As is now established, I’m freshly returned from a fortnight in the south of Italy… largely spent reclining under some olive trees, eating European Kinder treats and flicking through a variety of books. I impressed only myself by working my way through five of the seven paperbacks that accompanied me on the trip. And they were:
‘On Beauty’ by Zadie Smith
Largely, I’ve been reading books related to my MA in the past few months, but I’d promised myself a break while on holiday and resigned (bloody) ‘Ulysses’ to the bedside table in London – so I’d been really looking forward to Zadie’s third outing. Brushing aside the dismal ‘Autograph Man’, Zadie continues to impress with a book that shows Miss Smith herself has taken on board the criticisms of ‘The Autograph Man’ and gone back to the tried and tested format of ‘White Teeth’. She gives us a pan-Atlantic tale of two warring families and their various inter-personal relationship skills. A pleasure.
‘Pnin’ by Vladimir Nabokov
Fantastic! Like many people, the only other Nabokov I’d read is ‘Lolita’ (and enjoyed it enormously), but stumbled across the existence of ‘Pnin’ after Zadie Smith recommended it in a recent interview. So it made a nice bridge to read her choice after her book. 150 witty pages of dry humour, heartfelt bafflement and endearing eccentricities. Professor Timofey Pnin is a Russian bewildered in America… and the result in these pages is something that everyone should read.
‘The Scent Of Your Breath’ by Melissa P
Turgid, adolescent nonsense. What a waste of paper. Two years ago, 17-year-old Melissa threw up ‘100 Strokes of The Brush’, which purported to be her diary of her teenage sexual shenanigans. Having successfully whipped the world’s media into a furore, the lying brat now admits it was a load of codswallop (as most of her critics correctly suggested at the time). It was quite amusing though, so I picked up her sequel for some further light holiday reading. Written as a preposterously precocious letter to her mother, it’s pretentious beyond belief and took approximately one hour to read from cover to crumpled cover.
‘Fear Of Flying’ by Erica Jong
I’d never read ‘Fear Of Flying’ and felt, as a young woman of the world, that it was my duty to do so… and on holiday seemed as good a time as any. But half way through, I realised life was too short and left it out in the Italian rain one night and helped myself to another white wine. As an undergraduate I ploughed through ‘Of Blessed Memory’, but freely confess I remember one of it… not even the saucy bits. And on that note, I was disappointed to find nothing even remotely saucy in ‘Fear Of Flying’. On admitting this to the boyfriend (who found my soggy paperback the morning after I abandoned it to the weather), he shook his head in disappointment and reminded me what a classic feminist tome it is. At which juncture I’d like to add that yes, I recognise it’s a book of it’s time… but I’m a girl of my time and it’s not the ‘70s. Sorry.
‘Pgymalion’ by Bernard Shaw
Of course I’ve read this before. But it’s short, sweet and needed to be read for the MA (the only holiday read that did). Thoroughly enjoyable, it saw me through the torturous plane ride home… and not a hint of Martine McCutcheon in sight. Amen.