Friday, 31 January 2014
A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters
Sorry this is posted a day late, guys.
This book, A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, was different from all the other books I’ve read so far this month in several ways. It wasn’t my own, for starters; I swapped books with a friend. But what made me really nervous was that it was a signed copy by Julian Barnes himself. So, naturally, I didn’t dare to take it anywhere, which slowed me down a bit in the reading department. But that turned out to be a blessing.
This book is a collection of ten short stories plus half a chapter’s worth of a really good explanation about love. This chapter, Parenthesis, might have been one of my favourite parts of the book, because to me it was the kind of explanation that made me say “fuck yes” and “so true” lots of times. The other chapters are very diverse, but are loosely tied together by random subjects that pop up in every chapter; like woodworm and arks. (Not the easiest things to slip in a conversation, so hats off. And I don’t take my hat off very often.)
When I say that these chapters were very diverse, I do mean *very*. Not only does the author jumps in time and storylines, the stories vary from a woodworm’s recollection of his voyage on the ark and a court’s case of woodworms being prosecuted for eating through the bishop’s chair to an astronaut who thought God talked to him and an actor whose career takes an odd turn. And every short story has its own style too; difficulty, perspective, everything changes so much they might as well have been written by totally different people.
I must say that, probably because English isn’t my main language and because I never really had English class that was challenging to me, that the book might have been a bit too difficult for me; which is why it was good I read this book slowly. Mister Barnes spices his stories with fancy words and delicious metaphors, like (I’m just randomly fishing them from the pages as I leaf through them) promulgated, menaced and obliquities. Some of the best metaphors are found in the ‘half chapter’; the chapter about love: … I love you I love you- it’s become some trilling song popular for a lurid month and then dismissed to the club circuit where pudgy rockers with grease in their hair and yearning in their voice will use it to unfrock the lolling front-row girls. I love you I love you while the lead guitar giggles and the drummer’s tongue lies wetly in his opened mouth.
Looking back on it I’d say that the book isn’t my usual genre, but was definitely worth the read. The picture of the painting Scene of Shipwreck (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Raft_of_the_Medusa ) was definitely a nice touch.
Thanks for letting me read this, H.
Until next time,