Second From Last in the Sack Race, by David Nobbs

I last read this in 2004, and this time I'm intending to go through the set, including Pratt a Manger, which I've still not read.

One of the reasons for re-reading this was as inspiration for the dissertation, so I started out on the lookout for examples of truth and tragedy, but got lost in the story again. I did make a couple of notes, fwiw. At the start of chapter 2:

Three days after Henry was born, Hitler introduced conscription. Twenty-five days after Henry was born, his Auntie Doris bought a genuine crocodile handbag for a pound at Cockayne's Hand Bag Event in Sheffield. Eighty-six days after Henry was born, Baldwin became Prime Minister. Slowly the shadows of war grew darker. Slowly Britain rearmed. Henry remembered none of this.

Maybe I could make something of that: the mixture of truth and fiction to lend credibility to the story; the way that truths and fictions are combined in the same sentences, and the way that the whole paragraph creates a sense of poignancy, but that's partly because I know what else is going to happen (cf Feagin's elicitors/conditioners). But it's jolly hard not to just read it for the story.

There are just too many bits in here that are funny. "I'm saying nowt" etc.. I do always like the description of Fiona though, when Henry returns to Upper Mitherdale: "Fiona had forgotten reading him stories. She had forgotten that she had been a glamorous princess who had brought an aura of sexual mischief into a sick boy's bedroom. She had forgotten that she had been a naughty lady of exquisite beauty, who could have had anybody, and for two worrying years probably had"

The book made me laugh out loud - how often can you say that about a book you've read at least five times? I'm now halfway through the next one.

Re-read in 2016. Again, I laughed a lot. Things I highlighted this time

'How did he grin all that?' he asked.
'"Grinned" means "said with a grin",' explained Fiona. 'In comics, you never say "said". You say "suggested", "grunted", "snorted", "breathed", but never "said".'
'Why?' queried Henry.
'I don't know,' chuckled Fiona. 'I suppose that's their style, to make it more exciting.'
'Read me another one,' demanded Henry, the Boy with the Magic Measle, whose Every Wish was Granted.
He had tried to be loyal to his father, and, until just before the end, he had been. But he'd never really liked him. He'd always been frightened of him. He'd spent several formative years apart from him. It was very difficult to feel any grief. Normal children grieved for their father. He didn't. Therefore he wasn't normal. Q.E.D.
The French teacher, Mr Massey, had wanted to be a doctor, but he had failed his finals. A simple question about medicine would guarantee at least a ten-minute diversion, in English, often with diagrams on the blackboard. Hooper and Price-Antsy would faint, in that order, at the more grisly of Mr Massey's revelations. There was an awkward moment when Mr Noon came into the classroom to find a large diagram of the human kidneys on the blackboard. Mr Massey had hurridly asked the French for kidneys. Nobody had known.
Henry was past page fifty of Keats' 'Endymion' now, and if his French was a trifle sketchy, he could no doubt have had a shot at a simple appendectomy, had the need ever arisen.
The Paw Paw Coffee Bar and Grill throbbed to the distant possibility of picking up a girl one day, and by the time you realised that you hadn't, it was too late.
The first time they went swimming, he got an erection when he saw Mrs Hargreaves's long, elegant, ageless legs. He had to flop down into the sand, to hide it.
'Are you all right?' she said.
'Fine,' he said, craning his neck around so that he could see her while still hiding his erection.
She bend over him, concerned. Her breasts grew more pointed as she did so. He gritted his teeth and looked away, just managing to avoid an orgasm in the sand.
'Absolutely fine,' he said, 'I'll be along.'
I could go on quoting for ages. Having now re-read all 4 of the books, this was the funniest and best.

Completed : 16-Nov-2007

Completed : 25-Jun-2016

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