Wednesday, 23 January 2013

I feel I should say..

... I haven't actually been reading NW for the last 3 months. I started it too soon after May We Be Forgiven and it didn't feel like I was giving it a fair crack of the whip, so I have plunged into an orgy of CRIME. It feels right in this weather, somehow. That's a lie, I always want to read crime. I don't really understand why, but (a) it's genetic, both my parents like(d) murder too and (b) so, it appears, does a huge swathe of the population, so perhaps resistance is futile.

First I read the full set of archeology thrillers by Elly Griffiths, then The Girl on the Stairs by Louise Welsh (eh?), then The Blackhouse by Peter May, because someone recommended it and someone else said it was utterly dreadful and I was curious (verdict: slightly heavy on the seabirds and leaden, brooding menace for me), then I read Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton even though it has ghosts and I don't normally hold with that kind of thing, and In the Woods by Tana French which was really great but I felt slightly cheated at the end and now I've found a Denise Mina I hadn't already read (even though, having read the subsequent ones, I know whodunnit).

Problems with reading too much dark detective fiction:

- Wake up every morning with a steel band tension headache from a night of tooth grinding.

- Twitchy, bug eyed, anxious.

Advantages of reading too much detective fiction:

- Would have been anxious anyway, and now twitchiness/anxiety can now be ascribed to reading habits, not real life.

- Instant perspective: have I been dismembered, or accused of dismemberment today? No? Well then. Also, I think real life takes on a sort of benigner hue due to the absence of disgusting, senseless, violent, sadistic crime in my front room. The pigeons in the back garden fight a lot, and the bastard dog jumped onto the kitchen work surface and ate my last three triangles of Blue Toblerone today, but that's as bad as it gets.

So: what next? I have done quite a lot of the Scandis in varying quantities/quality, but none but Asa Larsson in the last two years. Am I missing out on further opportunities to grind my horse teeth into tiny stumps and get palpitations? What crime do you recommend? My tastes run particularly to gritty/realistic-verging-on-profoundly-gloomy/Aga saga gone bad, and much less to PIs with 'pieces'. Alternatively, what have you read recently that is good and that you recommend to wean me off this run of autopsies and dark childhood secret misery?

In other news, M and I have had a disagreement about those Shetland ponies wearing Shetland jumpers.

E: I'm not sure about the jumpers. I am concerned that they adulterate their essential pony-ness.

M: There is something wrong with your side of the brain.

E: Why can't ponies JUST BE PONIES? LET PONIES BE PONIES.

M: This is like the Bartlet campaign all over again.

E: YES. YES IT IS. And yet I am still not in love with Josh despite your assurances.

In other, further, other news, my life as a Tiger Mother malgré moi continues ingloriously, but with intermittent high points of comedy. F dropped his rental violin, denting it, during an over-enthusiastic rendering of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and we have entered the dark, dark world of Learning Chinese Characters By Heart. Bugger all that encouraging stuff about forging new neural passageways of two posts ago, my brain finds this process physically painful.

"HANG ON. I thought this one that looks like a picnic table was 'ma'?

"Naaooon, that's huan".

"And since when are there TWO that look like small stick people? AND WHY DOES ONE OF THEM HAVE A FAT LEG??"

F is totally on top of it.


He can also sing you a Chinese song about tigers with no ears, and do some kind of eyeball massage. He is quite the renaissance man. My very favourite of his new skillz is listing huge numbers of animals in Chinese, which has enabled me to learn the following composite creature expressions:

Panda is "Bear cat"
Turkey is "fire chicken"
Goat is "mountain sheep"
Owl is "cat head .. something". (I think it is bird. F is unsure)

Fire chicken! I want to make up my own now, but unfortunately my brain is still cowering in the corner, licking its wounds. Weepette's composite name is "chocolate bastard neurotic scrawny fiend" and soon my youngest will be able to write that down for me in beautiful calligraphy. I have tried gently querying with him whether all his self-imposed extra-curricular activities make him feel like the sister in Mr Stink who has jousting lessons and plays the trombone and so on, but he claims not so, so on we go, towards imminent ruin.

