Robert Pimm

How men think? Part 2: Lucky Jim 

‘Do you hate me, James?’

Dixon wanted to rush at her and tip her backwards in the chair, to make a deafening rude noise in her face, to push a bead up her nose.  ‘How do you mean?’ He asked.

I first read Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim several decades ago.  I enjoyed it immensely; and noted this exchange as summing up both how some women speak; and how some men react.

Re-reading the book recently I felt it had not aged well; but that it was still full of laugh-out-loud moments, including the one above.

What I was less sure of was how similar Kingsley Amis’s eponymous first person narrator is to Kemal, the first person narrator of Orhan Pamuk’s scary and thought-provoking novel The Museum of Innocence, which I reviewed recently.

In particular, are they similar in the way they treat women?

What do you think?  I would welcome thoughts from readers.

As I am on holiday without a computer or iPad I cannot give this subject the attention it deserves for now; but will aim to do so in August when reunited with a computer.

Watch this space.

Transience and Fat Lama

The novel Lord of Light, by Roger Zelazny, opens with the following lines:

His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha– and the –atman, however, and called himself Sam. He never claimed to be a god, but then he never claimed not to be a god.

I was thinking of Lord of Light the other day, and the new start-up Fat Lama, when planning to walk the last 100 miles of the Pennine Way.

I do not have pictures yet of the Pennine Way. This is the Lake District in 2007

I was due to walk the Pennine Way with my brother, with whom I walked the Dales Way in 2003 and who has done all the hard planning, including scoping the route, booking accommodation and so on (and has walked the first 168 miles of the Pennine Way, on his own).  But for various reasons he now cannot go – disaster.  Fortunately, my daughter (more…)

How to read P G Wodehouse: a practical guide

I recently inherited a splendid shelf-full of P G Wodehouse in a hand-tooled Folio edition.

My shelf of Wodehouse 

But where to begin?

Pondering this problem, I was delighted to come across fellow WordPress blogger Plumtopia, who specialises in the works of P G Wodehouse.  I discovered two invaluable articles:

Following the advice at the first link, I started with The Inimitable Jeeves and Carry on Jeeves, both of which are packed with laugh-out-loud moments and I can recommend wholeheartedly.  Fine quotes include e.g.

  • The Right Hon. was a tubby little chap who looked as if he had been poured into his clothes and had forgotten to say `When!’
  • Mike nodded. A sombre nod. The nod Napoleon might have given if somebody had met him in 1812 and said, “So, you’re back from Moscow, eh?
  • It is no use telling me there are bad aunts and good aunts. At the core, they are all alike. Sooner or later, out pops the cloven hoof.

The stories are undoubtedly somewhat similar to one another and appear to feature a smaller cast of characters than, say, Richmal Crompton’s Just William series (of which I am also fond).  So, up to now I am going for a conservative 8/10 rating.  But the bumptious dimness of the “mentally negligible” Bertie Wooster and the calm brilliance of Jeeves the butler has a reassuring, satisfying rhythm and as I get stuck into the third book (Very Good, Jeeves) I am thoroughly looking forward to spending time in their company.

Indeed, Jeeves’s problem-solving abilities remind me of my very own Ms N, the world’s most brilliant, unpredictable and occasionally homicidal hotel manager, in The Hotel Stories.

I look forward to revisiting the advice of Plumtopia as I move forward with the works of P G Wodehouse over the months and, possibly, years ahead.

P.S. if you fancy trying another brilliant author, see my review Trollope: 11 reasons to read him 10/10.

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Wonder Woman and Wartime Moral Confusion (WMC)

When I was 8, my friend Barbara Stewart used to receive a package of DC and Marvel comics every few weeks from a relative.  We lived in the mountainous African kingdom of Lesotho, and used to retreat to a certain deserted basement room in the university campus to gorge ourselves on the newly arrived treasures.

In that room was an electric point with the cover missing.  We discovered that by inserting our fingers into a certain part of the wiring, we could give ourselves a powerful electric shock.  We spent many lovely afternoons reading comics and daring each other to give ourselves another shock.  Barbara, if you’re out there, please get in touch.

Wonder Woman “Official Final Trailer”

I mention this story because, back in the ’60s, we used to think the DC comics, with characters such as Superman and Batman, were cool; and that the heroes in the Marvel comics, (more…)

Review: “Lion” – the film. The real India? 7/10

Saroo, a tiny boy, arrives confused, in Calcutta.  He does not speak Bengali and has no family or friends or idea where he is.

Lion is his story.

The “Lion” trailer is packed with spoilers.  Avoid!

I watched Lion on a wise person’s recommendation recently on a plane to Chennai.  I thought the first half, featuring the stunning Sunny Pawar as Saroo, was riveting – especially if, like me, you hadn’t seen the trailer and the plot developments came as a complete surprise.  The second part, which featured amongst others Nicole Kidman, struck me as OK but relatively routine and schmalzy in parts, especially the dodgy finale. (more…)

Happiness and small victories

When was the last time you punched the air and said “yesssssssssss!”?

If you want to understand me a bit, read on.

Air-punching is the stuff of small victories.  You disagree?  Please leave a comment below.  I would argue that with big victories (child born; illness overcome) you feel a powerful inner glow and no air-punching goes on.  But I digress.  My recent small victory involved the mileometer (an English word, the spell-check tells me – more usually odometer in the US and probably more appropriate here also as I actually choose to measure my cycling progress in small, rapidly-mounting kilometres rather than large, hard-to-accumulate miles, a fascinating subject in itself) on my bicycle.

I bought this bike on 16 July 1998 in Bonn, along with three other bicycles which have since perished.  One was out-grown.  Two were destroyed when a car I was in skidded on snowy tires in my garage in Kyiv and crushed the bikes, which were leaning against the wall and thus in the wrong place at the wrong time.  My own bike was leaning against a different wall and escaped.

The bike on the Rhine tow-path – before I uglified it with yellow tape for Berlin – Photo Robert Pimm

In Bonn, I cycled 14 km each day to and from work, mostly on a tow-path along the Rhine, (more…)

Review: fine Austrian movies: Toni Erdmann vs Wilde Maus

One wonderful feature of Austria is the survival of independent cinemas.

Austrians do not admit this.  They complain that independent cinemas are dead or dying and everything used to be much better.  This is kind of true: I remember in 1985 sitting through a showing of the movie Britannia Hospital in a Viennese cinema as the only viewer.

Trailer for Toni Erdmann (English subtitles)

But believe me, Austrians: you have it good (or, as they say in German, hör auf mit dem jammern auf hohem Niveau).  

It follows that in Austria, one has a feast of fine independent films, many off-beat and existential.  But are they any good? (more…)

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