Thursday, August 17, 2006

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

I picked up this book whilst cat sitting at my mum's house last week. I remember starting it before, but for some reason stopping halfway through. When I flicked through it an old cinema ticket for The Phantom Menace dropped out - dated 7th August 1999. I therefore find my second go at reading it is almost exactly 7 years to the day after my initial attempt.

I don't remember why I didn't finish it the first time, as I sailed through it this time around. I haven't seen the film, and I missed out on the recent London stage production.

I am starting to think that a large percentage of drama is fundamentally about freedom. In this novel the main characters are in mental institution. Some are sectioned and some are just so worn down by the world and their experiences in it that they voluntarily allow themselves to be imprisoned. The ward is ruled by the all powerful Nurse Ratched, or Big Nurse as the narrator calls her, but it is turned upside down by the arrival of the charismatic McMurphy.

McMurphy shows the other inmates that they have forgotten how to live, and their safe world of routine, medication, group sessions and therapy is disrupted. Inevitably the freedom that he offers them brings with it risks and consequences.

The book questions the nature of insanity and what it is to be normal. We never really find out whether Mack is faking his 'condition' or not, and it really doesn't matter. Meanwhile, Big Nurse's struggle for power over the seemingly broken souls on the ward reveals a certain tendancy for megalomania.

I found this book funny, moving, sad and thought provoking. Recommended.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Ok, so maybe this isn't as straightforward as I imagined. I'm heading towards the end of the second book, 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest'. I picked up a copy of this and a few others on the list on a visit to my mum's house last week. However,whilst I was back at home I also popped into a charity shop on the offchance that they would have the second Bridget Jones book - it's a long story, but I need it for my PhD. (More info on that here.) Whilst I was in there, I found a copy of A Suitable Boy for £2, and couldn't resist. This isn't on the list.

Also, yesterday the booker long list was announced. Last year this led me to a good few books that I really enjoyed, but obviously they aren't on the list.

So, I think this list reading task is going to be more of a long term aim - I don't think I will be able to put aside other books I come across from time to time in order to plod on with the list. So, the list will be more of a backdrop to my reading - always there, but not necessarily to the exclusion of everything else. Afterall, such a list only represents a snapshot of literature - it is more than possible that a new book could push an oldie out. Dynamic, and so that is what I will have to try to be.

Ben has introduced me to an interesting book site Librarything. It's definitely worth a look. You can log your reading, write reviews and see what other people thought. I think it is a wonderful idea. Sometimes I find a book which has really captivated me and I want to share it with someone. There is no point talking to your nearest and dearest about it unless they have read it too. Reading is solitary by its very nature, but this takes the edge off it - at least for those of us who can't commit to a regular reading group or such like. It's a nig old world out there - chances are someone is reading the same thing as you!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Venus In Furs

Ok - I've made it through my first book from the list. When I chose it I didn't realise it would be so short. At 125 pages, it only took a couple of commutes to polish off. The list has it down under the 'Best Sex' category - I would place it more as 'best passion'. Severin von Kusiemski falls in love with Wanda van Dunajew the moment he sees her, and persuades her to let him demonstrate his love by becoming her slave. He signs a contract putting himself completely at her mercy and off they go - whips and all.

I found this book a bit of a struggle to concentrate on towards the beginning, but once the relationship got going it moved along much more fluently and the reader becomes more engaged.

I'm sure the lady in the library near my work was most intrigued when I joined and then straight away took out a book labelled 'classic erotica', but don't read this if you are after juicy sex scenes - all that is left to the reader's imagination, as I guess is only befitting of a book from this period.

One Few Over The Cuckoo's Nest is next up!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The opening paragraph

I am often at a loss for what to read, and recently I have been feeling somewhat demotivated. From here on things change.

This morning The Times published their list of the 100 best books. An idea struck me. This idea was not particularly original, but as imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and all that, I'm sure Tom won't mind.

So, I am going to try to work my way through the list. Oh yes.

Mr Tom Goodfellow performed a similar feat with the Observer's top 100 novels and his journey through literature can be read about here.

The Times isn't my daily newspaper of choice, but I work in a library and it arrives each day. So when I saw the headline '100 greatest books' I couldn't resist.

This list is slightly different from the Observer list. It contains not only fictional novels, but also non-fiction and a couple of plays. It is divided into 20 sections of 5 books each, each with a different category; best villains, best tearjerkers, best journeys etc.

It also seems to be restricted to books published by Penguin - but what the hell - it's as good as any other list.

It seems that I have read 24 of the 100 already - and there are a couple that I am not sure about - (have I actually read Emma, or am I just thinking I have because I've read all the others, or did I just dream the whole thing?)

There are several books on the list that I've started but not finished or that I've been meaning to read for ages and ages - so I'm hoping that the sense of a challenge and a goal will motivate me to read/finish them.

I've read books from all but 2 of the sections - so that is where I am going to begin; The Best sex. After that I am going to follow a strategy where by I will try not to read two books from the same section one after another. So, armed with my library card I am ready to go - wish me luck!

First stop - Venus In Furs