Vroom by the Sea: The Sunny Parts of Italy on a Bright Orange Vespa - Peter Moore
The Philosopher and the Wolf: Lessons from the Wild on Love, Death and Happiness - Mark Rowlands
Tintin: The Complete Companion - Michael Farr
Generation A - Douglas Coupland
Films seen at the cinema:
A month of treats, as I'd been saving some greatly looked-forward-to books for my holiday (I also re-read Casino Royale, though we failed to visit Deauville on which the fictional resort of Royale-les-Eaux is probably based).
Vroom by the Sea is the sequel to Vroom with a View. In the previous adventure, Peter travels from Milan to Rome on a Vespa the same age as himself. Here he has acquired a slightly younger model in orange, which he names Marcello, and the ride is through the very different sunny, seaside parts of Italy. At the end of Vroom with a View Peter proposed to his girlfriend; now they're married and expecting their first baby.
I preferred the novelty and carefree spirit of the first volume; the many references Peter makes to his previous trip suggest that he's retreading old ground, and he's much less of an innocent abroad, though there are still plenty of comic misunderstandings and misadventures. Marcello also breaks down less frequently than his predecessor, which is nicer for Moore but less fun for the vicarious reader.
That said, I still raced through the book, and I loved the device of buying the patron saint of each town the author visited in fridge magnet form to stick on the glovebox.
I was hoping The Philosopher and the Wolf would be a sort of 'Zen and the Art of Wolf Maintenance', and I wasn't disappointed. Ethical and philosophical concepts and questions are put into context by the irresistible, magnetic presence of Brenin the wolf.
It's tempting to skip these bits and flick through to the next section about Brenin eating his way out of his custodian's car or running up the walls, but you will be missing out. You may not agree with all Rowlands' conclusions, but they add to the story by hinting at what kind of person the author might be.
This appealing volume was let down by slightly sloppy editing - I felt the poetry of the wolf was spoiled by the few jarring slips.
Tintin: The Complete Companion has, pleasingly, the same cover dimensions as a Tintin book, though it's a little thicker than the standard 62 pages. Although I could have done with less subjectivity from the author (irrelevant anecdotes; personal opinions on adventures that I happen to like thank you very much), he knows his stuff and it was fascinating to find out about all the Brussels-dialect jokes in the original, and the changes that took place in the pictures and text from one edition to the next.
Generation A was the most enjoyable Coupland I've read for a while - and I find them all enjoyable, so this is high praise. In fact I rank it fourth after Microserfs, Shampoo Planet and Girlfriend in a Coma - not bad going when the other three all have a hefty whack of nostalgia on their side. Is it coincidence that three out of the four are about groups of young friends? Do I perhaps wish I was part of such a group, rather than having scattered individual friend units (who are all wonderful, of course)? Or does it just make for a good story?
Coupland has used the device of each chapter being told from a different character's point of view, as he did in his previous novel, The Gum Thief. It works tolerably well, but the underlying voice is always Doug himself - the similes, the ideas, the gaze always turned towards the future, and the overall optimism.