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A.K.Farrar "AKF" (Timisoara, Romania)

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The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Poirot)
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Poirot)
by Agatha Christie
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £7.99

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Deception, 8 Nov. 2008
Agatha Christie's job, as a writer of Detective Novels, was, paradoxically, to hide the criminal - much like a spiv with the card game, Hide the Lady. Even though the punter aims to find the card - and makes wild guesses (based, of course, on superior talents) the side-show spiv will win every time - maybe it's just a trick, a slight of hand, but we come back again and again in the vain hope of putting one over on the expert.

Not much hope, I'm afraid!

`The Murder of Roger Ackroyd' has to be Ms Christie's ultimate deception - it certainly had me fooled right `til the end. No matter where I looked, the Lady was hidden.

Up pop all the usual suspects - and with a Christie you know if someone is accused, it isn't them. One by one she knocks out everyone - and I do mean everyone! Surely she hasn't had a total stranger do the murder?

No, the wrist works it's magic: Poirot, shows you the superiority of his little gray cells and you loose again.

And I can't tell you the secret - I won't spoil the thrill.

What I will say is it is beautifully done.

Agatha Christie manages here to exploit the genre `Detective Novel' in a way which relies on the reader's knowledge of all the usual tricks, of lulling them into a false sense of security and then flipping them onto their backs. It is a book to be read rather than a story to be told - and despite the amazing craftsmanship of Granada television's version with David SuchetPoirot - Agatha Christie's Poirot - The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd [1989], it fails precisely because this is not only a story but an exploration of the relationship between reader and writer.

Poirot has gone into retirement - Hastings is away in Argentina, Scotland Yard is not involved. A local rich man is the victim of murder (the only one, incidentally in the story - the TV version needed to double the number, bring Inspector Japp in where he wasn't wanted and simplify the plot by removing a couple of key characters). There is blackmail and love, lost wedding rings and phone calls in the night.

Poirot, after throwing marrows around, one of which lands in his neighbour's garden and smashes open at the feet of the doctor, is brought in on the sidelines - he hardly features in fact. There is a chair out of place, a man arrested in Liverpool, and the delicate feelings of the local constabulary all to be taken into consideration.

And a lot of consideration is being done by a local tribe of Miss Marples. Nosey old women pop up in profusion - and references to the greatest detective of all times can't be avoided: The story is retold by the Doctor whose shoes were splattered - a Watson to Poirot's Holmes.

As you would expect, it is the twist and turns of the plot that matter rather than deep characterisation, but to suggest the book is shallow as a result would be to deny the profound insight Ms Christie shows into the psychology of her readership.

The term masterpiece has been justifiably applied to the book - and I fully concur.

Just make sure you read the book before you see the film!

The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Penguin Shakespeare)
The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Penguin Shakespeare)
by William Shakespeare
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare's First, 25 Aug. 2008
'The Two Gentlemen of Verona' is possibly Shakespeare's first play. Whilst not quite having the reputation of some of his greatest works, it is certainly a very good piece for the theatre - although, as with all the comedies, a little more problematical as a read.
The plot is convoluted but involves all the basics of a Shakespeare - cross dressing, crossed love and deception. Basically two friends fall for the same girl and this stretches their friendship beyond acceptable limits. There are a pair of wise-crack talking servants and a very nasty moment towards the end.

The Penguin edition of the play is an excellent starting point for anyone new to the work - and great value for those looking with more experienced eyes.

The first thing I will say is that the writing is very clear - any reasonably literate (in English) person reading it is unlikely to go into the text without a very good idea of what will happen or of things to look for as they read.

After a quick overview, the play is examined in main plot order - starting with 'Friends and Lovers' - an examination of the early scenes.

As the sub-heading indicates, straight away we are led into the key conflict of the story, friendship versus love. There's a lot of use of words like amiable, eloquent and elegant; also truism, conventional and cliché; finally paradox and metamorphosis.

Something I really liked in the introduction was the awareness of the play as a text for performance. It is the sort of introduction that prepares you to see the play, even if you are only likely to read it. Indeed, it is partly the theatricality of the play which allows for the final summation of it:

... The Two Gentlemen of Verona, for all its relative simplicity, and despite the apparent foreshortening of its concluding scene, is a sophisticated comedy

The Uncommon Reader
The Uncommon Reader
by Alan Bennett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars National Frailty, 25 Aug. 2008
This review is from: The Uncommon Reader (Paperback)
Fortunately, Alan Bennett has already declined a knighthood - meeting England's sword wielding Queen after publishing The Uncommon Reader might be a little, shall we say, 'ambiguous'.

