Archive for August 2013

Pills, Thrills and Methadone Spills 2: Mr Dispenser


Community pharmacy can be a pretty lonely career at times. It can be a horrendously stressful and pressured environment to work in. It can also be hysterically funny, and those times often make the rest of it worthwhile. In a workplace that is ultimately centred around illness, the pinpricks of hilarity become all the more important.

Its good, then, that someone decided to make a book of all those funny moments that happen in the average pharmacy day. Its even better when they decide to do so twice. Enter the second instalment of Pills, Thrills and Methadone Spills by fellow anonymous pharmacist Mr Dispenser.

Those of us pharmacy types who use (for which read obsessively depend on) Twitter or who read any pharmacy magazines will no doubt be aware of Mr Dispenser, who is a regular day-brightener with his wit and humour. 

Everything Beautiful Began After - Simon Van Booy


I love the way Simon Van Booy uses language, and particularly enjoyed The Secret Lives of People in Love His words sing. But there is a large portion of this book that just didn't work for me.

The prologue is a thing of beauty, and Book One is a heartbreaking joy of beautiful prose and gorgeously flawed characters. Not much happens for most of it, but it's utterly compelling. 

Book Two is where my infatuation began to wane. There was a sudden switch from third person to second person narrative. It grated, because "you" is actually "Henry" And instead of making me feel closer to him, it forced a distance that wasn't there in the third person narrative. 

It might have worked for me if it was just done for the period of the dramatic event that happened at it's beginning - Henry's shock and disorientation reflected in the way I responded to the change in pronoun - but it continued throughout both Book Two and Book Three and I ceased to care. Until Book Four and a return to third person narrative.

I am almost certain that the jarring disconnect caused by the switch of narrative styles was intentional and it's very cleverly done. But it is cold and calculating where the rest of the story is warm and human and incredibly beautiful.

We Need To Talk About Kevin- Lionel Shriver 2003


There But For The Grace Of God Go I.

A strange phrase for me to use to open this review, given that I am an atheist. But I think the sentiment stands. This book is, for me, utterly, completely terrifying, because it is a stark reminder of how my life could have turned out, had I not had the strength and courage to stick with my child-free convictions.

The first time I read this book, I loved it. I was so drawn into Eva's character- her complexities, how she talks, her failings and successes. I could see myself, were I as clever and successful as Eva, writing in a similar style to her. Then those last few pages happened, and they were- unusually- a complete shock. I sat for hours after I had finished it, just processing the cruelty and horror of it. 

I've read it over and over since, and each time it has left me with a creeping cold fear. The last time I saw it was part of the Tyneside Cinema's Book Club, when the film came out, and the discussions were fascinating. Who was to blame for the outcome, why is the outcome so extreme, why why why? People were enthralled by the story, and particularly by Eva. Tilda Swinton was perfect. 

Forbidden Flowers- Nancy Friday 1994


I very much dislike this whole Fifty Shades of Grey fashion that is going on at the moment. This is not  because I am particularly prudish, but instead because I find the whole concept of the craze rather distasteful and patronising. I do not believe that women need to be given permission to be able to admit to enjoying something written about sex, and I don't like how books like this reinforce the belief that to make sex acceptable to women, it needs to be dressed up as a second-rate romance. Furthermore, its utter crap, and in the few paragraphs I have read (out loud, in a dramatic voice, from our office communal copy which has since mysteriously gone missing) I have been driven to distraction by the poor quality, half-arsed writing style of it (denote that she is thinking by writing in italics. Finish every sentence with either Holy crap, Holy Jesus, Holy shit etc etc, because then the reader will know how very innocent she is and will be able to identify with her because we are all delicate flowers)

Anyway, that all helps to put this review of Forbidden Flowers into context. This is a follow up book to My Secret Garden, which I haven't yet read, but I don't think that makes much difference. 

Tropic Of Capricorn, Henry Miller.


Miller's anti-narrative of life in 1920s New York reads like a rude, careering, vent of frustrated ambitions and intelligence; a bad-mouthed On The Road that goes nowhere until after the narrative finishes. There are numerous things that will put a reader off this book: the plot-less, almost stream-of-conscious delivery that gallops along through the chaos of the author's life, the crudity of the language, particularly in reference to sex (this has to be the most uses of the C word in a classic novel I've encountered). Indeed, accusations of misogyny have troubled the book for years, and the casual (at least) attitude toward women and sex may shock some, but perhaps no more than fans of On The Road. Speaking of other books, the contrast of this life style to the more upper class lives of F. Scott Fitzgerald's characters, albeit in the same period and similar area, is considerable. This is a story of raw, rude, visceral, frustrating intelligence trapped in a mundane life of working drudgery. What marks Miller's Tropic books out are his philosophical underpinnings. Miller sees an emptiness pervading America, in every coast, city, street, apartment, room and mind. He loathed and feared the acceptance of consumerism before it became consumerism, rebelling against it in his daily existence, seeing a nation of automatons defined by their pointless consumption. Long before the counter-culture of the 1960s espoused such values, Miller was railing against this creeping emptiness and vowing to never fall to it. As such, he moved to Paris for some years, where the precursor to this novel (Tropic Of Cancer) was wrote and published, detailing his time there in much the same manner as Capricorn. Like On The Road, and Tropic Of Cancer, the writing left me breathless, a tumbling, reckless, thundering storm of intelligence, self demanding, questing and questioning. It is self aware to a painful, self loathing, degree: all too aware of his failings, his cravings, his deceptions and lusts. But at the same time, his expectations and belief in what people can be, what he can be, are the driving force of this restless book.