Saturday, 1 January 2011

What I've been reading

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Cold Comfort Farm
by Stella Gibbons

"When sensible Flora Poste is orphaned at nineteen, she decides her only choice is to descend upon relatives in deepest Sussex. At the aptly named Cold Comfort Farm, she meets the doomed Starkadders: cousin Judith, heaving with remorse for unspoken wickedness; Amos, preaching fire and damnation; their sons, lustful Seth and despairing Reuben; child of nature Elfine; and crazed old Aunt Ada Doom, who has kept to her bedroom for the last twenty years."
On Facebook, a meme turned up asking people to indicate which of 100 books they had read. It was purportedly devised by the BBC, and supposedly most people had read no more than six books. By a little gentle Googling, I found this, which tells quite a different story. In any case, Cold Comfort Farm was a book I hadn't read, and a few people said it was good, and it is! In fact, it's going to go on the shelf of books that I intend to read again after a suitable interval. Not as 'laugh out loud funny' as some reviewers would have it, but I did smile quite a bit.

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by Malcolm Gladwell

"An art expert sees a ten-million dollar sculpture and instantly spots it's a fake. A fire-fighter suddenly senses he has to get out of a blazing building. This book is all about those moments when we 'know' something without knowing why. Malcolm Gladwell explores the phenomenon of 'blink', showing how a snap judgement can be far more effective than a cautious decision."
This is the book I borrowed for the tube journey a few weeks ago, and it is very interesting, not least because it describes a psychological testing technique (the Implicit Association Test) that I experienced recently when it was used by one of my fellow students in her research project. I will write about this separately, but the other chapters are almost as good, for example describing how professional orchestral players were almost exclusively male until candidates were screened from the audition panel during auditions. Recommended.

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by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle

"This is me e.g. nigel molesworth the curse of st custard's which is the skool i am at. It is uterly wet and weedy as I shall (i hope) make clear but of course that is the same with all skools. e.g. they are nothing but kanes, lat. french. geog. hist. algy, geom, headmasters, skool dogs, skool sossages, my bro molesworth 2 and MASTERS everywhere."
This is a compilation of the four Molesworth books: Down with Skool, How to be Topp, Whizz for Atomms and Back in the Jug Agane, which I first read before I was old enough to understand half of it. I just looked at the cartoons back then, and picked up a few of the catchphrases ("Hullo clouds, hullo sky" sa fotherington-tomas who is uterly wet and a sissy chiz chiz). There was one episode (The Grate St Custard's Flood) that I virtually knew word for word. A real nostalgia trip, as any fule kno.

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The Fry Chronicles
by Stephen Fry

"Shameful tales of sugar, shag and champagne jostle with insights into credit cards, classic cars and conspicuous consumption, Blackadder, Broadway and the BBC. For all its trademark wit and verbal brilliance, this is a book that is not afraid to confront the aching chasm that separates public image from private feeling."
Reading this made me sad more than anything. That such a patently brilliant mind, which has achieved all sorts of magnificent endeavours, could perpetually feel such a failure? Especially as there are few in the public eye who have such demonstrable integrity - in a world where lack of integrity seems to be the norm for politicians, popstars and 'celebrities'. He is one of my heroes, and I hope one day to meet him. A National Treasure.

1 comment:

cernoise said...

I'd forgotten about Down with Skool. I don't think young Master C's spelling is quite up to being aloud to reed it yet.