Booksluts Challenge Read #2.5: The Old Devils
Century Hutchinson, 1986
ISBN 009 163790 2
Ahh, summer reading. That’s right, northern hemisphere-ers, it’s summer down here now. Don’t worry, I’ll drink a beer in the sun for you. Although, any New Zealander will tell you that summer never really comes to the city that I live in – all we get is slightly less wind, and this summer in particular has been pretty pants so far. I have kind of an intense programme set up for the break that I have over summer, as far as reading goes. Lots of cheerful titles – Catch-22, The Cancer Ward, Speaker for the Dead. Oh, and this one, The Old Devils, which doesn’t sound very cheerful, but even before I’d gotten to five pages in had me laughing. Out loud. In the staffroom. With other people present. Lucky for me I’d already finished my avocado on toast, otherwise I could have had a bit of cleaning up to do. And on that disgusting, unladylike note…
This is the third book that I’ve read that will go towards the Full-Frontal challenge that those darling Booksluts have set up. The Old Devils won the Man-Booker prize in 1986. If you read that little description that I’ve linked to just there, you’ll probably note, as I did, that there seems to be a lot of ‘bursting’ going on in Kingsley Amis’ career. What up with that, literary descriptors? What about… erupting? exploding? Ach, well… it seems a little redundant to me to have bursting twice, but… whatever. I have read Lucky Jim before, Kingsley Amis’ first book, but it was so long ago, back when I was doing speech and drama lessons that I couldn’t honestly tell you what it was even about. Which is ridiculous really, but that was a long time ago now (sob), so I might have to re-read it one of these days. But who has time to re-read a book I honestly can’t remember a damn thing about?
Actually, on a side note, I often find that with funny books. I read them, enjoy them, then forget about them. The books which stick in my mind as ‘good books’ are the hopeless ones, the terrifying ones. I don’t know if that’s just a propensity of mine to enjoy observing other people’s (even fake people’s) suffering… which is a disturbing trait, but glossing over that for the time being… I remember quite a few books which have made me laugh so much I’ve nearly cried (44 Scotland Street, Fever Pitch, Breaking Dawn, although… I guess that last one isn’t strictly meant to), but I’ve never gone back to read any of them, and I don’t think that I’ve ever recommended any of them to anyone. No, that’s not true, I actually bought Fever Pitch for the Lad, since he’s almost as rabid a supporter of our local team as Nick Hornby is of Arsenal, and I wanted to show him the path that he was heading down. Yup, I do my nagging in literary form. Mind you, he bought High Fidelity for me first.
So, back on track now after that little jaunt to Tangentsville.
Although this book was good to start off with, it began to leave me a little cold towards the middle, until I finally gave up on it page 170. I mean, that’ s not to say that it’s not a good book – it clearly is. The story basically follows a group of people who are reaching the winter years (though for a lot of them, you’d never get them to admit it – some of them behave like the worst teenagers) as their pasts catch up with them. The language is interesting, the characters wryly observed, so why the Hell didn’t I like it? I’m struggling to find an answer here, cublings. I guess it’s like those people that you sometimes come across, you know, the ones you usually meet through a friend of a friend, and said friend says “Oh you’ll love such-and-such, you have so much in common.” And you meet the person who your friend thinks you’ll get on so well with, and while it looks good on paper, there’s something that just doesn’t work. Sometimes it ends with outright antipathy, but often it’s just a sort of “You… are not my kind of person.” That’s the kind of feeling I got with this book.
It was a bit of a struggle, which as you know, is not my kind of thing. Come on, we all have enough struggle in our lives without mauling our way through a book that’s not to our liking. So, for the first time in ages, I’m invoking the half-way rule. Kingsley, I’m sorry, it’s nothing personal, it’s just… not my kind of book. Looks like I need to go back to that list of Man-Booker prize winners and have another bash. Do any of you cublings have any suggestions? I’ve already read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, so that won’t work (I’m trying to read stuff that I’ve not yet read). I’m thinking of giving Ian McEwan’s Amsterdam, which won the prize in 1998, or maybe Life of Pi by Yann Martel (the 2002 winner). But I’m open to suggestions!