Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The litracher

I enjoy reading English trash detective novels. Some of them are really so implausible but put that away, you still want to find out who did it. I also like WWII and post WWII European spy novels. Over the last year, especially during lock down, I consumed a huge number of such books of little merit and enjoyed them. At the end of 2020 my second Kindle died and I started to read books on my phone.

I did at times intersperse them with other more serious books and I can't remember any of them. I also read a couple of proper books made of cardboard and paper and again I forget what they were, except for one Sister recently lent to me. Both R and myself devoured The Land Before Avocado in a couple of days, ok it was large print and not a long book. It was a great biographical read of my childhood, that is Australia in sixties, seventies and eighties. To prove the book title, I never knew what avocado was until I was in my twenties. 

What a different Australia I grew up in. It was remarkable to be reminded of what a backward and insular country it was. EG, you as a woman married? You had to give leave your job. Young and attractive policemen entrapped gay men into sex and who were then prosecuted and newspapers named them. A woman's body was not her own and men dictated whether the fertilised egg within her should continue to fruition. 

Ah, the good old days when there was no crime, paedophilia did not happen and best of all, women wore high heels while doing the housework and kept their mouths shut because their husband was a hard working provider. Sad to say, I think there is a bit of that old Australia still existing. 

I sent the author of Land before Avocado, Richard Glover, a complimentary email and he kindly replied. Mother loves dog stories and films and she is reading his latest book Love, Clancy: a dog's letter home, lent to Mother by Sister. I expect I will read it.

But I needed to step up to class literature and the Booker prise winning author's work sounded pretty good. While it was never stated in the book, clearly Shuggy Bain was destined to be gay. He was different. I remember that. I was different. 

Shuggy grew up as poor in Glasgow and there is no better book than No Mean City to know what poverty was like in Glasgow, albeit a few decades earlier. 

Shuggy also grew up as a kid who did not fit into the norms as a probably future gay man. Just like me, he always dodged a sports ball when it came in his direction and tried to not be in the field of play. 

It is not a cheerful book but brutally honest and I do recommend it.

The star character in his book is his attractive alcoholic mother, who would pass out drunk each night in the middle of sex with a stranger for beer or vodka money or on her own, or with a couple of different partners at times, and appear in the street the next day beautifully coiffed, made up and dressed. She appeared too posh for where she lived. Shuggy was always there with her, supporting her and helping her until she died from alcohol abuse at a youngish age. I both loved her and hated her as I read the book. The characters in the book were all very strong and none were left out without a proper description.

I think the book was autobiographical and 'Shuggy' went on to be a successful American fashion designer.

38 comments:

  1. My daughter gave me "Shuggy Bain" for Christmas and I am looking forward to reading it. Your enthusiasm for it increases my expectation.

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    1. YP, as long you understand you won't finish it full of cheer, but perhaps quite thoughtful.

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  2. Ahhh, the 50s when women were subservient. Cough. Cough. Choke. Choke. Excuse me while I hack up that fur ball.
    Shuggy Bain sounds well-written but extremely intense.

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    1. Sandra, to use a local phrase, in the 50s here for women, Things were crook in Tallarook. Intense is a good word to describe the book.

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  3. I read a lot(mostly cardboard and paper versions). I read from a variety of genres and mostly have a fiction and a non fiction book on the go at any time. Shuggy Bain sounds right up my street. Thank you. I will try and track it down.
    And as aside (which you are free not to answer) when did you realise that part of your difference was being gay? I am not gay but have spent much of my life feeling that I didn't fit in/belong.

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    1. EC, subconsciously perhaps younger but certainly by puberty. But of course the word gay wasn't around then. My only role models were effeminate gay English comedians. I didn't connect with them.....and then came Don Finlayson in the tv show Number 96, and it all fell into place.

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  4. I found Shuggie Bain really really grim.
    If you like WW2 spy novels, have you read the Rory Clements series? If not, you must read them in order
    J

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    1. J, grim is another good adjective to describe the book. Thanks for the Clements tip. I don't know his work.

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    1. Padre, I will guess what you mean and take it as a compliment.

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  6. I love avocados. Some of my cousin call them hippy food. Oh well!
    Coffee is on and stay safe

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    1. Hippie food Dora? Part of our staple diets now for us.

