Where Angels Fear to Tread - E. M. Forster
He wrote this at age 26. Precocious, to put it mildly. Forster entertains, and he wants to say something of significance. Commendable! But though he tries for depth, the characters are not quite convincing. The closing episodes don’t jell; they seem patched together. Still, Forster shows all the right instincts.
Out of Africa - Isak Dinesen (Danish)
I loved the first section – about Kamante and Lulu – but after that my interest flagged drastically. This is a portrayal of Africans and Africa (from an aristocratic European’s perspective), but there’s a lack of intimacy. Dinesen is a shadowy, composed figure directing matters from the sidelines. The sense of detachment which permeates this book caused me to stop reading three-quarters of the way through.
Olinger Stories - John Updike
Updike brings together stories about the same person, in the same small town. He wrote them over many years, with no plan to be consistent, so we see this character shift – as does his family and circumstances. Yet there is a consistency. It’s the same boy, growing into manhood (the feel of time passing is effectively evoked). The quality of these stories is very high. Updike’s flaw as a writer was his desire to impress – with his dazzling prose, with the depth of his insights. Some of these stories lean that way, but most stay where he worked best – firmly on the ground (well, maybe floating up a little at times, but pleasingly so). If someone twisted my arm, I’d have to select “The Alligators” as my favorite in this first-rate collection. *