But then again, Alan Bennett has a charm and humour which might, if the present monarch does actually read, disarm even the most, "We are not amused!"

The story is simple; England's Queen suddenly develops a passion for reading which humanises her. It does not, however, result in any final satisfaction and at the end of the book we are left with a twist that seems to be setting Mrs Windsor off on a whole new adventure.

In such stark outline it is a piece of amusing trivia ... and I've read several reviews which don't seem to have moved beyond this level of comprehension: That is to greatly underestimate both Mr Bennett and his understanding of the character of the British Monarchy. It is also to reduce what is an interesting essay into the relationship between reader and writer to mere amusement.

Bennett is superb with 'odd' characters - his Talking Heads series takes individuals and exposes both the bleakness and the richness of their humanity.

He does a similar job here on 'The Queen'. But to mistake the character for the real thing is to mistake Mr Bennett's purpose ...

The Queen of England (Elizabeth II - she doesn't even have a real family name!) represents in a way which is unique in the modern world, a nation. That nation is not even England ... it is the United Kingdoms of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or UK. The poor woman has even got the extra burden of several other states and nations tucked around her.

As such, any individuality or personality has been subsumed under the mantel of duty ...and that is Mr Bennett's starting point. Through her passion for reading, the character of the Queen undergoes an education which releases her individuality and causes her to reject that lifetime of duty.

This is, of course, a manifesto and a metaphor ... if the Queen is representative of the UK then it is as duty bound as she and there is a need for the liberating effect of reading.

But it goes beyond being a simple cry for more education, it is a call for the appreciation of the creative in us all.

As the Queen, tentatively at first, makes her way through the world of literature she absorbs everything from high to low. It causes her to ask embarrassing questions about Jean Genet of the French President; to force old paperback copies of Hardy's poetry on the Prime Minister; to eventually send her private secretary back home to the bleakness of the southern hemisphere.

The early journey is supported by the dish-washing homosexual 'Norman' - too ugly to make it as page. His promotion upstairs leads to resentment and his eventual removal whilst the Queen is away both fortunate and unfortunate.

Prince Philip trots around like one of 'the dogs' and several un-named grandchildren flit in and out. So too do a remarkable list of authors, all given a little pungent assessment - which is one of the delights of the book.

Politicians are given short shrift ... but not the main character herself. There is an affection in the writing which belies the suggestion that Mr Bennett is taking a swipe at the monarchy. He's too good a writer for that.

Oh, by the way - it is very, very witty!

Blandings Castle (Everyman's Library P G WODEHOUSE)
Blandings Castle (Everyman's Library P G WODEHOUSE)
by P.G. Wodehouse
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.68

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dashed Sneaky, 12 Aug. 2008
"One is tempted to say," said the white wine and soda, "it was a positive wolf in the grass slothing lambs wool mittens!"

The tea with milk, no sugar, agreed.

With a clear and unambiguous title, Blandings Castle emblazoned on the dust cover, one is not expecting trips to Hollywood, even with the inestimable Mr. Mulliner and his ubiquitous family.

Sneakily slipped inside is the full title, `Blandings Castle and Elsewhere'. Damned cheek I'd call it - especially as I'd settled in to my summer holiday read and, like England, was expecting ...

In two clear parts with and entr'acte of mixed pedigree, this collection of short stories takes you through an early phase of Lord Emsworth's passions (strictly horticultural at first but moving swinewards), deals with the suicidal American publisher and comes to rest in the US of A's bitter world of celluloid sweat-shop.

Emsworth here seems to be a bit stronger - to be able to offer resistance to that most formidable of avenging hosts, his sister and even takes to refusing his Glaswegian sourpuss Head Gardener - but only with the helping hand of a London waif.

These are tales which wag with all the drunken puppy-dog vigour you would expect from Blandings and don't disappoint. The young characters are chumps, the older characters either fighting against the encroaching idiocies of youth, or rich enough to indulge them. Sailing through it all is Emsworth, concerned only with the important things of life - watching his marrow grow or fattening his pig to Shropshire Show prize winning proportions. His son is more concerned with selling dog biscuits.

This ends all too quickly - at page 160 of a 300 page book.

Mr Potter, publisher, gets dragged down to a very Blandings-inferior country residence for the between acts entertainment marking a sort of obvious transition - an American in England before we hit the English in America. What he is doing sneaking out of a punt and into the moat I'll leave it to you to find out - but star (or rather Lady Wickham's celebrated willpower) crossed love is involved, and furniture piled against the door.

