Monday, December 24, 2012

Vera and reading

Several times recently we've caught up with the TV series Vera in which Brenda Blethyn plays a rather dour and snappy detective whose team only just manages to put up with her.  A sympathetic main character she is not.  Anne Lamott, the novelist, wrote somewhere: Nothing is more important than a likeable narrator - he doesn't have to be good, you have to like him. If a friend or a narrator reveals himself or herself to be hopeless too early on, I lose interest.  It depresses me. But funny hopeless is different.  I have a feeling Lamott would say about Blethyn's character, Oh, for goodness sake, get over yourself.  

It's sometimes hard to know if it's Blethyn's playing of the character that's irritating, or the character herself. Probably it's the latter, and Blethyn, being the superb actress she is, is doing the character justice. (She's based on a character in a series of novels by Ann Cleeves.).  However, for me there comes a time in relation to a character when you lose sympathy for them if they're continually whining or driving everyone else up the wall.  It takes exceptional writing to produce an unsympathetic character who won't switch the reader or viewer off.  The Coronation St writers have done it successfully a number of times, as it happens.  I'm not sure if the general bleakness of the Vera series manages it as well, though in all respects this is top-quality television, even if some of the plots are a bit far-fetched.

We're on holiday babysitting someone's home at present, so I've got quite a range of books with me.  I began reading one called Libya, the rise and fall of Qaddafi yesterday, and it's proving very interesting, particularly in relation to Libya's chequered history of being invaded by one major power after another for more than two thousand years.  The most recent revolution is only one of several that have taken place in the last a hundred years or so, too.   Not an easy country to live in.

I've also been reading a book by Richard Beck called, Unclean: meditations on purity, hospitality, and mortality.   It's a little repetitive, which may come from Beck's background in teaching, but it's proving to be well worth the read at the moment.  

Can't seem to find any fiction that I really want to get into at the moment.  I had a book to review called The Sacrificial Man, but when it became evident that one of the themes was cannibalism in an urban setting, I switched off, even though the writing wasn't too bad.   I'm not actually starved for novels; I've got all the Charles Dickens novels on the Kindle, and in spite of my intent to read more than a couple of these this year I only managed Barnaby Rudge and A Tale of Two Cities.  I did read the new biography on Dickens as well, so that kind of counted.  And I read half of Little Dorrit before getting a bit ground down by it.  There are still a few days left in the year.  Maybe I need to polish off one of the others!

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