The Paper Men

tpmTitle: The Paper Men

Author: William Golding

Summary: Fame, success, fortune; a drink problem slipping over the borderline into alcoholism, a dead marriage, the incurable itches of middle-aged lust. For Wilfred Barclay, novelist, the final, unbearable irritation is Professor Rick L. Tucker, implacable in his determination to become The Barclay Man.

Locked in a lethal relationship they stumble half-blindly across Europe, shedding wives, self-respect, illusions. They confront terrifying abysses – physical, emotional, spiritual – continually change roles, change themselves, change the worlds about them. The climax, when it comes, is as inevitable as it is unexpected.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4.5/5

Review: Golding is an author who’s work i am making my way through at a sedate pace. I haven’t loved every book i’ve read so far, but i have liked, appreciated and admired them all. He’s an author who doesn’t stick to the same genre, format or message. Each of his books is unique, and i love that. The Paper Men was, gladly, another score for the ‘love’ list.

I was apprehensive at first, as i had read some pretty damning reviews. The only thing those bad reviews liked was the ending; they adored the last line. Unfortunately, as i am wont to do, i had already flipped to the last page and read the last line. So i knew going in exactly how this book ended. (Therefore it was not at all as unexpected as the synopsis claimed–they never take into account people skipping ahead!) But screw all the bad reviews–this book was brilliant!

There is humour–oh, so much humour, i laughed loud and often. There is meaningfulness, introspection, commentary. How people can gloss over or miss that and complain that not enough happened makes their taste and intelligence poor, if i’m being honest in my own opinion.

I adored Wilf. I’m not sure i was supposed to, but there we have it. He isn’t perfect, by any means, but he is unapologetically himself, and hurts almost no one but himself. Almost, except those closest to him (though whether he is close to them is debatable), and of course Rick L. Tucker. Wilf travels the world on no whim but his own, drinking, sleeping and writing. He makes no demands on people, letting the wind take him wherever it decides to blow. Rick L. Tucker, on the other hand, goes exactly where Wilf does. His obsessive, stalker, relentless behaviour really, really bothered me. He just wouldn’t give up chasing Wilf around, trying to convince him to let him be his official biographer. How many times can Wilf say, “No,” and disappear to another country before Rick gets the message? Never enough, apparently. Sorry, but harassment is not an endearing quality, and for all Wilf’s faults, i’ll take him over Tucker any day.

That covers the plot, really. The rest of the interest of the book is more Wilf’s mind and thoughts, so i supposed having a soft spot for Wilf makes me more inclined to enjoy his words and the book itself. He is very much a writer, often comparing the world to how things would be done in one of his novels, and offering insight into the mind of a writer. He tos and fros between thought processes, opinions on himself, and choices and reasons. He’s an intellectual and literary man, and he’s also one of the most unreliable narrators i have ever read. His words were a joy, his drinking problem worrisome but occasionally controlled, his paranoia palpable but relatively harmless. He was, ultimately, fascinating.

There is, really, only one point of criticism i have of The Paper Men. As much as i loved reading it when i was reading, when i wasn’t reading, i had no drive to get back to it. I didn’t think about the book when i wasn’t reading it. When i picked it up again i often had to re-read the last paragraph of the previous chapter to remind myself of the exact circumstances it had left of on. And while this didn’t impede my enjoyment of the book when i was reading it, i did miss that burn–that desire to still be reading and to know what happens. I missed it enough to be distinctly aware that it wasn’t there.

But still, the book itself, regardless of my emotions towards it when i put it down, is thoroughly enjoyable, insightful and such a hoot. I loved some sections so much that when i did have a pencil to mark passages i… i used a pen! And i don’t regret a single inked line.

This knocks one square off my Bookish Bingo: Published in my birth year.

TTT: Beach Reads

TTTAs with last week’s “freebie” topic, I may have interpreted “beach reads” a little too literally. I can’t help it if The Beach was the first book that popped into my head. I can’t help it if I then examined my Goodreads bookshelves for other books that were set on or contained beaches. I can’t help it if I then found more than 10 books that fit the criteria. I can’t help it if I then complied this list and thought, “Bugger it, i’ll post it.”

