Isn't this whole reading life so strangely unpredictable because I have picked up another of my prizes for Choosing the Booker Winner generously offered by KevinfromCanada on last year's Booker forum and it's a prime example of exactly how unpredictable.
When Porcupines and China Dolls by Robert Arthur Alexie arrived a few months ago, I opened it, quickly closed it and put it on the shelf. It's a novel which takes Canada's Native residential school history as its foundation, so I knew it would be brutal and honest and I haven't been spared, but in the week that Gordon Brown has issued an apology to the Australian migrant children, and film footage on TV that I could hardly bear to watch, how strange yet appropriate to be reading this book this week. I'm finding some very clever narrative devices which feel as innovative as Jon McGregor's in Even the Dogs, different and original methods of expressing difficult subject matter and new ways of saying the unsayable and I'm really impressed.
I am perhaps slightly less impressed with Paul Auster's latest novel Invisible though it's quite unputdownable, but my reservations might be down to a combination of subject matter and the fact that, in the context of other reading, my sympathies are incapable of stretching as far as moneyed, middle class suffering this week. However, though I've only read one other book by Paul Auster, (Oracle Night 2005, excellent as I recall) I do know that he is capable of the most incredible twists and turns in his writing so, with eighty pages to go, I'm reserving judgment and sticking it out to the end neath my teflon cloak.
I'm still reading Lives Like Loaded Guns very slowly and thrilled to discover from the pre-festival newsletter that Lyndall Gordon will be at the du Maurier Festival in Fowey this year, so have no fear I shall take you all along as well. But as a treat, and with Vanessa and Virginia by Susan Sellers coming up on the next episode of NTTVBG (over at Other Stories on Sunday March 7th,) I have allowed myself a Woolfian wallow alongside the delights of Emily Dickinson.
The biography Virginia Woolf by Anthony Curtis and published by Haus Books has me mesmerised as if coming to Virginia Woolf's life and times anew and if you are a Woolf novice, this would be a perfect book for filling in that background on her life and writing. The sepia-toned pictures are an object lesson in how to assimilate pictures into a book to create the most enticing of reading atmospheres, and though this picture isn't in there it's of the ilk and a real favourite that constantly speaks more to my reading mood than any other I can think of.
A wet winter evening and a book lover browsing outside a shop in Sicilian Avenue in Bloomsbury.
Over the years everyone but everyone has warned me off The Waves, citing it as Virginia Woolf's most challenging book..sharp intakes of breath followed by frightening admonitions of 'Don't go there'.
Well hang it all, I have dived right in and what's all the fuss about?
Perhaps this reading is so much better because of the Ulysses experience?
Or did you all advise me so well when I was reading To the Lighthouse last year and floundering?
If so a belated thank you because whatever it is I am completely hooked on about ten pages a day of The Waves, look forward to picking it up, coping with form over plot and have completely engaged with the complexities of writing style, and it's beautiful.
Now this is tricky, I wonder can you guess and in no particular order, I'm reading The Waves in one of these editions and I love the cover, I would be equally happy to read it in another though I don't have it but would now sell a cat for a copy of the third...