Yesterday, the final supplement in the Guardian’s series on writing was ‘The Guardian Book of Language’. It provides a complete mixed bag of words and expressions, some hundred entries, ranging from comments on grammar and punctuation to clichés to avoid and facts. For example, it tells you that ‘arse’ is British English and ‘ass’ is American English and that ‘haemorrhaging’ is a word best avoided, even if you manage to spell it correctly, as it has become cliché. The word ‘new’ is often redundant as in ‘a new report yesterday’ and there a lot of words that are better avoided, for example ‘proactive’ (hideous) and ‘province’ when referring to Northern Ireland.
Yes, I shall keep this little book handy at all times!
Also in the Guardian yesterday, Christopher Hitchens considers that the new film version of Brideshead Revisited is a travesty and advises readers to go back to the book written by Evelyn Waugh. Yes, I loved this book years and years ago and was mesmerised by the TV series in the early eighties. I lived in The Netherlands when it was shown there and dropped everything to be able to sit and watch, week after week after week. It’s definitely worth reading this review if you haven’t got anything else to read. I am going to put Brideshead Revisited on my ‘to be read for the second (or third) time list’.
This week I read a couple more stories by Raymond Carver from his collection ‘Where I’m Calling From’. These stories are so well-written; they bring out the ordinariness of everyday life and the sense that every day ordinariness is really what it’s all about. I like the quote from Milan Kundera at the beginning of this collection: We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come (from The Unbearable Lightness of Being).
Another book that must go on my tbr list is the new novel by John le Carré ‘A Most Wanted Man’. Although Le Carré is often listed as an author who writes spy stories, he is much more than an author who writes genre, of course. I used to love his cold-war books, the Smiley stories, because they are as much about morality and patriotism and what that means in a cold-war, post-war world, as they are straight forward spy stories. Hari Kunzru in his review of ‘A Most Wanted Man’ says that ‘Betrayal and conflict between different kinds of loyalty form one recurrent theme of Le Carré’s fiction’, and notes that even if the book may have flaws ‘it stands as one of the most sophisticated fictional responses to the war on terror yet published….’.
The Sunday Times has a similarly positive review and I look forward to reading it. If any of you have already read it, let me know!
Enjoy the rest of your Sunday.