The Beach by Alex Garland. As the title may suggest, this book is largely set on a beach. Or, at least, on a small island. With a beach. I had tried to watch the film before I ever picked up the book, but couldn’t get through it. The book, however, I devoured.

Rough Music by Patrick Gale. Set mostly in Cornwall, the family in this book stay in a holiday cottage with the beach just on their doorstep. It’s a picturesque setting for the drama that unfolds.

Off the Map by Hib & Kika. There are several beaches in this book, which is told in short vignettes of Hib and Kika’s travels around Europe.

The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham. Where there are sea creatures emerging from the depths, there are beaches…

Life of Pi by Yann Martel. While mostly set at sea, there are one or two beaches. And you know, the sea is a vital component of a beach.

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. Set on a small Scottish island, the beach may not be sunny and idyllic, but there is a beach.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. Your classic stranded on a desert island pick.

One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night by Christopher Brookmyre. This book is the one anomaly in my list, as I can’t be certain whether it includes a beach or not. But, there is the North Sea coast and an oil rig converted into a holiday haven for people who love sun but hate other cultures.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Your second classic (with a twist) stranded on a desert island pick.

Island by Richard Laymon. Shipwrecked, stalked, kidnapped and murdered. All in the sun on a beautiful sandy beach.

TTT: Authors

TTTI found this one pretty easy. There aren’t too many authors I read just because—without knowing more about the book itself. My original list had about 13 names, and it wasn’t too hard to cut that down to 10. These authors are ten names that have me reading any book by without question.

Christopher Brookmyre – Comedy, crime, satire, well-rounded characters. The day a Brookmyre book doesn’t make me laugh out loud will be a very sad day indeed (and a day that will never happen).

John Wyndham – Insightful science fiction. This man has not written a word I haven’t loved.

Patrick deWitt – I can’t even categorise deWitt’s genre… sharp, witty contemporary. Is that a thing? With only two books written, i’m already 100% hooked.

Stephen King – Horror. As King has said himself: he is the literary equivalent of a bigmac and fries. It’s not the most nutritious meal, and you don’t want to eat it every day, but it’s bloody tasty when you have it.

Shirley Jackson – Horror. Jackson is more classic horror. More chills and meaning. More genuinely scary.

William Golding – Another author who is hard to pigeon hole, because his subject matter and message vary so much from book to book. He is consistently well-written and interesting, though.

George Orwell – Intelligent, insightful and ahead of his time. I’ve only read a couple of Orwell’s books so far, but I look forward to more.

Aldous Huxley – I file Huxley close to Orwell, but not because of Brave New World and 1984, as you might expect. Mostly because they strike me as two people who would have interesting conversations—they both have worthwhile and intelligent things to say.

J D Salinger – Some authors are just in a genre of their own, and I think Salinger is one. He has such a way with words, so simple, but so unique for his characters. He gets across concepts and personality so swiftly that it looks easy.

Ursula Le Guin – Science fiction that holds such imagination and exploration. I adore Le Guin a lot. I can’t get enough of her work, and hold very high—and possibly unfair—expectations of her.

TTT: Difficult Reads

TTTThis was pretty hard, actually. I wanted to choose books that were good books, but hard to read because of the subject matter. Apparently… I haven’t read many of them. I wonder if that’s a reflection on me as a reader, or the books i choose to read.

But 10 books i found, and here they are.

Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles
I really enjoyed the writing of this book. It was funny and descriptive, and utterly quoteable. But. The story was almost non-existent. As well-written as the words were, there was nothing pushing them along. I put this book down and didn’t read anything for weeks. That’s how bad it was. In the end I had to give up.

Canal Dreams by Iain Banks
This book just wasn’t that thrilling, really. Especially as the description on the back promised me a kick arse female cello player murder a load of evil men. It was interesting, reading chunks an the history of the Panama canal, but the different parts of the book felt very disconnected. Then there was the rape scene. That’s never going be not difficult to read.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
This book was just tense from the get go. It was brilliant, but not a good book to read before bed.

