It’s no secret that I’m a lover of Agatha Christie and that I won’t accept people underestimating her. You may remember that I got angry when The Truants got compared to the Queen of Crime when it wasn’t even a pale imitation. I got even more annoyed when the characters were talking about the books as some twee and childish examples of literature. Christie is a fantastic writer. She understands people and their motives better than most writers. She knows what she’s talking about and she has written some of the best twists of all time. She has ruined me for contemporary crime writers because I know what to look for. I always see it coming because Agatha taught me well. Yesterday was the 130th anniversary of her birth. 2020 also marks the 100th anniversary of her first book being published. It’s a big year for Christie fans. So, as I’m still nowhere near finishing my current read, I decided to dedicate my second bookish post this week to her.Read more
This would typically be the time that I post a book review but, unfortunately, I was never going to finish a book for today. I’m so used to reading shorter books at the moment that I completely underestimated the time it would take to read a 300+ page book. When it comes to books, size doesn’t matter. Some of the best books that I’ve read recently have been around 200 pages. I know in certain parts of the bookish community, there is something competitive about book size. To some people, if you’re not reading long books then you aren’t doing it right. Me? I’ll do whatever it takes to get enough books read in a week. With a full-time job and other committments, shorter books are the best way to do that. Of course, this means that I’ve got quite an arsenal of quick reads ready to recommend.Read more
Talk about “exciting times”. There was a huge question mark over whether or not I’d get this book finished in time to write my review today. I had a bit of chunk left on Monday night but I had an early blood test the next day. This meant minimum late-night reading. The plan was to finish it on my lunch break on Tuesday. Unfortunately, that never happened. A big issue with working from home is the proximity of my bed to my workstation. I tend to eat lunch as I work and have a break later in the afternoon. This means I can spend the whole time doing nothing. Yesterday, I set my alarm for an hour and had a nap. It was pathetic. I’m not going to be fit for anything once I’m no loner shielding. Still, it got me through the rest of the day. It did mean that I had to quickly get through the final 60 pages and write this review all in the same night. As you can guess, I managed it and with a pretty good chunk of time to spare. It’s all down to the power nap.
I have owned a copy of this book for a really long time but never got around to reading it. A few weeks ago, my friend convinced me to join her virtual book club. I had initially declined because I didn’t want to add anything else to my schedule. I already struggle to read and watch enough to write all of my posts, so adding the additional pressure of a book club to the mix seemed silly. But they pick a short read at the start of the month and discuss it at the end. I figured that even I could handle that. So a few weeks ago the choices for books came out. This one was on it and I selfishly picked. Well, it meant I wouldn’t have to buy a new book. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one. The fact that it was a short read meant that I put it off for ages but I still got it done in time. And it feels great to have finished a book I’ve had on my shelf for so many years. Has it inspired me to read the rest? Not quite. Maybe if all of them were that small I would.
In my bookish post last Wednesday, I had a bit of a rant about people judging books on their unsavoury topics over their literary merit. This is something that has always bothered me about Lolita and bothered me about My Dark Vanessa. Despite being one of the most hyped debuts this year, I have still seen plenty of readers respond negatively to the book. Even as they praise the writing, they just can’t believe anyone would dare to write about that topic. When did we, as a society, decide that we should sweep things like this under the rug? As if even saying the word paedophile was promoting it. It’s insane. Yet do they care about all of the psychological thrillers that play fast and loose with serial killers to titillate their audience. The kind of books that get off on terrorising broken woman because the men in their lives are fucked up for no real reason. No, everyone loves those fucking books. Girl on a Train and those like it are universally praised by readers despite the content and despite the fact they have less literary worth than Nabokov’s most famous novel. What the fuck is wrong with people?
As children we’re so often told that one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. It’s a quaint little adage that I completely agree with when talking about people but not when talking about actual books. As any bookish person will tell you, you can very often tell whether or not you’ll like a book based on the cover art. I buy the majority of my books based on chance encounters in book shops. The typical romantic-comedy meet cute kind of thing. I walk into a bookshop, come face to face with something beautiful, everything gets a bit blurry, strings start playing in the background, I read the synopsis, we’re a perfect match, and we end up going home together. It’s a tale as old as time. And exactly what happened with the last book that I read. It was just your everyday lunchtime book shop browse and I fell in love. With a simple white cover with a black illustration. It was creepy. It was gorgeous. I had to pick it up. As soon as I read the word Frankenstein on the back I was doomed. I’d never read anything by Marcus Sedgwick but, if this cover told me anything, I knew this was going to be for me.
I often worry about books that everyone tries to force me to read. There have been so many occasions where I’ve read a super hyped book and been utterly disappointed. When my friend gave me a copy of Gone Girl it was accompanied by the fact that Molly Ringwald had loved it. You’ll probably remember from my ’30 Books for My 30th’ series that I never finished Gone Girl because it bored me to tears. Everyone I know raves about how good it is and how shocking the twist is. I feel like they must be reading a different book to me. I could see where it was going from the start. Then there was The Girl on the Train, which was celebrated as the new Gone Girl and named as a “must read”. Another super obvious and boring psychological thriller. I hated it but I did finish it. So, when I saw Eleanor Oliphant all over Instagram I became suspicious. It started to win awards and a friend of mine kept insisting that I read it. Still, I wouldn’t let myself believe. It wasn’t until I stumbled across a cheap copy in a charity shop that I decided it was time to read it. Would it be as good as everyone would have me believe?