Mr Mulliner then, as is his want, engages in a bit of storytelling in the local pub to assembled drinks. All are of related Mulliners, their blighted loves and interactions in the jungle we know as the film industry.

Mr Wodehouse seems to have a wormwood like inflection towards the Californian dream factory and one wonders if personal experience hasn't coloured his attitude.

Monstrous moguls, scheming starlets and writing prisons all feature in this most deceptive of environments - and the bland drift of English youth towards it is reminiscent of Pacific flotsam.

Amusing but cautionary, the moral high ground is scaled, whilst in the cellar the police are locked out of the illicit liquor store.

Good tales - but not what I wanted on the hot summer riverbank as I lazily watch the local anglers attempting to land the indolent carp.

Death in the Truffle Wood
Death in the Truffle Wood
by Pierre Magnan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greedy Appetites, 24 July 2008
Crime Fiction tends to rely on the glutton rather than the epicure - the criminals always seem to want insatiably - wealth, power, wo/men; the detectives want more and more, almost with a ferociousness, the next clue; and the readers stuff themselves to bursting with the newest publication. Tabloid details are piled high on the table and quickly consumed.

Death in the Truffle Wood is, unashamedly, Crime Fiction.

It does, however, nod in the direction of better cooking in that it titillates the appetite - usually with a dark humour. And there are a couple of good descriptions of the sort of food that gives the French the moral high ground over the English when it comes to `measuring' cuisines.

Commissaire Laviolette, is the detective Poirot might have been if Agatha Crusty had been a French intellectual instead of English `madam': He likes good food, he smokes roll-ups with the class only the intelligent seem to manage, he chases women whilst he's chasing murderers and he is, according to his bosses, none-descript - he's given the case of the disappearing hippies because no one will notice him.

He, like his author, Pierre Magnan, is Provencal - The Province - the one that gives its inhabitants the necessary passport to condescend to town dwellers everywhere, and puts the urbane in urban.

Laviolette understands the countryside and country people in a way streetwise Phillip Marlowes in their brick and tarmac jungles will never grasp. There is almost an organic telepathy, an osmosis of thought and feeling flowing between the detective and the community. Clues are a concentration of flavours and scents rather than solid facts ... animals play a key role in searching out these essentials - just as Roseline, the truffle hunting pig, searches and earns her keep rooting for what is essentially a parasitic fungus sucking away at the roots of healthy oak trees.

Those truffles, however, feature strongly in both the cooking and the plot - and act as a metaphor for the whole genre - what, after all, is it we are searching for but the rotten feeding off the strong? What is the detective in fiction but a glorified truffle pig?

That is the kind of rhetorical question you end up asking as you read - and points to an element in this book which is missing in the average pot-boiler - intellectualism.

Now, I am of Anglo-Saxon stock, and, even though I've denied my father and changed ... I haven't gone so far as to feel comfortable with `intellectualism'. Intelligence I can cope with - as long as it does the occasional prat-fall and keeps itself suitably coy - but showy intellectualism is a bit `continental'.

All I can say is, "Here it works," - it is an integral part of the book and gives a dimension to the read which is refreshing to the jaded palate. I am not convinced though that the majority of Morse (who is only intelligent, despite his opera playing) and Barnaby (who is decidedly English Bumbling) fans will take much pleasure from the story.

Of the characters that people the pages there is a real French tart - not the English sticky, sweet, `Queen of Hearts', jam type, but a goat cheese, onion and truffle baked Banon original; a small, lost dachshund befriended by the pig; several braces of warring brothers; and a lightening struck old cow who terrifies all around her and gets the toughest of toughs to open doors, politely, for her. There is also mention but, infuriatingly. no development of a partnership between the local baker and the local priest.

I picked up the book as an intentional anti-dote to the heavy English cooking of `On Chesil Beach' - and have to say, instead of a sorbet, I got something a little more substantial - but equally invigorating.

Shakespeare: The Animated Tales, Act 1 (The Taming Of The Shrew & Macbeth) [DVD]
Shakespeare: The Animated Tales, Act 1 (The Taming Of The Shrew & Macbeth) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Nikolai Serebriakov

18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Animated Shrew, 22 July 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I like `Shakespeare: The Animated Tales' as a concept and, of the ones I've seen so far, (most of the time) in execution: The texts, superbly sliced by Leon Garfield, abridgements rather than rewrites; the animations various in style, all of the highest quality, filmed in the studios of Russia; the voices of actors from the `British tradition' many of whom have performed Shakespeare on stage with organizations like the RSC and The National Theatre.

