Brickbats, bouquets for Amis's newest offering
Okay, it's almost 900 pages, but you're not going to find a better single-volume history of the conflict.
IF YOU READ ONE BOOK THIS WEEK
- 'The Second World War', by Anthony Beevor (W&N), R350
Already a bestseller in the UK, Beevor's astounding history never loses touch with the human element of the war despite the vast global sweep of his narratives. Highly readable and accessible, this is an important, informed and timely work.
Martin Amis has his mojo back. So said The Times of London on Saturday in its review of his Lionel Asbo: State of England (Vintage).
The newspaper admitted it was a little wary of the novel; soon after its publication, the UK government announced that it was scrapping its Anti-Social Behaviour Orders.
"Nothing dates like a dead acronym," it said.
More ominously, the novel had been trumpeted for its "devastating portrayal" of British society. Its violent antihero keeps pit bulls in a London high-rise and wins £140-million on the lottery while in prison. There are accounts of girls giving birth at 12, a 15-year-old boy having sex with his 39-year-old grandmother and various other horrors, so it was feared this was going to be a prolonged sneer at an "underclass" from a position of privilege.
"As it turns out," The Times said, "the novel . . . is something of a joy - and strangely life affirming . . . Amis has returned to the subject matter that he does best."
That said, the London Sunday Times promptly rubbished it the next day. Far from charting England's decline, it merely pointed to the author's "pursed-lipped amusement", the newspaper said, "in which characters are loftily looked down on from vocabulary well above their heads ('monothematic', 'philoprogenitive'), makes the satire snobbish. So does incessant mimicry of proletarian mispronunciations."
FOR fans of James Joyce's Ulysses, June 16 is Bloomsday. It's the day, in 1904, in which the book's Lionel Bloom sets off on his vulgar Dublin adventure. On Saturday, the 90th anniversary of its publication, BBC's Radio 4 will be broadcasting the UK's first full-length dramatisation of the modernist classic - a five-and-a-half hour adaptation in seven chunks.
It will be an abridged version. (At 265 000 words it has to be; Irish radio RTE did a version on Bloomsday in 1982, lasting almost 30 hours.) Hopefully, the BBC version will be available as podcasts.
THE BOTTOM LINE
"TODAY, the world's dictators can surrender any hope of keeping their worst deeds secret. If you order a violent crackdown - even on a Himalayan mountain pass - you now know it will likely be captured on an iPhone and broadcast around the world.'' - The Dictator's Learning Curve: Inside the Global Battle for Democracy, by William J Dobson (Doubleday)