My Reading Life 6: Rubbish books that are Great
This is not me. But she looks happy. Vladimir Volegov.
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
The Godfather is most often invoked by smart asses when talking to other smart asses.
Smartass #1, “The book is always better than the movie.”
Smartass #2, “Not the Godfather.”
The Godfather book obviously does not have Al Pacino in it gliding broodingly through brilliant dialogue and clean cut scenery but who gives a cannoli? Nor does it have Brando popping up to remind everyone that when he is not being a cautionary tale he can still upstage whole states. But no messing: the book is complete class. There is more Johnny Fontane; we get to spend more time with him than in the movie, making the book at once a different animal and a incision into the veiled in-between world he inhabited. Fontane was always rumoured to be loosely based on Sinatra, a once great crooner who needed a little help from his little friends to get back on top. Whether or not this is true is difficult to gauge as I wasn’t there, but the scenes involving the under the duvet relationship between Hollywood and the Mafia read real true.
Riders by Jilly Cooper
Riders was the perfect pre-internet fodder; sex, story and stuck up horsey set pratts getting their comeuppance. Nowadays Riders is probably being taught for the Junior Cert but back in the day (eighties, pre-condom Ireland) this book was indispensable and pretty raunchy. Try using that as a cover nowadays.
Good characters with lots of baddies, day time soapiness abounded but for teenage boys and girls it was one of those books everybody could get their hands on. I struggle to remember a single house I ever went to that didn’t have it, so it was a staple of sorts. Also it should be said that there comes a time with books or songs or movies when criticism is muted by popularity, whether or not this should be the case is unknowable. Jilly Cooper has put a lot of horses through horse college with the sales of her books so she doubtless couldn’t give a damn, frankly.
One Day by David Nicholls
I read One Day on a sunny day in Dubai after my sister lent it to me.
Expectation at rock bottom, always a nice way to approach anything, I sat outside a café looking at the world’s cultures clash amicably and I read the whole thing door to door, cover to cover. The movie is pathetic drivel, completely missing the point and, worse, making you hate almost everyone in it. But in the book you get nicely wind-swept along to a satisfying conclusion that leaves no literary device unturned.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (in fact the whole Millennium trilogy) by Stieg Larsson
In fairness, like ye know, he has sold 80 million books and he is dead so he no longer cares, but people tend to throw a lot of shade on these books.
I suspect it is because they are long, and they are long, so people could not be arsed reading them. They need a well-informed excuse. People tend to give up on the first book which is poorly translated. I cannot comment on how well it is written as my Swedish does not extend beyond puss och kram. But perseverance is definitely needed.
A friend who is no stranger to dismissing things out of hand described the trilogy as the greatest score-settling tale of all time, a nice tight summation of what is so worth it about the three books. When you finish with them you have been given complete satisfaction, as good as duelling. Everyone who needs to get it, gets it. Properly. Like an old Clint Eastwood movie before he changed into something I don’t quite understand any more.
The books also ring very true, as good fiction should. I felt I was learning about Sweden, a country we all think we know about but not that many of us have lived in so don’t understand.
Just struggle through the first hundred pages or so then settle in enjoy it and stop moaning.
The Firm by John Grisham
Grisham knows what he is talking about and while I have not read anything by him in years, The Firm is a beautifully pitched thriller that does not put a foot wrong and is ring-in-sick-to-finish it good.
The movie is the same. It must have been a good year for movies when it came out because it does not get enough credit: sexy, menacing, and thrilling, like what the hell is wrong with people?
I just checked: it came out in 1993 which is one of the greatest years for movies in our lifetime, unless you go by the Oscars. But other than Oscar winners Unforgiven and Scent of a Woman, both movies about old assholes being jerks, the rest of the movies that year are incredible.
Groundhog Day, True Romance and in the Name of the Father for example.
The Firm: read it, you will love it.
The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Spoiler: only read The Time Traveller’s Wife if you like crying and are extremely well hydrated.
It is a beautifully written love story that also manages to be scary and very freaky. The questions it asks about loss and love and time are very difficult to read through the tears, but they do stay with you. Love stories are everywhere these days so the author deserves all the plaudits for saying something new and unique about the oldest game in town.
I finished reading it on the Métro in Paris after having been dumped on my ass the night before, so I was already a touch emotional. A woman in full Malian tribal dress came over and sat beside me on the train and put her hand on my leg to ask me if I was OK she was so concerned. A ringing endorsement if ever there was one. I nodded that I was and I moved forward with that hole in my chest that grief leaves.
This is the last instalment of My Reading Life, my memory is beginning to play tricks on me.
Next week will be something completely different.
Americans Bombing Paris paper back out later this week, Friday 31st July so stay tuned.