through and tossed it in a corner for a year before I slugged through the rest. It was book 4 or something in a series. I really enjoyed the first one, so I’d hunted down the whole series in matching hardbacks. I just hated book 4 so much that after I’d finished it, I gave them all to Leggy’s mum. Waste of good bookshelf space.

      Liked by 3 people

    • I read The Hobbit, it was okay. I made it halfway through Lord of the Rings and just thought life is too short for this. The book was droning on about a journey through the moors and it just felt like you could have gone there faster yourself.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Whereas I’ve managed the lord of the rings but the Hobbit films are deathly boring to me. Guess I just don’t like it

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, CstM. Good to read you again.
    And thank you for the book recommendation. I will search for it.pp
    When I got round to reading Catcher In The Rye I was dissappointed.
    I then assumed that clever people pretend to like obscure art so as to appear smarter than your average pleb. Emperor’s Clothes effect.
    Just know bora da, noswaith dda, and nos da and you will be well in with the mam Gymreig.
    You probably will not need my essential words in every country — Two beers, please.
    Iechyd da.
    PS I have always thought that the Welsh have it easy when it comes to having personalised car registration plates. Some of them might even be rude.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Great to hear from you again 😀
      I’m glad to hear I’m not alone in not understanding the hype around that book.
      There was a quite funny incident of that pretentiousness in Denmark. There’s a big art museum in Aarhus, Aros, it’s a pretty nice place. Now every year, I think, they do a big competition for amateur artists. You can submit your art piece and win a cash prize. One year there was a big buzz about this one art piece called Artist bored in bed. It was some abstract art. These fancy art people were going on about this piece and they were on tv talking about the fascinating composition of the strokes and the choice of colours. After the guy won, he revealed that it was actually a bed sheet his toddler son had painted on. It was pretty hilarious.
      You do sometimes wonder with some of this modern art if they’re just pulling your leg.
      I did try to learn Welsh a while back. There was a lot of swearing involved.
      I don’t think she’d be too impressed if I ordered two beers from her. Also she may just try to sell me my own beer.
      Ohh I want a rude license plate. Maybe I could get one with a Danish swear word.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I couldn’t read trainspotting. God knows what everyone found so brilliant about the damn book. I thought and still think that it is Scottish verbal diarrhoea. I’ve seen books and bought books that I thought were decent but after ploughing through them they remain unfinished and I have no desire to read further.
    If the story breaks then it’s over. Others I binge like TV shows. Can’t get enough of them. Have done 18 books in a series in a week or just over before now.
    In fact I picked up a book in 2017 in the Premier Inn in North Gatwick. Sci fi. I thought easy peasy. Boy was I wrong. I’ve got it around somewhere . Got about halfway through and got disinterested. Still have it but not got rid of the damn thing because I refuse to let the novel beat me. I’m a bit bloodyminded in that respect

    Liked by 1 person

      • Can’t remember the name of the infernal novel. It’s in my summer residence but the 18 book series was the After Cilmeri series

        Liked by 1 person

      • Name of the book is Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds
        ISBN 1-85798-748-9

        It’s a killer to read. Still haven’t finished it


  4. I haven’t read “Catcher” (don’t think I ever will now, especially as I’ve perhaps lived at least 3/4 of my life already – ouch, that’s gotta hurt), but I had a hard job finishing “Brave New World” at school and when I gave it another go 2/3 years ago, rediscovered why. Strange then, perhaps, that my one and only novel was a futuristic dystopic one. Huxley seemed to get caught up in the minutiae of the ‘science’ involved (amongst other things), but should I have expected anything amazing from a relative of Thomas Huxley (Darwin’s bulldog) and Julian Huxley (1st D.G. of UNESCO and, if I remember correctly, head of the Eugenics Society and a fervent globalist)?

    My book is largely first person, but it’s better than B.N.W. (it has to be), but it is also largely third person. I went through the fifth draft changing some 3rd person commentary to 1st person speech/thought, although I have so far only managed half of the fifth draft (the one that is being committed to digital). Would you prefer me to stick to 3rd person? Not that I am so conceited as to think you would read it, let alone recommend it in your book club, let alone think that it will ever be finished, never mind published.

    I think – think – I remember reading on a literary website, that first person is preferable in a novel, but don’t believe everything you read, eh? – or think that you remember that you read!

