Something happened to me recently. I started reading again.
Not that I’ve ever stopped, of course. It’s just that, following a real explosion about a year ago where I started devouring literature of all kinds, my stamina for reading seems to have tailed off over the course of the year, until it reached the point where I had four or five books on the go at once but very little real prospect of ever finishing any of them. (Actually, I’m sure some of the blame for this rests with the fact that I was acting – reading the same script day in day out, trying to learn lines and spot other subtleties, with very little brainspace left for other types of literature).
Anyway about two weeks ago, all of this changed. I’m not sure exactly what brought it on: partly the realisation that I have so many good books piling up that I really want to read, partly the need to push my life in some direction or other. To kick off with, I spent a Sunday afternoon and evening ploughing through Jonathan Coe’s The Rotters Club. Actually, I can see what series of events made me plunge into this: firstly, I picked the book up at a Bookcrossing meeting a few months ago, and felt some kind of duty to its previous owner to read and comment on it. Secondly, I’d heard that the TV adaptation of the book was starting shortly (actually the Wednesday after I read it) and I wanted to read the book before seeing the adaptation, otherwise I knew I wasn’t likely ever to read it. And thirdly, I’d recently read a short story by Jonathan Coe (from the Time Out Book of New York Short Stories, which was very kindly sent to me by Nicholas Royle, the book’s editor). Anyway, I loved the book (and the TV adaptation wasn’t bad either), read it on one sitting (starting mid-afternoon and finishing at about 2am) and am craving to read the follow-up.
From that, I went on to another Bookcrossing book, Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. An even better read, the first science fiction I’ve read in a long time (although Atwood would prefer that I call it “Speculative Fiction”, I’m not exactly sure why), it reminded me of some of the things I used to so love about the genre, how it can make me feel genuinely passionate and afraid for the future.
After Oryx and Crake, I moved on to Jonatham Lethem’s Fortress of Solitude. I’m finding that somewhat slower going, the prose is not very engaging (so far) and I just got a delivery from Amazon yesterday so I have temporarily put it down while I get on with Slavenka Drakulic’s (very short) They Would Never Hurt a Fly (about the Hague trials of Yugoslavian war criminals) instead. And also try to pick out some plays from Grand-Guignol: The French Theatre of Horror which we might be able to put on this Summer.
Meanwhile, I’m working my way more slowly through Robert Irwin’s The Arabian Nights – A Companion (so far, more scholarly than I had expected) and Alex de Jonge’s The Life and Times of Grigorii Rasputin (started off very promising, but seems to get duller by the chapter), plus dipping into a few short story collections: the aforementioned The Time Out book of New York Short Stories, A Book of Two Halves which is a collection of football stories (something I never expected to find myself reading), but is also edited by Nick Royle and has some great contributors, so is actually turning out to be a great read. Finally, I am still dipping into and slowly savouring M John Harrison’s Things That Never Happen, which is a bit of a masterpiece and, although I’ve read most of the stories previously, I could read and read again and never tire of.
So, that’s me. What are you reading?
Now, I must go… Casa Moro just arrived in the post!