Friday, January 07, 2011
The enemy of the conventional wisdom is not ideas but the march of events.
Learning to surf. Clifton Beach, December 2010.
We’ve had a bit of a slow reading period over Christmas and the New Year (if you don’t count kids’ books). Actually, I enjoyed the kids’ books somewhat more than one of the novels I just finished.
For the record, the new Charlie and Lola book Henry and Ezra got for Christmas – Slightly Invisible – is a tour de force. It is an absolutely new and completely original book from the mind of Lauren Child. Without wanting to give too much away, Charlie and his gravelly-voiced East Ender chum Marv are in search of strange and tricky creatures. Of course, they would prefer to do this without little sister Lola bothering and interrupting. Luckily, Lola knows exactly how to catch strange and tricky creatures and enlists a little bit of help from her (slightly) invisible friend, Soren Lorensen, and the pulsating narrative goes from here….
Equal parts Dostoyevsky and Evelyn Waugh, the forever delightful Charlie and Lola explore the blurred boundaries that exist between siblings. Highly recommended!
Second is Luck, by Gert Hofmann. This one came with good reviews, but I must say that it really just didn't do it for me. A child's-eye view of a family in decline is usually meaty subject matter with potential, but when your major characters fail to engender any kind of sympathy, and while the young narrator could (should?) be the source of this sympathy, in this book he seemed merely a cipher to the other (frustrating and annoying) people in his life. Maybe it might work for you, but I can’t recommend it in any good conscience.
However, much was redeemed by a cracking little book by another German, Uwe Timm. The book is The Invention of Curried Sausage, and it’s a beautiful mediation on women, men, circumstances, knitting and curried sausage.
It’s a lovely capture of a specific time and place, and reflection on what are really universal human relations. As the title indicates, at its heart is the search for the inventor of the Currywurst, a popular German fast-food consisting of hot pork sausage (cut into slices and seasoned with curry sauce (regularly consisting of tomato paste blended with curry) and generous amounts of curry powder,
As interesting as the mystery behind the sausage is though, for a short novel the arch is grand in scope: subtle resistance in a totalitarian state, post-war economics, gender relations in wartime, age and beauty, trust and desire, personal moments stolen during times of profound change.
It’s well worth the effort, and I couldn’t recommend it more highly. It won’t take too long to get through either.