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Friday, March 14, 2008

Winter Reading Challenge

Read a book written the year you were born. Google is your friend.

Let us know what you read, how you liked it, and whether you'll be inclined to read more books as old as you are in the future.

I chose:

**** Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse. General fiction.

I found it on this list, but the copyright page in my book says "first published in 1959." Ah, well. I'm not going to try to find another book now. I'm also not sure where I found it--half.com, most likely, but they don't even seem to have it in their database now, and the cheapest copies I can find are on Amazon at $11+. I wouldn't have spent that much. Hmm.

Anyway. Billy Fisher is like a cross between Walter Mitty and Rebecca Bloomwood: a compulsive liar who lives in a fantasy world. Billy's smart--too smart for his own good; he thinks he's smarter than everyone around him; and he's bored. So he lies to pass the time. Tells people he has a sister, for example, (he doesn't) and makes up increasingly more elaborate tales about her. He has three girlfriends and is engaged to two of them; and he dreams of becoming a comedy writer in London.

It's a clever story, and is thought-provoking, particularly Billy's assumption that he's smarter than everyone else, and how that works out for him. Unfortunately, I just couldn't warm up to him as a character--he ended up feeling more like Rebecca Bloomwood than Walter Mitty. Walter Mitty was pretty harmless in his fantasies, but Rebecca and Billy hurt other people with theirs. It makes them more realistic and thought-provoking, but much less likable.

All in all, I'm glad I read it. I doubt I'll search out more books written exactly in 1960, but I won't shy away from them either.

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