I have just finished the novel, Any Human Heart by William Boyd. I can’t remember enjoying a book more, perhaps the last Faulks novel. It is a relief to have discovered Boyd’s work, I am hopeful he is going to bring me hours of reading pleasure in the future. The novel is about a man’s long life from the start of the twentieth century till his old age in the nineties. Logan Mountsturt is the son of a Scottish corn beef manufacturer and a Uruguayan mother, born in South America. The whole family move back to England, Birmingham and Logan goes to public school where he meets two boys, Benjamin Leeping who later on becomes a successful gallery owner, buying and selling works of art by painters such as Picasso and Klee. His other friend, Peter Scabius becomes a well known and successful thriller writer, who even gets a knighthood.
Logan is a writer and over the course of his life writes a few books and many articles and literary reviews. He marries a dukes daughter and they have a son, Lionel. He doesn’t enjoy life in the countryside and moves back to London to work and goes home in theory at the weekend. While working in London he meets and falls in love with Freya, a producer at the BBC. Freya eventually moves in with him and they have a long affair; all the time, Logan realises it can’t go on this way, and he must tell his wife to seek a divorce. I was in Waterstons the other day and found more of Boyd’s novels, I am going to savour these books, take my time with them. I know to well what it’s like waiting for a favourite author to realise their new novel, I may read one a year.
I have come to realise that a persons name can open up a new world to me, straight away I think of Bruce Springsteen. Way back I was aware of him and knew one or two of his early songs but, I always thought he had an interesting name, then after borrowing a copy from a friend, I bought Born To Run, at the time it must have been out for over a year. I’ve been a life long fan ever since. A name can float around in my head for a while before I pull it to the front of my brain and decide to make it reality.
Gertrude Stein is another evocative name. I came across her in a film: Midnight in Paris a lovely Woody Allen movie. I saw it ages ago and her name was planted in my subconscious. After visiting Paris, I was in the mood to watch it again, that brought her name into focus, this process seems to be something I am familiar with, Sylvia Plath is in my not so subconscious mind too and while I think about it, Virginia Woolf , what great names but, that’s for the future.
Gertrude Stein was played in the movie by Kathy Bates, she reads the main character book, played by a sort of time travelling, Owen Wilson, each night as the clock strikes midnight, he gets into an vintage car, a Peugeot I think, he meets various characters from the 30’s, F Scot Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda; Hemingway, a rhinoceros obsessed Dali and Pablo Picasso. Hemingway gives his manuscript for his novel to Stein, she reads it over a few nights and is a great help to him.
I thought she was a very interesting lady from that era in literary history, I looked her up, and was delighted to find she has written quite a bit, some biographies, notably one on Picasso, whom she knew well. Gertrude Stein will be my new project, I have only to choose which book to begin my study of her. I am debating with my inner self whether to post this on my blog, it’s been so long since I posted anything. I’m sure if I do it, I will get some suggestions from my readers who usually know about these things. These are much of my; favourite things, history, literature, films, art.
Footnote… The Merchant of Venice should be my next, Shakespearian post, I’m deep into the text and I have watched the DVD at least twice, I wish I could see it on stage though.
I did enjoy this post, George. Yours are always worth waiting for! And now I have William Boyd to add to my long ‘to be read’ list. Your enthusiasm is infectious 🙂
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Thanks Anne, you are so encouraging. Boyd is brilliant, well that one was, it is written as a journal and is full of real people from the last century, who he name drops throughout the novel. I loved it.
Great post – and I know what you mean, how simply a name can spark curiosity. But they can also bring pre-conceived ideas. For instance, Franzen = big American novel. Sharpe = witty novel set in Oxford. Tremain = beautifully crafted novel that has involved months of research. I suppose that’s what they mean by ‘brand’ (dreadful word!!)