Monthly Archives: March 2010

Deadline Week

I wanted to just pop a small apology up as there is no bookish post today. I suddenly realised this after finishing my final piece for this months issue of the magazine I work on at 4am this morning. Funnily enough at that time in the morning (well now as its when I am typing, I amgoing to schedule this ) I couldn’t think of anything to write about and I am not quite done with Levy yet. So instead I thought I would pop a brief post up sort of explaining why this week is so mad every month (and I have noticed I hint at it and never explain), and seriously it is every month, just around the 17th.

With a monthly magazine when we get to ‘deadline week’ everything changes (not quite like in The Devil Wears Prada or The Spetember Issue but not far off), you can be as prepared as you like but everything changes. It can be due to an advert going and a page needs to be filled or it can be the complete opposite of adding pages the more adverts we get. So even if I have done all the work I should, and a little more, still pages come up and things must be added, edited, taken away and replaced in the last week/day meaning I tend to stop reading and just work. For example this week has seen me getting to bed at 2am, 3am and probably 5am once I have finished this, and being up again at 7am. So you might understand why today when I have to be up at 9am – ooh a lie in – to finalise everything one last time with everyone else forgetting to blog ahead might occur.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, I will now have a week off and its perfect timing as my birthday is on Wednesday – hoorah! I am wondering if sending an Amazon wish list to my nearest and dearest is cheeky? What do you think? Can people buy them and then they vanish of the list or will I get lots of people buying me the same stuff? I haven’t done it before. I am also very excited as I am off to see Ian McEwan tonight with Novel Insights (we are complete fans) at the Southbank, so that’s something to look forward to, that and hopefully sleeping until about 3pm tomorrow… so maybe no post then, we will see!

Not the most interesting or thrilling post today, sorry! I just thought you could learn a little more about the person who writes this site and explains why sometimes replying to your comments, posting comments on your blogs and responding to your emails all goes a little quiet and off kilter for a while. But enough about me… How are you all?

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Filed under Book Thoughts

The Actual Orange Prize Longlist 2010

So here it is the actual Orange Prize List and ok so it doesn’t really resemble my list from yesterday (and before anyone asks I have no idea whats going on with images on the site today – apols) in anyway shape or form but I did actually guess 6 and mentioned ‘The Little Stranger’ and am indeed kicking myself as I thought that ‘Black Mamba Boy’ might get in there and didn’t pop it in my final 20. I would have guessed 8 then… though that still isn’t half the list, ha!

Anyway in the name of fun I have popped the ones I actually guessed in italics and the ones that I have actually read, all two and a half of them, in bold and then the ones I own (though I think a couple of these I don’t are on the way to Savidge Towers) and might read, no pressure if I don’t, before the winner is announced have stars next to them.

Rosie Alison – The Very Thought of You (Alma Books)
Eleanor Catton – The Rehearsal (Granta)
Clare Clark – Savage Lands (Harvill Secker)*
Amanda Craig – Hearts and Minds (Little, Brown)
Roopa Farooki – The Way Things Look to Me (Pan Books)
Rebecca Gowers – The Twisted Heart (Canongate)
M.J. Hyland – This is How (Canongate)
Sadie Jones – Small Wars (Chatto & Windus)*
Barbara Kingsolver – The Lacuna (Faber and Faber)
Laila Lalami – Secret Son (Viking)
Andrea Levy – The Long Song (Headline Review)*
Attica Locke – Black Water Rising (Serpent’s Tail)
Maria McCann – The Wilding (Faber and Faber)
Hilary Mantel – Wolf Hall (Fourth Estate)*
Nadifa Mohamed – Black Mamba Boy (HarperCollins)*
Lorrie Moore – A Gate at the Stairs (Faber and Faber)
Monique Roffey – The White Woman on the Green Bicycle (Simon and Schuster)
Amy Sackville – The Still Point (Portobello Books)
Kathryn Stockett – The Help (Fig Tree)*
Sarah Waters – The Little Stranger (Virago)*

What do you think of the list? It’s given me food for thought.

Do you think Wolf Hall will just clear up again? Could Lorrie Moore’s first full novel win? Is this Sarah Waters year? And what about those left off? I am gutted not to see Evie Wyld on the list and could actually have a small wobbly about it, but I shan’t – its not dignified. What about Margaret Atwood’s lacking presence? Which other books would you have loved to see on there but haven’t?

