“The Bonfire of the Vanities” by Tom Wolfe

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What’s it about?

Set in New York in the 1980s, the novel is a brilliant character study about race, politics, greed and egotism. The main protagonist is millionare Sherman McCoy, a Wall Street bonds salesman and self proclamed “Master of the Universe” who becomes involved in a hit and run accident in the Bronx while out with his mistress. Crossing paths with an alcoholic journalist, a desperate district attorney and a shady activist, the tale of Sherman McCoy falls into a dark and satirical drama filled with deception, bureaucracy, social snobbery and betrayl.

Worth reading because:

There has been a recent spate of films and books re-living the good olde greedy times on Wall Street (recent and past), but this is one of the best. Don’t watch the film though, read the book!

Any other books by this author worth reading?

The only other Tom Wolfe I have read is The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. It is a non-fiction account of the experiences of Ken Kesey and his group who travelled around in a bus spreading the beginnings of the hippie movement, they were famous for their use of psychedelic drugs.

Choice Cuts:

There it was, the Rome, the Paris, the London of the twentieth century, the city of ambition, the dense magnetic rock, the irresistible destination of all those who insist on being where things are happening—and he was among the victors!

On Wall Street he and a few others – how many? – three hundred, four hundred, five hundred? – had become precisely that … Masters of the Universe.

Still a very good-looking woman, my wife…with her fine thin features, her big clear blue eyes, her rich brown hair…But she’s forty years old!…No getting around it…Today good-looking…Tomorrow they’ll be talking about what a handsome woman she is…Not her fault…But not mine, either!

Delicious.

Have you read The Bonfire of the Vanities? What did you think?

“Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov

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Appearing in many a top 100 reading list from Time List of the 100 Best Novels in the English language to appearing fourth on the Modern Library 1998 list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th century. It is one of my top five all time favourite reads, lovely Lolita.

What’s it about?

Captivating, beautiful and obsessive, this novel is a dark and daring tale of perversion and dangerous lust.

Worth reading because:

The language is exquisite, it’s a masterpiece of literary style and wit. Passages overflow with a playful perversion and the dialogue is so delicious that you periodically find yourself sympathetic toward Humbert and his forbidden quest, quite forgetting that his seduction is intended for 12 year old Dolores Haze.

Any other books by this author worth reading?

Although in my opinion Lolita is the clear stand out, I would recommend King, Queen, Knave which is lighter and easier to read  and also Laughter in the Dark which is simillar in theme to Lolita. I’ve also read Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle, which was okay.

Choice Cuts:

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.

She would try to relieve the pain of love by first roughly rubbing her dry lips against mine; then my darling would draw away with a nervous toss of her hair, and then again come darkly near and let me feed on her open mouth, while with a generosity that was ready to offer her everything, my heart, my throat, my entrails, I gave her to hold in her awkward fist the scepter of my passion.

She could fade and wither – I didn’t care. I would still go mad with tenderness at the mere sight of her face.

Delicious.

Do you love the language in Lolita as much as I do?

“A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

This was my favourite book for a very long time, and it still ranks right at the top. I read it nearly ten years ago and I still find myself quoting from it in conversations, although no one knows what I’m on about…

What’s it about?

Meet the Ignatius J. Reilly, a 30 year old medieval scholar who still lives with his mother in New Orleans. He is obsesed by his contemptuous views of taste and decency and although he percieves he has a worldly outlook, he has never even left his home town. The novel centers around his quest for a job and the various adventures he has once employed.

Worth reading because:

It’s an eccentric, funny and memorable adventure featuring one of the best written characters of all time. The lanuage is just delicious and in writing about it now I think I’ll have to schedule it in for a re-read very soon. It also won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981. A highly recommended read,  you’ll be quoting it for the rest of your life.

Any other books by this author worth reading?

Sadly no,  John Kennedy Toole comitted suicide in 1969 and never saw this masterpiece published.

Choice Cuts:

… I avoid that bleak first hour of the working day during which my still sluggish senses and body make ever chore a penance. I find that in arriving later, the work which I do perform is of a much higher quality.

‘Canned food is a perversion,’ Ignatius said. ‘I suspect that it is ultimately very damaging to the soul’

A firm rule must be imposed upon our nation before it destroys itself. The United States needs some theology and geometry, some taste and decency. I suspect that we are teetering on the edge of the abyss.