The idea is to provide short introductions to the plays which are accessible to a young audience but which don't make sacrifices to the gods of patronization or oversimplification and which not only inform but entertain.

The Taming of the Shrew is not an exception - it is an intelligent romp through the basic story with some witty stop-gap animations and a perception of the original play worth thinking about.

Unlike many `full text' productions, which cut the framing device, the film starts with the drunken Sly bouncing out of the ale house, and being picked up by the `lord' and his retinue: Sly literally replaces the wild boar on the huntsmen's pole. Although the words are cut, this makes clearer than the spoken words the line:

`O monstrous beast, how like a swine he lies'

and illustrates nicely the subtlety this animated version attains - it is an image which fixes the metaphor, fixes it fast, and amuses.

The Sly scenes are kept, I think, to highlight the `play-within' device - throughout the film there are curtains and stages, applause and a character crossing through the invisible wall. Leon Garfield (with the advice of Stanley Wells - who is credited?) has been true to his source and seems to be maintaining the necessity of remembering this is not real - this is only a tale - which, when added to the alienating effect of the characters being animated, really drives home the question of how `real' the plot is meant to be taken.

Does the `Taming' present a piece of advice (which Sly mistakenly takes it for at the end and ends up bouncing again) or is it an exploration of extremes?

Is this a cathartic experience - like Tom and Jerry?

These are not questions for the children who form the principle intended audience of the tale - but they do illustrate the way that the animations have been `intelligently' constructed - they are planting seeds for later revisitings, providing strong images to connect to when you see the play live on stage.

And, because the audience is meant to be young, there is a strong narrative line given to the story which is, after all, a `Tale'. This has meant a degree of reorganisation - the Bianca story is separated out and tagged on to the end; after the initial Sly story, we move straight to Kate and Petruccio - and stay focused on the interchange between them.

This works remarkably well. I can imagine young people being able to follow the twists and turns of Shakespeare's plotting much more easily after seeing this - more so than after reading the text: Inventive teaching would have to work pretty hard to do as good a job.

Katherine and Petruccio also illustrate nicely the clarity animated figures can bring to a production - both characters here are handsome - and young; both are lively and spirited - there is one point where the dialogue is supported by a `dance' competition; both `express' through pose - which would strike one as odd in the theatre. Facial expression is there - and unambiguous.

To go with the excellent animation the voices are clear, the dialogue paired down to essentials, and meaning consequently not difficult to follow. As indicated above, there are directorial insertions which support the words when necessary, sometimes obviously, sometimes less so: I could not tell you why, but I was very aware the morning after watching that there were three kisses.

The Director (Aida Ziablikova) and Designer (Olga Titova) are Russian - and demonstrate what I've known for some time, not only the English have the ability to turn out fantastic Shakespeare.

`High Production Values' is a term you sometimes here connected with expensive `artistic' films, and less artistic blockbusters - well, it is also a term you can apply to smaller scale (if half-an-hour of animation is smaller scale) work - and I don't think you'll find higher production values than in this series of Animated Tales!

On Chesil Beach
On Chesil Beach
by Ian McEwan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nobel Aspirations, 20 July 2008
This review is from: On Chesil Beach (Paperback)
There was talk, when Ian McEwan's `On Chesil Beach' was up for The Booker Prize, of its shortness: The implication is of a slight story, of a lack of depth - of `all very well, but ...'.

I take it the people talking in that way either use a pair of scales to determine the quality of literature or have senses so exhausted from reading too many words as to be unable to determine true quality when it bites them.

This is not a book for literary gluttons - it is one for the epicure.

The plot is simple - we go through the agonies of two people on their wedding night: Both are virgins; both are deeply in love; both are nervous.

A simple tale.

But this is the end of the post war generation - the moment when one culture dies and another hope-full springs on the scene. In his poem, Anus Mirabilis, Philip Larkin made the point:

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three

and it is as if On Chesil Beach has taken this as a leitmotiv. The book is set just before this year of wonders.

Sex, sexual relationships, the physical linking of two people is very much an element in the book - but it is not only the physical, it is a psychological and spiritual, a communal and private expression of the moment of giving up a hard-fought-for independence.

As befits such a topic, several of the descriptions are quite explicit - Ian McEwan has the luxury of writing after the, `end of the "Chatterley" ban' and consequently can talk of what is a forbidden subject to the post war generation (at least in respectable circles).