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Orange Prize

Guessing The Orange Prize Longlist 2010

I do like a good guessing game, I can almost guarantee I will always be pretty much wrong but I still like to have a go anyway. The last bookish year saw me trying and failing (though I did better than the previous year) to guess the Man Booker Longlist (I did guess the winner though) and the winner of the Orange Longlist both of which I got wrong. It is my dream to one day be on a book prize panel of some sort and as it will never be the Orange I thought I would list you what I would put forward before the actual 20 are announced tomorrow. I haven’t read them all but really want to, all bar two I haven’t read are on my TBR.

It was quite hard choosing though as the books can’t be translated, have to have been published in the UK between the 1st April 2009 and 31st March 2010 (one book in my list is due out on both the 31st of March and 1st of April depending where you look so it may not make it, I went under the assumption that the 31st was correct) and all must be novels, no novellas. 

I have popped them all alphabetically in order of author surname so as you can’t guess my favourites…

   

Ms. Hempel Chronicles – Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
The Rehearsal – Eleanor Catton
War on the Margins – Libby Cone
Isa and May – Margaret Forster

   

How To Paint A Dead Man – Sarah Hall
Blueeyedboy – Joanne Harris
Dog Boy – Eva Hornung
Small Wars – Sadie Jones

   

The Long Song – Andrea Levy
Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
The Confessions of Edward Day – Valerie Martin
A Gate At The Stairs – Lorrie Moore

    

White is for Witching – Helen Oyeyemi
Where The Serpent Lives – Ruth Padel
The Boy Next Door – Irene Sabatini
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand – Helen Simonson

   

The Help – Kathryn Stockett
Trespass – Rose Tremain
Dancing Backwards – Salley Vickers
After The Fire, A Still Small Voice – Evie Wyld

I will say another two titles were fighting for a place in the top twenty and they were ‘Black Mamba Boy’ by Nadifa Mohamed and ‘The Rapture’ by Liz Jensen so if the judges pick either of these then I will be kicking myself. I also originally had ‘A Beginners Guide To Acting English’ by Shappi Khorsandi not realising it was a memoir (have now seen the very tiny word on the back of the book, thank you Justine! You see it started off being quite tough and then I kept thinking of ‘just one more’ several times.

You might notice some big contenders of last year are missing from my list, titles such as Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood’, Sarah Water’s ‘The Little Stranger’, Audrey Niffenegger’s ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’ and A. S. Byatt’s ‘The Children’s Book’ (though I don’t think she allows hers to be put forward) all four of which I read last year and thought were very good I just think they have had enough publicity already. You could say the same for Wolf Hall but I adored it more than very much liking it so it made my selection. It wouldn’t be a shock or a scandal to see any of those on the list though. 

So will I be anywhere near right? Quite unlikely, would be hilarious if I was though. What about all of you, what do you think might be seen on the Longlist this year? I am not planning on intentionally reading whatever the final twenty or even the short listed titles are, is anyone else?

Note: This was a post I scheduled the other week and I didn’t realise Jackie was doing one too which you can see over at Farmlanebooks if you havent already. Let me know if any more of you are doing this!

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Orange Prize

Solar – Ian McEwan

I think I am one of the few people I know (in the flesh) to have read quite a few of Ian McEwan’s books and not to have yet felt I have been let down by any. I know plenty of people who have loved one or two and then really disliked one or two. So far I have enjoyed all of his works that I have read and yet there is always a small worry when you open the next one, just in case. His latest novel ‘Solar’ is one of the books I have been most excited about this year and so when it arrived last week the book I was currently reading was relegated for some other time. I knew nothing then of what the book might be about as it has been rather shrouded in mystery until the last week or so. I was worried though… I knew it was a book about science, and if you had been at my secondary school where I almost burnt down the science lab you would know me and science don’t really mix (in fact as my teacher at the time became my step dad it’s become a family fable). Anyway, back to the book.

Thinking logically from the title and from one of the most talked about topics in the world at the moment you could probably guess that ‘Solar’ could be a book about global warming and you would be right. I have to admit I was slightly concerned that this might not make for an interesting read there’s always the possibility of it coming across as preaching or you have to set the world far in the future to scare the hell out of everyone. In this case McEwan does neither, he sets the book over three period’s in the last ten years and creates a lead character who is a reluctant saver of the planet until he see’s the cash signs it could bring.

