The Ballad of Peckham Rye by Muriel Spark
The 100th book I read this year. It was a delightful short novel about a young man who arrives in a slightly posh bit of South London, stirs things up rather devilishly bringing this staid bit of town to life, and then he disappears. Is Dougal Douglas the devil or just a very naughty boy? Spark’s prose is sparse – there’s not a word wasted and it left me wanting to read it again soon.
The Bar on the Seine by Georges Simenon
I’ve not read any Simenon since my teens, and what better author to take to Paris with me. This slim novel turned out to be a quite complex little murder mystery suffused with the languor of a hot summer in Paris. Maigret was planning to escape to join his wife (a prototype for Rumpole’s ‘She who must be obeyed’ one thinks) in Alsace, but work gets in the way when he gets involved in trying to find a murderer amongst a disparate bunch of Parisiens who get together at weekends at a tavern down the Seine. A good little roman policier but I need to read some more Maigrets though to get a better measure of the pipe-smoking detective.
God is Dead by Ron Currie
God comes to Earth in Darfur in the form of a refugee woman, but gets killed, and this changes the world. Lawlessness, panic, and suicide pacts take over for a while – then people with nothing to do on a Sunday now start to worship their children – which leads a to a (further) dumming down of Western civilisation. Meanwhile, factions develop into worldwide war – the Post Modern Anthropologists versus the Evolutionary Psychologists – different sides of the same coin, and of course now God’s not there, what was all that fuss about intelligent design about!!! But most people it seems, still need something to hang their faith upon.
The novel does not have a coherent plot, rather it’s a linked series of episodes each exploring a facet of the impact of God’s death on humanity, highlighting all our failings. Provocative, irreverent, pessimistic, yet poignant in many parts, for a book about the death of religion, it seemed to be almost pro, as the world without God here was an even worse place – at least in the Western world. A case for a sort of benign agnosticism perhaps? An interesting, well-written and thought-provoking read.