Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Books Today

Eason's Bookshop on Dawson Street is closing down or something, so everything was half price. Unfortunately, though the sale started just after Christmas, I only discovered it last week (probably why it's closing). Although most of the good stuff was good, i still managed to buy an obscene quantity of books. Of the lot, however, I am only currently reading Verne's 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth', principally because it fits in my coat pocket making it ideal bus reading material.

Like most kids, I read a lot of adapted versions of Verne when I was a child, and of course watched the movies. I am still unsure whether I read any of his books as they were written (well, obviously not as written, my French isn't good even these days, but you know what I mean). I have a faint recollection of reading '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea', one of my childhood favourites, but I could be wrong. Anyway 'Journey' is nice, breezy stuff. The principal pleasures are derived from the potted science lessons littered throughout (full of a wonder hard to resist) and the travelogue nature of the storyline. Iceland really comes alive under Verne's pen.

Aside from the Eason's haul then, I am also reading two very lengthy tomes; Susannah Clarke's 'Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell' and Kissinger's 'Diplomacy' (some might see that last as an oxymoron).

'Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell' concerns two master magicians in Napoleonic England, an England with a proud history of magic and one these magicians are trying to revive. The land of Faerie is around every corner in this world. Despite the occasional archaic spelling, there is no doubting the style with which the story is told. Indeed, the word on the street is that this is a masterpiece of contemporary fantasy, maybe a little long, a little leisurely, but worth the slog. I hope so. At present, it's colder than a dead penguin. I'll stick with it, but diverting though it is, it's hard to get excited about. For a real masterpiece of Faerie, and a large swathe of the Fantasy canon besides, get John Crowley's 'Little, Big' instead. Despite a thread concerning Barbarossa that sticks out like a sore thumb (to my mind), Crowley's work is a bona fide masterpiece. Fantastic.

Whatever you think of the wily old professor, Henry Kissinger certainly knows his politics. Only a hundred pages or so in, I have to confess that 'Diplomacy' is also something of a masterpiece. Perhaps my opinion will change as I go on, but so far his perusal of 300 years of European politics has yielded many a useful insight (British foreign policy of today makes a whole lot more sense in the light of yesterday). Machiavelli's 'Discourses' cover 1600 years of European intrigue, right up to the Renaissance, and has long been a favourite of mine. Kissinger's 'Diplomacy' takes up the story from the early 1600's, and expands the canvas to incorporate America. Monster or not, the book is hot.



At 7:49 pm, Blogger ian said...

A pedant writes: It's "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

Kissinger is a loathsome slug, and I would never pay money for anything he has written, in case some of it finds its way back to him.

At 7:52 pm, Blogger ian said...

BAH, call me a pedant? I've left out the second inverted commas. KILL ME NOW.

At 2:45 pm, Blogger Niall said...

Yeeeeesssshhhhhh! Can't believe I wrote the title wrong! Just shows how much of an impression it made. No need for killing; thanks for the correction. As to the comments on Kissinger, yeah, I know, you're right, but I can't help admiring good, perceptive writing and it is that. I'll be seeing him in Hell for buying that book, but Hell, I was never going upstairs anyway.


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