Book reviews: “The Stranger”, “How To Talk To Girls At Parties”, “Jane and Serge”

Albert Camus' writing

The Stranger by Albert Camus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is straight-forward. A trip into the mind of a man, who acts and thinks like a stoic; his journey through life is simple, basically because he does what he wants and doesn’t care for much. He’s easily bored and seemingly steers away from what he’s not attracted to. He doesn’t even do a lot of “mandatory” stuff when he doesn’t want to.

Even though I like the descriptions in the book as well as the plot, it’s what’s not there which interests me most; explanations to the man’s behaviour are scarce, and this book is to me akin to Antonioni’s “L’Avventura”, where a clear plot is far from obvious, if even there.

All in all: short, concise and well-written. Highly interesting, mainly because it’s so post-modern.

How To Talk To Girls At Parties

How To Talk To Girls At Parties by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Simple, sweet and short: a story of a 15-year-old boy who reminisces 30 years later, of a party he attended with a – seemingly – more attractive friend and what happened there. From the short story:

She stood out of the way, letting us enter. “There’s a kitchen in the back,” she said. “Put it on the table there, with the other bottles.” She had golden, wavy hair, and she was very beautiful. The hall was dim in the twilight, but I could see that she was beautiful. “What’s your name, then?” said Vic. She told him it was Stella, and he grinned his crooked white grin and told her that that had to be the prettiest name he had ever heard. Smooth bastard. And what was worse was that he said it like he meant it. Vic headed back to drop off the wine in the kitchen, and I looked into the front room, where the music was coming from. There were people dancing in there. Stella walked in, and she started to dance, swaying to the music all alone, and I watched her.

This was during the early days of punk. On our own record players we would play the Adverts and the Jam, the Stranglers and the Clash and the Sex Pistols. At other people’s parties you’d hear ELO or 10cc or even Roxy Music. Maybe some Bowie, if you were lucky. During the German exchange, the only LP that we had all been able to agree on was Neil Young’s Harvest, and his song “Heart of Gold” had threaded through the trip like a refrain: I crossed the ocean for a heart of gold. . . .

The music playing in that front room wasn’t anything I recognized. It sounded a bit like a German electronic pop group called Kraftwerk, and a bit like an LP I’d been given for my last birthday, of strange sounds made by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The music had a beat, though, and the half-dozen girls in that room were moving gently to it, although I only looked at Stella. She shone. Vic pushed past me, into the room. He was holding a can of lager. “There’s booze back in the kitchen,” he told me. He wandered over to Stella and he began to talk to her. I couldn’t hear what they were saying over the music, but I knew that there was no room for me in that conversation.

Worth the short read. It’s nostalgic without being sappy.

Jane and Serge

Jane and Serge. A Family Album by Andrew Birkin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this photographic book, where Andrew Birkin – Jane’s brother and famed collaborator with Stanley Kubrick – has snapped a lot of pictures of Jane, her hubby Serge Gainsbourg and their children, friends and animals, in a variety of scenes, all quite family-oriented and hence not often public and drab. It’s a labour of love, this book; clad in plastic with postcards and a badge included, it’s sweet. Still, I’d have loved more text and more pictures to accompany this, but that’s just me.

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