Michael Beard is the protagonist of McEwan’s latest work. He’s a Nobel Prize winning physicist (for the ‘Beard-Einstein Conflation’) who as we meet him in 2000 has seen the best days of his career behind him along with the best days of his 5th marriage. In fact Beard isn’t a particularly likeable character he is a philanderer of the highest order, lazy and only works now as head of the Government’s new National Centre for Renewable Energy for the cash. McEwan does write these sort of leading characters rather well and cleverly the more odious, dislikable and dark Beard becomes the more you want to read him.

So where is the global warming story? Well it intertwines with the tale of a man who is a failure at marriage, even the fifth time. As an escape from his wife, who after finding out about all his affairs has decided rather than to get gone to merely get even with their builder which of course makes Beard want her even more, Beard goes to the Arctic as part of his work to see what’s happening there and the need for his company to find clean energy. However once there Beard does wonder ‘how can people who can’t sort out a boot room ever save the planet’. Yet back in the UK someone may have found an answer, someone who Beard comes back to find is the latest in a string of men to shack up with his wife which ends in tragedy and with Beard the holder of the planets salvation… even if he didn’t really come up with it. From then on through several plot twists and some dark detours the book takes us on to the future where Beard becomes the possible hero of the planet and where the books menace really takes shape.

There is a lot of science in this book, in fact the book came to McEwan from his own trip to the Arctic in 2005, yet its digestible you know McEwan has done his research throughout and yet he doesn’t show off and leave you lots after a sentence. The book is also incredibly funny. I laughed and winced at a tale involving a call of nature and the affects of sub zero temperatures on the male appendage, Beards meeting with a Polar Bear is comical too, there is also a darkly comical accidental death looming somewhere, involving a polar bear skin rug, which will make you snigger even though it shouldn’t. If people were worried that this book and its mix of science, some politics (Bush and Blair) and would be preachy or weirdly futuristic you needn’t. This is a tale that makes even more of a point in its sudden conclusion because you have been laughing along the way.

I think this might be one of my very favourite books of the year so far, and that’s from someone who isn’t the least scientific, a clever mix of science, humour and human nature make it a book not to be missed in my opinion. Don’t worry this could be his next ‘Saturday’ (which I should admit I started once and wasn’t sure about so left for a day when the mood was right and now oddly I want another whirl at) because it isn’t but in the same vein don’t go expecting another ‘Atonement’ this is another original novel from McEwan which, like most of his works, is not like anything he has done before. I’ll be very surprised if this doesn’t get Booker long listed – though that prediction could be a kiss of death. If I had a rating system I would give this book a good 5/5!

Oh and should you wish to you can win a signed first edition copy of this on this very blog, all you need to do is go here before midday (GMT) tomorrow when the sun is at its highest point here in the UK. I will be off to get mine signed on Thursday when I go to see him speak at the Southbank.

Is anyone else a McEwan fan? Which books would you rave that aren’t his more well known ones? Have you read any other global warming fiction that hasn’t been set in the distant future?

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Filed under Books of 2010, Ian McEwan, Jonathan Cape Publishers, Random House Publishing, Review

Vanessa & Virginia – Susan Sellers

Some books you need time away from to reflect before you put your book thoughts down onto paper (or in some cases onto the keyboard) and some you should jot down as soon as you finish them when the book is most vivid. The latest read for the NTTVBG and Kirsty’s choice ‘Vanessa and Virginia’ by Susan Sellers is one of the latter books however life has gotten in the way once more and I have left jotting everything down a little too late and so I am hoping I catch the shine I first felt after reading the book in this post.

‘Vanessa and Virginia’ is the fictional tale of two rather famous sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf and through Vanessa Bell’s eyes and narrative we get a look into the world of these two sisters from their childhood in the dim halls of a house in Hyde Park Gate until fame beckoned and war came making their lives unrecognisable in many different ways. Researched by Sellers, who is also a Woolf expert; this is a very vivid portrayal into the sibling’s lives and in some ways I suppose you could call it ‘historical faction’ if you wished, whatever the genre it does come filled with atmosphere whilst being highly readable.

