BookieMonster’s Unappreciated Classics: Mog the Forgetful Cat

Mog the Forgetful CatContinuing my tradition of appreciated unappreciated classics, this story on The Bookseller about the 40th anniversary and re-release of Mog the Forgetful Cat by Judith Kerr prompted me to reminisce happily about how much I adored this picture book when I was a kid. Perhaps this is where my love of silly looking cats began.

Mog is a kitteh with a memory problem – she forgets how to get inside the house, forgets she’s washing herself, forgets that she’s eaten and generally forgets where she is half the time. So far, so BookieMonster Kitteh. But the events of one night turn Mog into a hero…

This is such a cute and cool book, and perfect for reading to kids. The expressions on Mog’s face in many of the pictures are just hilarious, and still make me giggle. My parents have our original copy and I annoy Mr Monster every time we visit with my “Did you know this was one of my favourite books as a kid?” chatter and need to re-read it.

40th Anniversary? Lordy.

Bother that cat!

BookieMonster’s Unappreciated Classics: Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald

Now this is not the most Literary (with a capital L) work. It was an Oprah’s Book Club selection, but truly, don’t hold that against it. It’s a damn hot mess – stuffed with most every dysfunction you can think of. It’s set on Cape Breton Island. It covers World War 1, the Spanish Influenza, miners, a lot of violence, dubious family relationships, heavyhanded religion, and some crazy, crazy women.

And honestly it’s provided me with some of the most enjoyable reading experiences of my life (because I’ve read it several times).

Fall On Your Knees is the story of the Piper family of early 20th century Cape Breton, James Piper who falls in love with the 12 year old Materia Mahmud (see? Crazy), their daughters Kathleen, Mercedes, Other Lily (crrrazzzy), Frances and then grand-daughter Lily.

I can’t really give away too much of the plot without totally spoiling it, but can I just say you will love Frances. She’s wild, loud, smart as all that, and all together flouncy. I’m dying to spoil it because I can’t adequately explain the appeal without doing so…. But I will not. I must not!

So you have wild crazy characters, you have wild crazy plot – add it to immaculate, gripping writing and you have a book that will break your heart in a million ways. I don’t know what more to say except go, get, read. Except if you don’t like hot messes of craziness, in which case leave this for those of us who appreciate these… uh… finer things.

BookieMonster’s Unappreciated Classics: The Known World by Edward P. Jones

So way back in… oh my… July I reviewed March by Geraldine Brooks and suggested a better read would be The Known World by Edward Jones and that I would do an Unappreciated Classics post on the title … aaaand here we are.

Only, much like The Road, it turns out The Known World is perhaps not so unappreciated after all, having been named in TIME’s Ten Best Books of the Decade. Which, along with Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro being named at no. 1, made me very fluffily pleased inside.

The Known World is set in the American South 20 years before the Civil War and details a lesser-known aspect of slavery – at its center is the story of the plantation of Henry Townsend, an educated slave-owning black man. The story begins with Henry’s death and takes us back into his past, detailing his loyalty to his owner, through the tribulations of his parents to buy their freedom and eventually his, to their disappointment as he uses his freedom to buy slaves for himself and set up his own plantation.

What’s stunning about this book is its wild swings of plot and the way it uses these meanderings down a maps worth of roads to explore how slavery affected every part of the society – every person and every relationship seems almost drenched in the knowledge that this is a society where people, where entire lives, are owned. The plot swoops and flies between time, location and character but somehow (nice trick) never loses the reader. The Known World plays with all your preconceptions and misconceptions, turning them inside out and then reflecting them back to you in a whole different light. The implications of people as property and chattel are immense and complex and only a book that matches this complexity could be this good.

In the end it becomes the story of a world dying under the weight of its own moral hideousness/mistakes/turpitude. Ugh, humanity.

Read it and be challenged.

BookieMonster’s Unappreciated Classics : The Road by Cormac McCarthy

So if you want to be pedantic (and I’m sure you will) this isn’t really an unappreciated classic. It’s quite appreciated in fact, to the point of making a movie of it that’s coming out rather soon (with Viggo. Mmmmm, Viggo).

But it’s still a classic and this is my blog, so basically pfft.

The Road will scare the babyjeebus out of you. Compared to this Stephen King writes stories about (ZOMG!) ponies. It is a post-apocalyptic story of greyness and death and lots of ashes and a tiny little ray of hope and humanity. A man and his son are making their way towards the sea, along the way dealing with deprivation, starvation, and large roving bands of cannibals, as well as fundamental questions of “good guys” vs “bad guys” and whether actions can be redeemable and explicable in a world with no consequences.
 
