What I read on my summer vacation, by Greg
#23 -- "Letters From London" by Julian Barnes
Barnes is one of those guys that I've always sort of known I'd like, but I've never bothered picking up any of his books for whatever reason. Maybe because he had some sort of spat with Martin Amis and I used to think Amis was really hot shit before he got kind of crazy, so it was misguided loyalty to Marty. Maybe there was just something that I always wanted to read a little bit more, sort of the same way Iceland is annually my #2 choice for vacation but I never actually get there.
But I found this in the travel section of a used bookstore back in Boulder, thought "perhaps this will be good," and since I hadn't spent my usual $400 on books, got it. And it's really, really good. It's a collection of columns from Barnes's time as the London correspondent for the New Yorker -- early '90s, roughly the end of Thatcher's time in office to the ascendancy of Tony Blair.
Barnes is quite talented at being unfailingly polite as he's twisting the knife -- it took a while for it to sink in just how much he was savaging Thatcher. He's also skilled at taking a small slice of English life and broadening his scope from there. Something everyone does, I know, but he's really good at it.
He's also really funny, and I've gone ahead and ordered a couple of his books just since getting home, because I need more books.
#24 -- "Everyday Drinking" by Kingsley Amis
The Ski Bum saw this and somehow gleaned that I might really like it. She was right. When I first read "Lucky Jim" many many years ago, I was delighted to be introduced to this (Kingsley) Amis fellow and certain that I'd be enjoying all the rest of his works -- after going on to read things like "Girl, 20" and "The Old Devils" I wasn't so sure. This is good fun, though.
It's a collection of three early books by Amis on drink, drinking and hangovers. It's full of advice and practical tips (including a lot on hangovers, which would have practical application this morning if I had properly memorized them and/or had the strength to open a book right now), recipes that sound great, and Amis at his wittiest. It's a good bedside book.