Abundance (Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler)

Our School Principal has just read and enjoyed the book Abundance by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler.  It sounds like a fascinating read.  Mr Steed says:  “Its central thesis is that new technologies are going to solve many of the world’s resource problems over the coming ten to twenty years, bringing about a world of future abundance.”   For a more in-depth review, visit  Mr Steed’s blog, please click here.   You can also visit the authors’ website by clicking here

abundance

It is so good to have a book published which is optimistic and expresses the notion of a brighter world ahead…

The Shipping News (E. Annie Proulx)

 

We have now returned to school and are back into the swing of things which means more writing for me!  At the end of my last entry, I wrote that I was reading The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx, and I am happy to say that I loved it!  I had watched the excellent film adaptation years ago and, having remembered enjoying that immensely, I decided to read the novel this summer.  The book is different in style from many novels and I found it a little unusual to begin with:  the sentences are very short but so descriptive that they are far more effective for the nature of this story. Each word is significant and each sentence conveys the difficulties that Quoyle and the extensive cast of characters face in their daily lives.

Early on we learn that Quoyle has been told that he’s no good at anything and he certainly seems to have grown into that way of thinking of himself.  He cannot believe it when something good happens to him, when he falls in love, he even accepts things when his wife rejects him for a host of casual relationships.  It is when tragedy strikes that he comes into contact with an aunt he hasn’t known previously, and the events that quickly unfold take him and his daughter, Bunny, to a new future, in Newfoundland, hundreds of miles north from New York State where the story begins.  This is when his life takes a turn for the better as the aunt takes him back to where his family came from and a completely new future is on his horizon.  Quoyle experiences friendships and people caring for him in a way that has been totally alien to him until now and he and his family are welcomed into the town.  He appears to be permanently surprised by this.  The description of  Newfoundland is so expertly written that the reader gets a real sense of place and we are touched by both the cruelty and the kindness of human nature.

I watched the film again last night and did enjoy it again but felt it a shame that some of the central characters crucial to Quoyle’s discovery that his life is worthwhile, valuable and meaningful are omitted.  The scenery and cinematography convey the sense of remoteness of the place, and how its inhabitants have come to care for one another through facing adversities and the harshness of the climate.  The acting was superb and each actor well-chosen for their particular role.

 

The Loved One (Evelyn Waugh)

Portrait of Evelyn Waugh

At our first Reading Group meeting of 2012, we discussed our thoughts and feelings inspired by Evelyn Waugh‘s novel The Loved One.

We all found it amusing – sometimes in quite different ways, with one member of the group reading parts of his favourite sections.  We found it quite astonishing that Los Angeles and Hollywood society of the time of writing (1947-48) should already be perceived as fake and superficial by Waugh, who wrote the novel shortly after a visit to Hollywood. (He was there to talk with a film studio to consider their making a film of Brideshead Revisited.)  We didn’t find the characters particularly likeable, from the stereotypical British ex-pats and the seemingly vapid residents who are very concerned with ensuring their ‘Loved Ones’, be they animal or human, get a good funeral and a truly heavenly afterlife!  The setting was wonderfully described and brought together the people and their environment perfectly.  We did think Aimée’s demise very sad but the way that she was dispatched into the afterlife almost comic.  Waugh does not seem to care very much for his characters except to the point that they are well-drawn and appear believable in their unbelievable setting.  As with Greene, it was felt that he doesn’t portray women in a good light, this could be due to the fact that he had a very unhappy first marriage, but by the time he wrote The Loved One, he was happily married to his second wife.

Waugh was amazed that sales were extremely good in America after the novel was published!   It may seem that any society such as this would not exist in reality, but it does appear that the Los Angeles area of California does, and a contemporary take on this society can be found in A M Homes’s book This Book Will Save Your Life.  What Homes has done is extend Waugh’s Los Angeles of the late 1940s into modern times, the sentiment feels much the same and I did laugh out loud when reading her book.  Clearly the contents of each story are not at all similar but I do think that the essence of both reflects on the state of Los Angeles society.

Another member of the group also talked of Waugh’s Decline and Fall, and how she enjoyed it, thinking of the funnier side of boarding and independent school life, a good read to follow on from The Loved One.

Here are some really nice reviews of The Loved One from the web:

http://blogcritics.org/books/article/america-through-british-eyes-a-review/

http://savidgereads.wordpress.com/2010/04/13/the-loved-one-evelyn-waugh/

http://lifetimereadingplan.blogspot.com/2011/01/loved-one-by-evelyn-waugh.html

http://amckiereads.com/2010/04/20/review-the-loved-one-by-evelyn-waugh/