Friday, November 28, 2008

The Takeover - Muriel Spark
A comedy of bad manners. Amorality reigns. An entertaining book, but I expect more from Spark. The problem is that her characters – every last one of them – are deplorable. We await the next terrible thing they’ll do, but that’s all we expect. They’re not real human beings but one-dimensional props for Spark to use in wild plot machinations. Sometimes events get silly, as in Hubert’s botched performance as a high priest. Maybe Spark is showing us a world in which moral values have vanished. But there has to be a positive character as a counterbalance. Or a day of reckoning for the evil ones. But at the end evil (in the form of Hubert, who’s probably the worst of the bunch) escapes unscathed. I think Spark was indulging herself in this book. The question is, what was she indulging? She seemed to be having a suspiciously good time with evil.

Bright Day - J. B. Priestley
Initially engaging, this became tedious. The original virtues remained, but the characters, the situation – both of which were sound – became stagnant; the same plangent note (the loss of youth, the loss of what was beautiful) was repeated over and over. When you constantly interrupt your reading to look at how much of the book you have left, and it seems to be more than you hoped for, it’s time to put it aside.

Scandal - A. N. Wilson
This novel delivers the wicked fun to be had from reading a British tabloid story featuring politicians and prostitutes. None of the reprobates, lowlifes, and losers ensnared in this tawdry farce are sympathetic, though nobody engenders feelings of moral censure. Wilson didn’t try for depth; he aimed merely to entertain, and he does so with skill and intelligence.

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