The Power and the Glory

I started to look at photos of the soaring church towers of Spain the other day, thinking of turning them into a photo post, but by a series of those associations that you afterwards can never explain, I ended up with my tattered and bath-soaked copy of Graham Greene’s best novel in my hand instead.

(You’ll have to wait for the church towers.)

The Power and the Glory

I don’t think I’ve taken it off the shelf once in the past twenty-five years or so, and yet I can remember vividly every word of it. Well, almost.

‘Your’ classic is a book to which you cannot remain indifferent, and which helps  you define yourself in relation or even in opposition to it.

(Italo Calvino: Why Read the Classics?)

It’s called The Power and the Glory, and the title is a clear reference to the last line of the Lord’s Prayer. An interesting title because you can read it in more than one way: the spiritual power of the church versus the earthly power of the government, the power of faith and of political convictions, the glory of martyrdom…

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Don’t Panic!

Stop the World, I want to get off!
Stop the World, I want to get off!

There’s an Argentinian cartoon from the late 1960s-early 70s, about a little girl called Mafalda, whose exclamation, ¡Paren el mundo, que me quiero bajar! (Stop the world, I want to get off!) became an internationally known phrase. As we all have moments in which we want to get off (I did, yesterday afternoon), perhaps it might be a good idea if you keep The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at hand?

As the title suggests, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the only – electronic – book you’ll ever need if you should actually succeed in getting off by hitching a ride on a passing UFO. It will also provide you with light relief while you’re waiting by the roadside, as it were, with your thumb stuck in empty air as those heartless aliens are driving by without stopping.

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Two Versions of The Old Man and the Sea

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Two Versions of the Old Man and the Sea

My teenage daughter borrowed my copy of The Old Man and the Sea and read it one afternoon. I had been about the same age when I first read it, thirty years ago. “You’ll either love it or it will bore you to tears,” I warned. “It’s that kind of book.”

“I’ve finished it,” she said later at dinner, looking a bit sheepish.

“You didn’t like it.” It wasn’t hard to divine. She knows that it’s one of my favourite books. “You didn’t click.”

“No,” she said. “It’s just about an old man who went fishing. It’s boring.”

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Pride & Prejudice in a Dozen Tweets

One of the bloggers I read writes a Twitter round-up for a proper website. I usually ignore it – I mean it’s a Twitter round-up, for god’s sake! – but the other day I decided to take a look. This had three immediate effects on me:

  1. I had a fit of hysterical laughter – are these tweets for real?!
  2. I congratulated myself for never having signed up for a Twitter account – I always knew no-one possibly can have anything worthwhile to say in 160 characters, especially on a daily basis.
  3. I got inspired.

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The Hardest Book in the World to Find

There’s a song by the English comedian stroke musician Mitch Benn titled The Hardest Song In The World To Find. Of the song in question there is only one copy left, and that’s stuffed in the wrong sleeve in a second hand record shop on Camden High Street. Although my interest in obscure music records is nil, I can fully sympathise with Mitch Benn’s sentiments because there’s a book that I couldn’t track down, not in thirty years.

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A Girl Called Aeroplane

There are novels which have unforgettable first lines. Like:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” (Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen)

Or:

“El día en que lo iban a matar, Santiago Nasar se levantó a las 5.30 de la mañana para esperar el buque en que llegaba el obispo.” (Crónica de una muerte anunciada by Gabriel García Márquez).

(“On the day that he was going to be killed, Santiago Nasar got up at 5:30 in the morning to wait for the ship in which the bishop was arriving.” Chronicle of a Death Foretold)

First lines that draw you straight into the story and you never get away again until you finished the book.

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Why Not To Blog About Books (Pride and Prejudice)

I read an article in El País about Jane Austen. The author used some 500 words to say what could have been tweeted: viz. that Jane Austen was a good writer and Pride and Prejudice is a good book. Much writing about books and literature is like that: too many words to describe something that would be better read. And it’s difficult to say something new about a book; usually whatever you want to say has been said before – and better. So where does that leave anyone who wants to blog about books? Don’t bother.

Pride and Prejudice was my favourite book in my twenties. It manages to be witty about something utterly mundane. Jane Austen is all about character observation and style. The plot is not important.

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