Tuesday, 23 April 2002

Granta 73 & The BFG

Listening to:

Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra, Some of these days. Another from 19 July, 1929.

Just read:

Granta 73: necessary journeys (contents).

This was a good issue, possibly because there was only one piece of fiction, and that was very good. This was an extract from Ian McEwen’s latest novel, Atonement, which describes part of the retreat to Dunkirk, from the perspective of an English soldier. From the various reviews I’ve read of Atonement, this section is not very typical of the whole novel, but it's an impressive “sub-story”.

Ian Jack’s essay about the engineering and maintenance of railway rails is very interesting. It’s a pertinent piece because the poor state of a particular rail led to a famous derailment at Hatfield, and the death of four passengers. It turned out that the Railtrack company hadn’t been spending enough on rail maintenance, and that the whole nature of the rail establishment meant that this was practically inevitable. The essay describes how the privatization of the rail system in the early 90s was botched and makes quite a compelling case.

Decca Aitkenhead on Westerners holidaying in Thailand was also very good. Her description of back-packers behaving badly at a resort is clear-eyed, and something of a revelation. I also enjoyed the two essays about China, and the piece about Diego Garcia.

Roald Dahl, The BFG.

This is a children’s book that I had read before as a child, and which I've just re-read. It’s a very amusing and enjoyable story. It’s simply written, and would probably take an adult about half an hour to read in one sitting. The idea of a giant that blows dreams into children’s bedrooms is very appealing, and the character, the BFG (Big Friendly Giant) who does it is very funny. Most of this humour comes from his wacky use of English. The illustrations by Quentin Blake add a lot to the story, as is so often the case.

Now reading:

Roald Dahl, Complete Tales of the Unexpected. Not children's literature.