Serious Reading: An Update

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Earlier this year, I posted an entry about my reading habits and an ambition of putting them through an upgrade.  I also asked for suggestions of books I should read and a number of people very kindly pointed me in the direction of their favourites.  This is an update on my reading status .

In the earlier post, I said that Possession, by A S Byatt, was on the go.  I finished it and would recommend it.  Part detective story, part historical novel, immensely literary and extremely accessible, it also has details and the feel of London in the late 1980s, which seem both familiar and distant.

I said that Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie, was jostling to be next off the blocks.  I’ve read it.  It was hard work until about halfway through and I found the style and sentence-structure self-conscious and mannered.  Hard going, but it started to make sense in the last couple of chapters.  Interestingly, one friend who’s an avid reader and whose bookshelves mirror mine to a frightening degree said that it’s pretty much the only book she’s abandoned.

Stonor:  A Novel, by John Williams, couldn’t be more different.  Think spare prose, detachment, brevity.  But utterly lyrical and I couldn’t put it down – once I’d overcome the confusion of thinking the introduction was part of the book.  I wasn’t expecting to find it and the Kindle edition didn’t exactly holler what it was.

Other favourites are In Other Words, by Jhumpa Lahiri, which had a post of its own recently, and The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes.  It’s short – I read it in little more than a morning – but it’s beautifully written and has much to say about relationships, how they evolve, the parts of our lives that are important to us and the compulsion to revisit the past.

And now one from left field:  Ernest Hemingway on Writing.  It’s not a novel; it’s a series of quotes from Hemingway’s letters, interviews and other materials about how he wrote, advice given to young writers and what he thinks about writing.  Utterly fascinating.  For instance, he praises one young writer for his skills at watching what goes on around him, but chastises him for not listening enough.  The objective seems to be to leave any café or restaurant able to give a full description of everyone else and a full report of what they said.

There have been other books, too, but these are the highlights.

Next is a book club read:  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, an American writer.  It’s set in France during World War II and has a blind French girl and a German boy as two of the main characters.   I’ll let you know what I think of it in the next update.

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