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Neil

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About Neil Scotton

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So far Neil Scotton has created 9 blog entries.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Why on earth did it take me so long to read this? I picked up a lesser-known work of his, Sweet Thursday, a year or so ago from my favourite bookshop; the local charity shop. And thought it was wonderful. Simple, honest, insightful, intelligent, caring and humane writing. This one physically comes in much, much bigger. I took a deep breath, opened it and dived in. And goodness. It was a delight every night to open the pages and fall into another world. Evocative of California in the early 20th century, in that turning time from pioneer country to consumer-driven world power. All the big meaty themes of life are here, with characters doing what it takes to make a living from the soil, from the army, from shops, from inheritances, and given what seems to be for Steinbeck a rather familiar relationship with whorehouses, from lying on their back.

For me he seems to move things along wonderfully as a story-teller, and through his characters drops into insights of the human condition with as much power as Shakespeare – our greatness and our futility, our quirkiness and our wisdom. Take this, as a character describes his old horse: “Do you know I paid two dollars for him thirty-three years ago? Everything was wrong with him, hoofs like flapjacks. He’s hammer headed and sway backed. He has a pinched chest and a big behind. He has an iron mouth and still fights the crupper. With a saddle it feels like you are riding a sled over a gravel pit. He can’t trot and stumbles over his feet when he walks. <and on and on it goes> I have never in thirty-three years found one good thing […]

By |March 15th, 2013|Book reviews|Comments Off on East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Mussolini: His part in my downfall by Spike Milligan

Spike was an important part of my early teens. There was something in the insight, eccentricity, humanity, risk taking and yet at times childlike innocence in his writing and humour that resonated with those early adolescent years. ‘Adolf Hitler: My part in his downfall’, and ‘Rommel – Gunner who?’ were much loved books.

At Christmas I received a big set of his books, of which those were the first in the series. I never realised there were so many. I started from the beginning of ‘Adolf:…’ and loved it as much as before – though I don’t remember there being so much nipping into cupboards and dark corners with the ladies those years back when I first read it.

However as the series goes on it seems to run out of steam. ‘Mussolini:…’ is the fourth. Reading the preamble, it appears that at the time his early works were being criticised for being unreliable, and this hit him hard. So in this volume he works hard to establish details, and then at times overhard to be funny. The ending it poignant – as the realities of war hit home, he sees things no-one wants to see and he himself is hit. Physically. And mentally. A book that’s funny and sad in many ways.

By |March 15th, 2013|Book reviews|Comments Off on Mussolini: His part in my downfall by Spike Milligan