Since the middle of February

The Tale of Desperaux – Di Collofello
Very sweet. Not exceptionally good, though, and with an underlying sort of morality which bothered me. Since I rather like rats I objected to the description of them being so nasty to look at and touch (especially in comparison with mice, which are, apparently, not nasty at all), but I can understand how it might be necessary for the story. However, I can’t quite excuse the idea that a rat is a rat and can never change his nature, it smacks – to me – a little of the I’m-trying-to-be-politically-correct-but-I’m-a-racist-really premise that all, say, negroes are lazy, but it’s in their nature and they can’t really help it. Balderdash.

Small Wars Permitting – Christina Lamb
Very interesting, highly readable. My father just finished this when I was trying to get through Sorting Out Billy (see below) and there was no competition, really, I jumped at the chance to read something else. Lamb manages to be both informative, profound and thought-provoking and at the same time laugh-out-loud funny in places. The book contains both newly written context material and quite a few of Lambs articles from various papers and both are equally readable and absorbing. Highly recommended.

Then, a bit of a Durrell reread going on – in between all the other stuff – if I find the time and energy I might write a more detailed post on Durrell, but for now, here’s a list:
The Bafut Beagles – Gerald Durrell
Fillets of Plaice – Gerald Durrell
The Stationary Ark – Gerald Durrell
A Zoo in my Luggage – Gerald Durrell
Catch me a Colobus – Gerald Durrell
The Dunken Forest – Gerald Durrell
Himself and Other Animals – David Hughes (biography)

Sorting Out Billy – Jo Brand
I read only the first half, or thereabouts and then gave it up in disgust. Abysmally bad, actually.

The Book of Lost Things – John Connolly
Entertaining, slightly scary in parts. Well worth the time.

Anybody Out There? – Marian Keyes
Excellent. I was a little worried, not being a great fan of spiritualism and trying to speak to the dead, however, Keyes managed the issue beautifully, I think, and I didn’t cringe even once.

Slam – Nick Hornby
Hornby’s first «young adult» novel, which probably should be compulsory reading for most British teenagers as a sort of literary contraception. Not Hornby’s best book – by far – from an adult point of view, but then that’s hardly the right point of view for judging it.

American Gods – Neil Gaiman

A Ramble Round the Globe – Thomas Dewar
Disappointingly unoccupied with whisky or with advertising, the two main reasons I am interested in Tommy Dewar, but a rather interesting read nonetheless.

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid – Bill Bryson
Just what you’d expect from Bill Bryson: Very good.

Lost for Words – John Humphrys

There seems to be a bit of a red thread going on here, what with all these language-related books, and you might suspect I have been influenced by working at the department of language and communication studies. Which I have, I’m sure. You can’t just blame my employer, though, as we got John Humphrys’ Lost for Words: The Mangling and Manipulating of the English Language in a three for two sale (or something) while on our honeymoon this summer, and I hadn’t started the job then. You might blame my employer for the fact that I’ve just read the book, though, I suppose.

Anyway, Humphrys’ book is basically a collection of examples, or at least that’s what it feels like, with a little discussion around each one and with some conclusions drawn from the evidence. It’s hard to disagree with the conclusions. It’s also hard not to laugh at times, especially when Humphrys reminds me of why I had to quit reading feminist literary theory. It’s because feminists manage to write this sort of thing in good faith and expect us to take them seriously:

Is E= mc2 a sexed equation? Perhaps it is. Let us make the hypotheses that it is insofar as it priveleges the speed of light over other speeds that are vitally necessary to us. What seems to us the possibly sexed nature of the equation is not directly its uses by nuclear weapons, rather it is having priveleged what goes fastest.

(Luce Irigaray, apparently.*)

I can understand that women feel uncomfortable being termed a «chairman» or a «fireman» or any of the other «male» words that have been and are still current in our language(s). I just think that sometimes, perhaps, the so-called feminists go over the top a bit. And that quote is a keeper**, and even if Humphrys’ book did nothing else, providing me with that would still be worth the time and money.

But it does do more. It’s funny, frequently lol funny, and it’s intelligent. In short, it’s a good read.

A thought: I wonder if I ever split infinitives? Let me know if you spot any, will you?

* Actually, one thing this book is missing – which is a major drawback – is proper references.

**The more I read it, the more the mind boggles. Especially at these «other speeds that are vitally necessary to us».