8/16/2006

After Louise Welsh's The Cutting Room (still very recommended) I read Iain Banks' Canal Dreams, which I somehow missed getting around to all these years. It turned out to be as good as I expected, and as violent as I expected. That was rapidly followed by John Irving's The World According To Garp, which I actually started reading years and years ago but for some reason got distracted from before I could get very far. It's good, but there's something weirdly prissy about Irving's style. Sometimes, language can be too exact. At times, I was reminded of the way various teachers I had encountered in school life had, with few exceptions, stripped the life out of the fiction and music they were supposed to be 'teaching' us. In the end I enjoyed the book, but almost in spite of the language.

Stuck for something to read next, I pulled John Fowles The Magus down from my bookshelves. I have an enormously distant memory of seeing a movie of the book, quite possibly starring Anthony Quinn, on television. The language in The Magus, by contrast with Irving, just flows - I was carried along and felt involved with the story, as opposed to the experience (with Garp) of feeling I was having events described at one remove by a prissy narrator. I'm still Magus, and it's been too long since the last time I read it to know yet if I'll like it more or less than previously.

The Magus is twisty stuff. An english teacher at a school on a remote Greek island encounters a solitary millionaire who claims to be psychic, before leading the teacher through a series of inexplicable, apparently supernormal events (as I vaguely recall) which might be rationally explained away - or might not. In other words, the main character has his understanding of how the world works challenged.

I just ordered Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita - originally a samizdat novel about life in 'thirties Moscow, in which the Master is the Devil, let loose in the land of Stalinism. It wasn't officially published, apparently, until the late sixties, many years after the author's death. It's meant to be a classic, so we'll see.
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