McX: A Romance of the Dour by Todd McEwen

bookshelves: paper-read, one-penny-wonder, published-1991, britain-scotland, fife, palate-cleanser, amusing, summer-2014, tbr-busting-2014, teh-demon-booze, racism, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, giftee

Read from March 04 to June 27, 2014

 

Description: A fretful inspector of weights and measures, McX is unhealthy, unsightly, unloved and, to top it all, he comes from Fife. His grim existence centres on the Auld Licht, a dank, maloderous public house haunted by the dank, maloderous and dreadful McPint; a man unstintingly devoted to beer, peanuts and pornography. McX, meanwhile, dreams of fair women and requited love in a rural idyll – a Scotland without rain, without repression, and without McPint. He resolves, quite simply, to escape.

Little know you of the hearts
I have hidden here. Hogg

Opening: Consider a long and famous river, it teems with salmon and story. Winds majestic through the most various of Scottish shires. Where it passes under several bridges and reflects a suggestion of Georgian elegance, sad tales begin.

Although this was published in 1991 it does read like an out-in-the-sticks 70s offering, I’m sure that the hugely offensive terms ‘wogs’ and ‘niggers’ had long been shown the door by everybody else’s 1990s.

Take no notice of the Aberdeen-esque chunterings from other dour reviewers, this is ladishly pithy, gloomily pawky, and a fat satirical prod at lowlanders in general and Fifers in particular: I’m sure Ian Rankin would have had a chuckle.

The sun is known in Scotland, but chiefly through myth and legend.[..] Appearance of chicken flesh at the first jerk of the thermometer: Scots in the sun. What need to brown yourselves? You’ll be roasting in Hell soon enough. Page 103

Good enough as a palate-cleanser.

The Third Lie by Ágota Kristof, Marc Romano (Translator)

bookshelves: spring-2014, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, series, translation, nutty-nuut, e-book, lit-richer, mental-health, medical-eew, ouch, dodgy-narrator, adventure, betrayal, eye-scorcher, families, hungary, incest-agameforallthefamily, lifestyles-deathstyles, metaphor-parable, period-piece, psychology, published-1991, revolution, suicide, under-500-ratings

Read from April 02 to 03, 2014

 

Translated by Marc Roma.

Opening: I am in prison in the small town of my childhood.
It’s not a real prison but a cell in the basement of the local police station, a building no different from the rest of the buildings in town. It too is a single-storied house.

She says, “Yes. There are lives sadder than the saddest of books.”
I say, “Yes. No book, no matter how sad, can be as sad as a life.”

This is the book where all is tied up and circumstances appear even gloomier because we were treated to a few strands of illumination in Book Two – The Proof. The lies we tell ourselves and others just to make life seem a little more bearable is never worth the cost extracted from sanity.

5* The Notebook
5* The Proof
4* The Third Lie

A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940

bookshelves: e-book, nonfiction, wwii, war, under-500-ratings, tbr-busting-2014, published-1991, military-maneuvers, finland, gr-library

Read from February 27 to March 10, 2014

 

Description: In 1939, tiny Finland waged war-the kind of war that spawns legends-against the mighty Soviet Union, and yet their epic struggle has been largely ignored. Guerrillas on skis, heroic single-handed attacks on tanks, unfathomable endurance, and the charismatic leadership of one of this century’s true military geniuses-these are the elements of both the Finnish victory and a gripping tale of war.

Dedication:To the memory of Colonel J. N. Pease,
whose faith never wavered

When Stalin says “dance,” a wise man dances.
—Nikita S. Khrushchev, in ‘Khrushcheo Remembers’

Opening: At the easternmost end of the Baltic Sea, between the Gulf of Finland and the vastness of Lake Ladoga, lies the rugged, narrow Karelian Isthmus. Although the land is sternly beautiful—cut laterally by numerous clear blue lakes, tapestried with evergreen forest, and textured by outcroppings of reddish gray granite—it has little intrinsic worth. The soil grows few crops, and those grudgingly, and the scant mineral resources are hardly worth the labor of extraction. Yet there are few comparably small areas of land in all Europe that have been fought over so often and so stubbornly.

Karelian Isthmus

Just how I like my history, concise, to the point, filled with maps and photographs, and without a glimmer of authorial vanity. Excellent.

Finland alone, in danger of death—superb,
sublime Finland—shows what free men can do.
—Winston Churchill, January 1940

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Regeneration by Pat Barker

bookshelves: film-only, wwi, published-1991, mental-health, tbr-busting-2014, winter-20132014

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Brazilliant Laura
Read from November 20, 2011 to January 30, 2014

Description: Regeneration, one in Pat Barker’s series of novels confronting the psychological effects of World War I, focuses on treatment methods during the war and the story of a decorated English officer sent to a military hospital after publicly declaring he will no longer fight. Yet the novel is much more. Written in sparse prose that is shockingly clear — the descriptions of electronic treatments are particularly harrowing — it combines real-life characters and events with fictional ones in a work that examines the insanity of war like no other. Barker also weaves in issues of class and politics in this compactly powerful book.

Staff and patients outside Craiglockhart hospital in March 1917

Did you see this recent news item

Dougray Scott … Capt. Robert Graves
Stuart Bunce … 2nd Lt. Wilfred Owen
James Wilby … 2nd Lt. Siegfried Sassoon
Jonathan Pryce … Capt. William Rivers

Suicide In The Trenches

I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.

© Siegfried Sassoon

ARMISTICE DAY, 1918 by ROBERT GRAVES

What’s all this hubbub and yelling, Commotion and scamper of feet, With ear-splitting clatter of kettles and cans, Wild laughter down Mafeking Street?

O, those are the kids whom we fought for (You might think they’d been scoffing our rum) With flags that they waved when we marched off to war In the rapture of bugle and drum.

Now they’ll hang Kaiser Bill from a lamp-post, Von Tirpitz they’ll hang from a tree…. We’ve been promised a ‘Land Fit for Heroes’— What heroes we heroes must be!

And the guns that we took from the Fritzes,
That we paid for with rivers of blood,
Look, they’re hauling them down to Old Battersea Bridge
Where they’ll topple them, souse, in the mud!

But there’s old men and women in corners
With tears falling fast on their cheeks,
There’s the armless and legless and sightless
— It’s seldom that one of them speaks.

And there’s flappers gone drunk and indecent
Their skirts kilted up to the thigh,
The constables lifting no hand in reproof
And the chaplain averting his eye….

When the days of rejoicing are over,
When the flags are stowed safely away,
They will dream of another wild ‘War to End Wars’
And another wild Armistice day.

But the boys who were killed in the trenches,
Who fought with no rage and no rant,
We left them stretched out on their pallets of mud
Low down with the worm and the ant.

Robert Graves

ANTHEM FOR DOOMED YOUTH by WILFRED OWEN

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
—Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,
— The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Extremely powerful anti-war message in this biography of mental care at Craiglockhart Hospital, Edinburgh, where some scenes were just too much to bear.

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