Wednesday, January 10, 2007

And how the other half of C&P live...

While Matty C was avoiding Hippies in darkest zummerzet, I was...

Having a swim here...

Played Golf here...

And took a cable car up here...

Ah, the benefits of a bookselling life! There's just SO much money swimming around!

BUT, it wasn't all play, some serious holiday reading had to be done. In order:

The Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism, Self-Hatred and The Jews by David Mamet.

I saw this on a US website and got it in because I'm a big fan of Mamet's work on stage and in film, Oleanna, House of Games, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Spanish Prisoner, Heist, Spartan etc. His work has always struck me as having a moral ambiguity even though it addresses themes of good and evil, right and wrong. What I didn't realise is just how devout a Jew Mamet actually is. This book is a scathing and raging attack on those Jews who deny their heritage and replace it with the fads of 21st century mumbo-jumbo - therapy, yoga, buddhism, etc. Mamet's rage builds and builds and serves to throw a sharp light on his fiction work which leads me to see there is actually a furious and righteous anger at play. It was just as well I read this before this:

In Defence of Atheism: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism and Islam by Michel Onfray

This is a proof copy of a 300,000 selling book in France that is released here in may by Serpent's Tail. As a bit of an atheist myself and one frustrated by a lot of weak writing on the subject (The God Delusion anyone?) I'm always keen to look out for other people's processes at how they've arrived at their godlessness. This is a much stronger book than Dawkins' and is not wholly dismissive of the human desire for the mythic but it is a corruscating attack on the three monotheisms with particular attention paid to the rampant misogyny present in organised religion throughout the last 2000 years.
Despite being in the Fench Intellectual Style and occasionally ranting it is highly accessible and articulate and as a champion of the endangered Enlightenment project, Onfray will only get my utmost support.
Christopher Hitchens has a book out from Atlantic in May called God Is Not Great: The Case Against Religion. Should be an interesting month...

My two fiction reads this holiday were two Melville House novellas:

My Life by Anton Chekhov

If you held a gun to my head and forced me to give you my favourite author then Chekhov would come out top with virtually no rival. Perception is an over-used and under-valued word but Chekhov has no rival. His empathy and imagination to fully inhabit characters is extraordinary and this story of a young man struggling with his heritage, his fathers' expectations and his place in the world is so intelligent and moving and profound it almost brings tears to my eyes.

First Love by Ivan Turgenev

Another Russki and not quite as subtle as Chekhov but equally affecting and moving. A story that could almost veer on the melodramatic is saved once again by empathy and tragedy. The thing that both these novellas share however is their modernity. Both could have been written yesterday they are so fresh and pertinent.

So, that's my hols for another 50 weeks. Back to reality now and we can look forward to the next post on the blog on the joys of Lambeth Council Commercial Waste services. (Or lack thereof)

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