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dimanche 3 avril 2011


I've always loved reading. I don't remember learning to read (in Britain you typically start at about 4 I think, whereas here in France it's not till 6), and I certainly don't remember it being traumatic or difficult (unlike telling the time and times tables which. Well. Not so much fun).

I was often alone as a child, what with being the only child of parents who seemed to love moving from one end of the country to another every 12-18 months, and having no family to speak of (I actually have a pretty large family, but no one knows each other, everyone's much older than I am and many members are no longer speaking to other members. Dysfunctional, clearly). So books became one of my go-to activities.

I studied literature in high school (French, English and Latin), I studied literature at university (French, Spanish, classics-in-translation). I started a "buy-a-book-a-week" thing when I was a student and kept it up for years. Amazon loves me.

Strangely enough, I've never been a fan of libraries - I like BUYING books, OWNING books, REREADING FAVOURITE books; not borrowing-reading-returning books.

If you've read any previous entries in this blog, you'll probably be surprised, given my propensity for whining, complaining and bemoaning my fate, that many, many of my favourite authors and books are, in fact, funny. Laugh out loud funny. Hilarious, tears streaming down your face funny. Oh, and gory detective novels too, but lots of funny, for sure.

So, I've decided to let you in to my own personal library and share with you some of my favourite books. They're mostly not recent at all (but all "modern" - I love literature, but not so much the "classics", the "19th century" (or older) stuff; I've read my fair share of it, liked some, loved some even, but hated more. So yeah. This will most definitely be 20th and 21st century stuff), and you may already know most of them, but still. Here we go.

In this post, I'm going to talk about a book that makes me cry laughing every time I read it. Yes, it's simplistic and no, the characters aren't particularly likeable, but the book is funny: it's "Are you experienced?" by William Sutcliffe (1997!).

The summary of the plot is in the link, so I won't bore you with that. What I liked was how it perfectly captures the snobism of the "year-outers": I didn't do a year out (too cowardly) and believe me, you soon get fed up with those who did, banging on incessantly about their hardships and spiritual awakening in far-flung places (trekking in the mountains of Afghanistan, living rough in Bolivia, back-packing round Asia...). Yes, they may have had marvellous experiences, but it shouldn't make those who didn't do it feel like lesser human beings as a result... Dave is perfect in his role of boring, cowardly, unenthusiastic traveller, and Liz is equally perfect as the full-blown year-outer par excellence.

The writing is simple, though there are some clever character sketches. You don't really get much of a feel of India (there are all the stereotypes and clichés though), but that's not really the point. This isn't (AT ALL) a guidebook for those actually planning to back-pack round India. The setting is almost irrelevant, in fact: what counts is the attitudes of the characters, and many are hilarious (I particularly liked J - I'm sure I've met him, with his pretentious claptrap and money sent from Daddy).

If you're looking for something light to read, something that will make you laugh out loud but not overly tax your brain, a book to take on holiday or on a long train ride, this is the one!

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