Oxford Dictionary of Euphemisms. R. W. Holder. Oxford University Press, 4th edition published in paperback in 2008.
This informative and highly entertaining guide unmasks the language of evasion, prudery, hypocrisy and deceit. With its 3,000-odd euphemistic expressions covering all aspects of life, this edition also includes four articles on popular euphemistic themes, from addictions to sex. The dictionary covers both British and American euphemisms, from “cashing in one’s checks” (death), to “economical with the truth” (lying).
The Sisters Brothers. Patrick deWitt. HarperCollins, New York, 2011.
This “dark, comic anti-Western” was shortlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize. Set on the American frontier in the 1850s, this homage to the Western genre turns into an unforgettable comic tour de force, filled with a remarkable cast of characters – losers, cheaters, and ne’er-do-wells from all stripes of life. The main characters are Eli and Charlie Sisters, two brothers bound by blood, violence and love; and the book captures the humour, melancholy and grit of the Old West.
The Dating Detox. Gemma Burgess. HarperCollins Publishers, London, 2009.
After her sixth successive failed relationship, romantically challenged 20-something Sass decides she has had enough. No men, no break-up, no problem. Her life, usually fully occupied with dates, clothes and vodka, is finally easy. But as fate keeps throwing her in the path of the irritatingly amusing Jake, will Sass break her own rules? The question is whether she will roll the dice and play again, or whether the love-free life is too good for her to risk losing it.
The Christmas Books (A Christmas Carol; The Chimes; The Cricket on the Hearth). Charles Dickens. Penguin Popular Classics, 1994.
A Christmas Carol is one of Dickens’ most popular stories. It tells of Scrooge, a byword for misanthropy and avarice, who is transported through time to the Christmases of his childhood, of the present, and of the future. Heeding the dreadful warning of what is to become if he does not mend his ways, the old miser repents and is suffused with Christmas spirit. Along with the two others, the story celebrates the joys of the festive season in a humorous and intimate style. The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells that Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year In, was published one year after A Christmas Carol, and one year before The Cricket on the Hearth, as the second in his series of ‘Christmas books’, five short books with strong social and moral messages.
Nothing to be Frightened of. Julian Barnes. Vintage, Random House, 2009.
This book, by the author of The History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, Flaubert’s Parrot, England, England, and other works, is – among other things – a family memoir, an exchange with his brother, a meditation on mortality and the fear of death, a celebration of art, an argument with and about God, and a homage to the French writer Jules Renard. Although Barnes himself warns the book is not his autobiography, the result is a tour of his mind.
Far from the Madding Crowd. Thomas Hardy. Penguin Popular Classics, 1994.
Hardy’s famous novel opens with the arrival of proud, capricious and pretty heroine Bathsheba Everdene in the village of Weatherbury to work the large, dilapidated farm that is her inheritance. The plot turns on her infatuations and relations with men. Although Hardy’s familiar themes of betrayal and the pain of love are present in this novel, it is also one of his warmest, most humorous works. It is the novel that first earned Hardy his reputation as one of England’s finest chroniclers of human life and love. It was also made into a film in 1967, directed by John Schlesinger and with a soundtrack by Richard Rodney Bennet, that starred Julie Christie, Alan Bates and others.
This column is a selection by The Slovak Spectator of English-language books recently released in Slovakia; it does not represent an endorsement of any of the books selected. The column is prepared in cooperation with the Oxford Bookshop Bratislava, Laurinská 9.
19. Dec 2011 at 0:00 | Compiled by Spectator staff