Rabbit, Run by John Updike

Fiction It is more than 30 years since I first read this book, yet I still remember the feelings, the location of where and when I read it. Rabbit, Run was quite a revelation to readers in those days. One of the first non-pornographic books to use the F-word, the C-word, and to give detailed descriptions of sex; not just the details, but brought it down to earth, into practical realms. It was not the “swearing” that made Rabbit, Run popular, it was the descriptive passages, the conflict, the foolish actions of the characters that caught our attention. It is not a story of people from Wall St, the FBI, or Harvard. It is a story of ordinary people — just like those who live in your street. You might not like them, but they are real people. The story is set in 1959 in Pennsylvania. The protagonist, “Rabbit” Harry Angstrom, is not particularly likeable, nor is his wife Janice. This is not a story about heroes, but about defective humans. In the first few pages we find Janice, pregnant, sitting at home watching The Mickey Mouse Club, drinking, smoking, with the house in a state of disorder. Their toddler,… Continue reading

Against their will

Book cover, Against their will

AGAINST THEIR WILL  is the story of Conscientious Objectors during World War 1 in England. This is a fictional account based on actual events. Conscientious objectors were opposed to the war, seeing it as a war for no purpose, a war based on propaganda, a war about chauvinism and prejudice, a war let loose by the failure of international diplomats. It was not a war to end war, but a war to create animosity and new hatred. Some conscientious objectors opposed it on religious grounds, but they were also treated as though they were aiding the enemy. Those who refused to be conscripted where vilified, cursed as cowards, imprisoned, bashed, tortured, treated as traitors, and sometimes killed in one way or another. There was no sympathy for those who refused to aid the war effort. And yet the C.O.s continued in their opposition to the war, despite the pressure, despite the hatred directed at them. This story has another aspect, that of occultism, Kevin Darwin while in prison, has various psychic experiences. He meets the mysterious Gita Lume, who appears to have uncanny powers and knowledge about his deepest secrets. The army, concerned about the number of conscientious objectors, trialed… Continue reading

Regeneration by Pat Barker

This book is set during WW1 in England. It makes use of the factual poets Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, and Robert Graves. Fact and fiction are mixed together in this story about the psychological damage done to soldiers during the First World War. The issue of opposing the war is also discussed, since Siegfried Sassoon, one of the most famous of WW1 poets, opposed the war publicly. Those injured soldiers who opposed the merciless killing were equated with cowards and shirkers. The only apparent option for them was to return to the front in France to demonstrate they were not afraid. When Siegfried Sassoon was wounded in France he returned to England. Wilfred Owen felt he should replace Sassoon at the front so he could report independently on what conditions were like. He returned to France and was killed a week before the end of the war. His mother received the dreaded telegram the same day the church bells were ringing out proclaiming the end of the war. In the novel Regeneration, Rivers is a psychiatrist who treats men who were damaged psychologically by their experiences in the war. The men were often injured mentally as well as physically, yet… Continue reading

My Quarter-life Crisis

 Perhaps it is time I presented my loyal blog readers with a humorous short story. Okay, even if you are not loyal, I’d like to give you a smile. I hope this works.                                     MY QUARTER LIFE CRISIS My life has been a bit of a mess so far. But a girl always has her parents to fall back on: rock steady, reliable. Three times after breakups with partners I have returned home to their comfort and stability. I can’t tell you how many bad boyfriends I’ve had. Drunks, cheats, clowns, you name it, I’ve had them all. So at the age of 27, when I discovered Raymond I decided that it had been worth the wait. At first my girlfriends were not jealous; they said he must be gay. He was just too considerate, too sophisticated, too well-dressed, too generous. We went out three times — and he didn’t try to take me to bed. I began to wonder if Priscilla might be right. Was he gay? I know I was over-anxious, I guess I should have waited for him to make… Continue reading