By Nick Cave.
This book was only ‘OK’. It had its moments but only on the descriptive side. Cave has a fantastic turn of phrase at times but it isn’t enough to save a novel that was quite predictable and not really very entertaining idea-wise. Which is a pity as his first novel had many ideas and was really strong I thought. After a while it was as though you were just waiting for it to finish – which is not how reading a book should be. You can forgive him all of this because he is Nick Cave and if you have an affinity, as I do, with the dark, brooding storytelling that fills his songs then the novel makes some sense and is more engaging. The delight Cave takes with words and phrases is what saves this book for me. If it was written by anyone else… I probably wouldn’t read it. For that reason the soundtrack for the novel has to be the Go-betweens song about Patti Smith.
The phrases fell like decadent pieces of meat, rich, enigmatic and meant only for the the obscure at heart. Bunny stopped and thought – shouldn’t that be the ‘pure’ at heart. It didn’t really matter he decided – Bunny Munro had booty products to sell.
Soundtrack: The Go-betweens – When She Sang About Angels.
By Italo Svevo
Another great book by Svevo. I am not sure if this counts as one of his novels because it is quite short. It was written after Zeno I believe and it is different to what had written previously. It is still concerned with provincial life and creativity within this state but you empathise more completely with the main character for a change. The little parables the old writer creates are amusing and worthwhile and while there is an ironic touch from the narrator it doesn’t get in the way. I also liked the article at the end written by someone who worked in a bookshop Svevo used to frequent. Apparently when Svevo was on his deathbed and he knew he was dying on the day after his car accident he asked for a last cigarette (something his character Zeno and Svevo himself was always proclaiming – which it never was). When this was denied he said that obviously he had really had his last cigarette. He then went on to say (while smiling) that dying is actually very easy, much easier that writing a novel you know.
By Joseph Conrad.
A fine novel and I think quite unusual for its time. The camera or narrator follows each of the characters for a while and then moves on to another and doesn’t return to their view again – apart from the main character Verloc. The best thing about the novel are the things left unsaid and you are not given any of the characters in their entirety. They have a history and possibly a future that is only hinted at. When you first read the back cover you get the gist of the plot and this pans out as expected but the details are not expected and the questions left unanswered make this novel incredibly satisfying. I can’t remember the last time when I was free to imagine scenarios and outcomes after finishing a novel; even in considering how the characters had got to the place that the novel covers. So, this is definitely a creative novel and one where someone could pickup writing where Conrad left off and… maybe ruin it. I will read more Conrad over the dark London winter.
By Italo Svevo.
This book really is only of interest if you like Svevo. I like Svevo and these collections of letters and articles were amusing and insightful. In ‘Confessions of Zeno’ one of the characters says to Zeno late in life that he has become an amusing man. After reading these I believe that this same comment must have been levelled at Svevo. He has his melancholy moments though, particularly when he is separated from his wife in the early letters. Later she would mostly join him on his trips to London and their being apart would have been less. It is also very illuminating to see an intelligent outsiders view of London and ‘the English’ at the turn of last century. Svevo can’t get to grips with the Cockney but the freedom of life in England seemed greater than in Trieste which is probably why he and his wife spent so many years on and off at 67 Church Lane in Charlton. The last article is possibly the most enjoyable. It was for a lecture that he never gave (deciding to talk about his friend James Joyce instead) giving a humorous and candid overview of English life. Definitely worth my time reading.