About Me

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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Thursday, 29 November 2018

"The Great Divorce" by C S Lewis

This is a thought-provoking book on how to be a good Christian written in a very readable and entertaining manner. It is written by the great C S Lewis who also write:
Works of Science Fiction (or as he might have called it scientifiction) which are Christian allegories:

The Narnia books for children (which are also Christian allegories):

  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • Prince Caspian
  • The Magician's Nephew
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  • The Horse and His Boy
  • The Silver Chair
  • The Last Battle
Mediaeval literary criticism (the day job):
CSL imagines a bus trip from the dreary and lonely town of Hell through the sky into Heaven. And he imagines all the excuses the inhabitants of Hell make either not to get on the bus in the first place or to return to Hell after their journey.

His thesis is that in order to enter and stay in Heaven you have got to relinquish your self-centredness. As he says in the Preface: “You cannot take all luggage with you on all journeys”

Some people use excuses not to get on the bus:
  • A moment later two young people ... also left us arm in arm. They were both so trousered, slender, giggly and falsetto that I could be sure of the sex of neither, but it was clear that each for the moment preferred the other to the chance of a place in the bus.”
  • Others don’t like the company on the bus.
  • Some don’t think there will be room for them.
The newcomers in Heaven are Ghosts. They are greeted by the more substantial Angels who try to persuade them to stay. The Ghosts who can’t be persuaded include:
  • Those who insist on their rights and don’t want Charity.
  • Those who insist on their own opinions if they feel justified in them. 
  • Those who think that their lives would be improved if the Management changed the system: “What would you say if you went to a hotel where the eggs were all bad; and when you complained to the Boss, instead of apologising and changing his dairyman, he just told you that if you tried you’d get to like the bad eggs in time?
  • Those who are too ashamed to be seen in the company of angels.
  • Artists who are too in love with Art: “If you are interested in the country only for the sake of painting it, you'll never learn to see the country"
  • Mothers who love too fiercely.
  • Those who try to make others sorry for them and use this to manipulate others: “Pity was meant to be a spur that drives joy to help misery. But it can be used the wrong way round. It can be used for a kind of blackmailing. Those who choose misery can hold joy up to ransom by pity.”

The problem is that this means it is very hard to get into Heaven and CSL is worried by this: “If these Solid People were as benevolent as I had heard one of two of them claim to be, they might have done something to help the inhabitants of the Town - something more than meeting them on the plain ... How if this whole trip were allowed the Ghosts merely to mock them?” One answer offered is that “The sane would do no good if they made themselves mad to help madmen.” Another is that the great spirits of the blessed are just too large to squeeze into the narrow and cramped confines of Hell. I'm not sure that either truly address the question.

To enter Heaven CSL says we have to lose our self-centredness:
  • The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words ‘Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven’. ... There is always something they prefer to joy ... Achilles’ wrath and Coriolanus’ grandeur, Revenge and Injured Merit and Self-Respect and Tragic Greatness and Proper Pride.
  • Did ye never know a collector of books that with all his first editions and signed copies had lost the power to read them?
  • No natural feelings are high or low, holy or unholy, in themselves. They are all holy when God’s hand is on the rein. They all go bad when they set up on their own and make themselves into false gods.” 
  • There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him. And the higher and mightier it is in the natural order, the more demoniac it will be if it rebels. It's not out of bad mice or bad fleas you make demons, but out of bad archangels."
  • The false religion of lust is baser than the false religion of mother-love or patriotism or art: but lust is less likely to be made into a religion.
  • What we called love down there was mostly the craving to be loved.” 

Other great aphorisms include:
  • To travel hopefully is better than to arrive.” with the answer “If that were true, and known to be true, how could anyone travel hopefully? There would be nothing to hope for"
  • "Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth. What you now call the free play of inquiry has neither more nor less to do with the ends for which intelligence was given you than masturbation has to do with marriage.
  • Jesus ... was a comparatively young man when he died. He would have outgrown some of his earlier views, you know, if he’d lived. As he might have done, with a little more tact and patience.
  • "Light itself was your first love: you loved paint only as a means of telling about light.