Delicious.

Have you read A Confederace of Dunces? Do you like it as much as I do?

“The Talented Mr Ripley” by Patricia Highsmith

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Another very recent read, I haven’t seen the film so I can’t compare them but this was a real delight. I think I’ll have to watch the film now too.

What’s it about?

Tom Ripley is leading a strained existence in New York. Sick of his friends and bored of the city, he has a lucky break when the father of an acquaintance offers to send him to Italy, in an attempt to persuade their son to come home to America. Once in Italy though, Tom’s jealousies and paranoia get the better of him and the tension begins to  build.

Worth reading because:

It held me from the beginning, I was so engrossed in this book every morning on the Tube that I had to be careful not to miss my stop. Perfect! I totally believed the era I was transported to and descriptions of places I was reading about, they oozed a liquid decadence, drip, drip, drip and I felt jealous of their lives, just like Tom. Although I’m not certain the characters felt like real people, they were definitely interesting ones. It’s a great thriller and I think it achieves the same effect as American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis but without the intensity.

Any other books by this author worth reading?

After finishing this book I read the sequel Ripley Underground straight away as I wasn’t ready to part with the world Patricia had created yet. It wasn’t quite as good but still a decent book. I will probably read others in the series later on, they would make good plane reads. I’d also like to try some of her other stories like Strangers On a Train which was made into a Hitchcock film.

Choice Cuts:

Why should Dickie want to come back to subways and taxis and starched collars and a nine-to- five job?

Tom envied him with a heartbreaking surge of envy and self-pity.

He loved possessions, not masses of them, but a select few that he did not part with. They gave a man self-respect. Not ostentation but quality, and the love that cherished the quality. Possessions reminded him that he existed, and made him enjoy his existence.

They were not friends. They didn’t know each other. It struck Tom like a horrible truth, true for all time, true for the people he had known in the past and for those he would know in the future:

Delicious.

What did you think of The Talented Mr Ripley?

“The Spare Room” by Helen Garner

The spare room by Helen Garner

I thought for a while about la premiere post and what book I should do first. In a list of many greats, which is the greatest? Does this first post mean that it is the book I deem most worth reading and recommend above all others? To avoid that particular conundrum, I decided to report on a little gem that I read yesterday in one sitting, it is still fresh in my mind, is definitely worth reading and entirely recommendable. So onto today’s dish.

What’s it about?

A woman who has a terminally ill friend visit her for three weeks while she seeks an alternative medical treatment. Sounds dry, and I usually avoid books on such sad and realistic subject matter but this was a treat. Cue a tense period filled with love, life , rage and tolerance (or lack there of).

Worth reading because:

It’s a page turner, I read it yesterday while sick in bed and it only took about 3 hours. The characters feel real and the story feels almost biographical, which is probably because the author based it upon her real life experiences. It is sweet and funny and sad and it made me feel something. I like the author’s Australianness and her unabashed use of local references in Melbourne and Sydney.

Other books by this author worth reading?

The only other Helen Garner that I have read is Monkey Grip, which was ok. I haven’t read Joe Cinque’s Consolation but I have heard good things and it’s on my rather long “want to read” list.

Choice Cuts:

The station was a seven minute walk from my house, twenty if you had cancer.

Death will not be denied. To try is grandiose. It drives madness into the soul. It leaches out virtue. It injects poison into friendship, and makes a mockery of love.

… if I did not get Nicola out of my house tomorrow I would slide into a lime-pit of rage that would scorch the flesh off me, leaving nothing but a strew of pale bones on a landscape of sand.

Delicious.

Have you read The Spare Room by Helen Garner? If so, what did you think?

So, a new blog.

Jacques-Émile Blanche (French, 1861-1942).

Jacques-Émile Blanche (1861-1942).

I’m a voracious reader and after the writing of many book related emails recently with suggestions to friends and family, I’ve decided to start this little diary of recommendations. I read anything and everything, from sci-fi and classics, to pulp fiction and poetry, so expect a real mixed bag of worthy reads.

This blog is to be only positive and for the books that I have read and would suggest to others. Books that have you engaged from the opening lines, books that are a slow but worthy simmer, books with prose that makes you sigh aloud and re-read the passage just for the pleasure, books that ooze over you like sinking into a deep, warm bath.

In essence, Delicious Fiction.