Friday, 4 February 2011

Men and boys.

I adore book shopping in charity shops. One finds so many hidden treasures and not only are you helping a good cause but you can try out books you would not normally have bought because they are so very cheap. A good 2/3 of the time the books I buy in charity shops end up being given back but the whole experience sits very well with me and although not on a par with the excitement and joy I feel when browsing through a second hand book shop the delights of the charity shop are numerous.

Recently I found the relatively new Tony Parsons book 'Men from the Boys' in my local Oxfam and having read both the previous two books in the series about the rather hopeless Harry Silver I forked out my £2.99 and gave it a shot. I was disgustingly disappointed...

The first about Harry Silver was 'Man and Boy' and although I found it jolly irritating in places it was all centred around a splendid idea: that of a youngish married man who had a one-night stand and then faces divorce, and as his world crashes around him he is left for a while to bring up his son alone. A very interesting concept which was well handled and led to much speculation about the state of modern man in our culture of divorce as shown by Silver and paralleled against his father who had had a long and happy marriage and been more of the old fashioned able to change a tyre and put up a shelf sort of man.

The second book was 'Man and Wife' and didn't work as well as the first but was still rather interesting as it focused on Harry's second marriage and how that fit in with his relationship with his son, his step-daughter and his ex-wife. As I said it was not as good, but it did still work.

However, the third book 'Men from the Boys' is rubbish... it does not work at all. I always found Harry Silver a very irritating character but I could still feel empathy with him in the earlier books, but in this one Tony Parsons has made him into a parody of useless 20th century fatherhood and he fails at everything. The book is dreadfully boring and I only managed to finish it by skimming a good deal. Parsons has always struck me as the poor man's Nick Hornby but in this book he is totally bargin bucket.  Although I didn't think his other two Silver books were remotely high literature this one is dreadfully bad and I am rather appalled it was even published.

Men are most peculiar creatures and the appeal for me of the first two Silver books by Parsons was the idea of the struggle for manhood of some 20th century men. An acquaintance of mine clearly struggles with this for though he appears very camp indeed he is straight and at great pains for the world to know it. Last night at a wonderfully fun party (no action for me sadly) he admitted to me that the girlfriend he mentions from time to time was all a lie... I immediately thought he was going to come out of the closet to me but instead it turns out he is pretending to have a girlfriend because he has slept with one of my friends who then took to pestering him to sleep with her again or go out with her afterwards but he is interested in her best friend but thinks her too good for him and so the best way to avoid situations was to create a fake girlfriend... As I say men are strange creatures!

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