    What do others think about that, if you have read this far? Maybe you skipped to the end, like I think I probably did when I read B.N.W. at school – think that I probably did – it was a long time ago, come on. I did get my ‘Higher’ in English, but you probably would have guessed that. Sorry, I did it again – probably would have. So, you probably would not have guessed. I must admit that I had never thought about the merits of 1st/3rd before I read that article.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, you prefer first person. Forget all that dribble, I’ll carry on converting to first person. The value of re-reading, unless it is B.N.W. or Sildig opvaagen.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Aaaargh – the value of re-re-reading. The clue was here, “…maybe it’s my aversion of first person character books.” Aaaargh! Reinstall all that dribble into your consciousness. All right, I didn’t get my Higher English after all. Actually, I did. I think I probably did.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I haven’t read Brave New World. It’s on my list of potential future reads, so now I’m a bit nervous about that one.
          You know I read somewhere that there’s a set of rules for detective novels. Agatha Christie was part of the group who made them. One of the rules was you shouldn’t use an instrument that would need a long scientific explanation at the end. I’m guessing a lot of readers don’t have the patience for reading a scientific essay that’s been shoehorned into a novel. Maybe Huxley could have learned from that rule.
          Although he could have done a Blicher. He’s a Danish author, one of the big in the classics. His novels are quite good, but back then he was paid by the word, so some of his things starts out with long, tedious descriptions of the nature of the Danish west coast.

          I wouldn’t mind giving your book a go. However I would recommend picking one perspective through out the entire book. But then I’m no literary genius. I could imagine it could throw off the reader with changing perspectives.
          I think there’s pros and cons to all of the narrative options. The first person you get stuck with that person’s sole perspective, but you can get a good insight into the main character. Plus you can do the whole unreliable narrator trope.
          In third person you get a broader view of all the characters, but you do also risk the side characters becoming superficial or one dimensional.
          But really it could just be a matter of preference or what comes more natural to your writing style.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I don’t know about rules for detective novels, but I suppose it makes sense. I will send you a copy of my book if it ever gets printed. Now that I have a bit more time on my hands I really should try to finish it. I think most potential authors give up at some stage.

            The book actually revolves around different characters in the opening chapters and they all come together at the end.


  5. Are there any second-person novels? Perhaps a prophetic book about the reader (every reader – a bit like every horoscope is for everyone born under a particular “star sign.”) Something like, “You had a difficult childhood (didn’t we all) and one day, you will travel to Australia and read “Brave New World” and hate it. You will be a liberal when you are 20 and a conservative at 40, because you have a heart when young and brains when older. Is plagiarism all right if it is old enough? Apparently, Churchill plagiarised the sentiment himself, that is, if he read the likes of Edmund Burke and Victor Hugo.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am currently re-reading “Dreadnaught” by Robert K Massie.

    It’s not a novel (sorry about that) but in fact an exhustive and comprehensive history book, about the slow, building, ultimately tragic “arms race” (well, that’s what British schoolchildren are taught today, without even knowing who Massie even was) between Britain and the 2nd German Reich, on the naval front.

    Massie deeply analyses the characters of everyone involved from well before the events of 1914, from Qureen Victoria and Prince Albert onwards, and also on the Imperial German side. Also the politicians on both sides who are almost more important.

    It is very intense, dense, fully-occupying reading and very deeply detailed, and is not the book for “a chapter a night”. A chapter might take you four or five or six nights. And it’s almost 1,000 pages. But it should be taught to every British primary-school child aged seven or eight, instead of X-Boxes and Instagram, and instead of what their teachers tell them about “The British Empire”….

    Liked by 1 person

    • That sounds pretty interesting. Especially something my dad would love. I’ll have to keep it in mind for his next birthday. I know he really liked the Stephen Ambrose books. I’m sure one year I got him a book with all sorts of maps detailing the war. He seemed pretty pleased with it. Although he may just have been happy that it wasn’t another uninspired gift of Glenlivet.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Massie’s “Dreadnaught” is also, later, quite technical; for it discusses the mechanics of the quantum-leap in battleship technology and armament occasioned by the building of HmS Dreadnaught. This is another good reason, for people interested in the details of history, to read it.

        The point about that “HMS Dreadnaught” (1906) – certainly not the first of our ships to be called that; one fought the Spanish Armada in 1588 – is that it made instantly all other nations’ battleships obsolete and useless.

        Massie’s book, if people are interested, could be read as a series of novellettas about the individual characters involved in the story.

        Massie wrote a sequel; “Castles of Steel”, covering the actions of the navies of the WW1 belligerents, form 1914 to 1919 when the German High Seas Fleet scuttled itself in Scapa Flow.

        Liked by 1 person

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