THE HOOPLA LITERARY SOCIETY
“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.” Umberto Eco, Foucault’s PendulumUmberto Eco via Fotopedia.
Happy Father’s Day! This week I’m turning The Hoopla Literary Society over to the men in our lives with an all-male line up of writers and books dad might like to read.
It’s pretty common knowledge that women read more fiction than men do but plenty of men do read for pleasure.
According to research, men’s fiction reading is dominated by crime, science fiction and quality fiction. In non-fiction, men’s taste in books goes to history, biographies, politics and current affairs. (Not sport, how strange! Must be a non-Australian sample.)
Armed with that information, I’ve tried to cover as many of those bases as possible. Enjoy!
The Midnight Promise by Zane Lovitt
“My mother used to say that in her day a midnight promise was one you made to get what you wanted, not one you actually ever kept. Like what a man says to a woman to get her undressed, or the stuff you say to God when your plane flies through heavy turbulence. I still wonder if I’ll really hold to what I swore that night. But I have so far. And it’s been years.
I used to lug my stories around me like caged birds, screeching and crapping and demanding my attention. I dwelt on my stories, which means I dwelt on myself. And sure, everybody does that, but I was the Super Heavyweight Champion. I was the CEO.
And that’s what this is. This is the tumbling road to a single moment that changed all that.”
John Dorn is a private inquiry agent and he used to be a good one.
That’s why hot shot defence lawyer Demetri Sfakiakopoulos slings John work and pays his rent whilst John drowns himself in alcohol, surrounded by empty Chinese takeaway containers where his desk should be. Before John slid down this far, he was smart until he made one horrible mistake that will haunt him forever.
The Midnight Promise is a collection of ten stories that lead to the endpoint of John Dorn’s mistake. Each story could, and does, stand-alone except Zane Lovitt used to be a documentary filmmaker, and it shows in the way he links each case to the ones around it.
Stylistically reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill, Lovitt treats the individual stories as a means of building a picture of John Dorn.
They are pieces of a puzzle that show us why Dorn becomes the hard drinking cynic the reader meets in the beginning.
The writing is sharp, the scenarios are well conceived, suitably violent, stupid or pointless and very funny. Lovitt has a real skill in drawing characters that spring to life in a few words. As a modern interpretation of the private eye style of crime, The Midnight Promise is an exciting and original debut.
The Man on the Moon
Despite his incredible modesty, to most people Armstrong represented what is good about human endeavour and its achievements. For those of us too young to remember, it’s hard to imagine how big a deal it was that a man walked on the moon. But without a doubt, man travelling into outer space in rocket ships has inspired generations of writers.
Hearing the news of Armstrong’s death on the radio made me start thinking about all the books inspired by man’s mission to the moon.
Writers from H.G. Wells to C.S Lewis and Jules Verne have spun stories about man’s adventures in space. Generations of children have been raised on stories about the man in the moon and a moon made of cheese. Then I remembered that hidden away on a top shelf, away from sticky fingers, was this book by Mae and Ira Freeman, You Will Go the Moon.
Originally published in 1959, it was given to my husband when he was a small child. Although quite factual in nature, it shows a small boy joining the astronauts on their mission into space and walking on the moon.
In some ways it seems a bit quaint now, but it speaks of a time in human history that united so many people’s hopes and dreams for the future. There must be hundreds, if not thousands of similar books about this lunar mission. Maybe you still have books like this at your house that you can share with us?
The Knot by Mark Watson
“I was born in 1950 and given the inauspicious name of Dominic Kitchen. I am seven years younger than my brother Max and nine years younger than my sister Victoria. Being the youngest member of the family by such a margin gave me a lingering feeling of being permanently behind everyone else, especially my brother. If I found something out, Max would already know it; whatever I achieved, he would either have done it already, or looked into it and deemed it unworthy of his attention. In short, I’d turn up too late. Max himself did everything possible to encourage me in this belief.”
There is nothing particularly unusual about the Kitchen family.
They are post war Londoners, getting on with life. Mr Kitchen writes about the football for a local paper. Mrs Kitchen likes to cook whilst singing snatches of half-remembered songs. Dominic lives in the shadow of his brilliant older brother Max who spends much of his energy pretending Dominic doesn’t exist before leaving for Oxford University and a life beyond the one lived in a drab semi-detached house. His sister Victoria, though, is different.
In a family that puts so much stock in keeping their emotions in check, Victoria is the only one to really acknowledge Dominic and show him some affection.
This is the foundation of Dominic’s life. At age fifteen, he is working at the local photography shop and learning the trade of a wedding photographer from his friend and mentor Roger Daley. However, Dominic’s thoughts are never far from the sister he loves and even into adulthood, she is the only person who doesn’t make him feel a complete failure.
As Dominic goes through the motions of growing up, falling in love, marrying and having a child, the knot of dissatisfaction with his lot twists tighter and tighter. Inevitably, Dominic reaches a point in his life where this pent up emotion must find expression and when it does, the consequences are life altering and damaging.
Mark Watson has gone into territory that only the most cynical of readers will remain unaffected by.
The knot is both image and metaphor and underlying everything is the central theme of the power of secrets and their ability to both harm and protect. Every relationship in this book is flawed, or destroyed if it is not. The cleverness of this novel is in its premise, almost guaranteeing that no reader will be ambivalent about the novel’s conclusion. Nothing is neatly tied up and so readers might find themselves tied up in knots, so to speak, which perhaps was Watson’s intention in the first place! BUY THE BOOK
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