I have come home from our holiday feeling refreshed and renewed with my reading, and having filleted a strange urge to read anything and everything about whales ( except Moby Dick) out of my system.
I can't remember what started this whale thing off now, but anyway I ordered a supposedly Very Good copy of Leviathan, or The Whale by Philip Hoare for 1p from You Know Where and got what I deserved. There are a couple of well-known sellers on there who have a very different interpretation of a book's condition as Very Good to mine. Sometimes I let them know and they always refund and tell me to keep the book, this time I didn't but it proved to be the book that kept on giving every few pages...bits of insect, indeterminate dinner stains (maybe), greasy crumbs, squashed flies, quite expected a bit of baleen to come flying out. Anyway it all added meat to the grist of the book which was at times challenging but mostly fascinating and ultimately a memorable read (more soon if I can bear to reopen it).
The whale thing then beached itself with The Winter Whale by Jim Crumley which I had bought in Waterstones in Inverness and a very excellent branch it was too. It was good but getting sadder and then too much sadder for holiday reading (because by this time I'm getting extraordinarily upset about hurt whales and ready to sail with Greenpeace) so I called a halt and moved onto my birthday gift from Offspringette, a lovely copy of The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera, one of New Zealand's foremost Maori writers. This is a joyous whale-themed book and I will also write more about this one drekkly.
Anyway I wanted to flag up a few other corkers for you to keep an eye open for...
Everywhere I Look is a collection of essays and selected writing by Australian author Helen Garner whose novel The Spare Room struck many many chords with me. Helen then very kindly did a wonderful dovegreyreader asks...interview for us on here back in ...oh my goodness 2009.
I am lapping up Everywhere I Look, in fact having to slow down to one piece per day because I want it to last.
"....essays, diary entries and musings from Garner's life, full of her trademark wit, intelligence and intuition.
I pedal over to Kensington just after dark. As I roll along the lane towards the railway underpass, a young Asian woman on her way home from the station walks out of the tunnel towards me. After she passes there's a stillness, a moment of silent freshness that feels like spring.
Helen Garner is one of Australia's greatest writers. Her short non-fiction has enormous range. Spanning 15 years of work, Everywhere I Look is a book full of unexpected moments, sudden shafts of light, piercing intuition, flashes of anger and incidental humour. It takes us from backstage at the ballet to the trial of a woman for the murder of her newborn baby. It moves effortlessly from the significance of moving house to the pleasure of re-reading Pride and Prejudice and includes Garner's famous and controversial essay on the insults of age, her deeply moving tribute to her mother and extracts from her diaries, which have been part of her working life for as long as she has been a writer. The collection glows with insight and is filled with the wisdom of life."
"The Second World War is over, a new decade is beginning but for an East End teenage brother and sister living on the edge of the law, life has been suspended. Sent away to a tuberculosis sanatorium in Kent to learn the way of the patient, they find themselves in the company of army and air force officers, a car salesman, a young university graduate, a mysterious German woman, a member of the aristocracy and an American merchant seaman. They discover that a cure is tantalisingly just out of reach and only by inciting wholesale rebellion can freedom be snatched."
I have been instantly plunged into the world of Lenny and Miriam Lynskey and their lives in post-war London and the TB sanatorium in Kent. It is the early days of the NHS and Linda Grant has perfectly captured the narrative of illness and austerity. Much more about this one to come. And maybe I will finally read Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain to the very end one of these days. I get so far and suddenly can't cope with any more. Books like this almost demand to be read whilst reclining on a freezing cold veranda cocooned in blankets don't you think?
I have also dipped into the first few chapters of Zadie Smith's forthcoming novel Swing Time via Netgalley and I think I am going to enjoy it, so on early impressions it's another one to keep an eye out for nearer to publication date in November.
"Two brown girls dream of being dancers - but only one, Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It's a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either...
Dazzlingly energetic and deeply human, Swing Time is a story about friendship and music and stubborn roots, about how we are shaped by these things and how we can survive them. Moving from north-west London to West Africa, it is an exuberant dance to the music of time."
I had a memorable summer read of N-W a few years ago so am now really looking forward to this one.
So that's me, how about you...
Do any of these take your fancy...
What are you reading...
Any good recommends..
And while I think of it, do any of you keep a sort of Book of Books?
I was talking to the Happy Campers about this just yesterday.
A notebook that never leaves your side or your bag to jot down all those books you are keeping an eye out for. I used to prowl around bookshop shelves with it in hand, used it for years and years and then somehow it lapsed and scraps of paper and internet wishlists took over. Well I have just re-instituted the system with a new notebook so I am ready and waiting for your suggestions, please do help me fill it.
Ooooh yes, I feel a stationery conversation coming on...we haven't had one for ages have we.