Thoughts of summerPenguin’s new 150 th birthday edition of Roget’s Thesaurus (16. 99, pp 1296), edited by George Davidson, is a new revision of a book that’s sold more than 32 million copies since publication; it offers a fascinating snapshot of English at the dawn of the twenty-first century. But while it gives us uber-babes (Liz Hurley, Madonna, Kylie Minogue et al), power-nap and Botox, it does not neglect to categorise the building blocks of everyday sentences – verbs nouns and adjectives. In this taxonomic paradise, dreamed up to entertain a virtuoso Victorian scientist in his retirement, we find that the magical concept of ‘the beach’ (that mythic place to which we all long to repair as the summer sun blazes into view) is reduced to four essential categories: edge n. ; land vb.
; shore n. ; and arena n. Under ‘shore’, you will find strand, sands, shingle, seashore, plage, lido, n etc – and that’s before you ” ve even dipped a toe in the ocean. In other words, good old Dr Roget is still plying his trade, and even if Dr Davidson feels obliged by the iron law of language change to include carjacker, mock ney and cyber court, the prehistoric core of the English language is as molten with synonymy as ever. The new edition boasts more than 411, 000 words and phrases from tegestologist (beermat collector) to biblio man. You probably wouldn’t take a thesaurus on a summer holiday, unless, of course, you were heading off to finish your novel, though such a volume might be just the answer to the angst-inducing experience of terminal three or (my bte noire) the M 4 connection to the southbound section of the M 5.
But if not a thesaurus, or a nice fat dictionary, then what Elsewhere in this section, we have invited celebrities to choose the book or books they plan to take away to the beach. It’s a special kind of book that works well on holiday. It should be substantial, but not too much so; it should be absorbing, bu perhaps not too compelling; it should be… well, what should it be My all-time top 10 holiday reads (trailing memories and associations in the sea of the unconscious like seaweed) might go something like this: 1. Marquez One Hundred Years of Solitude 2.
Tolstoy War and Peace (or Anna Karenina) 3. Eliot Middlemarch 4. Thackeray Vanity Fair 5. Forster A Passage to India 6. Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird 7.
Sterne Tristram Shandy 8. Dickens Great Expectations 9. Woolf Mrs D alloway 10. Conrad Nostromo In truth, I could write a holiday column about each one of these books and the exotic foreign circumstances in which I read them, and self-indulgently tedious it would be, too. There is, no doubt, rather more emphasis on the male-dominated classics than some readers might like and it includes nothing contemporary (too risky for anyone in this chair).
But what can I say That’s great books for you.
Still, if you want escapism and entertain ment, but with a bias to the classics, my list would go something like this: 1. Nabokov Lolita 2. Greene Travels With My Aunt 3. Waugh Scoop 4.
Woolf Orlando 5. Austen Emma 6. Wharton The House of Mirth 7. EB White Charlotte’s Web 8.
Jerome Three Men in a Boat 9. Vonnegut Slaughterhouse Five 10. Penn Warren All the King’s Men The inevitably American flavour (tang, sapor, smack) of that catalogue reminds me that many people will be taking some kind of American holiday, if not now, then in the next 12 months. There’s definitely a list of 10 holiday books to take to the USA. For instance: 1.
Tyler The Accidental Tourist 2. Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby 3. Kerouac On the Road 4. Morrison Song of Solomon 5. Roth American Pastoral 6. Bellow Henderson the Rain King 7.
Faulkner The Sound and the Fury 8. Chandler The Big Sleep 9. Wolfe The Right Stuff 10. Mailer The Executioner’s Song OK, I’ve missed out JD Salinger and Joseph Heller; also Mark Twain (Roughing It is one of the funniest books ever written, and ideal for Route 66) and Hemingway, to say nothing of John Updike, Dos Passes, Lorrie Moore and Nicholson Baker, all of whom would feature in many reader’s North American top 10 (past and present).
Turn again to Mark Roget and you are transported to a time before airports, let alone airport fiction, a category that sneaks in to this edition. At the better class of airport, you should find some of those writers mentioned above, together with old stand-bys like Dostoevsky, the Trollope’s, (Anthony and Joanna) and Thomas Hardy.
The Great Gatsby written by F Scott Fitzgerald in 1920s illustrates the failure in striving for the American Dream. What he failed to understand was that Daisy and he lived in two different worlds, which because of social circumstance was never allowed to intermingle. Daisy was a rich southern belle, who became involved with Gatsby when they were still young and later rejected him, because he was ...