There are graphic scenes of gore as well as terrible emotional death, yet the sparseness and beauty of the language never allows you to look away – McCarthy will simply not let you pretend this isn’t real, will not let you leave the story behind and retreat (it’s almost the antithesis of a book like American Psycho – there are several scenes in that I’ve simply never read out of horror and because I could skip). And these scenes are not many – this is not about catapulting you into terror, but about the relationship between father and son, about the need of the father to protect his son and to keep alive and safe the one good thing he has – to the point of sanctification.

And then this all comes to an end in a way that gives you some hope, some joy and leaves you feeling meditative and still bleak. Despite the fact that I love spoilers, I know I’m in a party of one so I won’t spoil this for you.

The end of the world may very well change how we act and how we behave but it won’t change how we think or how we feel or how we love.

BookieMonster’s Unappreciated Classics No. 10: The Boy Who Kicked Pigs by Tom Baker

You know how sometimes you find a small treasure, a very little thing that no one else in the world seems to know about and you think how is it that I’ve never heard of this and any minute now everyone’s going to be telling me how they’ve heard of this and how cool it is and how I’m so behind everyone else, only they never do and it stays seemingly hidden and you keep it all to yourself for years until one day when you decide to write a blog post on it and thereby reveal it to your many (okay 20) followers?

You know?

Ladies and gentlemans, let me present to you The Boy Who Kicked Pigs by Tom Baker.

The Boy Who Kicked Pigs

The Boy Who Kicked Pigs

Description:

This is the story of Robert Caligari – a thoroughly evil 13-year-old who gets his kicks from kicking pigs. After a humiliating episode with a bacon butty, Robert realizes just how much he loathes the human race – and his revenge is truly terrible.

BookieMonster says:

The Boy Who Kicked Pigs is the weirdest, cruellest, oddest little book I own and have read. It’s written by Tom (forever Dr Who, lately Little Britain) Baker and illustrated by David Roberts. It’s billed as a child’s tale, though I defy anyone to give this to a child and then not be woken up every night for the following month by said child and their nightmares.

Or, alternatively, not then be a little perturbed that your child enjoyed this book.

The story is bizarre and the illustrations are gorgeously, gothically odd and gruesome. It’s subtitled “A Grotesque Masterpiece” and it really REALLY is. Imagine Lemony Snicket and Roald Dahl and Spike Milligan got together and then took a lot of drugs and then said “You know people? I don’t really like people much. Especially mean little boys” and then wrote a story about it. Weird.

And very, very good. And funny. And slightly sickmaking sometimes (okay, lots). How, Mr Baker, did you ever manage to convince your publisher to release this? Bravo to you.

If, like me, you’ve been lucky enough to find yourself a copy of this small gem bravo to you also. If not, well… the world probably seems so much more simple and sunny to you…

:D

P.S. If you’re reading this, please do comment. I’d love to know if a) you also have experienced this book, or b) you haven’t so I’ve just revealed my secret to you!

BookieMonster’s Unappreciated Classics No. 9: Number9Dream by David Mitchell

Disclaimer: The no. 9 coincidence was just that!

Number9Dream

Number9Dream

Description:

In outward form, Number9Dream is a Dickensian coming-of-age journey: Young dreamer Eiji Miyake, from remote rural Japan, thrust out on his own by his sister’s death and his mother’s breakdown, comes to Tokyo in pursuit of the father who abandoned him. Stumbling around this strange, awesome city, he trips over and crosses—through a hidden destiny or just monstrously bad luck—a number of its secret power centers.

Suddenly, the riddle of his father’s identity becomes just one of the increasingly urgent questions Eiji must answer. Why is the line between the world of his experiences and the world of his dreams so blurry? Why do so many horrible things keep happening to him? What is it about the number 9? To answer these questions, and ultimately to come to terms with his inheritance, Eiji must somehow acquire an insight into the workings of history and fate that would be rare in anyone, much less in a boy from out of town with a price on his head and less than the cost of a Beatles disc to his name.

BookieMonster says: I LOVE this book. Love, love, love it, it’s craziness, literary fireworks, sudden changes in story and underground Japanese feel. Love it!

David Mitchell is a wonderful author – he has never disappointed me, but this is probably his least critically acclaimed and most divisive book because of it’s fairly wild switches in tone and story – it’s not as immediately literarily dazzling as Ghostwritten or Cloud Atlas and it doesn’t have the incredibly strong tone and heart of Black Swan Green.

What Number9Dream is, though, is a wild, truely unputdownable ride through reality and dreams and it makes no distinction between the two. It can be incredibly moving, and also horribly shocking and violent. I think mostly it suffered from being distinguished as a “sophomore effort” – every artist who produces an amazing debut falls prey to the expectation of the “sophomore effort” – even when that effort surpasses the debut.

Mitchell’s greatest asset in Ghostwritten, Cloud Atlas and Black Swan Green is his amazing control of his writing and his talent. In Number9Dream he totally let that control go – the result is every bit as admirable as those titles but with a wildness that takes it into a whole other sphere – one that I think every great author should visit at least once, if only to produce works as good as this.