Saturday, April 29, 2006

Starting at the beginning and giving up before the end

I'm still hacking periodically through the smörgåsbord of literary treats that I got as part of a 'spend so much and get 10 free fiction books' from The Book People. Like a chocolate selection, it's luck whether you get the fudge or bite into something sickly and creamy (replace with toffee if you have false teeth).

I have a habit of dumping books if I can see where the author is leading and can't be bothered to see how he got there. And it is for this reason I gave up Whisky Galore about 30 pages in. Loads of Scottish caricatures have unthreatening personal issues on a small island. Mostly they moan about the shortage of whisky due to WWII. The obvious development was for them to discover some whisky and for the 'crises' to be resolved in an unedgy and undemanding explosion of drunkenness. When I say 'crises' I mean, of course, the sort of wholesome, chocolate box incidents encountered by characters on Heartbeat. Since the book was alleged to be 'comic' then I assume there would also be lots of falling over and general slapstick. The reason to keep reading was to find out where they found the whisky and how this unsubtly signposted plot unfurled. But this would require wading through more of the filler material; a sticky, unswallowable mess of dubious accents deployed upon the concerns of the excessively provincial.

I'm finding Flaubert's Parrot a tastier morsel. Although it doesn't really seem to be going anyplace, at least it's unpredictable and quirky in failing to get there. This was always the problem with Quicksilver - the plot was moving too slowly to be discerned by the reader and what happened in between drifted with such verbosity that you were gagging for the author to get on with it. At 229 pages, Flaubert's Parrot is a much faster moving volume and if one random digression doesn't appeal then at least another will be along imminently. I can't really say what the book's about. It appears to be the travels about France of a somewhat Flaubert-fixated doctor, and his various musings on the author of Madame Bovary. The title refers to his visit to various Flaubert museums and his attempts to authenticate which of two stuffed parrots sat for several months by Flaubert's desk.


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