This book for me personally, regardless of who the two leading women were, told the sometimes funny, sometimes harrowing relationship of two sisters, brought close together (almost cloyingly so) by the deaths of those around them, and afterwards an almost constant struggle evermore to out do one another and compete against the other (and not just creatively) whilst at the same time each constantly seeking the others approval and validation. I thought Sellers managed to write and capture these feelings marvellously. We all love our siblings and yet in minute ways, not to the extremes in this book I hope, do have some small competition with them (everyone will be saying ‘no we don’t’ – you are all big fibbers) and I found that very interesting to read even more so when it reached the extremes in this book.

I don’t know very much about Woolf or Bell and for me that worked to the books advantage. I was totally lost in the lives of the sisters and didn’t know (well apart from Woolf’s rather infamous death) which way the story would go and that kept me reading on along with Sellers wonderful prose. I did wonder if Sellers wrote from the aspect of Bell both because Bell is the lesser known and also as a painter though her Sellers could paint the scenes more intensely and vividly through her eyes, or maybe that’s just me looking for things that aren’t there? I do think the story of Vanessa is a fascinating one from her marriage it’s openness and its decline and the relationships she had afterwards, how the war affected her and how her sister’s fame affected her.

I think writing a fictional book with someone as famous as Woolf as a character can be a blessing and a curse for a book as some people will dash to buy it and either love it or be slightly disappointed or people will be put off.  If that might be you then don’t be put off as I don’t think you have to know anything about the sisters to read this book. In fact I could imagine if you knew too much before this book you might not get quite so much from it because you would already, possibly subconsciously, have certain feelings and prior knowledge of the leading ladies and that could stop this fiction weaving its fictional magic.

It’s interesting that from the discussion (which you can see here) those who knew a lot about Woolf and her life didn’t quite enjoy it as much as those people who didn’t. Well that’s the case on the whole, I am sure there will be Woolf lovers who love it also. It’s a book that I very much enjoyed. I don’t think its changed my thoughts on Woolf in any way or made me want to rush off and read more of her works or more about her (but that might just be my Woolf readings of late rather than this book) it has made me want to find out much, much more about Vanessa Bell though.

Oddly, from the man who the other day mentioned he assumed a book was fact from the start, I would try going into this book leaving all your prior knowledge or assumptions of Woolf and Bell at the door if you can you might just enjoy it all the more. Anyone else agree? Who else has read this and what did you think?

Oh and two things not to forget. One is that there is a rather special ‘Solar’ Competition going on below and the second is that the next NTTVBG meeting will be next Sunday over at Kimbofo’s to talk about ‘The Illusionist’ by Jennifer Johnston, see you there I hope!

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Filed under Not The TV Book Group, Review, Susan Sellers, Two Ravens Press

Fancy a Signed Copy of ‘Solar’?

It’s a bit of a stop press moment… well I hope that you think so!

There will be a set of book thoughts on the most recent NTTVBG choice coming up later on today, first though I have something of a special Sunday giveaway here on Savidge Reads. Yes for one of you lucky so and so’s I have wangled a signed copy of Ian McEwan’s latest novel ‘Solar’ from the lovely people at Random House. I was tempted to call today ‘Spectacular Solar Savidge Sunday’ but thought that might be taking alliteration too far maybe?

So where is the catch and what do you have to do? Well it would be a bit fun if you could try and guess a plot from the title but the websites seem to now be giving that away so that scuppered that one.

So all you have to do is simply leave a comment about your favourite McEwan so far or why you would love to try him and no matter where in the world you are you will be entered for the drawer and you could very soon have a signed edition ready to read. You have until midday (GMT) on Tuesday the 16th to enter, winner will be drawn randomly and announced on Saturday. It’s that simple!

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Filed under Give Away, Ian McEwan, Random House Publishing

Simon’s Bookish Bits #12

I am going to start with talking about something that only has very, very tenuous link to literature and that is something that I went and saw at the theatre earlier in the week. The new Lloyd Webber musical ‘Love Never Dies’ which is of course the sequel to ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ based on the book by Gaston Leroux. It is utterly wonderful, I wasn’t expecting to like it because Phantom has a special place in my heart yet I was utterly gripped. I have never felt the theatre come out and touch you before and through some stunning almost 3D effects this musical very much does. The music is stunning (my favourite was ‘The Beauty Underneath’) and I found it all incredibly believable especially with such a wonderful cast of supreme singers who all acted their socks off. I just thought it was wonderful (and I got to sit next to Brooke Shields which was a little too exciting). I urge people to go and see it, I don’t know if its out in America yet but I know it will be.

