I’ve just finished re-reading C. S. Lewis’s first Christian book, The Pilgrim’s Regress. Published in 1933, just four years after he “gave in and admitted the God was God … perhaps the most dejected and reluctant convert in England”, the book is an allegorical account of his own journey into Christianity, which was largely a philosophical rather than emotional or personal one.
I very much enjoyed the first three quarters or so; but as the book draws towards its climax, the characters display a regrettable tendency to break into poetry — a form which I have always struggled with.
And Then There Were None — Agatha Christie
Arguably Christie’s most ridiculous plot — it strands its principal cast on an island and features ten murders and a suicide. Yet also, oddly, one of her most successful books, both commercially and artistically. If Wikipedia is to be trusted, it’s not only Christie’s best-selling book, but the fifth-best selling single-volume book of all time (surpassed only by The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Little Prince and, er, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. All seven of the Harry Potter books make it into the top 20).
Is it worthy of that level of popularity? Well, no, of course not. Continue reading
In November 2016, an anonymous critic wrote a sustained analysis on Andrew Rilstone’s now classic essay “On Monday I placed two apples“. The critique was published without a title, and is referred to for convenience as On “On Monday I placed two apples”.
I was fortunate enough to receive in the post a pamphlet containing this analysis, from an anonymous sender. It is itself a fascinating piece of work. The author appears to have had unprecedented access to Rilstone, allowing him or her a level of insight into the creative process not previously seen in other critical appraisals.
The Martian — Andy Weir (for the second time)
I read this not long ago; but having seen the film in the mean time, I was keen to re-read it. (As I own the paperback, I cheerfully pirated a copy for my Kindle. How do you like them apples?)
I’m glad I did. Even though I knew what was going to happen at every stage, I enjoyed it just as much this time as I did before. I relish the brutal technicality of Mark Watney’s struggle to survive a year and a half on Mars alone, and I enjoy the leavening of humour, often at the most unexpected points.
CAREER OF EVIL — ROBERT GALBRAITH
As we all now know, Robert Galbraith is the detective-novel pseudonym of J. K. Rowling. I read Career of Evil, the third book in the Cormoran Strike series, not because I wanted to read Rowling particularly, but because the book is heavily influenced by the songs of Blue Öyster Cult — a band that I love.
But I got more than I bargained for. Rowling-as-Galbraith is a compelling author: not a much better prose stylist than Rowling-as-Rowling, but with the same knack for narrative that makes you want to read on. Continue reading
BASKET CASE — CARL HIAASEN
Can’t remember too much about this one: I seem to remember it involves the decline of journalism and the transformation of newspapers into advert mills, but that’s just the backdrop. The actual plot has slipped away since I read it. I do remember that I enjoyed it, though, so make of that what you will. Continue reading
[See also previous and subsequent posts in this series.]
ALL THINGS CONSIDERED — G. K. CHESTERTON
Ridiculously, I can’t remember a single thing about this one.
THE STAMP COLLECTIVE — PAUL SCHIERNECKER
A pleasant but unremarkable take of three mismatched young-adult brothers who put aside their differences to gain revenge on a father who they feel has let them down. I have the sequel on my Kindle (having downloaded both when they were temporary freebies) but don’t have much inclination to read it. I probably will do eventually. Continue reading