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  7. Anonymous11:12 am

    The Land Before Avocado sounds really interesting; I'll have to try to get my mitts on it. Like you, I never met an avocado until I was in my 20s! It's hard to imagine now.
    Actually, I've been meaning to send you a book I picked up at New Delhi airport January last year (remember when we could travel??). It's set in England during WWII and trains feature heavily in the story. I think you'll enjoy it. I'll add to the parcel with R's birthday present. Bunyip

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    1. Bunyip, as you remind me at times, you are so much younger than I am so you may not connect with the book quite as well 😏
      The book sounds good. Thanks. I was surprised to be reminded that a lifetime ago we were in England, well 18 months ago.

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  8. One of my favorite authors is Khaled Hosseini. His books actually hurt to read sometimes, but he will write about the most horrible things with some of the most beautiful sentences ever written. I like Barbara Kingsolver and am amazed at how she can leap into a subject and KNOW it. I will put No Mean City and The Land Before Avocado on my list, but it probably will be summer before I can get to them.

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    1. Debby, the two authors are noted and thank you. While I feel stressed if I have too many books, I feel more stressed if I have none lined up.

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  9. Being a reader of low class pop fiction, I'm not sure I'm qualified to leave a comment on this Literature (litracher, ha ha) post. What is the difference between literature and class literature. Is one more long-winded than the other? Does it have more unpronouncable fancy words that means a dictionary must always be close by for people like me?

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    1. River, classy literature is good for the soul, your spirit and education, but not necessarily very good to read. I know full well you would not need a dictionary next to you read anything. Really good modern fiction doesn't use big words.

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  10. I hear this morning that over 22 Million books have been bought in the UK since covid.... a record!

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    1. Cro, initially I was impressed by that statistic, but it is not that much for the population of the UK. At least the figure is higher then.

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  11. In The Land Before Avocado, Richard Glover was said to look at an unrecognisable Australia, scary and appealing at the same time. But it was the Australia of HIS childhood, not mine. I thought the late 60s and early 70s were exciting times, hopeful of a more equal future. But the avocado title was brilliant :)

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    1. Hels, in the period Glover wrote about I was nothing. I had little power of any analytical thought and I saw black and white in life. I am pleased that you have such great memories. I do too, but they are quite different to yours.

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  12. That sounds an interesting book.
    I'm not a great reader of books I get too interested and just don't do a think till I've finished reading - that's why I don't indulge often.

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    1. Oh Margaret, nothing I like better than be so entranced by a book that I carry it from room to room reading and reply to R, sorry, what was that?

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    2. Can relate to that so well - I won't even go to sleep because the book is so interesting.

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  13. I'm a bit like yourself Andrew, a book that draws me right in takes over my life until finished and if it's reeeeeally good I get pretty upset when it comes to an end.. the power of the storyteller right 😊

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    1. Grace, exactly. You want to read the ending but you don't want the story to end. The power of the storyteller for sure.

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    2. I HATE reaching the last page of a great book, thinking No No! This can't be the end, there must be more!

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  14. The Land Before Avocado sounds quite interesting, I would enjoy reading it and I've just placed an order at my local library. I am lucky to have grown up with avocados and other tropical fruits as I was born in Mozambique :)

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    1. Sami, I bet your diet as a child was much healthier than mine was.

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  15. Shuggy is on my shelf, waiting to be read. I've never heard of "The Land Before Avocado" but it sounds really good. Have you read Jane Harper's mysteries? I've enjoyed her books a lot.

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    1. Steve, I don't remember Harper's name. I will reference this post in the future.

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  16. I've put the Shaggy book on my list. Thanks.

    Also did you ever read "Fruit" by Brian Francis? A lovely, tender and very funny book. It stayed with me.

    XO
    WWW

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    1. Fruit, WWW. In what sense fruit. I will find out.

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  17. Reading the comments here, I'm wondering if some of the commenters think The Land Before Avocado is a fiction tale.

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    1. I hope not River but perhaps my description didn't make it clear that it isn't.

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  18. I read my share of pop crime drama, some hold my interest, sme become a trudging painful marathon to even finish, they're so poorly written. So I note all the authors mentioned by folks in comments as many of us book addicts are always after a tip to their next fix.

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    1. Strayer, the recommendations are a good reference to bookmark.

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Democracy is all very well, but why give it to the people? - Audrey Forbes-Hamilton.