Tag Archives: Digested Read

Brideshead Abbreviated – John Crace

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.


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The Digested Read Volume II – John Crace

I am addicted to the Digested Reads, I read this in a day and have Brideshead Abbreviated to read next.  My excitement has now reached fever pitch now I have noticed you can subscribe to the podcasts at the Guardian.

Now you could argue that Crace is just being unnecessarily cruel about these books but that is the whole point and some of them frankly deserve it (Jordan’s and Victoria Beckham’s autobiographies spring to mind here as well as many sporting memoirs).  I always wonder how he has time to read all these books and write his very clever and funny pastiches of them.  Sometimes his one sentence summaries can just stand in place of the book itself.  Here are my favourites summaries and quotes:

Zoe Heller, Notes on a Scandal – Unbelievable love triangle between the posh, the old and the spotty.

Lighthouse Keeping,  Jeanette Winterson – “See everything can be interconnected if you’re happy to write bollocks”.

Boy George, Straight – “I used to think the world revolved around me; now I know it does”.

Chris Stewart – The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society –  It’s friendly Chris here again.  You know, the ex-drummer from Genesis you’ve never heard of who doesn’t hold a grudge against Phil Collins and went to live in Spain. “You had to have been there”.

Alain de Botton -The Architecture of Happiness – The literature of pretension ( I like him as you can see in the review but you could criticise him for this, I suppose)

Stephen Hawking – A Briefer History of Time –  “A Brief History of Time …. stayed on the bestseller list for 237 weeks; a remarkable feat for a book that no one understood.  Three years ago. I attempted to simplify my ideas …. but I now gather no one understood that, either”.

Chick and Lad lit get particularly damning reviews:

Celia Ahern – PS, I love you – Gerry dies before start and the rest die on the page

Jilly Cooper – Wicked – Complete and utter bollarks

Nick Hornby – How to be Good – A psychodrama of modern-day, north London-liberal angst played out against a cardboard backdrop

Tony Parsons,  Stories we could tell – And the ones we wish you hadn’t

Emma  Forrest – Cherries in the Snow – Plotless, witless, clueless, shameless

I cannot recommend this enough, try some from books you know but it is also good for ones you don’t.

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