Final other news: I just have discovered this (after nearly 10 million other people, I am quite the early adopter) and now I cannot stop muttering to myself "fuck your Toyota Yaris, I've got a horse outside" even though sadly this is not at ALL true. More on the subject of horses soon, however, even though they do not have an entertaining composite name ('ma', but not the same 'ma' that looks like a picnic table, because it has an uppy-downy accent instead of a straight across one I TOLD YOU IT WAS HARD).

21 comments:

JJ said...

You've just reminded me I want to read the rest of the Asa Larsson books. Those archeology books look great, too, I hadn't heard of them.

I loathed The Blackhouse. Properly passionate dark muttering loathing. (I didn't particularly like NW either but I don't particularly like Zadie Smith although I really want to.)

And I'm with M on the ponies, sorry.

I had not seen that video! That's brilliant. I think if I tweet it I will get cool points from my son who, as of today, is following me. Bonus.

Dee said...

Also agree re The Blackhouse- I shelled out dollaros for the audiobook and felt utterly cheated.
Recommendation- Stuart MacBride! Gory, gritty, much foul language, and the funniest black humour I have ever read. Start with Cold Granite and work your way through them. He and Denise Mina are my absolute favourites, closely followed by Mark Billingham and, for a little trans-atlantic flavour, Karin Slaughter (worth it for the name alone).
Why yes, I AM a crime tragic. :-)

MsCaroline said...

My late father was a Chinese linguist, and he was always(unsuccessfully) trying to teach me Chinese(oddly, he did succeed in teaching me to speak fluent German.) Besides the numbers, all I can remember is a sentence that goes, "Ma ma ma ma," which, -if said with correct tonal emphasis - means 'Mother hit the horse with a stick.'
I was never able to get the correct tonal emphasis, sadly.

paola said...

I've also just read "In the woods": like you I really liked it and then felt cheated at the end... So I decided to go straight into the second book "The likeness" and I just can't put it down! Haven't finished it yet, so no spoilers, but it's much better than the first. Give it a try!
Paola

Robert Hudson said...

Have you read Carol O'Connell? It's crack-y. Definitely start with Mallory's Oracle if you fancy going down the road. Lawrence Block's 'The Burglar...'s are effortlessly and actually good light reading. I love Janet Evanovich.

Mrs Jones said...

How very odd. We get the cat to do owl impressions by squeezing his ears together. He also does a passable Yoda (push the ears apart) and snake (pin the ears flat).

Anyway, I'm not sure if you're into historical detective fiction (probably not) but I'm going to highly recommend the 'Bernie Gunther' novels by Philip Kerr (starting with 'March Violets') and the Station series of books by David Downing. Both are set in Nazi Germany - Bernie Gunther is a melancholy ex-policeman and in the Station books, John Russell is an American/British journalist caught up in Berlin in the 1930s. Both sets of books are brilliantly written, taut, scary plus added Nazi menace. And I liked them much better than Alan Furst's books. Anyway, just putting that out there, in case you're interested!

Michelloui | The American Resident said...

Chinese characters? I'm going to have to make a cup of tea after this to calm the worries that I-should-have-done-that-for-my-daughter and am-I-not-a-good-enough-mum-for-not-thinking-of-it.

I always crave fanatsy fictyion in the autumn and winter. Weird. I wondered if I was the only one to have seasonal literature cravings. I can understand the crime craving! I haven't read good crime stuff since the Aurelio Zen novels. I shall check back for others' recommendations here then to get a list going, after reading this I quite fancy some good crime fiction. And yes, it does keep things in perpspective--I love this: "have I been dismembered, or accused of dismemberment today? No? Well then."

Waffle said...

Michelloui - Oh god, I must explain that this whole Chinese thing came SOLELY from my son and if it were up to me we would spend every afternoon and evening watching reruns of Come Dine With Me and eating Cadburys chocolate buttons.

JJ - It was your hatred/India's rec of it that made me curious! I am on your side on this one.

Dee/Robert/Mrs Jones - Thank you so much for these, they are now on my list. I may never need to read literary fiction again (sorry Zadie)!

The Reluctant Launderer said...