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft
Just… bad. Lovecraft is not good. I was rolling my eyes and cringing and just frustrated during this book. (This book I didn’t actually finish.) He can’t describe anything and his plots make little sense.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
This book really dragged. Things were often repeated to various degrees of detail. Lots of action and time would pass over a few pages, but then nothing would really happen and very little time would pass over entire chapters. It was inconsistent and failed to hold my attention or interest.

Chrome Yellow by Aldous Huxley
I really enjoyed this book, but it was the kind of book that takes a lot of concentration to read. I couldn’t just fall into it and let it pull me along, it made me work for it, made me pay attention. I could only manage one chapter before needing to take a break, and was often left feeling tired. A wonderful, wonderful book, though.

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters & Seymour: An Introduction by J.D. Salinger
This is two stories in one book, and it is the second story that I had difficulty reading. It is pages and pages describing Seymour. Fifteen of those pages are spent describing Seymour’s face. If Chrome Yellow left me tired, this book left me fast asleep.

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
This was hard to read in an eye-roll cringey way. This author (who is basing this story on her own experiences) is waving her arms and crying out desperately for attention. The book and narrative voice are inconsistent. She claims she did not have any mental health problems, but seems to enjoy the allure she believes being labelled with such gives her. Every word just screamed, “Me! Me! Pay attention to me!”

The Inheritors by William Golding
Another booked I loved, that makes the reader work for it. It is told from the point of view of Neanderthals, whose language and connection with the world and each other is vastly different and simple than our own. They used few words, and grasping the larger concepts they were trying to convey with them took some work, but was more than worth it. I saw this picture.

The Knitting Circle’s Rapist Annihilation Squad by Derrick Jensen and Stephanie McMillan
Another cringe-inducing book. Considering the subject matter, this book was verging on slapstick, and it embarrassed itself and the reader.

TTT: Classics

TTT My second Top Ten Tuesday in a row. This is not what i had planned… but, but, but, classics! When i enter a bookshop, “cassic literature” is always the section i head to first. Unless i feel like enjoying the anticipation, in which case i’ll save it till last… Either way, the point is it’s my favourite section. I don’t know why. It’s not that more modern books aren’t good, or that i don’t enjoy them. I do, often. There are just SO MANY new books, i can’t keep up with what’s being released when by who and what else did they write? I just don’t seem to care enough. The classics–the classic classics, not the “modern” classics, never change. They will always be there, no matter if i take my sweet time getting around to reading them.

With my love of classics in mind, here is a random list (and really, it was really hard to make this random and not organise it in some way!) of 10 that i particularly love…

 

class01

 

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
I haven’t read much Oscar Wilde. A few short stories and Dorian Gray. And i adored Dorian Gray. Actually, i adored Lord Henry, but whatever.

 

 

class02

 

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
I bought this on a whim when i saw it in a charity shop and devoured it in a day. I loved the concepts and imagination. Pity i didn’t have the same feeling about War of the Worlds.

 

 

1637352

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
I loved the original 1963 film, so when i found out it was based on a book, of course i had to read it. Both book and film are creepily atmospheric while leaving the ending open enough for the reader to come to her own conclusions.

 

 

class04

Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell
I wanted to say this will never be surpassed at the ultimate dystopian, particularly in terms of ‘this could really happen/this is already happening’… but to be fair, i read this over 10 years ago, and i don’t trust my memory enough. I remember enough to know i loved this book, though.

 

 

class05

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
This book isn’t perfect, but any negatives are overshadowed by the amazingness of the entire rest of the book. It was so refreshing to read a lot of what was discussed in this book. I would make this compulsory reading for every human alive, if i could.

 

 

class06The Seeds of Time by John Wyndham
Absolutely any John Wyndham book could have been included in this list. There isn’t a word the man has written that i haven’t loved (not that i’ve actually read them all yet–i’m pacing myself!). Picking this one felt like a cheat, because it’s a book of short stories; it felt like i was adding more Wyndham than choosing a novel would have done.

