Cecily's book reviews

In general I've written reviews of every book I've read since I joined GoodReads (RIP) in May 08, along with one or two I read prior to that. More recent reviews tend to be longer (sometimes a tad too long?). I always carry a book, though I don't get as much time as I'd like to get engrossed - life is busy, but in a good way. Too many of my favourite authors died without writing enough! Apart from reading, and writing about reading, I enjoy Scrabble, good restaurants, woodland, and attending the theatre.
Time’s Arrow - Martin Amis A short book that is one long gimmick: clever as a writing exercise, but not worth publishing or reading. Once the novelty of a backwards story has worn off, there is little point to it and I lost interest (though I did finish it). And it's not even that novel: Kurt Vonnegut had the same idea as a brief scene in "Slaugterouse Five" (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/129649718).

It opens with painfully vivid descriptions of a life-and death emergency. It turns out to be the story of one man's life, told backwards by a consciousness/conscience inhabiting his body, but with no memory of what is to come (i.e. what has already happened). It feels his emotions, but can't control them or his actions. He is a doctor, so in this world, he assaults people, "money... all comes down to the quality of your trash" and "all sustenance, all meaning" comes from the loo!

At one point the narrator says "I have noticed... that most conversations would make much better sense if you ran them backwards. But with this man-woman stuff, you could run them any way you liked - and still get no further forward." There are duly several scenes where it is quite intriguing to read the dialog forwards then backwards, and the fact it works is clever, but... so what?

I can't work out if it would be better or worse as a film: backwards footage of walking and eating is passé, but some other things would work well, e.g. "The ship's route is clearly delineated on the surface of the water and is violently consumed by our advance. Thus we leave no mark on the ocean, as if we were covering our tracks."

There are some other ideas where running them backwards gives an intriguing or awkwardly funny slant, but they don't add up to a decent novel, and some of them are so gratuitous and irrelevant to the plot (e.g. buying teeth from the tooth fairy) that I can't help thinking Amis had a list of backward things he wanted to incorporate. The slightly more interesting ones include the "meticulous vandalism" of gardening and "uglify the home" instead of DIY, birth being a long, painful goodbye, "a wounded finger healed and sealed by the knife's blade", hippies going to Vietnam and returning sane, middle age resurgence of interest in sex being like puberty, breaking up reading like a slushy reconciliation, and bottling the gook from one's hair and selling it. But ultimately, they're a series of gimmicks.


Currently reading

The Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy
Sebastian Peake, China Miéville, Mervyn Peake
Gormenghast
Mervyn Peake