One on One by Craig something. (David ? No, he's the singer.) anyway. It's brilliant. read it and then make a fantasy dinner party guest list based on the subjects. I'm only half way through but so far want GB Shaw and Rasputin.
Love the Rubberbandits. I hope all this Chinese intonation practising has left you impressing Irish folk with your Limerick accent? ("harse owtside") Have a look at the vid for Bag of Glue for more amusement. Best line ever in a song "there's no way I'm riding you, unless I'm wrecked on bags of glue". Ah, takes me back to my college days...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYO2GffqnmI&list=SP2302ECA6B46F6999&index=4

Patience_Crabstick said...

I am dying over those Shetland ponies. They are going straight to Pinterest.

Off topic, but regarding your post about life success beyond the twenties. I just remembered that Penelope Fitzgerald, a most excellent writer, did not publish her first novel until she was in her sixties.

mountainear said...

Did you read Tove Jansson's 'Moomin' books as a girl? Try her semi-autoBiographical 'The Summer Book'. Not challenging. Rather sweet but With an underlying melancholy. Ticks the Scaninavian box.

Anonymous said...

I just finished Where'd You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple. Total fluff, but quite amusing. I'm also making my way through the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde. The first one is the Eyre Affair and is also quite amusing.

I also don't like Zadie Smith as much as I should.

Simon said...

If you're open to crime NON-fiction, try People Who Eat Darkness, about the murder of a British woman working as a hostess in a club in Tokyo.

Jenna@livingsocial said...

Lol

I agree. Reading dark detective fiction does have those benefits- I mean, side effects. It keeps you on your toes and reminds you that no matter how charming someone may seem, they could very well be planning to kill using poison and you could be their target.

Okay, so most of the things that are described in those books are a little overworked. However a healthy does of suspicion never hurt anyone.

Watch a light comedy before bed- it may help with the tension headaches.

Xtreme English said...

Crazy about Donna Leon's Commissario Guido Brunetti series.

Anonymous said...

How about Kate Atkinson?

ali_jane said...

I'm very impressed that your son will be over to take over whatever confusing EU machinery you have over there once the Chinese government starts demanding back its money from the US and doubles itself as a super power. The EU non-Chinese side will be wowed by his knowledge of opera and violin concertos. I would try and follow his lead, but since I still haven't learned French after ten years in a predominantly francophone city I will focus on other neural pathways.

If you haven't already read it, I suggest a more picturesque crime novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. I can't vouch for the sequels.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Sweetness-Bottom-Pie-Mystery/dp/0752883216/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1359082562&sr=8-2

Margaret said...

Sorry, I have no crime recommendations: I like my detective novels fluffy and funny a la Sarah Caudwell (you've probably read them all and understand them much better than I do) and Elizabeth Peters. Lately I've been on a Kazuo Ishiguro tear. It started with Never Let Me Go and has progressed rapidly through everything I can find for my Kindle. At first The Unconsoled was all WTF, but now I'm
hooked. I wish you could get Elizabeth Bowen on Kindle.

Helen said...

I have just walked past this:

http://www.bl.uk/whatson/exhibitions/murder/index.html

It's only a little exhibition, but if you're in coming into London before May, it's next door to the Eurostar...

Also, not a crime story but a family mystery type thing I loved recently was 'The House of Silence'. A friend drunkenly insisted on giving me the two quid to buy it for Kindle and I loved it. Although it's obvious something is up, I didn't guess what it was.

Would also recommend the Jasper Fforde - very funny alternative-world literary-based detectiving!

(And now I will stop pretending I'm writing my thesis and actually go and read some Brecht.)

Scunder said...

Och I like the Fin MacCloud books ( so send me to a guano streaked rocky outcrop why dontcha)
Currently wading through Leif Persson- not to be recommended. The translation is practically incomprehensible. Perhaps a little Liza Marklund would fit the bill or indeed a soupçon of yrsa sigurdardottir - I enjoy her heroine almost as much as the fragrant Rebecca Martinsson.
You been watching Børgen then? Always faintly amused that there are only a total 5 actors in Denmark.

Anyhoo. Saw this and thought of you.
Might you get a wee story out of it?

http://www.sleepingaround.eu/concept.asp?taal=en

sabina said...

I have a hunch you would enjoy Reamde by Neal Stephenson - or Cryptonomicon by the same author.