Tag Archives: F. Scott Fitzgerald

Durham Book Festival; Patrick Gale & Liza Klaussmann

The audiences of the Durham Book Festival are a saucy lot if two of the events I have been to are anything to go buy. It seems that the subject of *whispers* sex, sexual secrets and sexuality gets the forces out in their droves. I know it is early on a Sunday, do forgive me but ‘shenanigans’ (which seems much more of a Sunday word for it all) came up in Pat Barker’s session within  few moments of her being on stage. The same happened when Patrick Gale and Liza Klaussmann were in conversation with Caroline Beck late yesterday afternoon, as sexuality and sexual secrecy (and shame) seem to be at the hearts of both their books – which of course makes us all want to read them instantly.

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Lots of you will have heard me rave on and on about the brilliance of Patrick Gale’s work and in particular his latest, A Place Called Winter which is one of my favourite books of the year. You can read my review here for a more in depth look at it, but a brief summarisation is that it tells of a man who leaves Edwardian Britain under a cloud of shame and in some form of penance, and in some ways survival, heads to outback Canada where of course he still can’t hide from his true human nature. I just realised that makes it sound like a murder mystery, rather than a love story and tale of friendship. Can you see why I am not in book publicity? Anyway, it’s brimming with secrets, sexuality and bear grease – well maybe not the latter but it sounds fun, see totally not appropriate as a book marketer am I?

Alongside Patrick was Liza Klaussmann whose latest novel, Villa America, I have not read yet (there is a theme at the events I have been to so far on unread yet books, but as Patrick told me yesterday re Pat Barker ‘if it is a brilliant book, it will keep’ which is now my new life motto) sounds like an absolute corker. It tells the tale of Sara and Gerald Murphy who it’s said were inspirations for Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night and who seemed to have the perfect lives, which Liza said ‘seemed to perfect, so I knew something was going on there’ and so she looks at what could have been going on behind the scenes of a perfect seeming marriage and reveals some sensational secrets. Come on, admit it, you want to read both of these. I told you so.

What is great about a live event is seeing how much some books, no matter how different the setting or indeed the authors are, can link together in so many ways. Obviously there is the subject of sexuality (I don’t think I have written the word sex so much in a post ever, what have you done to me Durham Book Festival?)and sex, plus secrets, lies and facades. There was more.

Both books are written about real people; Patrick’s is very much based on his great great Grandfather and what might have been his story and reasons for heading to Canada, Liza’s about the Murphy’s and the Fitzgerald’s and the whole whirlwind that went around them in that time. When asked about the responsibility and what these people thought Patrick said he felt now that most of the people who knew his great great Grandfather were dead he felt he could be freer, but he knew they might have disapproved, Liza too felt the Murphy’s might be unimpressed (as they were with Tender is the Night) but as they were dead it was alright. There was much laughing throughout and many a book was sold and signed afterwards.

Lovely stuff, a couple more books to add to your TBR’s if you haven’t already. If you have read either or both books I would love your thoughts on them. I had a corking first day at Durham Book Festival and now have Andy Miller, Louise Welsh, Lauren Laverne and Mark Blacklock ahead of me today, its almost too much bookish delight!

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Great American Novels…

I have been pondering American fiction for some time. I don’t really read very much of it, though actually when I had a look at my shelves the other day there were much more American authors than I thought. I guess really what I mean it that I haven’t read many of the ‘American Greats’ and when I have, with the exception of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, I have yet to be really bowled over by them. I didn’t mind F Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ but it didn’t bowl me over like I was expecting at all. There are also some, ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ I am thinking of you, that I haven’t loved at all and have felt a bit silly for not doing as apparently the great and good think they are marvellous.

This week Thomas and I discussed American novels on the Readers (you can hear the episode here)  where I admit my favourite American novel is Peyton Place, a cult underground novel that if you’ve not read then you must.

So, as always I would like your help. What are your greatest American novels? What lesser known ones must be hunted down?

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Filed under Random Savidgeness

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

When I was plotting my Spending Sundays with a Classic’ season I have to admit that ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald was a book I put on the list because I thought that it was a book I really ought to have read. Which inevitably then made me a little wary, possibly sulky even, about my having to read it. My Mum then buoyed my spirits by saying ‘you’ll love it and its short’ only then when I mentioned at Book Group last Tuesday I had just started it there were some audible groans from around the table. Add to this that I had read his short story collection ‘Tales of the Jazz Age’ for an old book group and thought it boring and you will see I wasn’t filled with high hopes for ‘The Great Gatsby’ but I was wrong, I actually really rather liked it.

