Monday, April 02, 2007

Holiday reading

Holidays and Christmas are the only real chance I get these days to settle down with a good book, so I was determined to make the most of this rare opportunity during our recent trip to the peaceful resort of Los Gigantes, on Tenerife.

The first of the two books I took away with me was Le Carre's Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy which I last read as a student more than 25 years ago.

It's hard to say what it is I love about this book, which is probably the literary equivalent of listening to The Smiths. It is set against the grim backdrop of 1970s Britain in all its drabness, mundanity and loss of influence in the world, and deals with the painful themes of personal and political betrayal.

The re-read was partly inspired by the fact that's being repeated on BBC 4 at the moment - the last episode is tonight but if you've missed the preceding six, don't watch it as it will give way the ending. Read the book instead, and then buy the DVD.

Also on my reading list was God's Politics by Jim Wallis, the American Christian leader. It's a brilliant analysis of how the so-called "religious right" in America has hijacked Christianity for its own political ends and how a truly Biblical understanding of Jesus's teaching would lead one to very different ideological conclusions.

Wallis correctly identifies the current political consensus as socially liberal and economically conservative, whereas a Christian approach would tend to produce something socially conservative and economically liberal. This moreorless summarises my own disillusionment with modern politics, so it was good to find someone else taking a similar view.

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Richard Bailey said...

Dear Paul,

Welcome Home.
Quite accidentally, you appear to have applied a picture of a topless sunbather alongside your book review.
Gremlins, eh?
Thank god you had some excellent reading to keep you properly occupied.

Richard Bailey said...

Even better. You've filed it under Christianity!!!!

David Gladwin said...

Perhaps the picture shows what the little tinker spied in the absence of tailoring?

Blowed if I can fit the soldier in there, though...

RedEye said...

It's a pity Paul has fallen into the trap of dismissing the Smiths as miserable - in fact, much of The Smiths' work is characterised by caustic wit and a sharp sense of the absurd in human relations, plus a Larkinesque awareness that misery is what happiness has to be wrung.

David Gladwin said...

Dead right, Redeye. I'm always banging on about the humour in The Smiths, and I'm not the only one, yet it's still a refreshing and welcome bucket of iced water when someone else recognises this.

I can testify that Paul is a fan of The Smiths, and is probably using them as a handy cultural reference because the urge to mention those charming men is always strong.

Now, if he'd said that Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was the literary equivalent of listening to Joy Division...

Paul Linford said...

Would you read it if I had David?

I have no idea who the topless sunbather in the picture is. I was so engrossed in Tinker, Tailor I didn't notice her ;-)

David Gladwin said...


Probably not, but Joy Division's music had cold and reverberating edges, and gave an overwhelming feeling of massive forces at work.

For some reason, the early work of Ted Hughes always makes me think of Joy Division. Perhaps I'll read some of that, instead.