Another week, another batch of books (although most have only been part read).
Last week I wrote a bit about Flann O’Brien; I had started rereading The Hard Life and was reminiscing about a long-ago holiday in Ireland. Well, I finished the book, enjoyed it and, as is my wont, immediately looked for something else to read. I did what I generally tend to do when looking for something to read – scroll through the books on my Kobo to see what strikes my fancy.
I started several books but, at first, couldn’t find anything that I wanted to spend a day or two reading; My Booky Wook by Russell Brand (might be fun but not what I was looking for), Wounds to Bind by Jerry Burgan (about the birth of folk-rock in the US, focusing on the group that Burgan was in, We Five, who I’ve never heard of. Interesting but, again, not quite what was needed), The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri (the first novel about Inspector Montalbano. My wife and I enjoyed watching these on TV and the novel seems promising but, again, not just now).
Then I came across a book that seemed as though it would satisfy my needs, Selling the Sixties: the pirates and pop music radio by Robert Chapman.
I remember the pirates. When I was at school, Morecambe Grammar in the early to mid-sixties, I used to listen to Radio Caroline on a transistor radio while on my way to school on the bus. There was little else to listen to, the BBC was rubbish if you wanted to hear pop music, and Radio Luxembourg was better but the reception was lousy. So Radio Caroline was the answer to a prayer. It started broadcasting from Ramsey Bay in the Isle of Man on 6th July 1964, a year before I finished school.
I can remember some of the music that was played; Tobacco Road by The Nashville Teens was definitely one, and a song I still think is fantastic, The Days of Pearly Spencer by David McWilliams, an Irish singer-songwriter who, I believe, should have been better known.
All in all an fascinating book, but probably only to those who have an interest in the pirates.
So this took two or three days to read, then it was back to the Kobo search. I read a few pages of Bamboo and Blood, the third Inspector O novel by James Church. I had previously read the first two and very much enjoyed them, but it wasn’t crime fiction I was looking for. Then I came across Sky’s Dark Labyrinth by Stuart Clark, a novel about Kepler and Galileo the revolutions in astronomy and religion precipitated by their theories about the cosmos. It’s written by an astronomer so has lots about the solar system and theories about the movements of the stars and planets, all of which I find fascinating.
It also has a great front cover, at least I think so.
But, again, I read about fifty pages and decided I wanted something different. That’s how I am with books, capricious and undisciplined. So it was back to Calibre to find something else.
Eventually I came across a book I had last read probably almost fifty years ago. Like The Hard Life it’s set, at least at the beginning, in and around Dublin and, like The Hard Life, it’s by an Irish author.
The book is The Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy and is about the exploits of Sebastian Dangerfield, a fairly dissolute young American who is studying law at Trinity College, Dublin.
In common with other books I have reread, I couldn’t remember much about the novel, except that I had enjoyed it and that, as far as I could remember, there were some sex scenes (one of my criteria for ‘good books’ in my teens). I’m about a fifth of the way in and I’m enjoying it up to now. The language is inventive, moving between third and first person, past and present tense, description and stream-of-consciousness,
“The toasted bird was put on the green table. O’Keefe driving a fork into the dripping breast and ripping off the legs. Pot gives a tremble on the shelf. Little curtains with the red spots flutter. A gale outside. When you think of it, O’Keefe can cook. And this is my first chicken since the night I left New York and the waiter asked me if I wanted to keep the menu as a memory and I sat there in the blue carpeted room and said yes.”
.So that’s where I’m at today, reading and enjoying another novel about Ireland. What will be next? Tune in for next weeks thrilling episode.