As I have already written, I am a big fan of the Digested Read, however this book, although funny, wasn’t quite as enjoyable as his previous one that I recently reviewed. I don´t know if this is because more of the books chosen for Volume II were trashy and these are more worthy. Basically the premise of this book is that he has taken ten books from each decade of the 20th century (no authors are duplicated) and some of their most famous novels are parodied in about three pages. Therefore this gives an interesting overview of the different literary traditions of the 20th century.
The most damning of his reviews are saved for novels that revolve around gratuitous sex, drug use or violence such as Ballard´s Crash or Burrough´s Junky;
“Why do you do Junk, Bill?”
“Because once I´ve shovelled enough garbage into my body” I replied, “I’ll get away with shovelling any old garbage into print. Take it from me, some suckers will one day call Naked Lunch a masterpiece”.
He also mocks the tendency of male writers to fantasise about sexual scenes between an older man and younger woman such as in Saul Bellow´s Herzog ;
“She was extremely attractive in her late 30s and gagging for his balding, unfit late forties body in the way that balding, unfit late forties male authors often like to imagine.”
The reviews I enjoyed most were ones of books that I had already read, although reading these books gave me an overview of which ones I might want to read, and which to avoid. I might have overdosed on these though by reading the book and listening to the podcast at the same time. It is also a good book to dip in and out of.
I just wonder how Crace has time to read all these books and, whether having to read novels simply to find the bad parts has completely diminished his love of reading. He does admit in the acknowledgements that it was much more work than he was expecting and that his family had to put up with him reading all the time. Still, I love him and think he is great.
If you fancy checking out one, try this Kundera Digested Read podcast.