Sunday 23 November 2008

One book crime atoned for

It really shouldn't have taken me 5 whole days to read a book that barely cracks the 300 page mark, but I've been sleeping in till 11 like my former teen-aged self used to do every second day, and then I've been doing the house-cleaning and other super-sexy things like that.

But my halcyon days of mental relaxation are about to come to an end for in a few days I must begin preparing for my thesis defense, which will take place in just over 2 weeks. Very soon after that, hubby and I will be embarking on the dangerous but compelling adventure of taking over the bookstore we recently bought.

I realize I haven't mentioned this whole bookstore thing before. I guess I felt that talking about it might jinx it or something. I won't be linking the bookstore to this blog in any way because I want to leave myself room here to be as cranky and unfair in my reviews as strikes my fancy. In the bookstore, however, I'll just smile and nod when people ask if we've got any Dan Brown or when they tell me how great Nora Roberts' books are.

So, about Barbara Trapido's Frankie & Stankie. I read this book because Vee suggested it a long time ago. She even lent it to me but I committed the heinous book crime of carrying it around for something like 18 months but not cracking it and then I returned it to her unread, with head bowed in shame. I saw the copy I just finished in a pile of super-cheap books and took that as a sign from the gawds that it was time for me to make bookly amends, so I bought it.

First of all, I want to say that I've never shared or even understood my sister's distaste for used books but I think I'm starting to get it. This copy of Frankie & Stankie is the graveyard of at least 10 different, and different kinds, of dead buglet. I'd just be reading along and I'd flip a page to find in the margin the dessicated corpse of what looks like a tiny dragon fly or an ant. I can't imagine under what circumstances these bugs became interred in this book but it made me somewhat squeamish. I found myself hiding the book while reading it on the subway out of a paranoid concern that people would see the buglets on the pages and move away from me in lower brain stem-induced fear.

As for the literary contents of the book, Frankie & Stankie was a good read. It wasn't, for me, a great or stunning or challenging or even very disturbing read - and given that it's set mostly in 1950s South Africa, it should be disturbing. It's told in the third person but it reads like a memoir of disturbing times seen now only through the softening haze of several decades' passage and the distance of thousands and thousands of miles. Also, the main characters are white South Africans who are not extremely (or at all) political and so they're in many ways sheltered from the horrifying realities of Apartheid.

The writing was good and the book was funny, as Vee promised, but it didn't blow my mind. It was good, but good in a "just fine, pleasant" kind of way rather than in a "I MUST read more Trapido, now!!!" kind of way. Not that I wouldn't read more of Trapido's stuff but that I probably won't make an effort to do so - unless Vee insists. Vee fed me for a year and taught me the joys of Arrested Development and Wii shport so I owe her a lot. At least 30 book recommendations' worth I'd say, as a low estimate.

No comments: