3rd edition of the bookish “newspaper”
Click on the book titles for the full reviews.
HURRICANES CAUSE HAVOC
Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and José continue to dominate the headlines as they cause devastation across the Caribbean and parts of the USA.
Concentrating on the relationship between President George W Bush and Dick Cheney, the book is an extremely thorough and detailed account of the workings of the White House during a presidency hit by catastrophe and disaster – from 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina to the economic meltdown. While not whitewashing some of the more dubious decisions of the Presidency, the author takes a somewhat sympathetic approach to his subjects and as such the book is a good reminder of how we ask people to perform impossible jobs and then criticise them for mistakes or failures. Bush and Cheney made some serious mistakes, not lightly forgotten or forgiven, but this book gives a revealing picture of the almost intolerable pressures they had to deal with, and of the toll it took of them.
The unnamed narrator marries Maxim de Winter, a widower who lost his first wife Rebecca in what appears to have been a tragic drowning accident. But somehow Rebecca still seems to inhabit the great house of Manderley, infusing every room with the strength of her personality. Beautiful and vibrant, no-one who knew Rebecca remained untouched – it seems to the second Mrs de Winter that everyone adored her, some to the point of obsession. Gradually Mrs de W2 begins to think that Maxim made a mistake in marrying her – that he’s still in love with Rebecca. And then one day, a huge storm at sea leads to the discovery of Rebecca’s lost boat, and suddenly everything Mrs de W2 thinks she knows about Rebecca and her husband is turned on its head…
Back in the 12th century, there are slits between the world of the jinn and our own world, and the jinn sometimes interfere with humanity, often wickedly. Centuries later, not far in the future from our own time, the slits between the jinn world and our own have been lost for many years. But after a great storm lashes the world, strange things begin to happen – people finding their feet no longer touch the ground, people being struck by lightning and finding themselves afterwards possessed of strange powers, people suffering from what are either terrifying hallucinations or perhaps even more terrifying reality. It appears the jinn are back…
In this book, Rushdie has created a brilliant satire of politics, totalitarianism, world financial institutions and so on and, on a more intimate level, of love, sex, and human relationships in general.
…for a period of time variously described by different witnesses as “a few seconds” and “several minutes”, the clothes worn by every man in the square disappeared, leaving them shockingly naked, while the contents of their pockets – cellphones, pens, keys, credit cards, currency, condoms, sexual insecurities, inflatable egos, women’s underwear, guns, knives, the phone numbers of unhappily married women, hip flasks, masks, cologne, photographs of angry daughters, photographs of sullen teenage boys, breath-freshening strips, plastic baggies containing white powder, spliffs, lies, harmonicas, spectacles, bullets and broken, forgotten hopes – tumbled down to the ground.
(Scene from John Huston’s wonderful Key Largo, where the old man (Lionel Barrymore) describes the hurricane of 1935 to a somewhat less than heroic Edward G Robinson…)
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OPENING OF QUEENSFERRY CROSSING
This week the Queen opened the new road bridge over the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh, the Queensferry Crossing.
Humber Boy B is an eighteen-year-old, now called Ben. Eight years earlier he and his older brother were convicted of killing another ten-year-old boy by throwing him off the Humber Bridge. Now Ben has been released and must learn to live in a world that he has never known except as a child. But the mother of the victim, Noah, is horrified that he has been released and has set up a Facebook page pleading with the public for help in finding him. She says she’s not looking for revenge – she just wants to ask him the one question that was never answered – why did they kill her son?
Lacey Flint’s third outing shows Bolton at her best – inventive plotting, great characterisation, plenty of humour, much of it black, and a sense of tension that builds throughout to a thrillingly dramatic climax. The book starts with the discovery of the body of twins under Tower Bridge, the most recent victims of a serial killer who steals young boys and cuts their throats. The MIT squad, still led by Dana Tulloch, is getting nowhere fast – these murders don’t fall into the normal pattern as there’s no sign of a sexual angle. Dana and the squad are already feeling the pressure and it’s going to get worse…
Rabbie Burns’ Tam o’Shanter and his brave mare Maggie fleeing the witches…
Now, do thy speedy utmost, Meg,
And win the key-stane of the brig;
There at them thou thy tail may toss,
A running stream they dare na cross.
But ere the key-stane she could make,
The fient a tail she had to shake!
For Nannie, far before the rest,
Hard upon noble Maggie prest,
And flew at Tam wi’ furious ettle;
But little wist she Maggie’s mettle—
Ae spring brought off her master hale,
But left behind her ain gray tail:
The carlin claught her by the rump,
And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.
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Britain put aside its political differences for 10 seconds to give vent to a communal “Aww…” as young Prince George set off for his first day at school. Then the anti-Royalists swiftly put their grumpy faces back on and pretended they hadn’t joined in…
Let’s hope he finds the school locker room as inspiring as the one in A Separate Peace…
No locker room could have more pungent air than Devon’s; sweat predominated, but it was richly mingled with smells of paraffin and singed rubber, of soaked wool and liniment, and for those who could interpret it, of exhaustion, lost hope and triumph and bodies battling against each other. I thought it anything but a bad smell. It was pre-eminently the smell of the human body after it had been used to the limit, such a smell as has meaning and poignance for any athlete, just as it has for any lover.
…and that all the school speeches he has to listen to are as much fun as the one a drink-befuddled Gussie Fink-Nottle gave to the boys of Market Snodsbury Grammar School…
“Well, boys,” resumed Gussie, having shot his cuffs and smirked horribly, “this is the end of the summer term, and many of you, no doubt, are leaving the school. And I don’t blame you, because there’s a froust in here you could cut with a knife. You are going out into the great world. Soon many of you will be walking along Broadway. And what I want to impress upon you is that, however much you may suffer from adenoids, you must all use every effort to prevent yourselves becoming pessimists and talking rot like old Tom Travers. There in the second row. The fellow with a face rather like a walnut.”
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THE US OPEN
And the winner of the 2017 US Open Men’s Singles Championship is…