Let me tell you about one of the greatest writers of our time.
I blogged about Gonçalo M. Tavares’ novel Jerusalem a couple of years ago, describing Tavares as “peerless”. An over the top description maybe, but having read one of his books, I was of the opinion that I’d finally encountered the perfect novel. I’ve now read all four of the books in his “Kingdom” cycle – a loosely connected series exploring similar themes – and remain convinced that Tavares is a writer like no other.
These four books can be read in any order. For me, Jerusalem makes a great starting point as it’s gripping enough to hook you straight onto the others. The ultimate Tavares novel is Learning to Pray in the Age of Technique, described by the publisher Dalkey Archive as “another chilling investigation into the limits of human experience, mapping the creation and then disintegration of a man we might call “evil,” and showing us how he must learn to adapt in a world he can no longer dominate.”
Central to Melissa Mohr’s very interesting and entertaining book is the way offensive language has changed over time. In the Middle Ages, for example, sexual swearwords formed part of everyday conversation, while religious curses were on a par with the other nine Commandments. Fast forward to Victorian Britain, where certain four letter words were almost unutterable (at least among the middle classes who seem to get most of the attention in history books). Nowadays, racist and homophobic language, most of which has its roots in the 19th Century, is by far the biggest source of outrage, while ‘fuck’ and ‘cunt’ are tame as goldfish by comparison.
The book begins at the very beginning of time, and suggests one possible early version of the Adam and Eve myth … I was told as a child that Eve was created from Adam’s rib, which explains why men have one more rib than women. But, as Mohr points out, men and women have the same number of ribs. And humans are one of very few mammals who do not have a bone in the penis.
#justsaying, as they say.