But one of the best things about a C S Lewis book are the brilliant descriptions:
  • Time seemed to have paused on that dismal moment when only a few shops have lit up and it is not yet dark enough for their windows to look cheering.
  • My attention was caught by my fellow passengers ... Now that they were in the light, they were transparent ... They were in fact ghosts: man-shaped stains on the brightness of that air.
  • One gets glimpses, even in our country, of that which is ageless - heavy thought in the face of an infant, and frolic childhood in that of a very old man.”
  • The bus was full of light. It was cruel light. I shrank from the faces and forms by which I was surrounded. They were all fixed faces, full not of possibilities but of impossibilities, some gaunt, some bloated, some glaring with idiotic ferocity, some drowned beyond recovery in dreams; but all, in one way or another, distorted and faded. One had a feeling that they might fall to pieces at any moment if the light grew much stronger. Then - there was a mirror on the end wall of the bus - I caught sight of my own.” 
  • If a corpse already liquid with decay had arisen from the coffin, smeared its gums with lipstick, and attempted a flirtation, the result could not have been more appalling.
Biographies about C S Lewis reviewed in this blog include:
November 2018; 118 pages

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

"A Question of Blood" by Ian Rankin

Detective Inspector John Rebus is in hospital with a pair of has a pair of bandaged hands when his sidekick Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke tells him that a criminal with whom Rebus had been seen drinking the night before has been burned to death and that two schoolboys have been shot to death in the common room of their public school. These cases both look open and closed: Rebus was on the scene and has scalded (or were they burned) hands; and there is an ex-SAS soldier gunman with the two dead boys who shot himself. But as Rebus and Clarke seek for the gunman's motive, as usual, all is never quite as it seems in the world of Edinburgh crime.

Another classic outing for one of the better detective series.

In fact there is a moment when Rankin transcends his genre. John Rebus goes to Alan Renshaw, the bereaved parent of one of the boys in the school shooting, who happens to be his cousin. He finds him in the loft, playing with his dead son's discarded racing car track. The two men play with the kit for a while until reminiscence gives way to anger. This scene provides one of the very best  portraits of the grief of a bereaved parent that I have read.

The many bits of business possible for a character with heavily bandaged hands is a master-class for novelists. Lighting a cigarette and lifting a glass to his mouth (favourite occupations for Rebus) offer original descriptions; wearing gloves elicits 'fascist' comments; Rebus needs Clarke to drive for him.

Rankin is also particularly good at providing a new twist on sayings. Many of these are too diffuse to quote but they offer an original way of viewing the character.

  • "Patience: the one thing he had no time for." (C 1)
  • "The woman was not cooking with a full set of saucepans." (C 13)
  • "The kettle's trailing the pot one-nil at half-time." (C 14)

Other interesting quotes:

  • "Inside, the flat was musty. There was a fug which could have been bottled as eau de Bachelor." (C 3)
  • "What was he watching for? Because it satisfied the voyeur in him? He'd always enjoyed surveillances for the same reason: glimpses into secret lives." (C 16)

A great addition to the Rebus corpus. I also recommend:

November 2018; 440 pages

Monday, 26 November 2018

"Ulysses Found" by Ernle Bradford

Based on a lifetime of sailing the Mediterranean in a small boat, this book locates the places in Homer's Odyssey. Homer often gives precise sailing instructions and detailed descriptions of harbours (the exception is the clearly mythical voyage to the land of the dead) and Bradford uses these to trace the voyage. Sometimes Bradford agrees with classical sources (almost everyone locates Scylla and Charybdis in the Messina strait between Sicily and Italy) and sometimes he disagrees but in every case he has excellent reasons for his identification. Of course, this all assumes that Homer was working with a sailor or sailors or at least with their log books, even when, as Bradford admits, citing the lack of any encounters with other voyagers in the Odyssey, the Greeks of Homer's time never adventured into the Western Mediterranean.

This is a brilliant, fascinating, well argued and convincing book and the meat of the argument is perfectly spiced with anecdotes about the author's own adventures.

The route that Bradford suggests makes sense both in terms of directions, times and likely speeds, and the descriptions of land. In short, Bradford suggests Ulysses travelled north from Troy to raid the Thracian coast near Mount Ismaro. He was then driven by a storm to the Island of Djerba off the Libyan coast, the Land of the Lotus Eaters. He then travelled north to the land of the Cyclopes in SE Sicily, north to Ustica (the Island of Aeoleus) and again north to Bonifacio on southern Corsica, the Land of the Laestrygonians. He then travelled east to Circe's island (actually a headland) on the Italian coast north of Naples. After Circe he travelled west through the r (to the Land of the Dead) and then back to Circe. Leaving her again he went via the Isles of the Sirens (just south of the Sorrento peninsula) through the Messian straits (Scylla and Charybdis) to Taormina in Sicily where grazed the Cattle of the Sun. He spent years on Calypsos island (Malta) before finally travelling home via Corfu (the Land of the Phaeacians).

