Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Time apart

Yes, I think Val's suggestion of deferring Memoirs of a Geisha to March and We need to talk about Kevin to April is sensible - we don't want this to be a chore! I'd only suggested March for the latter since Helen S had pointed out the Radio 4 link-up in March, but the listen-again facility (hooray!) finesses that anyway. And having been to some lengths to get hold of the Shriver, I can advise 1. It's no short novel and 2. Libraries aren't useful at present, since every reading group in the county seems to be reading it and 3. Therefore I only have my own copy, which I won't be able to lend out for awhile.

If anyone is wanting a book in between and/or is waiting to get hold of We need to talk, I've recently read A month in the country by J L Carr, which is super-short and I enjoyed very much. Do I have a volunteer to read it and tell me what the ending means, please?

While dryly amusing, it's not "a comic novel", so I wouldn't suggest it for our "funny" book... Although since Helen S helped edge me into agreeing to We need to talk, I refuse to be held responsible for it being bleak, and required to provide light relief! Any more humourous choices welcome - best to email me direct - but I agree with Val that I find humour rather like compulsory family fun on Bank Holidays - best avoided and rather more enjoyable when it comes upon you subtly, and unawares. Which fits with Helen S's point about irony, that most oblique form of humour...

I do, I'm afraid, have to disagree with Val on inadvertent humour. I cannot, offhand, think of a single occasion where it's the writer's unintentional humour which amused me. (Do, please, give me examples from what I've read if you can.) I think Helen's right about irony being superb comedy - it's usually the writer who knows exactly what the disparity is between reality and appearance, and the character/s who don't. Someone like Alan Bennett, for all his protestations about being a low-key observer, is frighteningly bright and deliberate, and I don't think there's a single effect in his writing which he didn't mean. He's just too talented. Authors who don't realise that/why people are laughing, for instance Jeffrey Archer, don't mean to be funny and would be cross if you laughed, and have made people laugh precisely by being so ham-fisted.

But I utterly applaud Val's point about not being forced to laugh - I like my humour done with a light touch, and being allowed to find it funny by myself (ie treated as an adult capable of working things out) and that's why I avoid reading blurbs on the back of books, since they tell me what to think (and they're almost always wrong). If the writer has the confidence to make their point and leave me to appreciate it as I wish, they're almost invariably very skilled and are likely to be able to amuse me, even if their style isn't laugh-out-loud. What do you lot think?

By the way, Helen - try chapter 4 of Three men in a boat - one of the only things which still makes me laugh uncontrollably every time I read it. Men and a dog packing - priceless. Not comedy but gritty documentary drama, as the American comic Greg Proops commented on Fawlty Towers, having tried to get lunch in a British hotel after 2pm and realised the veracity of the show...

Will post on Memoirs of a Geisha shortly.