Friday, April 11, 2008

The modern world

Hmmm, we are now in that month of the school year where I (to my own great annoyance) have insufficient time and attention for good-quality blogging! I've had three separate posts rattling around in my head for the last thirty-six hours--glad to have time this to sit down and write 'em out, even though they would probably be more enjoyable for the reader if doled out one at a time over a period of days...

I did manage to squeeze in around the edges of life last week an utterly delightful novel, Martin Millar's very funny and engaging Lonely Werewolf Girl. This book is not for everyone, I think, and yet--an unhelpful observation!--if it is the kind of thing you like, you will like it very much indeed!

(Neil Gaiman and his lovely assistant Lorraine are two of the ones who do!)

It's sprawling, it's written in deceptively faux-naive and frequently deadpan voice, it tracks a huge number of characters through a chaotic (and rather wonderful) from-the-boardroom-to-the-bedroom almost-Judith-Krantzian (but with werewolves) world that's heavy on comical but poignant teenage angst, unrequited love and sly cultural references. And--did I say it already?!?--werewolves!

I feel certain Martin Millar would be horrified by the notion, but this book reads like the lovely mongrel offspring of Jilly Cooper and Iain Banks, with a distinctly Lia Francesca Block cast to it also--but really all just its own thing. I really, really liked it, it is a while since I read a novel that so tickled me...

Other than some very funny stuff concerning the three main teenage characters, by far the best bits concern the Fire Queen Malveria and her obsession with high fashion--we sort of care less about the outcome of the battle for leadership of werewolf Clan MacRinnalch in the Scottish Highlands than about whether the queen's evil Elemental rival will foil her anti-spying precautions and steal werewolf fashion designer Thrix's brilliant designs for Malveria's grand appearance at the social event of the Elemental season.

Other cultural stimulation: Fuerzabruta (slightly undermotivated in terms of the relationship between spectacle and story, but the best moments are very lovely indeed--the overhead swimming sequences is like watching humans magically transmute into petri-dish frogs, like photographs of chromosomes mixing and matching--it is the best visual effect I have experienced for a long time!); The Little Flower of East Orange (not perfect, but really very good, good verging on excellent--the sentimental strain is genuinely moving rather than off-putting--and the verbal comedy is very, very funny--a really interesting and well-acted play, I strongly recommend it, only not perhaps if you are hard of hearing--they should probably slow it down a tiny bit, several theatregoers in the vicinity were straining to follow various plot points introduced in passing by way of dialogue, and of course it is a pity also to be missing the jokes, and trying for the spouse who has to explain them!); 21 (some local implausibilities, but the central teenage characters are very persuasively rendered--I liked it a good deal).

All in all, I am not going to die of cultural deprivation, even though I could use a good five-day massive novel-reading binge in order to recuperate! Oh, also strongly recommended, though now we are verging on more officially curricular territory: Laclos's elegant and timeless Dangerous Liaisons. This is one of European literature's great novels of the interaction of people in small groups (Muriel Spark is also a great novelist of the small group--many writers prefer to delve into the dynamics of couples, families or larger communities, but I have a special soft spot for writers who take an interest in the relationship between four, five, six, seven characters who are not biologically related to one another...).

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