Monthly Archives: May 2012

POSTCARD #10: THE HORIZONTAL MAN

BREAKING NEWS – Acclaim for Helen Eustis’ masterpiece:
‘A good read’
‘Entertaining’
‘A great deal of… wit’
‘This book should be read’


Err… Or perhaps not.

I have to admit, it’s at times like this I feel a pang of guilt for unleashing the burden of the Penguin Postcard Project on its poor discerning victims. And this review started off so promisingly, too. Truth be told, though, I’m quite tempted to read The Horizontal Man anyway. Our reviewer pulls it to pieces… but really rather affectionately. Maybe.

Did you know? This book won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best First Novel by An American Author in 1947. I’m willing to bet our reviewer wouldn’t have voted for it…

The Horizontal Man is a good read, simply for how awful it is. It’s best captured by a sentence in the author’s bio: ‘Helen Eustis… attended Smith College, where she won a medal for creative writing, a degree, and her 1st husband…’ Set at a women’s college, the story involves a dead poet, a disturbed student coming close to failing her degree, a geeky student winning her (1st?) boyfriend, and a great deal of forced wit and insipid storyline. The unconvincing banter between the characters, however, is the reason why this book should be read: entertaining for the one-liners as well as the second-order sneer that anyone could honestly write it.

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POSTCARD #9: DANGEROUS CURVES

This is what I call making the most of your postcard.

Over three hundred words, along with the creative use of a highlighter pen and a small-but-perfectly-formed drawing of a car, have conspired to create this little gem of a review. I love the incongruous snowboarder making his way off stage-right, and the fact that we have to improvise the words that have been lost beneath the stamp.

There’s not much more I can, or should, add to this splendid thing, so I’ll let it speak for itself.

Enjoy.

Did you know? Peter Cheyney, not content as just a writer, was also ‘a fencer of repute, a golfer, a crack pistol-shot, and a jiu-jitsu expert.’

[review transcribed from unappreciated curvaceous secretary of Callaghan] In a spare minute between bandies, hailing Berkley Square cabs, cigarette offerings and answering to my alias ‘Slim’, I have a proposition for you. You won’t like […it…] but I assure your it’s better than anythin[g] else you’ll be offered. Just write me [a] cheque for £5,000 and don’t ask questions. If you deduce the nature of t[he] review by the outset I will tear up the cheque, or alternatively dispo[se] of your doped up girlfriend (with the nice fitting clothes). We’ll get […] somehow and who the hell cares how! The motto of my private investigation firm lives up to every word. Smoke? You’ll be lulled into that seems a sterile case, solved from the outset. Last night I was out on the San Pedro, a nice boat, good lines, inspected a murder between the crook Raffano and a young cad, who shot each other through the heart and lungs in a row over dough. Simple wrap up, one day job you say? Throw in Azelda, the sweet faced junkie, Mrs Riverton, an empress in ocelot, old Kells, and a pair of swimming trunks, and you have the makings of hard boiled detective fiction at its best. The tone drives an iciness into your very soul, dislodged only by copious underworld cigars and fixing tough men in shadows with razor blades in your fists. It’s a shame my respect for decent women is occasionally lost in telling them I have more experience in my little finger than they have ‘in the entire area of their nice figures’. But it’s a good thing it’s the forties and they love that sort of thing! Read it, I’ll distract the doorman and get the Jag. The reviewer of this book is a nice sort.
Keira Dickinson www.ragandboneman.org

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POSTCARD #8: ON THE RIGHTS OF MAN

Here at PPPHQ (got to love an acronym), we don’t like to be judgemental. This project is, after all, rooted in creativity – a hundred different takes on a hundred different books from a hundred different places around the world.

But we can’t help but feel as though one reviewer might have missed the point. Postcard #8 came tumbling through the letterbox… housed snugly in its own little envelope (as you’ll see, since there’s no stamp or postage mark). It does bear a couple of lines of review, but the main book analysis was on a separate piece of paper inside the envelope. Well, it’s certainly one way to get around that whole pesky ‘fitting a review on the back of a postcard’ issue. And it means we get to see the lovely little penguin strutting his stuff at the top right. So it’s not all bad.

Tempted as we were to omit the paper review from the blogpost on grounds of objection, it seemed rather against the spirit of the thing, so here is review #8 and its addendum in all their glory. It sounds as though HG Wells’ On The Rights of Man is somewhat less riveting than the science fiction he’s best known for – even though such work also clearly expounds his socialist outlook (dystopian worlds flourish in novellas like The Time Machine).

I think I’ll stick to Wells’ sci-fi output for now – but have a little more respect for the man in knowing that he fought hard, and earnestly, for social equality at a time when others did not.

Did you know? HG Wells was diabetic. In fact, he founded the charity Diabetics UK. #pubquiztrivia

‘Possibly the mouldiest book I’ve read!’
A book full of opinions on rights and laws; would benefit from an injection of 1940s humour.
Not for the faint-hearted.

The Rights of Man – HG Wells
This book is part of a series of specials that Penguin produced. Written in 1940, this is a discussion essay looking at the rights of man, what these should be and why.
The book opens with two lectures that HG Wells had submitted during the Second World War. He discusses how man should understand what is being fought for – retaining human rights.
HG Wells outlines a 10-point declaration of rights and the book covers the discussion of these points; what they mean and why they are important.
While the book is quite dry (okay, very dry… 120 pages is tough going!), it does highlight issues then that are still issues we look at now, for example, removing racism and gender inequality.
Would I recommend it? Probably not. Unless you have a particular interest in this area of human rights and laws to coincide with them, you may find this isn’t the ideal read for you.
Jeni McNicoll
April 2012

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POSTCARD #7: LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER

Arguably one of the best known, and certainly one of the most controversial, of our 100 titles, Lady Chatterley’s Lover caused itself a downright furore on publication in 1928. I say ‘publication’, though it was printed privately in Italy, since it was banned in the UK until 1960. And when, in 1960, it was finally published by Penguin – bound by this very cover artwork, indeed – there began the most infamous trial of a publisher in history. The case was made under the Obscene Publications Acts of 1959, which objected to its use of… certain words (I’m far too polite to record them here for dear readers’ tender ears. Use your imagination) and, quite simply, they did not deem it a work of literary merit.

And nor does our reviewer.

So it was illegal 80 years ago, unpalatable 50 years ago – and what of now? Is it simply too graphic, too base, its characters too flawed and too ugly, even for a 21st-century audience? Is it we who are too squeamish, or Lady Chatterley’s Lover which is unnecessarily gratuitous? Is it, indeed, unworthy of literary merit? I’d love to hear what you think – add your voice to the Comments section if you’ve read it. (For the record, I love it.)

Love it, hate it, offended by it, embarrassed by it – wherever you stand on it, everyone stands somewhere on it. Isn’t that a good thing?

Did you know? D.H. Lawrence considered calling this book Tenderness at one point. Curious.

 

Somewhere on the descent from the bitch-goddess to the child-man, this book loses its charm.
One needn’t jump in so much mud to prove it makes one dirty.
TC

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