Can you fucking believe it? I’m posting another book review only a week after my last one. It’s insane. I’m actually doing this reading thing properly. If you’re not careful I might actually become a proper book blogger. You know, the kind that posts book reviews more often than vague ramblings or book tags. Probably don’t hold your breath but who knows. Still, lets not dwell on it too much or my progress will be ruined. To the review! I started reading Less last week because I didn’t feel that I was really paying enough attention to LGBTQ+ reads during Pride. It was actually this irrational (but justified maybe?) fear that my reading wasn’t diverse enough that caused me to buy Less after I had bypassed it on so many occasions. I even bought it full price so determined was I to read something appropriate this month. I have to y, I was shocked by how easily I got into the story and always looked forward to my nightly visit to the world of Arthur Less. Maybe it helps that the character of Arthur kinda reminds me of someone I work with but, really, that’s probably only because he’s the only 50 year-old gay man who I know personally. But, hey, it got me reading so who cares…
Dear John Donne,
What happened to you, man? You used to be the man. I mean you once tried to convince a woman to sleep with you using a fucking flea. You were one of the original players, dude. Legendary. The fact that, whilst we studied you at the age of 16, my elderly English teacher had to explain the “sucking on country pleasures” pun to one of my clueless and naive classmates just makes me love you more. There’s nothing funnier than a woman nearing, if not having surpassed, retirement age trying so hard not to say the word “cunt” to her A Level class but being unable to explain it in any other way. It’s one of my favourite school memories. I kind of adored her anyway but that really settled it.
So, yeah. I had a lot of fun reading your poetry at 16. It was hilarious. Also, it’s not as if they’re bad poems. I actually really like them. I’d started to get more into poetry by that point anyway (it was after my first day with the Ancient Mariner) but you were accessible and different. Pretty clever stuff. But, it was your way with the ladies that really captivated my friends and I. We thought you were great. I mean talk about using your powers for evil, John. I know poetry has always been used in the pursuit of romance but you skipped the love hearts and got straight into the bedroom. You were the ultimate bro. You were a legend.
Well, until my further education introduced me to the yawn fest that is your later work. And I get it. You always struggled with your religion but don’t worry about it. Don’t turn your back on the man you once were. I’m sure God would have appreciated your resourcefulness. Using your talents. Your God-given talents. Of course, I have nothing against these poems from a literary point of view. They’re good. They’re just not fun. And I always associated you with fun. It’s like watching comic actors/comedians doing serious acting roles. It’s not necessarily bad but it’s always a little bit disappointing.
You’re like Eddie Izzard. I love Eddie Izzard and think he’s one of the funniest people ever. His comedy is bizarre but so hilarious. Nowadays, you only ever see Eddie popping up talking about politics. In theory I have no problem with this and think he talks a lot of sense. However, I still kind of wish he was still talking about cake or death. Or like Michael Sheen. I have huge love for Michael Sheen and think he’s one of the greatest actors ever. So, it’s always a bit of upsetting to see him on TV talking about how Port Talbot and not pretending to be Tony Blair. Not bad but upsetting.
You see what I’m saying? No? Here’s one more stupid, pop culture analogy for you. You’re like Kings of Leon. I think Youth and Young Manhood, they’re very first album, is one of the greatest all-round albums I’ve ever heard and I, personally, don’t think any of their subsequent stuff has ever lived up. I’ve enjoyed a few songs here and there but have never been able to listen to full albums in one sitting. So I, basically, just listen to their early stuff. Just as I, basically, just enjoy your early poems. You see? Simple.
I’m glad I’ve finally taken the time to explain it to you. I feel like this letter will only bring us closer together.
More than kisses, letters mingle souls,
I don’t even know if I really do love your poetry. I love you as a person and your reputation so much that I can no longer distinguish between the two. You’re like the Sean Bean of Romantic poetry. I have such a great love for Sean Bean that I have no judgement over his films anymore. I can’t separate the awesome Northern badass for the awful characters he’s playing these days. Similarly, whenever I read your poems I just think of the rock star you once were and can’t tell if I actually like them. Chances are your poems are much more impressive than Sean Bean’s recent filmography but, hopefully, you get my point.
You see, I’m already getting flustered talking to you. I’m like all of those women who believed you were writing love poetry to them. You were the first rock star poet, man. You were like Tom Jones. Did women throw their underwear at you too? Did you appear someone to read your poetry and loads of horny women would just throw their undergarments at you? They did faint in your presence after all. You turned all of your female fans into the heroine of a gothic novel. How could I not love you? I’d probably have been one of them.
But I do, also, appreciate your poetry. Although, you are responsible for one of the most embarrassing moments in my university career. During my third year I took a half-course on you and Shelley. I was excited. I already loved you and I took the chance to do anything linked to Romanticsm. In one of our seminars we were tasked to analyse small sections of the poem Don Juan. My friend and I were given Dudù’s dream sequence, which pre-seminar I had only skimmed over. It took us both a ridiculously long time to understand what was going on. Our tutor thought we were both idiots and I felt so naive. Still, we got there in the end.
I’m not stupid enough to believe that you are the best poet to come out of the Romantic period but I believe that you, more than the others, really sum up what it meant to be a poet of that era. You rejected so many social norms and did what you wanted. You embraced your celebrity, you wanted a fun and exciting life, and you were an artist in your own way. More than anything, you’re fun. I mean, what would vampire fiction have been without you? John Polidori based the first ever true fictional vampire on you. You’re the reason we have Dracula, dude. You’re quite a guy. I’ve never felt the same way reading the poets of Keats, Shelley or Wordsworth as I do reading yours. You may not be the greatest but you’re the most entertaining. And the one that caused the biggest stir. Nowadays, women may be more likely to swoon over pretty-boy Keats. If we’re talking about the real Romantic pinup then, in my heart I know, it’s you.
There is no instinct like that of the heart,