I have seen better days. The smallest Trefusis, Hunca Munca, finding me curled in a ball on her sofa this morning in my clothes from the night before (these ones, detail lovers. Not ideal nightwear) stared appraisingly at me for a minute, took out her dummy and asked "What ARE you?". It was a fair question. I'm not sure. A mess? A cautionary tale, the moral of which appears to have been mislaid? 79.8% wine and messed up liver enzymes?
Moreover, Confessional is off because our confessor has dug a hole at the bottom of the garden and is refusing to come out. Let's do something different.
Tell me about one book you've read this summer. It can be your summer holiday book report, and as with all holiday assignments, it should be done badly, at the last minute, and in a rush. You may make it up if you can't remember, or spent your holiday doing livelier things.
I am going to tell you about Harry Revised by Mark Sarvas, that I bought on a whim in WHSmiths in Paris on the basis of the synopsis and reviews on the back.
Very briefly, the story is this:
Harry is an aimless, inept Bel Air radiologist whose wife has just died, a fact that leaves him practically unravelling but seemingly emotionally detatched. He falls in love with a waitress, and embarks on a programme of reinventing himself as a masterly, secretive philanthropist, inspired by Alexandre Dumas's Count of Monte Cristo. Disasters heap upon him as he pursues his scheme and the story spools back to explain the web of ineffectual, weak deceits that defined his life with, and indirectly led to the death of Anna, his wife.
From the cover description, I thought it might be a bit blokey. Not blokey in a moronic Tony Parsons way, but more in a young American male novelist way; a bit slick and technical but emotionally empty. My god, but it isn't. It's got wonderful comic timing and plotting, and made me laugh out loud, repeatedly. I don't often laugh out loud at books and I did here, more than once. At the same time, it's a kind, affectionate book, which is odd for something with such a strong farcical element. The characterisation is very humane; Harry himself is hapless but eminently likeable and the relationship with Anna is painfully acutely described. It has a lot to say but with a wonderfully light touch about the bizarre process of grieving and the strange accommodations of marriage. Yet at the same time the plot gallops along in a hugely compelling way and Harry's self-induced catastrophes are hideously funny and relentless.
Hmm. I don't think book reviews are my forte, but fuck it, I have a bizarre tingling in my right hand and all my internal organs are crying like a greek chorus of reproachful viscera. This will have to do. Er, summary time now?
It's great. I recommend. I'll send my copy to whoever gives me the best book report in the comments.