Music is also a key.

Florence is a young, talented, classical musician with an inability to see anything of interest in the popular music of her day; Edward, whilst being a little more flexible, swings a different direction - he dreams of fathering a daughter who would follow her mother into the world of music, possibly as a violinist (but, you never know, maybe with an electric guitar).

Edward gets into brawls outside pubs - enjoying the violent release of energies wound like a clock spring inside; Florence keeps a tight grip on her tensions using the notes on the printed score for her release and dominating, tyrant like almost, the rehearsals of the string quartet she forms.

Both are intelligent, both have a degree of single-mindedness both have families which encapsulate the standards of their time.

Florence's family is a mix of business and academia - father earning, mother bohemianish philosopher - she knows the right people. Edward comes from a different end of the same class - his father is a headmaster of a primary school, his mother, well, his mother `looks after' the house. Both have sisters, both have good childhoods.

How then do we get to the tragedy on the beach - for this is a tragedy - a real tragedy, of Ancient Greek proportions - how do we get beyond the point of no return?

Part of the answer, I think, lies in the hubris of mankind - we fail to make the right sacrifices letting the gods, `kill us for their sport'. One word can make a difference, and we won't speak that word through pride, or duty, or fear, or, - for whatever reason.

Another part is the downright stupidity of innocence ... if there was ever an argument needed for sex education in schools - this is it! But that is to reduce what is a sublime story to the ridiculous (although I do think Mr Mc knew his was a tightrope walk between tragedy and comedy).

Sublime too is the writing - there are descriptions here to relish: The cold coagulated early 60's food; the cheap `French' wine; the material of the dresses; the tackiness of bodily fluids. Part of the intenseness of the story comes from this exceptionally careful use of appropriate description - you are firmly placed in a material world.
Not that this really happened - IM makes very clear on the last page of the book, "the characters in this novel are inventions." The need for this reminder is not just a legalistic, `someone might sue', but a reflection of the success and believability of the story - as I read I thought of an older sibling and partner (of this generation) and their wedding night. I remembered the meals (and could name the wine).

The frightening verisimilitude gives added power to what I believe is a tale of essential humanity - there, but for ...

(I also think this is the book the Nobel Prize committee will turn too one day and say - Universal Literature).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 28, 2012 12:43 PM GMT

Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony: 5
Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony: 5
by Eoin Colfer
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Demon Fowl, 18 July 2008
Keep it simple, keep it fast and keep it jokey: Perfect entertainment for the mid-teens (and older).

I've enjoyed all the Artemis Fowl novels to date - and this latest, Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony, is no exception.

For those not in the know, Artemis is a teenage genius with a penchant for crime, and a big - very BIG - minder called Butler. He's been annoying the hell out of the fairy kingdom for years, although, having saved each other from disaster more than once, they have the sort of a love-hate relationship neither side would admit to: Holly, ex-LEPrecon (the fairy police), is his principle contact and Foley (the centaur) the technical wizardry supplier - oh, and there is a singularly repulsive character called Mulch, the perfect manifestation of all younger teenage toilet humour jokes - what comes out of his backside on a regular basis shall not soil these pages, even though it might fertilize the ground (and pollute the air).

In this episode Artemis starts off demon hunting in Barcelona - and catches more than he bargains for.

For starters there is an initially slightly younger female genius just as arrogant, just as rich and just as infuriating as he is himself: And with the surging of adolescent juices, Artemis is getting a little emotional: Not his sort of thing at all - he even has to ask Butler for advice! She's too busy working on a paper for her first Nobel prize to take much notice.

Then there are the demons - whose own adolescent juices make the trials of the average human no more taxing than squeezing the odd blackhead. One of the demons seems to have a problem of delayed adolescence - but that turns out to be a good thing for all demon kind, although somewhat embarrassing for the poor individual concerned.

The final element is a suitably manic maniac, Kong - the human equivalent of a Polar bear amongst the seals. He had the misfortunes to have had a creative older brother whose embroidered `boggy-man' stories result in a series of very unfortunate events at the top of a very high skyscraper and an exhibition of very accurately detailed stone carving from the Celtic fringes.
Nothing to worry about though - even though Artemis lets Holly die and fails totally at one point, trapping himself forever on the other side - all ends happy `til the next episode, in the end.

Great read (parents - steal it off the kids and sneak it under the bed covers).

