My next blog will be on the newly published Let me be Frank with you which is a welcome addition to Richard Ford’s three Frank Bascombe novels about which you can read in earlier blogs (click on the Richard Ford link in the Tagged list below). It promises to be every bit as good, maybe, as he matures, even better, than the first three. Put it on your Christmas list for yourself and even give copies to others! My review in about a week.
With so many books on my shelves that are either still to read or which I very much want to read again – right now it’s Middlemarch –, what do I need with not one or two but three book clubs that will be sending me still more books over the next twelve months? And yet, for their different reasons, they have all appealed to me. At least, all of them will be sending me physical books and I can continue my one-man campaign to boycott e-book readers. Admittedly, that’s not quite consistent with my own novel, Rembrandt Sings, being available across all e-platforms but, as the closing line of Some Like it Hot says, “Nobody’s perfect.”
Theatre-going book lovers have three wonderful novels they should be reading over the next two or three months, in anticipation of forthcoming stagings at the RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon and The Orange Tree, Richmond.
Over the years, many books and films have been successfully or otherwise adapted for the theatre. As long as we remember that, in a different medium, the story becomes a different work of art
Of the several Wolfe books I’ve read, two in particular stand out. The Electric Kool Acid Test (1968) came as shock to the system, mine, and almost everyone else’s. The stylistic juxtaposition of stream of (chemically altered) consciousness and journalism was a mind-bending experience. (I admit too that, a few years later, I wasn’t altogether happy that my son found and read it.) Twenty years later, Wolfe gave us the Bonfire of the Vanities (1987) which came out just as capitalist greed was being pronounced good for us by our political rulers in the US and UK, and by our real masters and manipulators in the financial world. Bonfire may have taken its title from Savonarola and Florence 500 years earlier but the book reads as a contemporary roman à clef with its principal characters being a WASP, a Jew, a Brit and a Black. Wolfe originally wrote the book as a Charles Dickens style serial which helped to add chapter-by-chapter tension to the tale. Set in New York, its themes are race, class, politics and greed. An ear for demotic talk and an eye for how people walk, such as the ‘pimp roll’ that was fashionable among young black street-wise men, helps to imprint the story on our minds and give it much apparent verisimilitude. A further 25 years on and, like many from the America’s chilly North-East, the story moves south to Florida and is set in present-day Miami. Wolfe’s third remarkable book is Back to Blood. [London: Jonathan Cape, 2012]