I've created a series of maps for this which can be found here

Fascinating bits:

  • Odysseus means ‘son of wrath’. But Ulysses derives from Olysseus which comes from O Lukos, ‘the wolf’
  • When young U is wounded in the thigh by a boar in a hunting accident. “This wounding in the thigh seems to equate him with a number of eastern gods, Tammuz, Adonis, and Cretan Zeus, all of whom were wounded and killed by a boar. These stories all stem from a Phoenician source.” 
  • The rudder, as we know it today, was a north European invention, and probably originated in the Baltic. This axled, hinged rudder was still considered something of a modern invention when used in the caravels of Henry the Navigator in the early 15th century. It was unknown in the classical world.
  • Odyssey ca C12 BC: “ the Cretan, or Minoan, seapower had collapsed before invaders from the north ... the Phoenicians had not yet founded their colonies on the North African coast.
  • Polyphemus has ‘eyebrows’ in the Odyssey: “It is not till later times that he becomes monophthalmic.
  • Garlic itself has long been associated with magical properties ... s late as the 14th century ... we find that garlic was reputed to neutralize the lodestone, thus putting the magnetic compass out of action.
  • Comparatively few rivers of any size flow into the Mediterranean, and it loses by evaporation two-thirds more than it receives from its rivers. This steady loss is made good by an inflow of water from the Atlantic.” This will allow U to drift back to the Med after visiting the ‘land of the dead’.
  • The two mountains which face each other across the Strait were called ‘The Pillars of Melkarth’ by the Phoenicians. They took their name from the twin pillars of the great temple of Melkarth in the city of Tyre. ... Melkarth was not only a sea god in Phoenician mythology, he was also Lord of the Underworld, and it was between the pillars of the Strait of Gibraltar that he was believed to dwell.” which is why C sent U to Gibraltar to go into the Underworld.
  • Baltic Amber was being imported overland into prehistoric Greece centuries before the Homeric period.
  • It was the Phoenicians who first gave the island its name, Maleth or Malet - the Shelter, Haven, or Hiding Place ... the word ‘Calypso’ in Greek means ‘hidden’ or ‘hider’, and the Homeric words for Calypso’s isle, Neesos Kalupsous, can best be translated in English as ‘The Island of the Hiding Place’.
  • The Maltese archipelago was inhabited many centuries before the basin of the Mediterranean was flooded.

Great quotes
  • I do not think that anything is lost by attempting to find a skeleton - however magnificent the cupboard that hides it.
  • Ulysses was the shopkeeper with his thumb on the scales, and an eye for the girls, handy with a knife in a dark alley, and at the same time in some strange fashion or other, capable of honesty - or was it of great consistency? - over most of the major issues.” 
  • When men return from war it is their record as fighting men which usually determines their immediate position in society. Inevitably within a short time the standards of judgement change, so that often the war hero turns out to be a peace-time failure.”
  • In Trapani I have felt history as heavy as a plush curtain. ... One's own life is seen as no more than a minute drop of resin oozing from the trunk of some giant tree.
  • Places are little in themselves, you must earn them by your voyage.

A wonderful voyage.

November 2018; 221 pages

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

"The Wench is Dead" by Colin Dexter

Morse is in hospital with a stomach ulcer. For over a week! I suspect that he would have been seen in A & E and sent home with some tablets nowadays. Whilst there, putty in the hands of alternately  strict and beautiful nurses, he reads about a murder case of the 1800s and begins to suspect that the original verdict is incorrect. Aided by the indefatigable Sergeant Lewis and a visiting librarian he begins to put together the evidence that will unravel the mystery.

Fascinating from its account of how much leisure illness afforded us in the 1980s, Dexter successfully pads out a slimline murder mystery.

"There is a sadness which invariably and mysteriously accompanies the conclusion of any journey ... a presage of the last journey we all must take." (C 29)

A Morse book. The series started with Last Bus to Woodstock.

This book won the Gold Dagger from the Crime Writers' Association in 1989. Other winners include:

  • The Dry in 2017
  • Dodgers in 2016
  • The Spy who came in from the Cold in 1963

November 2018; 134 pages

Sunday, 18 November 2018

"Last Bus to Woodstock" by Colin Dexter

The very first Inspector Morse mystery, written in 1975.  It also introduces his sidekick, Sergeant Lewis. Set in the days when men, particularly Oxford dons, thought nothing of driving to a country pub for a few drinks, a spot of misogynist conversation, some casual sex with compliant barmaids or secretaries (who are apparently always up for it), and then driving back home and when you had to go to a cinema or back street newsagent to access pornography, this concerns a girl who, having hitch-hiked to Woodstock, is found with the skull smashed in in a pub car park. Although it depends too much on coincidence piled on coincidence for my taste, it is full of misdirection and there are some nice moments in which the author delays the reveal just a little bit longer.

