The Secret Life of France – Lucy Wadham

So much better than Merde/YiProvence that it’s really an entirely different genre. Penetrating, insightful, analytical and a rollicking good read to boot.

The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs – Irvine Welsh

Welsh is underrated. This high-concept novel is a tribute to both Dorian Gray and Jekyll and Hyde and demonstrates Welsh’s considerable storytelling skills. It’s a satisfying yarn containing mysteries, a quest, evil, executions, retribution, personal growth, magic, sex, drinking and drugs (but mainly drinking).

Welsh excels at dialogue, of which there is plenty.

A fabulous book.

Pulp – Charles Bukowski

My first Bukowski, and a real hoot. Captures the tone of pulp detective novels perfectly. Heroic drinking and flyblown bars feature heavily. Strangely reminiscent of Pynchon’s “The Crying of Lot 49”

Junk Mail – Will Self

Will, mate, get yourself a dictionary, why don’t you? Your use of poncy words means that your entire body is placed well above the parapet, and as a Jew, you should really know what a “shibboleth” is: especially since you use it in every bloody essay.

I love the way you write, and I love your motorway obsession, and I especially love the way you featured my local newsagent’s in a story (not in this collection).

However, this collection of essays is a bit arty and misses the point on a couple of occasions.

You really kicked the writing up a few notches when you wrote Liver. In comparison, your earlier work looks a little pretentious and overblown. Still fun to read, though.

Keep the Aspidistra Flying – George Orwell

Orwell is one of my favourite writers. However, as he himself acknowledged, this really isn’t a very good book.

On the plus side, his powers of observation and description are as acute as ever (little things, like an advertising poster with a tattered corner, are rendered in pinsharp detail), but characterisation, never an Orwell strong point, is almost entirely absent. No character has any subtelty whatever. Gordon is, fittingly, a moron (albeit one with a moderate ability to string words together quite effectively). His girlfriend is saintly, although it’s noticable that at 30 and a spinster, the social mores of the 1930s render her a bit desperate. And his mate Ravelston is a quivering pile of bourgeois guilt (and a champagne Marxist to boot).

It’s pretty non-PC in places. Orwell describes the ugliness of a dwarf’s hands (and not even a real dwarf, at that). He can’t excuse this on the narrator, as it’s clear that his own voice is speaking here.

Interesting, if only to put parts of The Road To Wigan Pier, and Nineteen Eighty-Four in context, but as a piece of literature. Meh.

The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment – Isabel Losada

Oh dear. I suppose I’m not the intended readership for this book. I really wanted to stick a tube up the arse of every character appearing in it. As it happens, it looks as that happens on a fairly regular basis to all of them anyway.

A cold porridge of a book. Lumpy and unappealing.

Time’s Arrow – Martin Amis

A stupendous book. I loved London Fields, and who could forget the subtle plot development of Invasion of the Space Invaders? The reverse-chronology idea is stunningly effective and enables Amis to peel away the onion of emotions generated by the Holocaust in a surpisingly sensitive way. Probably now my favourite Amis.