One thing that I did find out was that Andrew Lloyd Webber originally discussed the idea of a sequel years ago with the novelist Frederick Forsyth (the modern one is written with Ben Elton so that’s quite a contrast) and they had the idea of setting it in Coney Island however the idea sort of floundered and the project was put on hold. Fredrick Forsyth clearly couldn’t get the idea of his mind as he then went of and wrote ‘The Phantom of Manhattan’ which I am now of course desperate to read. The thing is I think if I do ask for it for my birthday (which is a week and a half away *cough*) then really I should read The Phantom of the Opera by Leroux first shouldn’t I?

Oh and I also found out this week, speaking of musicals, that none other than ‘Rebecca – The Musical’ is on its way, its actually got past workshop stage what do you all think about that?

Back to books and this week I want to talk about something that both July’s People (I think that book has been discussed more than any book on this blog ever has in such a short space of time) and Queer and that is regarding my book thoughts/reviews/idea’s. I discussed with you that I liked both books but wouldn’t have enjoyed July’s People without my book group and the extent we talked about it and Queer was a book that I think I would have enjoyed that bit more if I’d had lots of people to discuss it with. I also read a book a while back that didn’t really work for a great discussion though it was a great read. So I then wondered if I should start having that as some form of scoring below each review which points out if this book is great for book groups, best for reading alone or both? Would that be helpful?

I then wondered if you would actually like me to start (I simply refuse to go back through my posts past) giving the books that I read marks out of five or ten? I also wondered if I should start adding an ‘You’ll love this if you liked this…’ and comparing. What are your thoughts?

I will leave you with those questions today, along with what was your book of the week this week? I hope you all have lovely weekends planned, keep your eyes peeled for a rather special little competition tomorrow…

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Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewellery – Leanne Shapton

I think for the purpose of my book thoughts today, and also so that I don’t wear away my fingers to stumps, I will simply call this book ‘Important Artifacts and…’ from now on as they have wisely done on the spine. When I first heard about this novel I didn’t see how on earth someone could depict a love affair from the very start until the unfortunate end through photos of the effects bought and written during its time. Yet at the same time I was very much intrigued and what followed was one of the most unusual and delightful reads and reading experiences I have had in a while.

I am still pondering if ‘Important Artifacts and…’ is a novel or not as it does tell a tale incredibly well yet isnt a straightforward novel. I suppose in some ways you could classify it as a graphic novel but then its photographs not illustrations, in fact it verges on coffee table material. Sorry let me explain for this is no ordinary book of the tale of a failed relationship from start to end. Instead what we have is an auctioneer’s catalogue filled with items accumulated, dedicated and savoured from the relationship of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris who met at a Halloween party in 2002.

There is nothing particularly special about Lenore and Harold or the artifacts that they collect and yet that is why it works so well. We have all made people a special CD with songs aimed just for them (or even in some cases made tapes), taken photo’s of them doing mundane things as Harold does with Lenore putting on lipstick, and kept flyers for gigs we went to. Mine are all in a huge pile of shoe boxes, I have been keeping them since I left home at sixteen and that’s what made it so vivid for me, I have done all these things. I did occasionally think did they ever go out for a meal somewhere nice and not keep a match box or ever savour a programme from the theatre, but then maybe they weren’t utter hoarders like I am. 

The beginning of the relationship and the urgency of that next meeting and how hard it is not to see this wonderful new exciting person its wonderfully portrayed and chronicled through a series of postcards Harold sends Lenore from work trips away almost daily.

I thought the fact (I say fact like its real, see it got me good) that the couple read the same plays and books as each other whilst one was ever away was possibly one of the most romantic things I have ever read. In fact books are a big thing for the couple and there are masses of battered copies of well read books throughout filled with inscriptions. My very favourite was a wonderful copy of Nancy Mitford’s ‘The Pursuit of Love & Love in a Cold Climate’ in which Harold has written “Loaned to Lenore on the eve of my departure to London, Dec 11 2002. To be claimed upon my return. Don’t lose my place. H.”  