Some great lines:

  • "Her pride and poverty semi-detached was still her real home." (Prelude)
  • "As I get older I must confess to the greater appreciation of two things in life - natural beauty and the delights of the belly." (C 11)
  • "There was something, too, about the hands of people who worked with metal: a sort of ingrained griminess, however patiently they were scrubbed." (C 22)

November 2018; 182 pages

Saturday, 17 November 2018

"Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare

The classic love story about "star-cross'd lovers".

It is interesting that there is a prologue in the form of a sonnet which gives the plot away and that the Chorus delivers another sonnet prologue to Act Two but then the prologue's cease. This is a bit like the 'play within a play' idea in The Taming of the Shrew which Shakespeare also seems to have forgotten half way through. 

There is also a lot of word play and other stuff going on. The Nurse is a very garrulous figure of fun. Romeo's mates, Mercutio and Benvolio, do a lot of stag-talk (eg “Draw thy tool ... My naked weapon is out”). And the servants regularly come in with some comedy. Either Shakespeare needed fillers to pad out his rather simple story or he realised that the audience would want some gagging going on before the denouement.

Romeo Montague, pining with unrequited love for Rosalind, intercepts an invitation to a feast she will be present at ... but it is hosted by his family's sworn enemies, the Capulets. Going hidden to the feast he sees and falls in love with thirteen year old Juliet Capulet and she with him. Later that night, in the famous balcony scene, they pledge their love to one another and arrange a meeting at the holy cell of Friar Lawrence to get married.

But after they are married Romeo gets involved in a street brawl and kills Juliet's cousin Tybalt. This gets him banished from the city. Meanwhile, Juliet;s parents have made plans for her to marry Paris.

Romeo steals into Juliet's bedroom to consummate his marriage before fleeing to Mantua.

Friar Lawrence now gives Juliet a potion so she can feign death rather than marry Paris. The Friar's plan is for Romeo to come to the vault, disinter Juliet, and take her to Mantua. But the Friar's letter is dismayed and Romeo only hears that Juliet has died.

Romeo returns to Verona. Entering the vault he drinks poison to be with his wife. She then awakens, sees him dead, and stabs herself with his dagger.

November 2018

Other Shakespeare plays reviewed in this blog include (productions mentioned in parentheses; RSC = Royal Shakespeare Company; NT = National Theatre):

Friday, 16 November 2018

"Deja Dead" by Kathy Reichs

A serial killer is loose in Montreal. Pathologist Temperance Brennan decides the cops aren't working hard enough so conducts a few investigations on her own.

The strength of this otherwise predictable yarn lies in the detailed descriptions of, for example, the saw marks on the bones of a dissected corpse. For me, however, there was simply too much detail. Two pages on the different sorts of saws and their teeth? I skipped a lot of that. I guess I wasn't the target audience. We're all different.

In chapter 38 there seems to be a confusion between impotence (the inability to get an erection) with infertility (“goodbye spermatogenesis” as the detective says. This wouldn't matter ... except in a book which sells itself on medical detail.

There were some nice descriptions:
  • We sure aren't sitting any speed records clipping this worm.” (C 8)
  • Probably makes him harder than a math final.” (C 12)
  • His fingers felt cold and limp, like carrots kept too long in a cooler bin.” (C 16)
  • The little bastard’s about to blow a vocal chord. You don't get over there pretty quick he's going to circle right up his own asshole.” (C 17)
  • Two black kids ... wore ... pants big enough to have a nuclear family.” (C 35)

But I felt that “His eyes looked cold and hard, like some Mesozoic mammal.” (C 41) was meaningless. Does anyone know what the eyes of Mesozoic mammals (the very first mammals in the fossil record) looked like? And even if scientists do, I don't. 

But my most serious objection to this all-too-putdownable doorstopper was the stupidity of the main character. Even after discovering that she is personally being stalked by the serial killer, even after her best friend has been murdered, even after the killer has left a human head on her lawn, she still evades her police protection detail to go swanning about in Montreal's red light district. Even after finding that said killer has taken an interest in her daughter she fails to alert the police when she discovers her daughter's backpack outside her front door but can't find or in any way contact her daughter. Instead she goes into her house and waits for the serial killer to come and murder her. There comes a point when I refuse to suspend by disbelief any further.

