Posted by: Corri van de Stege | November 9, 2008

The Sunday Salon – catching up

tssbadge42It’s been a busy Sunday – catching up with many different things. Not least of all a nice long chat over Skype with a birthday son.  Happy birthday! 

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.

The Visible WorldHowever, 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.


  1. And happy birth(ing) day to you too Seachanges! The stage and radio play writing sounds intriguing – good luck. Thanks for another good reading recommendation. Sounds like I will enjoy this one.

  2. Isn’t Skype wonderful? I heartily recommend it, especially for those with family members living far away.

    Thanks for the recommendation re: The Visible World. I will definitely be reading this 🙂

  3. Pete: I’m sure you will – a few things for the couch!
    Becca: yes, I love Skype, and precisely because all my family live in different countries… I think you will enjoy the ‘Visible World’ – if you ever get round to it – your tbr pile must be as high as mine, if not higher !

  4. Thanks for the article link. It was quite entertaining. I believe sex is better left to the imagination in books, movies, etc.

    Back when I was married, my then husband almost drove off the road because he was roaring with laughter at a sex scene I was reading to him from a Jean Auel book. His eyes were all teared and blurry and he couldn’t see.

    And thanks for the Obama congrats too. I hear the French even like us again, although they probably won’t tomorrow. They’re quite fickle, you know.

  5. chartroose – never heard of Jean Auel but it sounds as if I’m missing out on some fun! And as far as the French go: just don’t take any notice! I spent hours and hours travelling over their motor ways and days and weeks having holidays alongside them and in their gites… They’re fine when it comes down to it, just peculiar in their own ways – isn’t that the same wherever we go? 🙂

  6. The Visible World would correct my ignorance of Czechoslovakia history. It sounds very appealing.

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