“Survival of the Fittest,” by Pamela Hansford Johnson

Novel, 1968 Two firm friends, their life stories and those of the families and friends around them, over a 30-40 year period. After a section dedicated to old-fashioned scene setting, there’s more scene-setting. A big book, this, so that by the time there’s a little ‘showing’ rather than ‘telling’, the reader’s been broken down and will quite probably neither notice nor care. Some of the … Continue reading “Survival of the Fittest,” by Pamela Hansford Johnson

“Chariots of the Gods?” by Erich Von Däniken

Non-fiction, 1968 Quasi-this, proto-that, in which a slightly insistent author pushes a theory about many ancient mysteries being solvable by attributing them to alien intervention. This, a perfectly reasonably position – that possibilities, no matter how unlikely, should never be ruled out – is tarnished by the author’s very insistence which comes across a little forcefully and hazily at the same time. There’s far more … Continue reading “Chariots of the Gods?” by Erich Von Däniken

"The Nice and the Good", by Iris Murdoch

Novel, 1968 A real lesson in engaging the reader with a hefty cast of characters, including more than a few conflicts and clashes. This is a book which really grips from the off and drives the reader through ever an more chaotic and unlikely plot, which keeps the pages turning even as more and more incredulity sets in. Shades and echoes of all sorts here, … Continue reading "The Nice and the Good", by Iris Murdoch

"Slouching Towards Bethlehem," by Joan Didion

Non-fiction, 1968 New Journalism without quite the crushing egotism and boorishness of either Hunter S Thompson or Tom Wolfe, focusing around a piece describing, in human terms, the human wreckage around Haight-Ashbury in the Summer of Love. This, and other pieces, are often wonderfully written, mixing an air of despair with one of nonchalance and painting an America roiling and clashing with itself and in … Continue reading "Slouching Towards Bethlehem," by Joan Didion

"Several Perceptions", by Angela Carter

Novel, 1968 Pithy, unsentimental and wonderfully charged romance of sorts in a very down at heel late 1960s England. A book in which Carter presents psychologically spoiled tramps, prostitutes and other folk struggling but firing off an undeniably vitality, even when they’re at their most lonely and vulnerable. The opening is superbly wordy-evocative and the book maintains a tension and intrigue throughout. A possible case … Continue reading "Several Perceptions", by Angela Carter

"A Wizard of Earthsea", by Ursula LeGuin

Novel, 1968 Fantasy story about identity, self-determination and a whole stack of monsters, spirits and mythological bits and pieces. In places, there’s some tension – particularly in the accounts of the pivotal conflicts between Ged and the shadow – although those who find it difficult to stomach magic staffs and dragons may not be able to see past them to any serious political point the … Continue reading "A Wizard of Earthsea", by Ursula LeGuin

"Head", directed Bob Rafelson

Movie, 1968 A patchy film; the acting is patchy (though far from disastrous), the set pieces patch -running from goofy-smart satire to psychedelic nonsense – and most notably the music, which is never outright bad, ranges from the slightly dull to the ridiculously good. To say this is a product of its time is an understatement. Head presents viewers with a disjointed watch which can feel … Continue reading "Head", directed Bob Rafelson

"Dance of the Happy Shades", by Alice Munro

Fiction, 1968 Excellent collection of early stories from Alice Munro in which senses and incidents – usually domestic and unremarkable – are described and shot through with details which, often as not, give a real emotive kick up the backside. In describing situations and behaviours, Munro evokes huge feelings of sadness or disquiet, but at all times, humanity shines through. These stories are at once … Continue reading "Dance of the Happy Shades", by Alice Munro