Skip to main content

French Children Don't Throw Food by Pamela Druckerman

"Je t'ai dit NON, Quentin!"
"Tais-toi, maman."
Parental advice should always come with a warning along the lines of the Phillip Larkin poem with the swearing, because one parental expert's advice is another's anathema. In my case, all parental advice is anathema to me, as I'm a trial-and-error kind of guy and frankly your children are all horrible little brats so why should I listen to you?

Oddly enough, though, I didn't hate this book. That's probably because it's written by an American who finds out that Americans don't know everything there ever was to know about raising children who over-achieve and are models of societal perfection. Entertainment enough, one might think, but she is also married to a Brit, one who likes Dutch football. Not in and of itself interesting, but I don't think he gets enough credit throughout - Simon, we salute you!

Back to the book, and we laugh as our heroine Pamela falls foul of the many pitfalls awaiting ex-pat Anglophones in France, often and repeatedly, but smile benevolently as she does eventually learn that in France, there is no 'other way', probably not peculiar to France but something very evident if you've ever lived there or with a Francophone for any length of time. I'm married to one. 

And I hasten to add she's the best Francophone ever and is lovely and not at all inflexible or haughty. *smiles obsequiously*

Ok, she's gone, but seriously, parental advice aside, this book is acute cultural observation with plenty of expert opinion, and highlights many of the clashes between the Anglos and the Francos with reference to the underlying causes. There's lots to discuss therein, but it might spoil your enjoyment of the book. Give it a blast and you may find yourself with a new-found understanding of the French, and wish to give her advice a try. We've found we're already practising many of the things described, as if by accident. More likely by design. You've met my wife, haven't you?


How's about that then?

Free Fall In Crimson by John D. MacDonald

Trav is back, still grieving the loss of some chickadee or other whose death almost knocked him off his game, but not too shook up to set himself up with a few more lucky lovelies whilst tripping his way through another overly complicated and rather sordidly underwhelming plot. This time, some bikers are making dirty movies with minors on the set of a future classic hot-air-balloon movie. Travis falls into the action because a rich old geyser carks it in unusual circumstances and it affects the trust fund of a former marina-mate. And hirsute intellectual Meyer wets his pants towards the end. 

You may sense a fatigued, sardonic note in my precis. It's not that I don't still love John D., it's just that after embarking on the long game that is reading the entire Travis McGee oeuvre, I'm approaching the end and it feels long overdue. It's been fun, it's been enlightening, but it's also been a schlep. With the realisation I might now have fewer years left to me …

Metaliterature - what meaning to have is this for meaning?

Not a review this time, more of a curiosity. It seems I'm receiving lots of hits from Russia (Здравствуйте России!) from people searching for the definition of "metaliterature". As such, it is something of a bespoke word, created to fit a need and probably not yet recognized outside literary theory / criticism circles (Merriam-Webster Online certainly don't like it). I was wondering what they typed in to end up here, so, for fun (it's not fun, sorry) I thought I'd bung it in Google Translate and see what came out. As it turns out, one needs a little hyphen for the rather ponderous machine to understand it, and even then only does half the job (meta seems to be meta in any language). 
Incidentally, below is, ironically, a Google Chrome Thesaurus definition* of "meta":

met·a Adjective/ˈmetə/
(of a creative work) Referring to itself or to the conventions of its genre; self-referentialInterestingly (not interesting, sorry) it says this for the full term, t…

The Lost Time Accidents by John Wray

Fup by Jim Dodge

If there was a comfort-food version of a book for me, then this would be it. It's funny, touching, humanistic, and features so many quotable quotes that its trim 120 pages could be represented in its entirety on some such authors' quotations page.

We're introduced to Tiny on the occasion of his mother's death, lured into a treacherously fatal situation by, of all things, a duck, while her 4-year-old son sleeps in the car where he wakes to a terrifying solitude. Meanwhile, we're treated to a potted but entertaining history of Granddaddy Jake, Tiny's grandfather, into whose care by fair means or foul (no pun intended) he is finally placed. But the titular Fup duck comes along only once Tiny is fully grown (and how!). A lost and lonely duckling, much like Tiny, she's discovered shivering in a freshly dug post hole, which betrays the attention paid to it by Tiny's nemesis, a wild hog called Lockjaw, who enjoys tearing up Tiny's fences just as much as he …