07:00 – No sooner do I announce the launch of my Trevor vs. Moore Reading Challenge and I’m off and running with the reading (impressive for a change ). What I wanted to do was to read a story from both authors back-to-back, not for direction comparison but rather to read through the stories of both writers at an equal pace (at least until the Moore stories run dry). Thankfully I was able to do that this morning over breakfast.
I began with William Trevor and his story, Access to the Children. It’s a story about a father spending ‘access time’ with his kids on a Sunday, as he has done every Sunday for a few months now. His marriage as you can probably tell has failed (completely his fault. Playing around – naughty boy), and what begin as a story about the father being devoted to spending time with his children, quickly degenerates into a tale of self-pity and the irremediable hope that his marriage will fix back together.
All-in-all a really good story from Trevor, and what I love about him already as a writer is the attention to detail that’s so evident in his stories (or in this one at least). For instance he takes time to note particular TV programmes the kids are watching, and he details incidental conversations between the children. These have no real bearing on the story, but by including this detail Trevor seems to breathe more life into his characters, which for me is so important. [Rating - 4.5/5]
The Moore story I read, Paper Losses, is by sheer coincidence also about a failed marriage, or rather a couple going through the final death throes of a failed marriage before their divorce goes through. Once again it’s the man and his roving ways which have led to the break-up (hey what’s with all this making out guys to be the ‘weak link’ in a relationship? ), and the focus of the story, as told from the wife’s persepctive, is part reminiscing on better times past, and part dealing with the uncomfortable situation of having to remain together for a while longer for the sake of the kids.
I’ve got to admit that I didn’t like this story quite as much as I liked Trevor’s, but it’s still a highly accomplished piece of story-telling. There are moments of pure genius, such as when Sam (the son) has a short exchange with his mother about dolphins, but overall I found Moore’s prose to be a bit awkward to read at times. Maybe I just need to get more used to it. [Rating - 3.5/5]
11:00 – It may be September 1st but it was nice and sunny here in Scotland this morning, which opened up the opportunity for a bit of ‘walk reading’ while I was out on walkies with Steinbeck (the dog). Maupassant always seems to fit the bill perfectly when it comes to ‘walk reading’, and during the walk I managed to tick off two excellent Maupassant shorts. The first, The Conservatory, I read en-route to the local(ish) forest. The story is about Monsieur and Madame Lerebour and the strained state of their marriage. In a relationship that sounds very much like Mr and Mrs Rob’s (especially when Madame tells her husband that he’s getting as ‘flabby as a sponge’ ), the Monsieur is always trying to be jovial and accommodating, but he finds himself constantly nagged and berated by his grumpy and irritable wife. Quite simply, a superb story from Maupassant, with an ending that warmly resolves everything (except perhaps an outstanding gendarme charge for lewd behaviour). Who needs to plod along a pavement staring pointlessly at passing traffic when they can embroil themselves into the wonderful world of Maupassant? Walk reading has a lot going for it.
The second Maupassant short I read was The Matter with Andre, a rather saucy tale (as was the previous story) about the amorous liaisons between a married woman and a military captain. The husband is away on business, so it’s a case of while the cat’s away the mice will play. Or rather the mice would be playing if a certain little bundle didn’t keep getting in the way. Funny, titillating, and a little bit shocking too (even more so when it was first published I’d imagine).
I read this second story while strolling through the woods. Have you ever read Maupassant in the peace and tranquility of a woodland setting, with the sun peeking through the trees? It makes for a rather sublime reading experience. I recommend you try it.
22:00 – OK I admit it. As I suggested I would be doing in my reading journal yesterday, I started reading Richard Holloway’s Between the Monster and the Saint (Canongate) last night but fell asleep after two pages. I don’t think that’s a reflection on how Holloway’s book makes me feel. Rather it was just a busy day catching up with me. I have been getting into the book today though, and despite a slow start it’s picking up. Right now in the book Holloway is looking into why man is drawn to commit acts of evil, and he’s coming up with some good observations. I still have no idea where this book is going to take me, but the good news is that so far it’s quite an accessible read (although one does have to employ a bit of the grey matter).