Throwback Thursday: Josephine’s Book Edition

I made the most delicious tea last night, all smoked cod and beans and cheese and yumminess. It was Nigella inspired, obvs, but this is me, and I do thins thing where I want to cook the thing but don’t have the ingredients required to cook the thing and so I just swap them out for whatever I have in the cupboard.
Also, Nigella’s version of this meal does not involve any kind of topping with cheese and grilling. However, why would you not? What savoury dish is not made better by topping with cheese and grilling?
So, I made it, and it was lush and I was super happy. Ian was less so, but it was always going to be hit and miss with him: he’s not so keen on things like that. He hates gnocchi, and will only eat risotto under sufferance, (which is a shame as I could eat both of those things for ever and not get fed up) and so I kind of knew that a meal that was mostly haricot beans and a bit of fish wasn’t going to fill him with joy. & why I have decided this is a thing to blog about I have no idea.

I still haven’t finished the Bill Bryson – although I am loving it. Seriously, so good. The thing is, though, is that it’s the kind of book that you can just dip in and out of and there are a couple of books that I got from Netgalley that I need to read sharpish, so last night (after the smoked cod deliciousness) I took myself off to bed with fruit pastilles and a glass of wine and started to read The Life I Left Behind. I’m only about a quarter of the way behind, but so far so good. I am intrigued, which is kind of the point, and it looks like being a super quick read so I should still be able to finish Bryson by the end of the month.

Also, today is Thursday (which you know already, but bear with me as I do have a point…) and various social media websites seem to run with a thing called ‘Throwback Thursday’ or (#TBT if you tweet or Instagram), whereby people post content, usually photos, relating to something they’ve done or seen in the past. Well, I thought to myself whilst pondering on the fact that updating more regularly was one of my New Year’s Resolutions, why not jump on that bandwagon? Everyone loves a little bit of nostalgia do they not, and I love talking about books I have read and liked and so here we go – Throwback Thursday: Josephine’s Book Edition.

I read this week that Steve Toltz has a new book out later this year, a fact that delights me, and so what better place to go back to this Thursday than 2010,  and Toltz’s debut novel A Fraction of the Whole (first published in 2008.)

You want to know why I like it don’t you? I like it, mostly, because it’s really excellently written. It also contains one of my favourite quotes of ever.

I’ll teach you how to decipher all the confused faces by closing your eyes & how to cringe when someone says the words ‘your generation’. I will teach you how not to demonise your enemies & how to make yourself unappetising when the hordes turn up to eat you. I’ll teach you how to yell with your mouth closed & how to steal happiness & how the only real joy is singing yourself hoarse & nude girls & how never to eat in an empty restaurant & how not to leave the windows of your heart open when it looks like rain & how everyone has a stump where something necessary was amputated. I’ll teach you how to know what’s missing


So, what’s it about?

From Goodreads:
Most of his life, Jasper Dean couldn’t decide whether to pity, hate, love, or murder his certifiably paranoid father, Martin, a man who overanalyzed anything and everything and imparted his self-garnered wisdom to his only son. But now that Martin is dead, Jasper can fully reflect on the crackpot who raised him in intellectual captivity, and what he realizes is that, for all its lunacy, theirs was a grand adventure.
As he recollects the events that led to his father’s demise, Jasper recounts a boyhood of outrageous schemes and shocking discoveries—about his infamous outlaw uncle Terry, his mysteriously absent European mother, and Martin’s constant losing battle to make a lasting mark on the world he so disdains. It’s a story that takes them from the Australian bush to the cafes of bohemian Paris, from the Thai jungle to strip clubs, asylums, labyrinths, and criminal lairs, and from the highs of first love to the lows of failed ambition. The result is a rollicking rollercoaster ride from obscurity to infamy, and the moving, memorable story of a father and son whose spiritual symmetry transcends all their many shortcomings.
A Fraction of the Whole is an uproarious indictment of the modern world and its mores and the epic debut of the blisteringly funny and talented Steve Toltz.

This book is excellent. It’s long, at over 700 pages in my paperback copy, but it doesn’t feel long, it’s fast-paced and witty and sharp. There’s a remarkably short list of characters and yet still an awful lot going on – there is nothing in that whole 700+ pages that you could get away with skipping, it’s all brilliant and it’s all relevant.  At times it’s fairly harrowing and Toltz tackles some pretty heavy subjects with an enviable skill (another of those books that leaves me asking, ‘how do I words?’), but it also made me laugh out loud and I remember being a little bit blown away that this was Toltz’s first novel. It’s pretty impressive, I think to write a book that touches your readers on a deep level, a fundamental level, to write an unlikely tale of tragedy and yet still manage to pepper it with a sharp wit. There’s something about the writing that feels kind of effortless, like, if you smile or even laugh, that it’s not because Toltz was trying to be funny, it’s just that he naturally kind of is. It’s that kind of humour and this is that kind of story – life is shit sometimes and bad stuff happens sometimes and sometimes its really sort of hard, like when you’re having the worst day ever and out of the blue something happens that has you laughing even though you’re wound tight as a spring inside; a bad day doesn’t stop the good stuff being good. Not always. 

Basically, it’s just a really really excellent read and I am so excited for Quicksand.

I couldn't think of anything other than her and the components of her. For example, her red hair. But was I so primitive I let myself be bewitched by hair? I mean, really. Hair! It's just hair! Everyone has it! She puts it up, she lets it down. So what? And why did all the other parts of her have me wheezing with delight? I mean, who hasn't got a back, or a belly, or armpits? This whole finicky obsession serves to humiliate me even as I write it, sure, but I suppose it isn't that abnormal. That's what first love is all about. What happens is you meet a love object and immediately a hole inside you starts aching, the hole that is always there but you don't notice until someone comes along, plugs it up, and then runs away with the plug.

And that’s that. Throwback Thursday. I wonder if I’ll remember to do it again next week….?