What are you reading? – 7 February 2019

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

February 7, 2019
figure holding stack of books
Source: Getty (edited)

Kalwant Bhopal, professorial research fellow and professor of education and social justice at the University of Birmingham, is reading Andrew Marr’s A History of Modern Britain (Macmillan, 2007). “Marr presents an excellent detailed account of what has shaped modern Britain in the past, 20th, century. Drawing on his authoritative knowledge of politics and economics, he uses powerful and energetic language – as well as sparky wit – to explore the effects of the social, economic and political shifts that have affected Britain and made it what it is today. His attention to detail and clarity of judgement take readers on a journey that is both informative and richly entertaining. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of Britain – from punk rock to Thatcher, Marr unveils how it has always been a country on the edge.”

Nigel Rodenhurst, specialist support lecturer at Aberystwyth University, is reading Peter Carey’s The Tax Inspector (Faber, 1991). “After being completely blown away by Oscar and Lucinda and distinctly underwhelmed by Jack Maggs, I’ve finally got around to reading The Tax Inspector, largely the story of the grotesque Catchprice family and their broken used car business. It’s certainly dark, and I suspect that I’ll remember these characters for some time. I’ll also remember the suspense and murky feeling of not really knowing whose perspective can be trusted. The most notable aspect of the novel for me is Carey’s knack for constructing characters that are believable, amusing but not particularly likeable. He doesn’t pander or make any effort to entice readers in this way. When you buy one of his novels and start to read, it feels as though you’ve made a commitment and you are duty-bound to see it through.”

Randy Malamud, Regents’ professor of English at Georgia State University, is reading Stewart Parker’s Hopdance (Lilliput Press, 2017). “This was posthumously edited by Marilynn Richtarik, whose recent biography of the Northern Irish playwright – Stewart Parker: A Life (2012) – sparked a well-deserved reconsideration of his compelling, idiosyncratic political history plays. Hopdance, his only novel, has ‘a raw power even in its patchwork state’, as her introduction suggests. It fictionalises Parker’s lifelong battle with cancer, focusing on the amputation of his leg while he was at university. Unfinished novels can be tricky reads, but this one – purposely fragmentary and picaresque, lyrically witty, filled with poignant snatches of loneliness, loss and meditations on mortality – adds to Parker’s increasingly appreciated oeuvre. Hopdance (see King Lear: ‘Hopdance cries in Tom’s belly for two white herring’) eloquently counterpoises Parker’s creative passions with the disability that disrupts them; he was working furiously to complete it at the time of his death (1988) aged 47.”

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