As the book opens in the 1920’s we meet Nick Carraway who has settled near New York, in West Egg around Long Island to be precise, where having fought in the war he now wants to settle and learn the business of bonds and is sponsored for his first year by his father. Knowing no one he reacquaints himself with a second cousin Daisy Buchanan and also her husband Tom, three year old barely mentioned or seen daughter, and their dear friend the female golfer Jordan Baker. He also finds himself in the world of ‘old money’. At their first meeting Jordan makes rather a beeline for Nick and lets him in on the secret that Tom has a mistress in an attempt to ingratiate herself and attract his attention (we soon learn this is Myrtle Wilson the wife of a simple garage owner).

Tom also soon introduces himself to his neighbour, in a rather roundabout way involving a library which I desperately wanted, Jay Gatsby who is very much ‘new money’ at one of his fabulous parties. Here he again sees Jordan Baker who yet again “accidentally” hints at something secret and illicit that links Gatsby, who many people find a mystery and believe ‘he killed a man’, and the Buchanan’s. What that is of course I won’t share here in case it should spoil anything for someone new to the novel, what follows though is not only the demystifying of ‘The Great Gatsby’ but a bleak drama rather filled with tragedy which I really, really wasn’t expecting. I think it was the unexpected high drama that made this book rather an enjoyable read; I’m not quite sure what that says about me.

I really enjoyed F. Scott Fitzgerald’s prose in this novel. Lines like ‘she sparkled like an angry diamond’ and its kind really added something to this book, they seemed to capture the people and place in a sentence. I am left wondering whether its because since reading ‘Tales of the Jazz Age’ I have changed as a reader and so has my reading tastes (I love the 20’s and 30’s now but it’s a recent thing) or if this is simply a much better book, maybe a revisit is in order? I loved Jordan Baker who lets slip all these wonderful secrets here there and everywhere and drives like a lunatic not caring because ‘it takes two to make an accident darling’. Actually looking back on it seems the only fully fleshed out character and maybe that’s where the small glitch came. I realised I would never get a hold on Gatsby until the end as really that’s part of the book, I just wish Daisy and Tom and their motives had seemed less superficial, but then that was really all they were about so maybe that was the point.

I found ‘The Great Gatsby’ a really pleasant surprise mainly because it was full of surprises itself which made it so readable. It’s a short book that slowly unravels and you do have to bear with it as a big cast of characters and intricate plot points start to get thrown at you, in the end though its worth a little struggle and confusion as it pays off with a read that will hit you more than you thought it might. 8/10

I’m now intrigued why so many people have visibly frowned when I have mentioned the title and am hoping some of them will share that today. What have you all made of ‘The Great Gatsby’? It’s funny though as actually despite having enjoyed this novel I am not sure I would rush to pick up another book by F. Scott Fitzgerald and I can’t quite put my finger on why not.  I do love the titles of ‘Tender is the Night’ and particularly ‘The Beautiful and Damned’ as it sounds so dramatic but I feel a little hesitant. Should I be?

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Filed under F. Scott Fitzgerald, Oxford University Press, Penguin Books, Penguin Classics, Review

Spending Sundays With A Classic?

No, no you haven’t gone mad and neither have I. I am well aware that today is Saturday and not Sunday. However today seems a befitting day to launch a little something new, that gets me (and maybe some of you if you fancy) back into those classics. It’s also something I will need – oh how demanding of me – I mean I would love your recommendations and suggestions with. Right let me explain…

A few things have conspired with me in the last few weeks that have made me start to yearn for some classics. One factor has been that suddenly August has become really autumnal in the UK (I am hoping it is going to be better for the three day weekend we are all having here) and in London the main view from my windows has been rather like this:

A photo by my good friend Dom Agius (www.domagius.com)

Yes that’s right, rain ready, delightfully dramatic but also most certainly autumnal. The perfect sort of weather to curl up on your sofa or in bed and get curled up with some classics. It seemed most serendipitous then that I had decided that as I was reading so much modern fiction (for a certain something) for a change of scene I would join in with reading ‘I Capture The Castle’ by Dodie Smith for Cornflower’s Book Group which will be being discussed today. (I am supposedly on an internet ban by The Converted One this weekend as I have been overdoing it with work and everything and we have very few free weekends before we head for Brazil, if not I will catch up after.) I will be spilling my full thoughts on ‘I Capture The Castle’ very soon, but getting back to something older, not that it felt dated, had a certain something about it – especially seeing as it was a book I bought ages ago and have been meaning to read anyway. I wondered, have been getting swept up in the modern a little too much?

