Friday, March 11, 2011

How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct.


Blue. Kangaroo Bay, Bellerive. February 2011.

Another week, another few books. This week I have a bigger one and a littler one.

Let’s start with the little one, shall we?

Although Alan Bennett is better associated with the world of theatre, he has ventured into TV, radio and literature. In The Clothes They Stood Up In, he brings his attention to detail and illustration of contemporary life through the eyes of Mrs. Ransome's, a seemingly dreary figure left behind by modern society.

The central premise of the book – suddenly all the worldly possessions of a suburban couple are removed from their flat – allows the author the leeway to create an atmosphere of stilted repression in which one character, gradually, is able to discover the world’s ability to delight her, even arouse her.

It’s a surprisingly dark piece, and tackles one of my favourite topics: stuff and its capacity to blunt our senses. All up it is a fantastic book, and – even better – will only take you a few hours to knock off. Highly recommended.

Book two this week is actually book FOUR of Spike Milligan's war autobiography, Mussolini: His Part in My Downfall, spanning his landing in September 1943 to his eventual withdraw due to ‘battle fatigue’ in January 1944. This book differs quite a bit from the earlier works, with the memories starker and more densely packed, with less in the way of humerous asides and and almost no sketches or doodles. In this respect, the book itself mirrors the tense frame of mind of Spike through the period.

Ultimately, it’s an unflinching account of the build up of pressure that became too much for many men. It strikes an incredibly genuine chord in its portrait of life in the ranks, with plenty of ‘blue’ language and banter as you would expect in such situations.

In fact, it does such a good job that you really finish wondering how anyone came home ‘sane’ after experiencing the prolonged, tense day to day life that involved being away from home and your loved ones, in the pouring rain, hauling big guns around in the knee deep mud, living in the same clothes day after day, no showers, no beds, with no hope of an end any time soon. Then you consider the fact that a few kilometres away are a bunch of people whose job it is to kill you.

That said, the humour still shines through, and now I’m going to face the challenge of finding volumes FIVE through EIGHT.

Very highly recommended.

4 comments:

me said...

Do the Spike Milligan books work well enough as stand alone pieces?

Kris said...

They could easily be read on their own. They are well worth having a look, if you don’t mind the filthy language.

Carola said...

Such a beauty - I mean the shot.

Kris said...

It's a nice spot down there. Henry's school sports day is right next to that spot.