Relationships and all their highs and lows can be very difficult to create in fiction and have a reality to them. They might not capture the excitement at the start, then the moments of missing someone madly, the stage when the honeymoon period ends, the initial delight in routine, the peaks and toughs after yet here Leanne Shapton has done it near pitch perfect.

I have to say after closing the final page I found it most difficult to believe that Lenore and Harold has actually been works of fiction because through all their belongings I had lived through the relationship most vividly. Through a completely new medium I think that Shapton has created a wonderful work that captures a couple and their relationship in its entirety and in an utterly convincing style. I think this book is something quite special. I wonder what Leanne Shapton will do next as this will be a tough book to follow.

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Filed under Bloomsbury Publishing, Books of 2010, Leanne Shapton, Review

Queer – William S. Burroughs

I don’t know about all of you but there are some authors that I am always rather intimidated by their name and their reputation. There is no reasoning behind it as you yourself have never read a word you have just heard mumblings that they could be an author difficult to get to grips with or digest or somehow for some unknown reason you have simply created this illusion in your head. William S. Burroughs is one such author for me (thought there are a few) and so when I saw ‘Queer’ on the shelves in the library and how short and manageable I thought ‘well why not?’

‘Queer’ is actually labelled as a love story which is maybe not quite what I would call it, I think a one sided tale of unrequited love might be a more apt description. This is an account of William Lee, who has fled America and is living amongst the expatriates, and his initial chasing and seduction of Eugene Allerton set in Mexico City in the late 1940’s. A time when homosexuality was frowned upon in many circles, and indeed still was which caused the book to remain unpublished for many years as it was deemed to deal with subjects people would not care to read about not should they.

From the moment Lee spots Allerton it is a case of love at first sight though our former heroin addict protagonist can’t quite see it at first. He starts to ask around about Allerton and even starts turning up at the ‘Ship Ahoy’ so he can accidentally bump into him and see what his views are on ‘queers’. Eventually Allerton succumbs to Lee and is seduced however Allerton is a confused soul and one who might just do almost anything to get what he wants. We then follow Lee and Allerton through the resulting games that are played in a case of almost obsessive one sided love and the agonies that can be suffered from such events.

I found this book wasn’t what I expected of Burroughs at all. The writing wasn’t complex or trying to catch me out, it was written with economy and yet all of it packed a punch. Many people actually say this novel is quite autobiographical and that Lee is of course Burroughs and Allerton on a man Burroughs befriended called Marker when he was in Mexico himself which is maybe why the book is so emotionally wrought and filled witha hint of bitterness and anger. I will admit there are a lot of random monologues that don’t always quite make sense and last a page, maybe two, yet it all worked with me.

‘Queer’ is a book that leaves you wanting to know much more and had me slightly annoyed that I hadn’t read it along with several other people so that I could have a really good natter about it afterwards. You could also natter about the introduction which Burroughs wrote himself about the shocking events that happened which made him want to write the book as some kind of therapy. It is a small book which packs rather a large wallop and leaves you wanting to know more, as luck should have it this is actually the sequel to ‘Junky’ and Lee appears in some of Burroughs later works so I will definitely be reading more.

Has anyone else read this or any other Burroughs? Which authors have you wanted to try but have been put off from for worry of their reputation? Have you conquered any authors that you never thought you would and were they much easier than expected or just the trial you had been dreading? I think Bolano might be my next as he intimidates me from name alone and maybe one day I will try something by him. This reading of Burroughs has certainly made me want to try more authors I didn’t think I could.

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Filed under Picador Books, Review, William S. Burroughs

Books on Hiatus (Or Is It Just Being Fickle?)

Another day and already another post on reading habits. In case any of you are wondering reviews will be coming back in the not too distant future but since what happened last week my reading has slowed, though it is picking up, and I have about three of my book thoughts to type up – I will get there though. Anyway back to today and ‘books on hiatus’ which I suddenly noticed yesterday (after a bit of a mammoth tidy) I have three of…

As you can see by the picture I have started these books got a little way through and then stopped. These aren’t the sorts of books that I described when I posted about Bookish Grumps; these are a completely different kettle of fish as I was thoroughly enjoying these books fate just intervened. In the case of two of the books it’s a similar reason that caused the reading to be paused, as with one of the books I put it down so I could read the last Book Group choice in time and the other was so that I could read the last NTTVBG book in time.

