October's First Tuesday Book Club

The third instalment of ABC TV's "First Tuesday Book Club" went to air last night and I must admit to being a bit disappointed with it.

The books under discussion were Bill Bryson's new memoir The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, and Martin Amis's first novel The Rachel Papers. New panelists this month were actor Penny Cook and tv/radio presenter Peter Berner. They joined compere Jennifer Byrne, and previous reviewers Jason Steger and Marieke Hardy. I assume that Steger and Hardy are slotted in as the regulars, but I missed the September edition of the program as I was overseas, so I'll have to wait till next month to confirm.

Bill Bryson's book was generally well-received by the panel though I came away with the feeling that a few of them thought it a bit too twee for their taste: "not as funny as some of his earlier books", "maybe he's running out of steam" sort of approach. Did I get any idea of whether I'd like the book or not? Nope.

Martin Amis's first novel didn't fair much better. There was some appreciation of his style but the reviewers seemed a bit unmoved by it. Steger said it best when he suggested that he would really have liked to have read the book when it was first published. Giving the idea that if the novel had been ground-breaking in its time, then that plot of ground had been very thoroughly worked over since the mid-1970s.

I missed Peter Cundall's wit and directness, and I longed for some form of flame-thrower level of enthusiasm. I didn't get it. Maybe what is required is for one of the reviewers to take a firm stand - at either end of the love-hate scale - and bludgeon the others on the panel with their deep-felt perceptions. Bring back Cundall I say, and this time let him into the studio with a pitchfork.

Next month's books are: The Mission Song by John Le Carre, and The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on October 4, 2006 2:32 PM.

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