Book club

So, I joined a book club early last year. It's a relaxed affair that takes place once every 6 weeks or so in a cool little bar in Shimokitazawa. The beer flows along with the discussion. It does sometimes get very animated, but so far there hasn't been a drunken brawl. I do think, though that it's just a matter of time and a question of finding the right book.

I did initially intend to write a review of each of the books we read; an erudite record of the scholarly heights we scale, but as that doesn't really describe the nature of the meetings, I have since decided to summarize briefly either my own response or the consensus of the group.

These are the ones we've looked at so far; I'll bump it as we go along:

Ian McEwan – Solar: with the exception of one or two scenes, possibly the least funny comedy since Love Thy Neighbour, and yet strangely compelling as a narrative.

Kazuo Ishiguro – An Artist of the Floating World: absolutely fascinating study into the view the narrator has of the world/history and his place in it, and a running suggestion of how that might differ from anyone (everyone) else’s perspective. Poetic prose to boot.

Julian Barnes – The Sense of an Ending: referring to its winning the Booker; the sense of a carve-up more like. You wrote a nasty letter, you didn’t impregnate your girlfriend’s mother, so get over yourself, you dick.

John Banville – The Infinities: a lesson in taking a book on its own (de)merits, and not being influenced by the author’s other novels previously read. Possibly an example of the Chuck Berry/My ding-a-ling effect.

Graham Swift – Wish You Were Here: Careful, insightful study into the nature of family, lineage and responsibility. The plot springs on a spat that is hardly earth-shattering, which in turn means the denouement is somewhat predictable. There is also a feeling that Swift’s reveal is so ponderous that we actually don’t care one way or the other when it eventually comes. That’s a shame though, because the writing is wonderfully crafted, and the characters are beautifully drawn.  

Lionel Shriver – We Need to Talk About Kevin: well actually we don’t, to be perfectly honest. Especially if we’ve not thought things through first. Certainly not if you don’t really know what you’re talking about.

Patrick Dewitt – The Sisters Brothers: realistic, atmospheric, filmic western

Philip Roth – Portnoy’s Complaint: That Alex, what a wanker! The 'punchline' at the end of the novel is spot on, and we can 'start' by turning straight to Naomi's description of Alex in the preceding chapter.  


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