Sunday, 23 January 2011

Reading, reading, reading ...

Oh isn't this lovely! I am reading... no pangs of guilt that I need to be doing my own writing instead. No imp on my shoulder telling me to watch for craft issues - although I do that a lot - I fall into elephant traps easily if they are there. So - on my new Kindle, I have now read 'The Finkler Question' By Howard Jacobson, and 'Room' by Emma Donoghue. Hmm. Which, I ask myself, would I recommend if you could only read one? (That's the test, isn't it?...) And I think it would have to be 'Room'. Not because the other isn't great - but because 'Room' will give you far more to get worked up about - and why bother to read unless it's to shake ourselves up a bit, up and out of little leafy lanes in deepest Sussex, where the most scary visitor is the milkman.
Things you can get worked up about, if you read 'Room': its inspiration - the Fritzl affair, for a start. I've already heard other writers saying Donoghue had no right to exploit the misfortunes of others in this way. Huh? I bet they wouldn't have said that if they'd got there first. Donoghue says 'Room' was triggered by the Fritzl case, after she read about the five-year old lad who had never seen the outside world. It is very good - storywise. Really not easy to write a whole novel from the point of view of a five year old, without it palling badly - and she does it well. the voice wavered a few times, for this reader - but hey - it's a ripping yarn, and I hadn't read a book that kept me up until 2 am for yonks.

Yes, I enjoyed Finkler - it is another eye-opener, in a way, beautifully crafted, humorous, slightly self-consciously clever. Did it make a deep impression on me? No, I can't say it did. Maybe because I didn't 'care' about the subject matter so much, interesting as it is.

I've read Jo Cannon's marvellous collection 'Insignificant Gestures', slowly, cover to cover.
I love Jo's work, and have been watching her successes pile up for a while now. We used to be writing colleagues in The Fiction Workhouse, and when she told me Pewter Rose Press were publishing her collection, and then asked me to endorse it, I was really pleased! Many of the pieces I recognise, of course - and it was simply lovely to be able to read and savour them again, whilst meeting many many pieces that were new to me. Jo is a GP - she has spent some time in African countries during her career as a doctor - and many of her stories explore issues from that perspective. Her characters are so well drawn - there was not one story where I felt wrong-footed - on the contrary, was always surprised when I got to the end, how far away from my settee or study I'd been transported. It's particularly interesting for me, as a writer - Jo works in a very different way to me - we've been on a week-long writing retreat together in 2009 - and to see her moving, beautifully wrought stories emerging painstakingly carefully, was terrific. I will talk about this one again - I'm hoping to get Jo to natter here, if I can drag her out of her surgery...

I'm also reading poetry by Seamus Heaney. I bought 'Human Chain' in e-book format, and know something - I don't think poetry is so successful on the Kindle. Oh, that's not a reflection on the work - here's a review on Guardian Online by Colm Toibin, who says it is one of Heaney's most powerful collections yet... but it's more to do with the coldness of the medium, the screen, it fights the work. Anyone else find this? It ought to work well - mostly the poems fit on a single screen... maybe it's just me.

I have started Dante's 'Divine Comedy'... in the free verse translation as opposed to rhyming lines - I find those so hard to get past..anyway, something I've been meaning to dive into for a while, and again - Dante on Kindle, I don't think so... (Sorry about the 'see inside' sticker - it doesn't work!)
And a teaser...sometimes, reading for pleasure turns into reading for review, or the other way round. I am delighted to have finally sent in to The Short Review my write-up of a collection that I wanted everyone to read when I discovered it a couple of years back. Writing and things got in the way - but finally, I got back to it, and had the huge pleasure of reading again. What is it? Ha! You'll have to wait until the next Short Review -but here's the author...

and money? Oh yes. I sent my final ACE grant budget breakdown to the Arts Council, as reported, ... and had confirmation that the final 10% has been paid into the bank. Yippee.


  1. Just finished Maggie Gee's My Ani al Life. What a wonderful, brilliant and generous book. Thanks for recommending it!

  2. I am so glad you enjoyed it, Sue. Such an eye-opener from the writer's career point of view, too.

  3. Interesting, Finkler was first book I read on Kindle and was reading Room at same time for my book club. Room really divided the group, some loved it very much indeed others hated it with a passion. I was meh, just didn't enjoy it. Enjoyed Finkler mostly but felt it fizzled out towards end.
    Lovely blog! Came here via Twitter.

  4. Hi Stephanie, thanks for dropping in! The two books are so different, aren't they? I suspect people get a lot more fuel for argument from 'Room' - a really good choice for a book group. Not that Finkler wouldn't be, mind you, just different.

    I see you've self published your third novel! Masses of good luck, what a fab thing to do. Off to investigate...

  5. It's always good to hear what others are enjoying, I will look out for that SH collection. I agree about poetry on kindle - I sometimes read on my phone and it is functional and handy, but I reckon the printed page will be around for a while to come!


  6. hello Neezes, thanks for dropping by - and yes, I agree (with fingers crossed behind my back) The kindle is just another 'book' - I hope the other formats stay around too.

  7. I've just finished The Finkler Question and it feels like a relief. What started off as a book that made me laugh, that I thought I was going to enjoy more than Room, became very angst-ridden and gloomy towards the end. In the end I'd have to say I'd recommend Room because even though Jack's voice got on my nerves, those characters were fighting a real threat. There was bravery and fear and someone to root for. I couldn't find a character to root for in The Finkler Question, and I guess that's why it didn't grip me as much as I'd hoped.

  8. For it to work I wonder if the reader needed to mirror Treslove and his obsessions? In the end I felt beaten about the head with it all.