Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

I’ve just finished “MY Salinger Year” by Joanna Rakoff. 26081410

I was talking to one of my colleagues about books and she suggested I read this book and lent me a copy.

It’s about a young woman who starts working at an agency who represents JD Salinger, and she starts off as just an assistant who types up dictations and then she starts getting more involved with the publishing aspect. She also is given the responsibility of reading and answering Salinger’s fan mail. Even though her colleague advises her to just send  a standard reply, she’s intrigued by the things his fans write about and starts amending her replies.

The book is supposed to be funny, but I didn’t think it was funny, it’s more sad than anything else. Reading about Joanna’s life is interesting because she’s just trying to make something of her self by finding meaning through her job. I can sympathise with her as a twenty-four-year-old young woman who is trying to make sense of the world and grow up – I’ve been there and I felt some emotions bubbling up as I read it. However, I don’t understand why she stays with her boyfriend because she’s clearly left a previous boyfriend behind but still thinks about him – we don’t really find out what exactly happened there, but it’s clear she’s not made a great choice with Don who’s trying to write a book. He does seem to give her a bit of attention but he’s a bit distracted and doesn’t seem the right person for Joanna at all.

I’m giving it 6/10 because it did keep me engaged while reading – I read it in two sittings – and it was interesting, but I didn’t love it. However, it’s re-awoken the desire to read more new books, so I’m going to get started on a new reading list!

I recently finished reading “The Horologicon: A Day’s Jaunt Through The Lost Words Of The English Language” by Mark Forsyth.

“The Horologicon” by Mark Forsyth (via Goodreads)

The book blurb reads as follows:

“The Horologicon (or book of hours) gives you the most extraordinary words in the English language, arranged according to the hour of the day when you really need them. Do you wake up feeling rough? Then you’re philogrobolized. Pretending to work? That’s fudgelling, which may lead to rizzling if you feel sleepy after lunch, though by dinner time you will have become a sparkling deipnosophist. From Mark Forsyth, author of the bestselling The Etymologicon, this is a book of weird words for familiar situations. From ante-jentacular to snudge by way of quafftide and wamblecropt, at last you can say, with utter accuracy, exactly what you mean.”

I love learning about the English Language, and this book shows so many different words which have been lost over time.

The book is set out like a normal day, starting with dawn and waking up, going through all the daily events such as meals, working, shopping, then ending with evenings out and going to sleep. For each action you take through the day, there is a lost word which has fallen out of use. For some of them you can see the reason why they’ve not so popular, while others make perfect sense but were still dropped in favour of the current word.

Some of my favourite discoveries in this book:

  • Guttle – when you ‘eat greedily’, as opposed to its more common counterpart Guzzle which is when you drink greedily! (pages 95-96)
  • Pingle – when you push your food around on your plate and not really eating it. (page 97)
  • Gongoozling – can mean “stare curiously” or “stare aimlessly”, but technically means “staring at canals” which apparently originates somewhere around Ulverston in the Lake District (near to where i’m from)! (page 106)
  • Vomitorium – apparently not what it sounds like (a place where you throw up!) but is actually a passage by which you can exit a building such as a theatre! (page 143)

There are many fascinating words in this book, and many of them explain how the words which we know and use today evolved. What is pretty amazing is just how many words and phrases there are for “being drunk”! There is an Appendix with about 3 pages devoted to these words! A few examples you may not know included: “[he] has been catching the cat“, “[he’s] chickenny“, “[he] has frozen his mouth“, “[he’s] an indirect man“, “the King is his cousin“, and “it is star light with him“!

I give it 9/10 because it is really interesting discovering all these old words and the sheer amount of words which have fallen out of use. I think it’s a shame that some of the really appropriate words are no longer used for what they describe! Worth a read, even if you just dip in and out every now and then! (which i certainly did, as i started it in about April and only finished it around November!)

Note: the next book by Forsyth is already available and is called “The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase”.

I have just finished reading “When The Earth Died” by Karl Mannheim.

When The Earth Died – Karl Mannheim

I bought this book in a second hand bookshop last summer while on holiday in Devon, and it attracted me because it is a science fiction title covering the possibility of the Earth dying while humans are still around.

The blurb reads:

“His breath was tearing his throat as he ran, a tall, massive figure of a man, like a shadow along the smooth side of he great green building. There were no sounds of pursuit – the Empire Police were too discreet for sirens or whistles. But they were there behind him, and not only behind him but all around him. This looked like being the last hole into which this quarry would be driven.

The book focuses mainly on a man called Barry, who has escaped the clutches of the Empire Police and their brainwashing ways, and suddenly finds himself a vital part of a secret mission to escape Earth and the increasingly dangerous war happening between two great empires. He and the girl he seems to love end up part of a mixed crew of scientists and other hand-picked normal people, ready to form a new colony on the Moon and beyond.

There is a great deal of tension built up within the novel, with certain characters seeming to lose the plot and go a bit crazy, the suspect characters who turn out to be traitors, and those who seem to struggle with what’s right and wrong. There are a few minor characters, like the would-be colonists in the crew who we find out very little about, even though they are part of this special mission.

The main tension is that of the journey in the spaceship, which takes them to the Mood and other places, which is a very dangerous journey into the unknown, and the death of the Earth which seems to happen surprisingly quickly! Maybe a little bit unbelievable! The fact that it is the humans who destroy the planet is pretty scary!

The ending is as happy as it can be, given the circumstances of the novel!

I give it 7/10 because it seems original, if a little bit too short of get into great detail about everything. Worth a read if you fancy a different apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic type story!

Note: This book doesn’t seem to be in print any more, but is available online through Amazon and other online stores, and secondhand shops. My copy was published in 1972 and is a Five Star Paperback.