Book Diary – August/September 2013

As David Peace’s ‘Red or Dead’ dominated most of August, I’m going to combine the tail-end of the month with September.

‘Vendetta’ by Michael Dibdin

Monday 26th August – Saturday 31st August

Following on from ‘Ratking’ in February, I moved on to the second Zen book.

As with the previous novel, I felt that the TV adaptation was very true to the spirit of the books. There were moments when the plots deviate but without jarring horrendously.

It’s a common thing for fictional detectives to have vulnerabilities, but I think Zen’s make him more human than the archetypal anti-social, alcoholic divorcee. He wants friends, a stress-free life, and is a reluctant outsider due to the fact that he’s a Venetian, rather than because he isolates himself through a lack of personal skills or overwhelming devotion to duty. It’s this that I think makes him my favourite fictional detective, ahead of Wallander, Kenzie and Gennaro or Derek Strange and Terry Quinn.

‘Hang Ups: Essays on Painting (Mostly)’ by Simon Schama

Sunday 1st September – Thursday 12th September

Feeling artistic, I decided to start on Simon Schama’s collection of essays on the subject of art.

The essays themselves are perfect examples of Schama’s readable but intelligent style, and he does a great job of bringing pictures to life, even when you can’t see them.

The main criticisms of the book would be twofold: firstly, and most importantly, the subjects of the essays are often exhibitions which are long since gone, so it is impossible for the reader to ever truly experience what SS is talking about, and secondly, the lack of pictures. In some ways, I’m ashamed to type that, but I feel that a book about art is the perfect place for plenty of pictures, and there is a maximum of one picture per artist discussed, which leaves something to be desired.

I stopped reading about two-thirds of the way through for a number of reasons. Mostly, the last chapter was about fashion rather than art, but also because the format was becoming a little repetitive (though that is perhaps harsh as Simon Schama’s writing is always a pleasure to read) and he was heading into artists I don’t like (Cy Twombly for one!) and several of the later essays were clearly aimed at a more knowledgeable audience than I.

I will read some of the as-yet unread essays, and would recommend the book to any art fan.

‘Cabal’ by Michael Dibdin

Friday 13th September – Sunday 22nd September

Having enjoyed the first two of the series, I quickly moved on to the third, Cabal, which would also complete the set of three which the BBC had adapted for television.

This is the point at which the TV adaptation and the books finally part company once and for all. Beyond the opening scene in which Ludovico Ruspanti falls to his death, the book is unrecognisable as the TV episode bearing the same name and containing the same characters.

However, that is not to its detriment. The book is still very enjoyable, and Zen is still the most likeable of the fictional detectives I have so far encountered. His jealousy of his lady friend’s independence provides an amusing subplot and reaffirms his status as a proper human being.



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