I had mulled over doing another ‘Sensation Season’ a month or two ago and then again a few weeks ago but I thought maybe it was time for something a bit different. So instead what I am going to do is be ‘Spending Sundays With A Classic’. Not every Sunday mind you just a few here there and everywhere but I will let you know which ones are coming up and when (should I simply give you a few weeks notice or have a sort of schedule, what do you think?) and maybe if you would like to you can join in.

Now before I ask you lots of questions about classics I thought I would share my initial six possible contenders (don’t judge me on not having read them sooner, ha) which are…

  
  

  • Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  • The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
  • Emma – Jane Austen
  • Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

Is there anyone out there left who hasn’t read those already? I bet I am one of the last people ever to the party of these books, but maybe some people will want a re-read, or I am happy to read alone. This isn’t the definite list of six, just the initial one that called to me from my TBR pile. Now what I want is for you to answer some classic questions and they are these;

  1. What do you define as a classic?
  2. What is your favourite classic of all time so far that everyone on earth should be made to read?
  3. Which classic have you just never really managed to get on with?
  4. Which classic books have you yet to read but really must get around to?

Right… over to you then…

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Thankyou & Goodnight

Ok, so I am not actually leaving or anything but I thought that this would be a good title for a blog for the subject matter. I haven’t blogged since Friday as I briefly mentioned on Thursday that I would be spending the weekend in the West Sussex, Petworth to be precise. In the grounds of this wonderful National Trust property I was one of the volunteers for the Ribbon Walk which Breast Cancer Care have organised since 2005 adding new walks, I think this was Petworth’s second, and I was there to do various volunteer duties.

I had asked that whilst I was staying in such grand, yet slightly spooky, surroundings to help me choose between the books I should read next whilst away and I took with me, on so many peoples say so both ‘The Seance’ by John Harwood and ‘The House At Midnight’ by Lucie Whitehouse starting with the latter. I cannot thank you all enough for adding your thoughts. I am wondering if it might be something I should do more regularily if I get stuck with reads and inspiration?

How much reading did I actually do… well… would you be angry if I said I have read about ten pages this weekend? If I explain that from about 2pm friday I was helping put up tents, marquees and fences. Helping decorate and fill said tents and marquee’s to make them look delightful. Lugging crates of water, bananas and Haribo (the latter very dangerous as the temptation was too much for many of us. Making goody bags and unwrapping medals for participants. This went on until quite late when we popped for a pint had a good natter and were all in bed very early from exhaustion, so no reading. Then Saturday was a 5am start with more of the same. Then welcoming all the participants and then supporting them on their 20 or 10 mile walk, cheering them on getting them water and treats. Then Sunday was undoing everything that had been decorated and put up in the previous days all this in the heat too. It was all hardwork but 100% worth it.

Now I am back and am planning on having quite a relaxed and early night. Do I want to read? I have to say that though I would love to curl up some more with ‘The House at Midnight’ but I think all the heat and genaral madness and ‘getting involved in everything’ of the weekend has left me too exhausted to read. Does anyone else ever get that? You are so tired that even though the idea of a book is heaven, the reality is that your so tired you can’t concentrate on what you are reading or what you are taking in, thats the state that I ma in this evening. So instead its pizza, the sofa and a copy of ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ on DVD. I havent read the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald but I would like to. For once oddly I am not bothered that I haven’t read the book first, I just want to get lost in some far fetched wonderful tale of escapism and this looks like it should do the trick. Back to normal business tomorrow I promise., hope you have all had lovely weekends?

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What To Read Next… It’s Not As If I Don’t Have Enough Choice!

Yes that’s right I have been truly stuck on what to read next. Part of the problem is that fact that The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite was just so good; it’s difficult to decide what can follow that at the moment. I could start on the next Richard and Judy and be early but it didn’t take my fancy and neither did any of the ‘review’ books I have received of late, some of them are going to be stonking reads I just know it, they just didn’t do for now.

