Saturday, August 06, 2011

English Summer Rain, always the same, such a pain…

What on earth has happened to this summer? I know we complain about English summers a lot but this one really has taken the biscuit. The damp, soggy biscuit. It's enough to make you want to hightail it to an airport, grab some travel money and go somewhere sunny as quick as possible.

We're always surprised that the English summer is such a washout but it's always the same. It's clear the geographical layout of the nation, after millennia of glacial drift, has positioned itself in a way that makes it damp, cold and dreary and there ain't nothing we can do about it.

August and September are usually better, though. In fact September is usually one of the best months of the year with long, lush days of warm sun, billowy clouds and latent heat which the UK population goes crazy for, knowing the winter - cold, bleak, dark and filled with the X-factor – is just around the corner.

I remember a September night out in Angel oop North London a couple of years ago that was utterly crazy because everyone out seemed to be going out of their way to soak up the last great days of the summer; people chatting away, drinking merrily, sitting on pavements and in parks basking in the rays.

This short lived summer obviously gives us some benefits, though. We don't need to siesta to escape the sun, and er, that's it. Oh well, better dig out the coats, scarves and gloves soon, be winter again soon.

Well there's another positive, actually. Us Brits look much smarter in winter attire then we do in our hastily thrown on, quick-the-sun's-out-let's-get-a-tan, summer clothes that are always ill-fitting, outdated and, let's be honest, slightly ridiculous.

Still, before that happens, best get some travel money, the passport and the suitcase and escape to wherever the sun is shining.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Corrections

I've heard a lot about Jonathan Franzen, mainly since Freedom came out last year and garnered absolutely rave reviews from all and sundry. Since then I've been itching to read some of his works, but decided I would plump for The Corrections first as a) it was written before Freedom so chronologically makes more sense and b) it was given a 1% better rating over Freedom by a trusted friend who's read both.

So I downloaded it to my Kindle in 12 seconds or so, which was cool, and began my digital odyssey. It is a great book, as I'd been lead to believe, full of wonderful writing, clever set pieces, wit and characters that are wholly real in their contradictions, lack of resolve and general hatred at everything, everyone and themselves.

If that sounds depressing then in one respect it is, as you're treated to the inner monologues of people that are by turns deeply unhappy, dysfunctional, self-loathing, and riddled with disease.

Yet there is more to it than this, with characters displaying humanity too, realising their errors, trying hard to rectify them, perhaps failing, perhaps growing, but all immensely human.

It also offers a view of the world as it's changed from the middle of the century towards the end of the century, as the US shifted from a manufacturing world, to a service world, from a world of make do and mend to unashamed rip and replace, a world where money sloshes around with ridiculous ease yet never seems to end up in the hands of anyone but a few wealthy individuals, where random violence and illness are never far from the surface.

Perhaps the only bit where it falls down is the way the character of Chip seems to so nonchalantly travel to Lithuania to get involved with gangsters when he's a university academic. The coolness with which Franzen describes his life there seemed slightly unrealistic, but it's a minor point in an otherwise absorbing tale of how family life, and the structures that support it, can never be erased, forgotten or changed, no matter how hard you try.

Freedom next, at some point in the next month or so.