November 2018; 509 pages

Thursday, 15 November 2018

"The Peterloo Massacre" by Joyce Marlow

On 16th August 1819 there was a mass meeting held at St Peter's Fields in Manchester protesting against the starvation wages being paid to cotton spinners and particularly weavers, and against the old system of Parliamentary representation which meant that Manchester, then the second largest city in England, had no MP. The meeting was addressed by Henry Hunt, a famous Radical. The Mancunian authorities were nervous that the crowd were going to attempt a revolution so they read the Riot Act and decided to arrest Hunt. The size of the crowd, tens of thousands, meant that they felt the police, mostly consisting of volunteer Special Constables recruited for the occasion, would be unable to accomplish the arrest and the dispersal of the crowd so the magistrates requested military back up. The Manchester  and Salford Yeoman Cavalry, a company of part-time amateur soldiers, were in readiness, having sharpened their sabres when recruited to attend the meeting. They had also been fortifying their nerves with spirits and were drunk. They charged the crowd resulting in at least a dozen deaths from trampling and sabre wounds and several hundred injuries. Since this happened four years after the Battle of Waterloo it became known as the Peter Loo, or Peter-Loo, or Peterloo Massacre. The right-wing reactionary Tory government of Prime Minister Lord Liverpool proceeded to refuse demands for an inquiry, to exonerate the panicking magistrates (promoting one of them) and to praise the over-reacting and murderous Yeomanry. They even prosecuted the Radicals who had been there and jailed a number of them. The Radical movement collapsed afterwards. However, it may be that the memory of Peterloo helped bring about the parliamentary reforms starting with the Reform Bill of 1832.

This is a well-written book. The first half is concerned with the situation before the Massacre: the economic condition of the weavers and spinners during the early Industrial Revolution, and the development of radical and Radical thought. The archaic methods of governing Manchester, a market borough owned by the Lord of the Manor who appointed the BoroughReeve, the Court of Leet, and the two Constables (while attempting to sell his manorial rights for £90,000), contributed to a magistracy that was out of touch with the people and prone to panic. The actual Massacre takes only a couple of chapters; after all, it happened quickly. The truly shocking aftermath of government reaction takes the rest of the book. Despite the fact that the gory bits are dealt with swiftly, this is a fascinating read.

A slice of working class history that deserves to be better known. November 2018; 208 pages

Friday, 9 November 2018

"The Loney" by Andrew Michael Hurley

The Loney is a bleak place on the Cumbrian coast where the tides can roar in and drown the unsuspecting. And in an isolated farmhouse three couples, two children and their parish priest arrive for a Catholic retreat with the ambition of effecting a miraculous cure for one of the boys who is mute. But their belief in God is challenged by mysterious things that begin to happen and by sinister men who seem to want to chase them away. And what is happening in the old house on the island that the tides cut off.

The Sunday Times called it an "excursion into terror". I wasn't in the least terrified. The most interesting part of the book is the character of the narrator's mother who is an obssessive compulsive religious; for whom religion is ritual and every ritual has to be performed correctly in every detail if there is to be any chance that God will perform a miracle and cure her mute, retarded son. In this she battles everyone including the gentle forgiving parish priest who is, in her eyes, no adequate replacement for the cruel disciplinarian he replaced. This is a novel in which religion is dissected: the narrow cruelties of small-minded ritualists versus forgiving generosity; the derelict customs of the sterile good versus the evil fecundity of magic.

The book is beautifully written. The descriptions are lovely and the evocation of the landscape masterful. The characters are depicted perfectly. But the plot is a textbook in hinting. Who are the sinister local men and what do they want? Why has a room in the house been sealed off and what is in it? Who is the very pregnant schoolgirl in the Daimler? Why is there a gun under the floorboards? And how did Father Wilfred die?

