Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Reading, reading, reading

So what can a guy do when there is virtually no cultural life, no restaurants, little social life, but read.  Lots of books, all so far very interesting, but I wonder how long it will take me to use up the books in Exclusive Books in Riverwalk Mall of Gaborone? At least at the moment they have their winter sale, which helps. Need to look in Stellenbosch next week - I hope they will have a wider choice.

What did I read?

Brighton Rock, by Graham Greene (1938). A scary book set in the underworld of Brighton, with knife-gangs etc (as they say they had in Glasgow in the 1950s). Some desperate guys kill a guy (except it seems he died of fright before they managed to kill him). A woman with big boobs has her suspicions about his 'natural death' and pursues the gang. It describes their rather horrid lives rather well - there is a rather complex character, all of 17, who runs the gang, and who has had the usual upbringing of reform school and so on. What surprises me about him is that he does not drink or smoke and he hates sex, perhaps because, in his family's one-roomed flat, he saw his parents at it every Saturday. But a 17-year-old boy, with hormones all over the place? A bit strange....

The Bad Mother's Handbook, by Kate Long - about a single mother (aged 33) of a clever 17-year-old daughter living on a council estate somewhere in the North of England, and with a rather batty mother herself, who slips in and out of dementia. Except there is a secret..... and the daughter herself follows her mother's footsteps. Very amusing in between all the drama. Well worth a read if you understand life in the North of England.

Spud, by John van de Ruit, written as a diary by a 14/15 year old boy in a South African boarding school. It's very funny, though I hope not too many of the events in the book happened to folks I know who went to boarding school.  The narrator comes across as rather a complex child, singing in the choir one minute and up to no good the next.

A book by a South African author (currently lent out, cannot remember author's name or the book's title) about a Jewish family in South Africa and their black servants (in passing). Told by all the different characters (which makes each chapter difficult to sus out - just who exactly is talking here?). The grandparents come from Lithuania, and for some reason talk about Polish money (fair enough), had a terrible life in Lithuania (ditto), spoke little Russian (why would they speak Russian if they were using Polish money) and speak much Yiddish (when suddenly the Lithuanian word 'bulves' = potatoes) drops into it.  The book is set in the 1950s when the main character, a child, is a young child, and goes on. It's very interesting psychologically, with the child/family having to deal with a mother who clearly sinks into deep depression (understandable, under the circumstances described in the book), but no-one in the family is able to deal with the woman's rejection of any help.  Only much later, after the woman is dead, the daughter realises what difficulties her mother had to struggle with.  Initially it seems a bit corney, but when you get into it, you really (or I really did) get into the child's suffering.  I can't believe I can't find the book on the internet. Would help if I remembered any of the characters' names; I have a feeling it was shortlisted for some (UK?) prize within the last few years....I picked it because I have a South African Jewish friend who would have been about 10 years older than the child in the book.

A wild sheep chase' by Haruki Murakami; a usual Murakami thriller-type book involving the slightly weird and wonderful. Great reading, as always, less sex than usual (:-().  Unputdownable.

And I am still reading 'MacroPsychoanalyse', an economics/psychoanalytic textbook (in French) about how any economic models are really run by emotions (as is everything, in my view, even if, sometimes, it is the denial of emotions, which also gives its own message). Very interesting, converting the individual model of people (in French 'le ça', 'le moi' and 'le supermoi', as well as 'la pulsion de la vie' and 'la pulsion du mort'). Fascinating stuff, it really is - but it is so threatening to people to talk about emotions in relation to what they think are rational decisions.  I'm waiting for a few more books on the same topic, should they ever arrive in Botswana.  It's not quite as easy to get into it in French....

But Philip Roth's book, 'Our Gang' or 'Le théâtre de Sabbath' in French may be one step too far for my French. It's sitting there, and I have laboured through a few pages.....