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jeff knapp (New York, New York)

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The Old Devils (Vintage Classics)
The Old Devils (Vintage Classics)
by Kingsley Amis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

9 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Enough, 12 Aug. 2008
In my quest to finish off the Booker Prize winners, the book award I respect the most, I picked up a copy of the hard-to-find "Old Devils" by Kingsley Amis.
The action takes place in Wales where Malcom, Peter and Charlie and their wives find out that Alun Weaver - Welsh poet of note - and his wife Rhiannon, are returning to live out their twilight years amongst old friends and surroundings.
A nice simple setup for ruminating about the past, gossiping, sneaking around, plenty of boozing and other shenanigans.
However, I must say that I was disappointed. There is some humour; there is some poignant scenes but, overall, I was left unsatisfied.
My copy was almost 400 pages and yet Amis left many of his characters two dimensional - especially the women. Also, I found myself yearning for more background on the characters.
A little depressing too, when people in their "golden years" have little left to do but stay drunk all day.
As an American reader and subtle jokes about Welsh vs. English got by me.
I can recommend this book. It's accessible and intelligent and, at times,
humorous and touching. I expected more but "The Old Devils" is good enough.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 21, 2010 10:31 PM GMT

by Stanley Middleton
Edition: Paperback

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Holiday well worth taking, 28 July 2008
This review is from: Holiday (Paperback)
Stanley Middleton's 1974, Booker-Prize winning novel "Holiday" is worth the trip.
Our hero, Edwin Fisher, has retreated to the sanctity of seaside resort town where his parents vacationed when he was a boy. Here Edwin licks his wounds after yet another row with his wife. He ponders whether to return or to take his new-found freedom and run.
Middleton adroitly takes us through the thought processes of Fisher.
At 240 pages it's not a tomb but not beach reading either.
It is a worthy Booker winner. As an American reader the idiom of Middleton some times intrudes but this is an intelligent treatment of a topic which most people have pondered.

Something to Answer For
Something to Answer For
by P.H. Newby
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.00

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Literary Challenge, 15 July 2008
P.H. Newby (1917-1997) won the first Booker Prize in 1969 for his novel "Something to Answer For."

I'm working my way through the Booker Prize list and found this novel along with David Storey's "Saville" the most difficult to come by.Indeed, most or all of Newby's eighteen novels seem to be out-of-print.

That's not to say this novel is not worth reading. It is a challenge though. I would call it a piece of fictional deconstruction. Our Hero, or anti-hero, Townrow, is living in England and manages a fund which gives money to deserving causes. Townrow, we learn later, is skimming money from the fund and feeling no remorse about it. He receives a letter from an old friend in Egypt where he was stationed during his years in the service. Mrs. Khoury writes that her husband has died - she suspects he was murdered - and would Townrow come and help her get things in order if she pays for his ticket.
Townrow agrees and off we go! This is where the fictional deconstruction starts. Is Townrow after her money? Is he English or Irish? People along the way call him by different names. Major this or Sergeant that. What exactly was is history in Egypt?
Townrow has a habit of reliving the past again and again in his mind and this is thrown in to the mix muddying the waters. On top of that he is brutally attacked and receives a vicious head injury. Questions lead to more and more questions.

All this is set against the backdrop of Nassar's Egypt in 1956 when the country nationalized the Suez Canal and Britain, France and Israel answered with force.

For me, the deconstruction of the usual advantages of knowing
time, place and identity leave us with a stripped down character of Townrow - with passed uncertain, loyalties uncertain, questionable character and future unclear and no personal relationships - does a man have "Something to Answer For"? It forces the reader to rethink what is truly important to one and where to take a stand and why.

I enjoyed this novel and recommend it to those who want a literary challenge that keeps you thinking long after finishing it. As we all know, writers go in and out of fashion to be rediscovered at a later time. I wonder if this intelligent and thought-provoking writer is due for a resurgence soon.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 11, 2013 9:15 AM GMT

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