 

 

class07The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
This one i didn’t love instantly; I hated it the first time i tried to read it. But the second time was so completely different. I loved Salinger’s understated writing style. He doesn’t give everything away, and makes the reader work a little. And Holden Caulfield is so simplistically philosophical, it was hard not to like him.

 

 

class08
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
This was my first Christie and my first Poirot. I picked this one because i already knew and loved the who, how and why. Turns out i love smart and egotistic detectives, and Poirot has become a firm favourite.

 

 

clas09Lord of the Flies by William Golding
I had wanted to read and study this at school, but my class did An Inspector Calls, instead. I eventually read this of my own accord many years later and loved it. So many concepts being explored under the premise of a group of children fending for themselves on a deserted island. I found it fascinating!

 

 

PP&WPeter Pan and Wendy by J.M. Barrie
This was a classic i had been long overdue in reading by the time i got around to it. All my life i knew i was the namesake of Peter Pan’s friend, but never did i bother picking up the book that made my name popular. I’m glad i eventually did. And i think i got more out of this book about the essence of childhood as an adult than i ever would have in my youth.

The Spire

15807020Title: The Spire.

Author: William Golding.

Summary: The vision that drives Dean Jocelin to construct an immense new spire above his cathedral tests the limits of all who surround him. The foundationless stone pillars shriek and the earth beneath them heaves under the structure’s weight as the Dean’s will weighs down his collapsing faith.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: I almost gave up on this book within in the first two chapters, but i’m glad i didn’t. It was a bit too much like a soap opera for my liking, with nothing to string the chapters together except Jocelin’s very slow descent into madness, and the drama (bullying, rivalries, affairs and family) between the characters.

Essentially the story is about Jocelin. The spire—Jocelin’s folly, as it is known throughout—is something Jocelin believes he was destined to build. It is also not-so-subtly symbolic of Jocelin’s manhood and his increasing physical attraction to Goody, a female character who soon starts up an affair with Roger, the master builder. Roger then (it is alluded to) murders Goody’s husband before she herself dies giving birth to Roger’s child (see what i mean about a soap opera?).

All that was entertaining enough, but Jocelin was the focus. He sees all this drama going on around him, within his church and around the building of the spire, but he pays no mind to it. All he cares about is that his spire is built.

Throughout the book i entertained myself with theories regarding Jocelin, never taking any of them too seriously. They included possession, mental illness and a brain tumour. Mental illness was spot on, and a brain tumour turned out to be tuberculosis, but i was in the ball park. In his obsessive behaviour towards the spire, and his determination to ignore everything else (the lives of the people around him, his own feelings and even his own illness), made me view Jocelin as quite one dimensional. That may be unfair, but it is how he viewed his limited world, so it is how i chose to view him.

I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see the spire fall. I was hoping Jocelin would be crushed under it; his folly truly accomplished. But i can live with the idea that Jocelin didn’t get to see it fall. By the end he had begun to regret his actions, and acknowledge the pain he had brought to so many people. He accepts his attraction to Goody, and begins to doubt his faith because of it:

“And what is heaven to me unless I go in holding him by one hand and her by the other?”

I enjoyed this book. Golding has such a way with words that can make almost any line, taken out of context, into an interesting quote. My favourite from this book being:

“I am here; and here is nowhere in particular.”

But my favourite part of this book, the part that had me smiling each and every time Jocelin referenced it, was Father Anonymous:

“Father Adam!”
But the little man said nothing, did nothing. He stood still holding the letter, and there was not even a change of expression in his face; and this might be, thought Jocelin, because he has no face at all. He is the same all round like the top of a clothespeg. He spoke, laughing down at the baldness with its fringe of nondescript hair.
“I ask your pardon, Father Adam. One forgets you are there so easily!” And then, laughing aloud in joy and love— “I shall call you Father Anonymous!”