As usual there are the Sunday newspapers and of course they have all the write ups of this week’s momentous election result in the States. The expectations are sky high, tempered here, there and everywhere by cautious reminders that Obama is human and will have to come to grips with so many things that it makes one feel dizzy just thinking about it, let alone taking decisions! He himself has of course pointed out that there is still a president in place, nevertheless he is obviously not allowing himself much of a holiday, neither is the rest of the world. The Sunday Times as one of many papers gives us a 24 page overview of how change came to America. So, yes, Europe and the rest of the world are as taken up by this election as the Americans are – and of course, that’s how it should be.
On a completely different note I cannot deny you the article by Rod Liddle: The novelists who should just say no. This is about Updike and other writers who try to do ‘sex and/or god’, however, only very few can really pull this off. Liddle notes that sex is just overdone now, in novels, although Updike’s early novel Couples was a trendsetter, and one that was still original and in some ways came up to the standard of good literature. However, his most recent book, The Witches of Eastwick does not come up to scratch according to Liddle, who notes that after Couples,
”Writing about sex in the most graphic detail suddenly became an imperative for serious writers rather than only for pornographers. What was once merely intimated or alluded to was now conscientiously and painstakingly spelled out, all the noxious juices, the nipples like chapel hat pegs and the scrotums like, like, God, I don’t know — fill in your own simile. A decade or so later, Amis, another writer accused of casual misogyny, would, in an early novel, concoct descriptions for female genitalia involving vole’s stomachs and waistcoat pockets. Later he would write movingly and apparently in earnest about the appalling “obscenification” of everyday life. No kidding, Marty.”
Read the rest, it’s fun and gives a bit of light relief. I for one, find a lot of sex scenes in good novels superfluous and agree with Liddle, that few actually manage to write well in that arena. I wonder what you think? I though Ian McEwan’s Chesil Beach was quite a nice approach: the sex scene that did not actually happen!
Meanwhile, I still have not written the various reviews I have been promising, as I am trying very hard to learn the technique of stage and radio play writing. That’s keeping me nicely busy for the moment.
However, I read The Visible World by Mark Slouka and can really recommend it. It’s got the approval stamps of Richard and Judy as well as Oprah, and must, for that reason alone, have sold quite well. Nevertheless, it is a lovely book, at a time of Remebrance Day here in Britain, it is about a love story, that is doomed because of the time and place: Czechoslovakia during the second world war, and the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich by partisans. The story starts with a young boy growing up in America, his parents and social life around him are that of immigrants, who are haunted by what happened during the war. The novel is about his search for that past and the unfolding story of who his mother was and the reason for the unease and sadness in his home life.
It’s not a difficult book, well written, lovely sentences and imagery as well as individual stories throughout that keep you gripped until you reach the inevitable outcome. It’s haunting, mesmerising, and, yes romantic, and characters are drawn out so that you get to know them, you know who they are and why they act the way they do. It’s very much about people lost in the events around them, events that they have no real power over but that force them to make choices that will determine their lives for ever after.