Sample Saturday is when I wade through the eleventy billion samples I have downloaded on my Kindle. I’m slowly chipping away and deciding whether it’s buy or bye.
I don’t put myself in the ‘weak stomach’ category. Blood, guts, spew, poo – I obviously don’t love these things but they certainly don’t turn my stomach. In contrast, my eldest son and husband are not made of such strong stuff – my son literally vomited when he saw a ‘brown shark’ in the bath once and gags when I’m cutting raw meat for dinner. My husband has learned from experience that he should sit down for any discussion about medical procedures* because otherwise he’ll pass out – it ranges from blood tests to watching footy players do a knee – it all makes him woozy.
Which brings me to Herman Koch’s latest book, Summer House with Swimming Pool. It made me feel yuck. Yuck sounds weak, but it’s accurate – Koch writes with a consistent and unnerving veneer of yuck. References to folds of fat on people’s backs, hair in crevices, pus and pimples, weeping sores and patches of dry, angry skin – the language is so deliberate, so detailed and so relentless that I felt truly revolted. Which of course makes it very good writing. Continue reading
With strains of We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Slap*, The Dinner by Herman Koch is one of those books that you will want everybody around you to read. Immediately. So that you can start dissecting the problem and arguing about what you would do in the same circumstances.
The Dinner is a story about a moral dilemma and, like all good moral dilemmas, there is no clear-cut ‘out’. It’s the story of Paul Lohman and his wife Claire, who are going out to dinner with Paul’s brother Serge, a charismatic and ambitious politician, and his wife Babette. Paul knows the evening will not be fun. The restaurant will be over-priced and pretentious, the head waiter will bore on about the organically certified free-range this and artisan-fed that, and almost everything about Serge, especially his success, will infuriate Paul.
“He was still smiling, but there was no feeling behind it. Keep on smiling, you could see him thinking. The smile came from the same carload as the handshake. Together, in seven months’ time, they were going to lead him to electoral victory.”
“…it was the sense of vicarious embarrassment, the unbearable thought that government leaders all around the world would become acquainted with my brother’s vacuous presence.”
But as the evening progresses, it becomes clear that there’s more to this meeting than sharing a meal. There’s something the two couples have to discuss. It’s about their teenage sons and something they did. How far do parents go to save their children from the consequences of their actions? Continue reading