Some wonderful moments:

  • "The emerging springtime, that, when it came, was hardly a spring at all ... more the soggy afterbirth of winter." (C 2)
  • "I'd never seen a man be so unkind to his own body." (C 2)
  • "Pity is the only thing a drunk has in abundance." (C 2)
  • "The specious grin of a teacher who wishes to punish and befriend in equal measure and ends up doing neither."(C 3)
  • "All along the beach ... the sea had left its offerings like a cat trying to curry favour with its owner."(C 8)
  • "It was an albino with eyes that looked as if they had been marinated in blood." (C 10)
  • "Hell was a place ruled by the logic of children." (C 12)
  • "He was the type that, given a different time and place, would have joined the Hitler Youth like a shot or been on the front row at a public hanging." (C 14)
  • "Death was a poor draughtsman and had rendered his likeness just a little off-centre, giving him the look of someone who was almost familiar but lacking the something that made him so." (C 23)
  • "Praying's like tuning a radio ... You have to be on the right frequency, otherwise all God hears is static." (C 23)

A perfectly structured book with great characterisation and an evocative setting. A page-turner. November 2018; 360 pages

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

"The Woman in the Dunes" by Kobo Abe

This is a Kafkaesque novel. In prose suited to an impartial report this book tells of a teacher whose hobby is entomology. Seeking beetles he comes to a weird sand-bound village near the sea. He spends the night in a house at the bottom of the sand-pit ... and awakes to find he is trapped, condemned to labour digging sand out of the hole he is in. Of course he tries to escape ...

It seems to be a metaphor for life, in which we try to deny the necessities but time sweeps our dreams away and buries them.

This is not a page-turner although, like Kafka, it is very easy to read. It is wonderful because of its profound, though troubling, insight into the human condition, such as:
  • Punishment inflicted ... would mean that a crime had been paid for.” (C 7)
  • "Defeat begins with the fear that one has lost." (C 18)
  • "Time cannot be spurred on like a horse. But it is not quite so slow as a pushcart." (C 19)
  • Obligation is a man's passport among his fellow men” (C 19)
  • Life is a bound diary, and one first page is plenty for one book.” (C 19)
  • More than iron doors, more than walls, it is the tiny peephole that really makes the prisoner feel locked in.” (C 21)
  • One could not do without repetition in life, like the beating of the heart, but it was also true that the beating of the heart was not all there was to life.” (C 24)
  • Even flies won't come if you don't advertise.” (C 24)
  • It's an infernal punishment precisely because nothing happens.” (C 25)
  • What was the use of individuality when one was on the point of death?” (C 26)
  • Three days a beggar, always a beggar they say.” (C 28)
  • The fish you don't catch is always the biggest.” (C 28)
  • Patience itself was not necessarily defeat. Rather, defeat really began when patience was thought to be defeat.” (C 28)
As well insight he has some grotesquely original descriptions. I don't think I'll ever forget the boiled gristle or the taste of ear wax:
  • The man answered her with eyes in which time had ceased to run.” (C 20)
  • A strong smell like boiled gristle surrounded her.” (C 20)
  • He had dozed off for a moment, rolling over in the sweat and secretions which smelled like rancid fish oil.” (C 21)
  • His vocal cords were shredded like strands of dried squid” (C 21)
  • Maybe even a human being could sing such a song ... If tongs were driven into his nose and slimy blood stopped up his ears ... if his teeth were broken one by one with hammer blows, and splinters jammed into his urethra ... if a vulva were cut away and sewn onto his eyelids.” (C 22)
  • There was nothing that tasted so good as one's own ear wax ... it was better than real cheese.” (C 24)
  • Suddenly a sorrow the colour of dawn welled up in him.” (C 27) 
And there are other great quotes:
  • The village, resembling a cross-section of a beehive, lay sprawled over the dunes. Or rather the dunes lay sprawled over the village. Either way, it was a disturbing and unsettling landscape.” (C2)
  • Things with form were empty when placed beside sand. The only certain factor was its movement; sand was the antithesis of all form.” (C 6)
  • It was like to trying to float a house in the sea by brushing the water aside. You floated a ship on water in accordance with the properties of water.” (C 6) 
  • Rarely will you meet anyone so jealous as a teacher. Year after year students tumble along like the waters of a river. They flow away, and only the teacher is left behind, like some deeply buried rock at the bottom of the current. Although he may tell others of his hopes, he doesn't dream of them himself.” (C 11)
  • It only happened in novels or movies that summer was filled with dazzling sun. What existed in reality were humble, small town Sundays ... ... little scenes everyone has seen in the corner of some trolley ... people's pathetic jealousy and impatience with others’ happiness.” (C 14)
  • Why did places where animals live have such an unpleasant smell? Wouldn't it be fine if there were animals that smelled like flowers!” (C 24)
In the end, there is a sense of defeat: “They might as well lick each other's wounds. but they would lick forever, and the wounds would never heal, and in the end their tongues would be worn away.” (C 27)

Very thought-provoking. November 2018; 240 pages