Monday, 6 August 2012

Paperback Pleasures

The Time of Angels is a novel ostensibly about an isolated and troubled household from the pen of Iris Murdoch but which overflows with ruminations on theology and morality. A new Rector moves into a bombed out parish with a couple of young wards and they live in a strange, cloistered bubble, relying on the devoted housekeeper to keep all and any visitors at bay. This unsettling inertia is slowly fractured by the presence of the incumbent caretaker and his wayward son. Each of Murdoch's characters have delicious tensions bubbling away under the surface but it;s rd. There's plenty of meat on the bones here but what's striking is Murdoch's skill in building and sustaining the most peculiar atmosphere and though, with hindsight, the denouement seems a little flat by contemporary standards it nevertheless kept me up late into the night in a race to the finish.

is a tasty, toothy satire of American culture and excess from the brilliant Don DeLillo. The book follows the progress of a young, gifted billionaire trying to cross NY for a haircut in his fancy stretch limo. The slow pace allows for plenty of drop ins and outs, a little global market tinkering and smatterings of food, sex, death and the big city life. DeLillo's prose is pin sharp and jostles some serious criticism into our antihero's little odyssey who despite being thoroughly detestable still raises a few laughs as he crushes ideas, people and currencies with a wry indifference. It's a facile comparison I know but he seems to cover ground similar to Ballard, the pointed barbs aimed at our shiny modernity, vague psychology and amoral profiteering all with the whiff of anomaly and the unusual. A classy novella that's definitely worth reading and there's still time to get through it before Cronenberg's adaptation hits the big screen.

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