Diary of an old cheeser

Hi there! Like other blogs, this is my chance to wax lyrical (some might say talk utter cr*p) about a) what's happening in my life b) all of my pet obsessions in particular music, tv, movies, books and other generally connected things, quite often of the retro, old and "cheesy" variety. Hence the title of my blog. Feel free to leave a comment if the mood takes you. There's nothing like a good chinwag about one's favourite topics and besides I love to meet new people! Cheers, Simon

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Being bookish...

I have suffered the misfortune of reading a spate of crap books recently. I've fallen for the blurb/hype, bought the book, read it and ended up sorely disappointed. Why can't I find something decent to read for gawd's sakes?

The Time Traveller's Wife sounded like an intriguing concept, and being a science-fiction/fantasy fan, I thought it would be right up my street. It's about a guy who has a rare genetic disorder which causes him to involuntarily travel through time. He then meets a young girl with whom he later has a relationship (when she becomes a woman) but matters are rather complicated by the fact that he constantly jumps backwards and forwards in time and is never around for long periods. Sounds pretty interesting eh? Unfortunately I found the central characters self-involved, annoying and the whole thing had an atmosphere of pretentiousness about it. Although I've read many novels featuring middle class characters in artistic settings with artistic temperaments, I just couldn't warm to this lot.

Next I tried Until I Find You by John Irving. I'd really enjoyed A Prayer for Owen Meany a number of years back. John Irving's novels always feature decidedly eccentric characters and situations and he has a very quirky writing style. His latest is about a young boy called Jack whose mother is a tattoo artist. In the first half of the story Jack travels with his mother across Europe as she searches for his father through the subculture of tattoo artists. But he can't be found. Jack returns to the United States, and studies in Canada and New England, later becoming a Hollywood actor. But he is still haunted by his past...Man, this novel was long!! 900 pages!! However I didn't even make it to half way through. In spite of some quirky characters and situations, and moments of black humour, the whole thing just didn't add up for me, and I gave up on it. Again I found it hard to care about the characters or what happened. And (I'm sure many of you will share this view) the sign of a good book is that you can't a) put it down b) wait to come back to it! Yet "Until" inspired neither response in me. So it's off to the charity shops with that one...

I confess I have mixed tastes when it comes to literature/novels. I'm an English Literature Post-grad and ex English teacher (well, la-di-da, daaarling! Get ME!) Consequently I'm fairly well versed in the "classic" authors. Note my placing of "classic" in inverted commas as I do believe that some of the so-called great works of literature are very overrated. Some ARE deserving of this status. I will always love Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights for instance. However, I also have a real penchant for, er, "lesser" works of fiction. Several years ago, I got seriously hooked on author Andrea Newman (anyone remember A Bouquet of Barbed Wire? A Sense of Guilt?) She writes mainly about middle class sh*gging and her stuff is totally rivetting. Horrible, selfish characters though. And I loved Peyton Place by Grace Metalious and all its sequels. Basically I'm a trash/soap queen at heart.

I'm also into gay fiction and the works of several gay/lesbian authors fill my shelves, although this genre of writing has burgeoned so much in the last couple of decades it's now hard to keep up with what's new. Which leads me to the last thing I read, Service Wash by Rupert Smith. Yes, you've guessed. Another disappointment for demanding old moi. This one looked good when I read about it and again I thought it would be just my thing. All about a gay author who is hired to write the biography of a successful soap star. However it's not as straightforward a job as he thinks...This started off reasonably but was no masterpiece, being very predictable in places (I was probably expecting too much anyway - the subject matter isn't exactly deep stuff is it?). The whole story went off the rails at the end, with an attempt to pull the rug from under the reader's feet that was frankly ludicrous. And a totally pantaloonies ending.

So....help me!! Yes, this is an appeal to YOU my lovely fellow bloggers and readers. Can anyone please recommend a DECENT book to read? Or a DECENT author?

(Actually I read Lubin's blog today and he wrote about a book called World War Z - An Oral History Of The Zombie War which sounds very intriguing. Oddly enough a man sat opposite me on the train the other day was reading this. Perhaps it's a sign from above).

But in the meantime, I would be sooo grateful if any of you could point me in the way of a DECENT writer / book! Pretty please! I'll even consider Jilly Cooper!!

Gosh, did I really just say that? Desperation sets in...

And to give you an idea of what I like, here's some of my fave raves...some already mentioned...

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
Irvine Welsh
Meera Syall
Patrick Suskind
Tama Janowitz
Andrea Newman
Grace Metalious
Robert Rodi
Felice Picano
Armistead Maupin
John Updike

...Thanking you!


  • At 1:46 am , Blogger TimeWarden said...

    I remember "Bouquet" with Frank Finlay and Susan Penhaligon and "Sense of Guilt" with Trevor Eve. I like the Lana Turner film of "Peyton Place", too, though it's a while since I've seen it.

    Did you watch the recent adaptation of "Jane Eyre" with Toby Stephens as Mr Rochester, on BBC1? If so, what did you think?

  • At 7:57 pm , Blogger matty said...

    I love all on your list excepting Maupin. I have never been able to get into his work. I do think, however, that he has been the best at capturing some of the magic that can be found in San Francisco.

    You know, the new Amy Sedaris book is a real fun (and useful) read!

  • At 1:05 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Time Warden - I didn't see that adaptation of Jane Eyre. There was a BBC version done back in the 80s though I think, which I really liked with Timothy Dalton as Rochester and an excellent actress called Zellah Clarke as Jane!

    Matty - Interesting that as a San Fran man you don't like Armistead! Yes, he does describe the city very alluringly from what I remember and from the p.o.v. of an outsider the city sounds very interesting.

    What's the Amy Sedaris book about? Who she?

  • At 1:15 pm , Blogger thomas said...

    Hi Si,

    "A Bouquet of Barbed Wires" sounds like a good read, i'd like to check it out! ;-)

    Have you read any Alan Warner yet? I especially recommed "The Sopranos", it's about a bunch of naughty schoolgirls from the Scottish highlands let loose in Edinburgh on a schooltrip. it's very rude, i think you might like :-)

    speaking of 900 page or so-novels, Thomas Pynchon's latest epic "Against the Day" remains sitting next to our settee, unread since x-mas but looking handsome, but I hear it's another trip like "Gravity's Rainbow". You'll need about three months off to read it though...

    take care!

  • At 9:55 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Hello Thomas!

    I agree "Bouquet" has an intriguing title, but it's very soapey stuff. And from what I know of you it might not quite be your thing...it's not Dennis Cooper, darling...

    Haven't tried Alan Warner but that novel sounds interesting...one more to add to the list!

    What's Thomas Pynchon like?

  • At 11:29 am , Blogger thomas said...

    Thomas Pychon: start with 'The Crying of Lot 49', that's quite manageable and really good fun. then move on to either 'V' or 'Vineland' or any of the larger novels if you like it.


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