Lucky Jim (Penguin Modern Classics)
Lucky Jim (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Kingsley Amis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.83

9 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Classic Flop?, 18 July 2008
I first read the thing back in the summer 1975 (I can be sure of the date because it was part of my University set reading - some `wit' had included this on the list of `books to study before coming' as it was supposed to have sketches of people still teaching at the university in it - if it did, I never met them).

I didn't find it very funny then, and I find it even less so now.

It is in the genre of `campus novels' - a particularly tacky genre - and is claimed to have been `seminal' - for which I shall never forgive it.

For those who don't know, campus novels are about College and University campuses; are written by people whose whole lives have been blighted by the college experience and consequently feel it incumbent upon themselves to inflict a similar blight on the rest of their and future generations; they usually attempt to be `hilarious' - and fail.

Campus Novels are loved by academics (a sort of S & M experience, I would suggest) and book critics (who tend to be failed academics - and consequently promote them as some sort of revenge taking experience). They pop up far too often on suggested reading lists and the like.

`Lucky Jim' supposedly changed the whole post-war generation ... with little evidence to support this, I am firmly `in denial'.

Jim Dixon is the sort of lout who, because he had nothing better to do and is too lazy to do anything anyway, enters the University lecturing profession dishonestly - claiming interest and expertise where he has none. The book follows this thug's adventures through a `red-brick' university where he causes drunken destruction and chaos wherever he goes. He exhibits the sort of socialist rhetoric you'd expect and lands a job at the end with a millionaire.

What is clear to me (although not so clear to many at the time of publication, or since) is that Mr Amis does not like Jim - he is an `oink' of the wrong class and only becomes respectable at the end as he moves into the pale blue conservative world. His luck is in escaping the not-really-university `red-brick' institution, whose academic standards and personnel are only a joke.

The so called humour is in fact barely disguised contempt for the genuine changes brought on by a World War that shattered the privilege of education and class (although not so effectively). Educating this sort of person is obviously a dumbing-down in the eyes of Mr Amis.

The excellent introduction to the Penguin Edition, by David Lodge, also points out the attack being made on Graham Greene - especially on `The Heart of the Matter'.

There are obvious connections and references - from suicide to doing `the right thing'.

All I can say is I re-read, `The Heart of the Matter' recently and was impressed: I re-read this slight book and found it severely wanting.

Fortunately Mr Amis went on to write better things - unfortunately, his politics went even further in the wrong direction.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 28, 2012 12:45 PM GMT

The Heart of a Goof
The Heart of a Goof
by P. G. Wodehouse
Edition: Paperback

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Golf's Grip, 5 July 2008
This review is from: The Heart of a Goof (Paperback)
P. G Wodehouse's `The Heart of a Goof' is superficially about golf - and you might need to check-out a couple of key words and phrases, not least mashie-niblick, in order to savour to the full all the delights contained within: But don't be fooled - Wodehouse, like `the Oldest Member', uses golf simply as the excuse to draw you into a series of nine gripping tales of deceit, love and warfare. I am tempted to say siren-like. In fact I will say siren like: Wodehouse, and the oldest member, siren-like, trap the unsuspecting passer-by in tales of neatly woven passions and barely suppressed expletives.

As befits the short, nine hole course, each story is unique in its play - but some are more unique than others.

Hole one explains the title - a goof in golf is a special type of player, one that has allowed the noblest of games to get to him and, as a consequence, suffers torments at the poor quality of his or her play (for Wodehouse's is a strangely egalitarian game with regard to gender). Only love and a slight amount of cheating on behalf of a loved one, can save the nascent romance and push the goof to a proposal.

Holes two and three are a touch exotic in that they are played across the water - and involve the most Wodehousian combination of butler and gambling debts and revolve around suffering a long suffering, but not too present, wife. Money is involved here - as you would expect when touching down on American golfing soil. There is also the entrance of what surely must be the most superior of all Wodehouse's superior butlers.

Hole four is back on terror firma - the horror being the need to contain oneself whilst out on the course with a `lady', and the dangers of failure to achieve self expression. It's something of a short hole, but the tension is held `til the final putt.

Sartorial elegance, the might plus4 and the arrogance of the newly elevated form the matter of hole five: A severe warning to all who value friendship and take up golf.

Hole six has us with the need for a mummy boy to turn hero (and discard some wet woollen underwear) - whereas the last three holes are `linked' in that the players involved form around a trio of Golfing Male, Golfing Female and (yuk) poet. Don't be fooled however into thinking they will play in a similar way - there are surprises lurking around the bends, and the final entrance of the Golfing Sister stymies all bets.

Damn fine play I`d say!

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