Up In A Tree In The Park At Night With A Hedgehog

‘What’s wrong?’

Well, that was absurd. The title and its cover were possibly the most fun of the experience.

Main character Benton Kirby does nothing more in life than drift through it.  He looks back at his life and countless mistakes, doesn’t really take any responsibility for it nor seems to feel particularly bad about it. He’s just there and other things just happen to him. Not his fault, what can he do. The more exciting things (a brother is mentioned, whom drives Death around in his cab or the suicidal pets of Benton’s girlfriend) barely get any attention. It’s navel staring with morally (very) grey glasses.

Some of his experiences are enjoyable silly. Absurd isn’t always a negative thing and hey, not every book needs to blow you away. The writing was easy to take in and with it being such a thin book you’ll be done quickly, no matter what your reading speed is. What just bugged me most is Benton’s “Not my fault” attitude. There is no learning curve, things don’t come back to bite him in the behind in any (satisfactory) matter ..he just stumbles on. When he gets to the titular hedgehog, I feel bad for the animal.

This could have been a collection of absurd sketches. With a little more (chronological) back bone it could have been funny. Now it was just ..’there’.

Up In A Tree In The Park At Night With A Hedgehog, P. Robert Smith, Vintage Books 2009

The Satanic Verses

‘To be born again,’ sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, ‘first you have to die.’

The Satanic Verses was one of those books, for me. One of those you aren’t very eager to read, can easily not read for a couple of days but when you read, you stay around and take the story with you when you close the book.

The main plot is the story of Saladin and Gibreel. They survive a fall from an exploded plane, and that doesn’t leave them unchanged. Saladin seems to grow into hate and transforms into the classic image of the devil. Where’s evil, there is good and Gibreel becomes his name sake: the archangel Gabriel.
Next to their transformations there are different stories throughout the ages and continents. The start of the sharia, actor’s vanities, pilgrimage. Some are less interesting while others show Rushdie’s talent for richly detailed, colorful writing.

The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie, Picador 1988

Wolf Hall

‘So now get up.’

This wasn’t a novel, this was a ambitious biography about every breath Thomas Cromwell took, every move he made. Yes, that makes Hilary Mantel extremely devoted and A+ for her research (how much of it was research and how much fiction?) but it doesn’t make a readable book.

This story is of the rags to riches kind. He seems to have a sixth sense for where he needs to be, who he needs to talk to and what decision to support. That’s impressive. After another and another success story it starts to get a bit boring. Yes, he’s the right time right place right connection man. Singlehandedly keeping the kingdom in one piece. Fine.

The kingdom is the one of Henry VIII, not the greatest ruler, too busy with trying to get rid of one woman (Katherine of Arragon) and marry another (Anne Boleyn). His kingdom is ruled by advisors and councils and slowly by Thomas Cromwell. If I hadn’t been browbeaten by musings over paints and favourite meals, I might have had energy left to be impressed.

Now it only gave me a bitter determination to finish this book and forever be done with it. I don’t know what I missed what made others rave about Wolf Hall, but I was glad to leave it behind.

Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel, Fourth Estate 2009