Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Update on Kavan's book " A Stranger Still"

This book is much better then her last "Let Me Alone". It has the same character in it, Anna Kavan, but she has come in to her own. The writing is much more like her book, "The Dark Sisters". I'm really enjoying it.

I process the orders for the library I work for, and one of the tutors has ordered a few of Kavan's later works and the new biography "A Stranger on Earth" by Jeremy Reed. I've been reading this biography along with the books, to get an insight from someone. There isn't a whole lot of scholarly work out there about Kavan, that I've found yet. I'm going to keep looking though. I just think it is interesting that someone that I've discovered for myself is now going to be taught in a literature course.

I told you having the computer in bed would make it easier for me to write! I wonder how many writers actually write in bed???

The Comforters – Muriel Spark

I had to take a second stab at this book. I’ve done that twice now with books, and found the second time I could read them. I’m not sure what makes the difference; probably just my mood…but it did this time. I enjoyed this book very much. It was so different then the other books I’ve been reading by Virginia Woolf and Anna Kavan. In this story, people knew or figured out what was going on in others lives. They didn’t just make assumptions on how the other characters were feeling. In this story they try to find out. Even to the extent of being really nosey. I loved it.

Laurence Manders is a snoop and has been his whole life. His grandmother is up to something, she seems to have a “gang” of men that come around to play cards. He wants to find out what is going on, not because he wants to save her from any wrong doing. He just can’t stand not knowing what is going on with people around him. His grandmother is very proud of his ability to snoop and enjoys his attempts at finding out.

Laurence’s girlfriend, Catherine, has become a devote Catholic, and is on retreat when she is introduced to the story. She comes across Mrs. Hogg who was a servant of the Manders. She seems to be very sinister, though a she says a lot about being a devote Catholic. You spend most of the book trying to figure out what her game is. Catherine runs away from the retreat, because Mrs. Hogg upsets her. When she gets home, she starts hearing a typewriter and voices repeating the thought she has had. This part reminded me so much of the movie “Stranger then Fiction” (which I loved). You wonder if Mrs. Hogg has something to do with this.

So what does all this have to do with each other? You find out that each character is living out their own fantasy, but they soon end up all tangled up with the others. It is so much fun to be taken for the ride and to see what piece is going to fit in where.

This is Spark’s first book, and she bit off a bit more then she could handle….I thought with all the different plot lines…. but she handles it really well. At the end you feel that you’ve had a fun ride and all of the questions have been answered for you. Along with the fact, you get a lot of insight into each character.

I’ve found recently reading the writers of this era; they are really good at describing people and giving you a good explanation of the motives of the characters, without using psycho-babble. For instance Laurence’s Dad finally makes an appearance at the end of the book. He was either on one retreat or another.

…he had been given cause to wonder if he did not make his retreats too frequently. Amazing things occurred at home; extraordinary events which he never heard of till later.

‘Why didn’t you inform me at the time, Helena?’

‘You were in retreat, Edwin.’

He had misgivings then, about his retreats. He told his spiritual director, ‘I might have done better to spend the time at home. My family have had to cope with difficulties…my son…my brother…my mother-in-law…one of our old servants…I might have done better had I not made so many retreats.’

‘You might have done worse,’ said the shrewd old priest, and sounded as if he meant it. It was a humiliating thought, which in turn was good for the soul.

‘They managed admirably without me,’ Edwin Manders admitted.


Edwin has qualms about being out of things at home, but in the end knows that he can’t really handle it. So he is better off in a retreat hiding from the world. I thought Sparks tells us this in a really cunning way, instead of just saying, he can’t handle family problems. Her writing is lovely too. All in all a good read, I mean who could resist a grandmother who runs a gang of thieves!

(Spark, Muriel. The Comforters. London: Macmillian, 1985.)

Friday, April 11, 2008

I have been reading, believe it or not.

In fact I’ve been reading a lot. I just haven’t felt like sitting in front of the computer at home. I have to do so much of it at work. I’m going to try and use my laptop a bit more, so that I can type in bed where I usually do my reading. I’ll see if that encourages me. Only problem is, I keep hitting the wrong buttons....ugh!!! This keyboard is so different.

So what have I been reading.....I've been trying to get back into some of my mysteries, as well as keep up with my "header" reading. I've also been reading a very good book about depression "Just Shoot the Damn Dog" by Sally Brampton. If you have suffered from depression, or know someone going through it...it is a great book. Makes you know that even though you aren't "sane" you aren't "different" then any other depressive! (Though I have to admit I hate the title.....being a dog lover!)

I've waded through Helen Ferguson/Anna Kavan's "Let Me Alone". I was just working on the review for that, but not sure if I can manage it. It is a bit difficult. There are so many different parts to it. It is autobiographical, the main characters name Anna Kavan, was taken on years later by Ferguson. It describes much of what Ferguson's life must have been like, so you don't really know where fiction and non-fiction meet. There really isn't a plot, you are just going through birth to the early 20's of the main character. Unexplainable things happen to her by other people. For example, her Dad stands her against the barn and shoots her outline with a gun. She doesn't flinch or scream, and you don't really get a sense of why other then he wanted her to be strong, or to hate him. I can't decide. Happiness seems to always be enjoyed for short spurts before people around her effect her life in a negative way. I think in the end of the book, she is finally able to choose how she wants her life to be. Well, I'll find out. I'll be reading the sequel "A Stranger Still" next.

I've also read the charming "Tales of Hill Top Farm" by Susan Wittig Albert. My mom had been bugging me for ages to read any of this series. I have to say I loved it. It helps that I love Beatrix Potter, who is the main character, and love the area the book is set in. I've been fortunate to have vacationed for a week in the Lake District and went to Hill Top Farm. My husband and I bought ourselves a large rustic wood carving of Squirrel Nutkin. The characters are interesting and like Rita Mae Brown's Sneaky Pie books, they talk...but only to each other, not to the humans.

I could go on, but I want to work on a real review....so Happy reading!