Help us choose the September 2012 selection to read for the MR Literary Club! The poll will be open for TWO days.
The vote is MULTIPLE CHOICE
. You may vote for as many or as few as you like.
The discussion thread will begin shortly after a winner is chosen (to discuss everything selection-related before, during and after reading).
In the event of a tie, there will be a one-day non-multiple-choice run-off poll. In the event that the run-off poll also ends in a tie, the tie will be resolved in favour of the selection that received all of its initial nominations first.
Select from the following works:
True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey, 2001
Winner of the Man Booker
In True History of the Kelly Gang, the legendary Ned Kelly speaks for himself, scribbling his narrative on errant scraps of paper in semiliterate but magically descriptive prose as he flees from the police. To his pursuers, Kelly is nothing but a monstrous criminal, a thief and a murderer. To his own people, the lowly class of ordinary Australians, the bushranger is a hero, defying the authority of the English to direct their lives. Indentured by his bootlegger mother to a famous horse thief (who was also her lover), Ned saw his first prison cell at 15 and by the age of 26 had become the most wanted man in the wild colony of Victoria, taking over whole towns and defying the law until he was finally captured and hanged. Here is a classic outlaw tale, made alive by the skill of a great novelist.
Lionel Asbo: State of England by Martin Amis, 2012
Lionel Asbo - a very violent but not very successful young criminal - is going about his morning duties in a London prison when he learns that he has just won £139,999,999.50 on the National Lottery. This is not necessarily good news for his ward and nephew, the orphaned Des Pepperdine, who still has reason to fear his uncle's implacable vengeance.
Savage, funny, and mysteriously poignant, Lionel Asbo is a modern fairytale from one of the world's great writers. It's a dark comedic look at the vicissitudes of fame and fortune in a United Kingdom that is but a pale shadow of its former imperial past. Amis' novel is a hilarious comedy of errors which pokes fun at class distinctions, even as Amis offers readers sympathetic, if rather flawed, characters like his main protagonist, Lionel Asbo (who has legally changed his name to ASBO; "Anti-Social Behavioural Order"), whom we encounter as he finds himself the unexpected recipient of financial good fortune, newly released from prison, and vows to turn his life around, by pursuing "anger management therapy". Lionel is a veritable force-of-nature, whose larger than life persona stands in stark contrast to his decent, honest nephew Desmond, or "Des", whose sole major vice is a sexually charged, romantic relationship with his thirty nine-year old grandmother - and Lionel's mother - Granny Grace.
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, 2007
Such is Ian McEwan's genius that, despite rambling nature walks and the naming of birds, his subject matter remains hermetically sealed in the hearts of two people.
It is 1962 when Edward and Florence, 23 and 22 respectively, marry and repair to a hotel on the Dorset coast for their honeymoon. They are both virgins, both apprehensive about what's next and in Florence's case, utterly and blindly terrified and repelled by the little she knows. Through a tense dinner in their room, because Florence has decided that the weather is not fine enough to dine on the terrace, they are attended by two local boys acting as waiters. The cameo appearances of the boys and Edward and Florence's parents and siblings serve only to underline the emotional isolation of the two principals. Florence says of herself: "...she lacked some simple mental trick that everyone else had, a mechanism so ordinary that no one ever mentioned it, an immediate sensual connection to people and events, and to her own needs and desires...."
They are on the cusp of a rather ordinary marital undertaking in differing states of readiness, willingness and ardor. McEwan says: "Where he merely suffered conventional first-night nerves, she experienced a visceral dread, a helpless disgust as palpable as seasickness." Edward, having denied himself even the release of self-pleasuring for a week, in order to be tip-top for Florence, is mentally pawing the ground. His sensitivity keeps him from being obvious, but he is getting anxious. Florence, on the other hand, knows that she is not capable of the kind of arousal that will make any of this easy. She has held Edward off for a year, and now the reckoning is upon her.
McEwan is the master of the defining moment, that place and time when, once it has taken place, nothing will ever be the same after it. It does not go well and Florence flees the room. "As she understood it, there were no words to name what had happened, there existed no shared language in which two sane adults could describe such events to each other." Edward eventually follows her and they have a poignant and painful conversation where accusations are made, ugly things are said and roads are taken from which, in the case of these two, the way back cannot be found. Late in Edward's life he realizes: "Love and patience--if only he had them both at once--would surely have seen them both through." This beautifully told sad story could have been conceived and written only by Ian McEwan. --Valerie Ryan
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell, 2006
Long- and short-listed for various awards, including the Bad Sex in Fiction Award
Black Swan Green tracks a single year in what is, for thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor, the sleepiest village in muddiest Worcestershire in a dying Cold War England, 1982. But the thirteen chapters, each a short story in its own right, create an exquisitely observed world that is anything but sleepy. A world of Kissingeresque realpolitik enacted in boys’ games on a frozen lake; of “nightcreeping” through the summer backyards of strangers; of the tabloid-fueled thrills of the Falklands War and its human toll; of the cruel, luscious Dawn Madden and her power-hungry boyfriend, Ross Wilcox; of a certain Madame Eva van Outryve de Crommelynck, an elderly bohemian emigré who is both more and less than she appears; of Jason’s search to replace his dead grandfather’s irreplaceable smashed watch before the crime is discovered; of first cigarettes, first kisses, first Duran Duran LPs, and first deaths; of Margaret Thatcher’s recession; of Gypsies camping in the woods and the hysteria they inspire; and, even closer to home, of a slow-motion divorce in four seasons.