Sunday, April 10, 2005

Book: The Small Bachelor by PG Wodehouse

The hero of this very typical Wodehouse novel is a Small Bachelor because he lives in what is described as a Small Bachelor Apartment. This book has all the usual elements of Wodehouse stories which even when transplanted from rural England to New York don't change too much. There are the usual Gentlemen of leisure, ineffectual criminals and efficient butlers. There are the lines that drip wit like an overweight jogger. And then of course there is the subtle twists of language that make you realise English is a modelling substance more like clay than Lego bricks.

There is no point in me spouting off about how good the writing is in the bad English that I am often tending to use (illustrative example), it's best to just slip in some of the better lines, albeit out of context...

"His lordship closed the door behind Mrs Waddington and stood for some moments in profound thought. He may have been wondering what was the earliest he could expect a cocktail, or he may have been musing on some deeper subject - if there is a deeper subject."

"Marriage is not a process for prolonging the life of love, sir. It merely mummifies its corpse."

and of course the fantastic exclamation... "Sweet artichokes of Jerusalem!"

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Book: Amsterdam - A Brief History of the City by Geert Mak

This book tells the story of the greatest city in the world from swampy bank to the top British Stag (Bachelor) Party destination.

It tells of a city of tolerence, even when all over europe, various religious groups were being ousted, toasted or forced to recant their crazy beliefs.

The story is often not told linearly, as certain [schemes] are followed from start to finished and then we jump back many years to follow the seeds and start of the next one. Occasionally years speed past in a matter of paragraphs, but the book is best when specific events or eras are deligtfully recreated. In particular the sad decline of Rembrandt paralleled with the life of the subject of one of his more unconventional pictures - the suspended body of an executed girl.

The book really paints some very evocative pictures of times long since sunk beneath the mud and bicycles that line the bottoms of the canals. I recommened it to anyone who lives here, lived here or wants to live here. If you're really keen, you can buy the Dutch-language original.