What are you reading? – 10 October 2019

Our fortnightly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

October 10, 2019
library bookshelf
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Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance literature at Nottingham Trent University, is reading Glen Duncan’s I, Lucifer (Simon and Schuster, 2003). “A mixture of Stanley Donen’s 1967 film Bedazzled and the early novels of Martin Amis, Duncan’s scabrous narrative has Lucifer entering the still warm body of suicide Declan Gunn. The play between protagonist’s and author’s names typifies the self-consciousness of this cruel and facetious morality tale. Lucifer spends most of his time consuming booze, coke and ‘XXX-Quisite’ escorts or rent boys. It is a grimly amusing look at the excesses of London high life, episodic rather than sustained in structure and with a disarmingly frank narrative voice: ‘You don’t, darling, “summon” Lucifer. He’s not a fucking butler. Lucifer visits you…If I don’t, no amount of spooky chanting, bare bums, sinister beards, fellated goats or murdered chickens is going to make the slightest difference.’ Appalling and attractive in equal measure!”

Kalwant Bhopal, professorial research fellow and professor of education and social justice at the University of Birmingham, is reading Åsne Seierstad’s One of Us: The Story of a Massacre and Its Aftermath (Virago, 2015). “In July 2011, Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 mainly young Norwegians in Oslo and Utøya, a remote island. The events shocked the country and the whole world. In this remarkable, moving book, Seierstad provides us with a definitive account of the atrocities as well as the path that led Breivik to carry them out. Using police and court transcripts, she grapples with the question of whether such behaviour is innate or created by circumstances. What emerges is a powerful, heart-breaking account of love, hate and loss. Its most striking aspect is the chilling reminder that ‘One of Us is a book about belonging, a book about community…[and] also a book about looking for a way to belong and not finding it’.”

Sir David Bell, vice-chancellor and chief executive of the University of Sunderland, is reading Christopher Lee’s Carrington: An Honourable Man (Viking, 2018). “Lord – Peter – Carrington served in every Conservative government from Churchill to Thatcher. In a remarkable life, he was also a decorated soldier, high commissioner to Australia, secretary general of Nato, chairman of a bank and a university chancellor – at Reading. This book captures the decency of a patrician aristocrat who thoroughly believed in public service. Yet Lee also tackles a recurrent criticism of Carrington, that he was light on detail – something that, more than once, caused him to offer his resignation from government. Indeed, his departure as foreign secretary ahead of the Falklands conflict is remembered as the last ‘honourable’ resignation of the modern era. When Carrington died in 2018, his reputation, unlike that of many others, remained largely intact.”

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