What Are You Reading?
Whenever I’m out of London, I read more, partly because it’s quieter almost everywhere else, and because there are no interruptions. London is a ridiculously noisy city, from tannoyed announcements to sirens. I’m back in Barcelona writing a thriller, and as it’s a town that doesn’t raise its sleepy head before 10am there’s always time to read, so here’s what I’ve tackled;
First off I tried something popular, ‘The Girl On The Train’ by Paula Hawkins, not because it appelaed but because it’s everywhere at the moment – but the mundanity of its flat language killed my interest within a few pages. Clearly this unreliable-narrator thriller isn’t aimed at me, and I imagine some will love it, so good luck to her. I envisage a raft of prosaic tales following, like ‘The Girl Who Stared Out Of A Window’. And why are women so keen to infantilise themselves as ‘girls’ when men are anxious not to be branded ‘boys’?
Next up was ‘The Fateful Year’ by Mark Bostridge. This turned out to be a thoughtful, humane look at the events of 1914, from the suffragette who slashed the Rokeby Venus to the situation in Northern Ireland, royal scandals, strikes, tabloid murders, the opening of ‘Pygmalion’ and the rising drama of approaching war, bringing colour and life to a year too easily reduced to simple statistics. Seeing the end of a world in colours that bring such immediacy to it makes you parallel today’s event alongside and compare them. I’ll be reading Mr Bostridge’s other books next.
Ellen Datlow’s ‘The Cutting Room’ gathers together lots of strange and disturbing stories about movies, from the way we watch them to the events within the films themselves. It’s one of this editor’s strongest volumes in years.
I’ve got Dino Buzzati’s ‘The Tartar Steppe’ before me (where it’s been for too many years) and am finally getting to read this extraordinary Italian author’s only novel. I’ve devoured every one of his short stories, only available in the USA, where they care about such fascinating writers, and figure it’s finally time for this. Books written entirely without sentiment can profoundly shock, and he is such a clear-eyed author you almost dread to read him.
A friend just gave me ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ because it’s set in Barcelona, but I’ve just realised it’s part of a massive trilogy that will take some time to read – I read with slow exactitude. After that a long line of Kindle books is lined up, from Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy to Stephen Gallagher’s ‘The Kingdom of Bones’. There are currently 125 books waiting to be read on this, my fifth Kindle, which has remained unbroken for nearly six weeks now, so fingers crossed!
Recommendations accepted so long as they’re not heartwarming tales of people who mend their lives by training a hawk or having a bittersweet romance with an unsuitable European.