As for the other book, well it went missing for a few days only to be found under the sofa (I swear I looked there but it would appear I must have had a blind spot, or as I like to say to The Converted One when this regularly happens with my wallet, keys, hats or gloves ‘I was looking too hard’ to which I get rolled eyes) by which time of course I had naturally had to start something else, funnily enough it was one of the other books you can see in the picture above.

I have since started something else as these three books were hiding behind a rather large fortress of incoming books that have been flowing through the letter box over the last fortnight. In fact I should add another book to the ‘hiatus pile’ (although it verges on the bookish grump pile too) as I have decided to give ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ a rest in part because I was just bored by the set up and in the main because yesterday something arrived through the letter box I couldn’t restrain myself from opening immediately…

I think this later swapping of reading is actually more a case of me being fickle. I am now in a quandary about the three I really liked started and stopped for varying reasons. Do I need to start them from scratch? Can I just go back to each one of them in turn and get back into the swing of them? Or was I enjoying them as much as I think (a case of bookish doubts are looming) because if I was surely I wouldn’t have forgotten they were in the house when my other priority reads were finished?

Your thoughts on the above questions are as ever are desired. I would also love to hear your tales of books you were really enjoying but put down and then didn’t pick up again and why, what intervened and did you ever finish them?

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How We Read… Assumptions & Expectations

Last week I posted about the book July’s People by Nadine Gordimer, the latest read for book group, which not only brought up the interesting discussions about the book itself but also how we read. For example the book is a possible imagined vision of South Africa and yet myself (and some other members of the group) believed that it was based on fact. We had no reason to we just did somewhere subconsciously before even reading a page I had made an assumption. This has made me wonder about how I read and my reading habits. This could go off on a tangent but bear with it there’s lots of questions for you all as we go and I would love a discussion about this… Do we ever sit and think about how we read?

One commenter on that post made the very valid point that fiction is just that… its fiction, which of course is true. I wondered then if because it was literary fiction or because it was based in South Africa I instantly made the assumption. Would I have it I had know I was about to read a book of a genre such as crime, science fiction or horror?

Having said that fiction is fiction I am now wondering if I read it differently from others out there. I don’t want to be sat reading a book and be aware its fiction. I like to get lost in the book I want to believe that it’s all real and that the characters and all that happens to them (it doesnt have to be dramatic, in fact subtle realities are even more convincing) could really have happened. To me that the sign of a good book, I am lost in it oblivious to the reality outside the book as I am lost in a new real world the author is creating in my head. Or is that just me and maybe my need for escapism?

The other point that ‘July’s People’ brought up was we were all initially put off by the writing style. Gordimer can change narrative in a sentence, in fact reading her as one member mentioned is very much like reading a book where someone has said ‘that’s how your meant to write so I will do something completely different’. I was in the same boat, very like with some of Woolf’s work that I have read recently, initially slightly put off this strange new style of writing. Had it not been for book group and the fact like I make sure I finish it, I would probably have given up and thought ‘oh no that’s a bit like hard work’ and I would have missed out on a great book. Does it not matter as there are so many more great books out there if we miss one what’s the big deal (not my opinion but one I know some have)? Do we too often give up on books that could be amazing we just need to read in a different way like I might have had I not read on?

I am now slightly worried this makes me sound like a lazy reader and even though I don’t think I am one, maybe I actually am? After all I don’t think an author should spell every thing out, or explain every single detail do you? I am actually a firm believer that a book which is too spelt out won’t work as reading is both the effort of the author for creating on the page and you the reader creating in your mind isn’t it? A collaborative creation where fiction almost becomes reality? What do we expect and assume when we reach for a book, even subconsciously or unintentionally?

I am hoping I didn’t waffle or go on too many tangents and all makes sense, I tried to rein it in as a subject and yes you guessed it, if any other book bring up these kind of questions there might be more ‘How We Read’ posts.