One thing I can’t say it that I don’t have choice as I do currently have a TBR pile and TBR boxes of over 600 books to choose from then again this is part of the problem when you have too many books to read you simply don’t know where to start. Farmlanebooks had the wonderful idea of choosing one of the books that I have had on my TBR the longest the only problem with having so many books is that you don’t know which ones have had waiting to be read for eons and eons. So I hatched a plan, as the weather was so nice I knew me and the Non Reader were off out to spend a day in the park with a picnic and hours of fresh air and no plans. So I decided I would look at my new years book resolutions and pick a book out of each resolution to take with me and have a try of the first page of each one.

So I took some classics a Scott Fitzgerald, a Bronte and a James Baldwin. I grabbed a Jodi Piccoult as I have always been a bit sneery about her without actually reading a word she has written (I am not alone I have had that same conversation with three different readers) and We Need To Talk About Kevin as that’s one of my re-read missions for 2009 after I hated it when I first tried to read it a few years ago. None of these – despite the sun, my good mood and my relaxed brain – did the trick and it’s not because I had the dreaded readers block they just weren’t what I wanted.

Now it’s of course typical that when you twig exactly what you do want to read you don’t own it. Two things happened which gave me for the desire for the book I really want to read next but don’t have a copy of. The first was my Gran who told me that it was her next read. The second was the author herself being on television last night at 10pm on ITV, the actress and now also author of memoirs Sheila Hancock. ‘The Two of Us’ is her memoirs as an actress and also living with the death of her husband John Thaw and how she coped and it is said to be marvellous and after seeing her on the telly last night I think she is wonderful. I oddly have the second Just Me but I have to read things in order. It looks like I might have to go shopping… whoops! I know I shouldn’t but I think it would be a wise celebration of my 200th post on this blog, yes 200 posts old today! Come on I think that’s fair? I will only get it if I see it in one of the charity shops… here or in the next two towns.

**UPDATE**

I did find the book on the way to Sainsburys in the first charity shop I went in and it was the only book I bought (despite seeing a wonderful copy of Madame Pompadour by Nancy Mitford – there is alwys tomorrow) however as I was pottering about I noticed a book I had aimed to take with me to the park yesterday and had forgotten… The Parasites by Daphne Du Maurier, I am already loving it and quite hooked so Sheila will be next on the list to read!

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Filed under Book Thoughts, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Collecting The Classics

Only six days into the New Year and I am going to have to edit one of my resolutions already. It was that tricky one of not really buying anymore books. I think what I should change it to ‘not buy anymore new books’ or ‘only buy classics from charity shops’. Or maybe a mix of the two, I’ll work it out later? Anyway on my way to Sainsbury’s to stock up on post holiday food and happened to stumble into my two favourite charity shops. By the time I left I had bought five ‘classics’ and all for under £3, now really how could I say no?


Cider With Rosie – Laurie Lee
I didn’t know very much about this when I saw it on the shelf and yet I instantly knew the name. However looking at the blurb it sounded quite interesting. A memoir of life in a Cotswold village in the 1920’s before cars or electricity revealing what life was like in the not so distant past that is also like another world. I can’t wait to read this book.

Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
Another book that I know very little about but have seen so many times on peoples shelves (well we all like a nosey don’t we) and have been recommended is this one. So I decided that with a classics year ahead it was time for me to bite the bullet and read this one. I didn’t realise that it was funny, or is meant to be, what’s always put me off I think is that its labelled as a ‘war novel’ and sometimes you just have a bit too much war.

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Another book that I have always wanted to read but have yet to, I do hope it’s better than ‘Tales of the Jazz Age’ which I didn’t enjoy at all. This is meant to be one of the great, great modern classics. In my head I am going to love this as much as I did Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
I always got this and Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ mixed up and having read one I was delighted to find the other in a very short space of time. The biggest thing that made me want to read this apart from it being ‘groundbreaking’ and set in a mental institution was the ‘tyrannical Big Nurse Ratched’ that character sounds far too promising and fascinating. Plus I haven’t seen the film so have that to look forward to afterwards.

In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
I actually owned this for a while but never read it and as it had a coffee stain and was given to me I gave it to charity. I managed to find a new pristine copy, but may also have to go back for another 70’s edition that Novel Insights wants and we may do this as a Rogue Book Group choice in the future. This caused controversy on its release due to the fact it reconstructed the murder of a farmer and his family in Kansas in 1959 exploring the investigation and everything that happened to those involved. After devouring Kate Summerscale’s ‘The Suspicions of Mr Whicher’ I though this would be right up my street.

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Filed under Book Spree, Book Thoughts, Evelyn Waugh, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harper Lee, Kate Summerscale, Truman Capote