#bookcheat: literature classic (or maybe classic literature) summarized in 140 characters or less

Do you recognise the following books based on descriptions I’ve tweeted using the #bookcheat hashtag? They’re either familiar classics of their genre or that rather amorphous category, modern classics. (The tag is sometimes defined as ‘we read the books so you don’t have to’.)

Anthropoids adopt orphan, future lord of jungle also English milord. Concrete jungle a challenge, loses heart.

See, it’s easy! Try this one:

Alternate history by lofty châtelain in alternate history. Authentic? Chance, and Dick, will tell.

No? Perhaps you haven’t read the same SF as me. And I do agree that it reads a bit like a cryptic crossword clue. Here’s a work I reviewed recently:

Graphic novel graphic & novel: vigilantes pawns in megalomaniac plot to end all wars. Will it work? Will it hell!

This may find you traipsing all over the place:

Hubby works overseas, then Med cruise with mates before return. Is wifey faithful? Gold-diggers made to bow out.

There, that was a gift. Final one:

Quintessential kids novel, sometimes insular, when beast joins quartet to revive family fortunes.

You really don’t need any clues to solve the last riddle…

The witching hour


Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
Titan Books 2007 (1986-7)

As a classical musician I’ve learned there’s a delicate balancing act between heart and mind, between emotional response and cool analysis. I’ve also learned that this balancing act is a transferable skill when it comes to other areas of human endeavour, whether art, architecture, drama or narrative. At a recent live performance of Wintereisse I was mentally transported to the bleak landscape of Schubert’s song cycle, the stark monochrome images of the poems perfectly echoed by the composer’s sparse writing and a sympathetic musical interpretation, whilst simultaneously admiring Schubert’s sustained technical mastery. I sensed the same kind of balance when reading the now classic graphic novel Watchmen, a symbiosis of writing and imagery that in some respects parallels Wintereisse.

After being rejected in love Schubert’s protagonist undertakes a solitary winter’s journey, where everything seems emblematic of his state: he’s pushed around by fate like the weathervane by the wind, showered with snow knocked off roofs by crows, joined by a raven which reminds him of death, and identifies himself with a despised itinerant hurdy-gurdy man. Watchmen has the same atmosphere of doom and gloom by being mostly set in autumn 1985, in the days leading up to All Souls Day on November 2nd, even concluding via the snowy wastes of Antarctica with the midwinter festival of Christmas. The twenty-four songs of Wintereisse are matched by Watchmen’s twelve chapters with eleven interludes and a kind of postlude. And the same themes of rejection and loneliness are present everywhere in the graphic novel.

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