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Oscar and the Lady in Pink – Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt

It’s really a bit rude of me isn’t it? I ask you all for your advice on a book that I should read next (as I did on Saturday) and then I go and read something completely different. Yet haven’t we all done this? You go through your book shelves and pick three books that you really would like to read and then a book on another shelf or something from the library catches your eye and off you go on a reading tangent as I did with ‘Oscar and the Lady in Pink’ by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt this weekend.

I hadn’t heard of this book until I saw it in the library a few weeks ago and from reading the premise thought I should give it a go. This novella is the tale of ten year old Oscar who is currently residing in hospital with terminal cancer. Oscar himself knows he is going to die, after doing what a lot of young kids like to do and eavesdropping, yet his parents won’t talk to him about it. Only one person will and that is ‘Granny Rose’ on of the ‘pink ladies’ who comes in to visit all those in the hospital and hopefully bring some joy into their stays in the hospital or in the patients final months and weeks. She tells him that he should live each day as if it were ten years in one day and at the end of the day write to God with one wish for the next day.

I was a little worried at one point that bringing God into the book might make this book turn into some kind of preaching exercise and it doesn’t. Instead we are given the insight into the life of an angry, upset and confused young boy as he makes sense of his situation and Schmitt gets us into the thoughts and emotions of that boy incredibly well. We even get some humour as he talks about some of his antics and some of the other patients like ‘Peggy Blue’ named because a condition of blood not reaching the lungs makes her blue, Oscar is infatuated with her but worries if he still will when she goes pink again after her operation.

The character of Granny Rose is a wonderful one too. An apparent former boxing champion who fought against the likes of ‘Plum Pudding’, ‘Nutcracker’ and ‘Dragon Breast’ in her heyday brings a caring yet honest and occasionally blunt figure into Oscars world and the relationship between them is a joy to read. Though I will admit you might need your hankies for the ending this is definitely a book worth reading despite being in parts upsetting as it is also incredibly uplifting too, a read that I would highly recommend to you all.

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Filed under Atlantic Books, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, Review

NTTVBG – Series One, Book Three…

It utterly amazes me that we are already three books and six weeks into the NTTVBG already and yet here we are indeed.

For the third NTTVBG meeting lets all head over to Kirsty’s in a rather fine throng over at Other Stories to discuss Susan Sellers wonderful book ‘Vanessa and Virginia’. I do wonder if already saying that it’s wonderful might have given you rather a large hint on the feelings that I have about the book. Right I am waffling on and giving my thoughts away, so lets head off to Oxford where I believe a fine feast has been laid out with all the trimmings I am putting on quite a lot of virtual weight with all the goodies we have been laying on. 

I have already popped by today at a rather early 4am as I made my way home from a work night out so have been dozing behind one of Kirsty’s sofa’s and probably will be on and off all day… So now letes go and join , Kirsty of Other Stories, Kim of Reading Matters and Lynne of Dovegreyreader and all of you for some lovely Sunday bookish chatter.

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Simon’s Bookish Bits #11

Oddly for me I don’t have masses to say this week because all in all I haven’t really read anything be it books or blogs in the right frame of mind what with everything that’s been going on. Which actually nicely leads me on to saying thank you all so much for your lovely comments again on Wednesday and emails etc since, it’s been really nice and very kind of you all.

I am doing a little better day by day and the latest Book Group was a huge help. I am still having some trouble reading, however I must admit (and this honestly isn’t a plug) that the next NTTVBG choice ‘Vanessa and Virginia’ by Susan Sellers has helped greatly and has been great as a reading deadline meaning I have to pick up and read and I have been happily getting lost in the book. More on that tomorrow though when we head over to Kirsty’s at Other Stories to discuss it in much more depth.

Now I am wondering what to read next? I know its going to need to be some for of escapism… I am struggling between choosing a guilty pleasure (actually I should say a guilt free pleasure really), something short so I can just see how I get on with or go for a book I have been meaning to read for ages and need to devour before I see the film in the next week or so. So which one do I pick to immerse myself in?

  

I shall leave you to help decide for me. What do you all go for book wise when you don’t quite have the urge to read for whatever reason? In fact I think I will hand the blog over to you all for the rest of the day and leave you with those questions and a few more. What Bookish Bits have you to report or point out to me and any other readers? Which book have you devoured that I simply need to? What books have tickled you bookish taste buds this week?

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