Is it me or is tempus fugiting at a bit of a cracking pace this year?
There seems to have been a mere nanosecond since the Lost Booker shortlist was announced and I had really wanted to read these, but it's final public voting day already and I've only read one and that was pure chance and before the list was announced...grumble grumble...four weeks ago. Two of the books had 400 plus pages and one 600 plus, honestly what do they think we are... fast readers or something?
It would have been good to have been given a little more time to make an informed choice.
That said the recent reading past seems to have slightly more allure than the reading present at the moment. Spark, Nabakov, Maxwell, P.Fitzgerald & Co are all cutting the reading mustard right now...Stegner will be joining the pack any minute.
'...what we read is an aspect of the life we have lived, and shapes our subsequent life, and becomes part of our memory of the past - to that extent, we should be willing to allow our personal and historical responses to flood in and out of the books we read.'
That's what Wendy does, that's what I do and I wonder if any of you can identify with that too. I would hate to leave all that behind when I read and write my thoughts about a book
'...our responses won't, after all, hurt the books; they won't change the essential, inalterable words on the page, or damage anyone else's readings of those books. So there's no harm in it. And there may be a great deal of benefit.'Reading last week's mini-disaster of my own choosing for the NTTVBG was sadly pure torture on a daily basis.
I was miserable, it was all enough to kill anyone's reading mojo, let alone mine which is usually unassailable, so it is not something to be repeated willingly.
If I was clever enough to truly know and be very sure about what 'good writing' is I'd tell you, but I'm an emotionally engaged reader, it's about what I feel inside as I read that matters most to me and somehow conveying that to you, and there's a book coming up on here next week that will demonstrate exactly that.
In the end I have a feeling I did last week's book and author a great disservice because I think on another day and given a different reading mood and context, that book may well have worked.
I can think of a zillion books I have set aside and picked up months even years later and how surprised I am to find that diamond (yes, sorry , we're there, you must have been wondering when that subject line was coming) nestling in there where previously I had only spotted coal.
It's odd how age is making me increasingly tolerant and unwilling to shut the door on a book and dismiss it for ever, I had quite thought it would be the opposite.
I've mined and slightly rejigged that diamond/coal analogy from Wendy Lesser's book Nothing Remains the Same which is my current vade mecum and Wendy my new best reading friend (she doesn't know this and may want to discuss the dilemma with Anne Fadiman who was my last one...and she didn't know about it either.)
So reader heal thyself and taking my cue from Wendy, and several of you in comments, I set aside everything else and becalmed myself with a few restorative old faithfuls for company, mining a few 24 carat diamonds of my own whilst I waited for my reading mojo to reappear, because very worryingly it was gone, kaput, nada for about six hours.
Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, that did the trick and Isabel Archer's defining moment of stream of consciousness awareness about her life, her marriage and that intuition surmised from the merest glance, that Madame Merle meant far more to Gilbert than Isabel had hitherto realised.
Middlemarch by George Eliot, bless George for pulling me up short with the ' But why always Dorothea? ' moment when she rounds on her reader and makes them feel a complete heel for being so judgemental about Casaubon...
'was her point of view the only possible one with regard to this marriage?'
Nothing to compare with being put in your place by George Eliot I find.
And then that wonderful emotional father-son moment in A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry, (surely my best book not to win the Booker) when Willie Dunne comes home on furlough from the trenches of the Great War stinking and riddled with lice...
'So James Patrick, a man of six foot six, stood his son William, a man of five foot six, into the steaming zinc bath, as indeed Willie's mother had done a thousand times while Willie was a boy. And it was a strange enough thing to see the policeman throwing on the accustomed moleskin apron ...and he lathered the sponge up mightily, and he started to lave his son from head to foot...'
Or what about that hilarious moment in Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford when Miss Matty confesses her fear of being startled by a man under her bed who may grab her leg as she is about to climb in, and thus for the purposes of discovery she keeps a penny ball to hand to roll from one side of the floor to the other.
And so I have whiled away many a happy hour this week in reading rehab, settling down with some diamonds of my own, and I'd love to know yours.