Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Importance Of Being Wilde

The British toff fiction I mentioned the other day is The Picture Of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde). I had only read the first few pages and was so in love with it that I was already thinking ahead to the Evelyn Waugh's and D. H. Lawrence's that I planned to devour, just so that I could maintain the illusion of being in that world for a little longer.

Now, however, I am up to chapter 5 and I am struggling. To begin with I was dazzled by the viscosity of the sentences and phrases that pitched and rolled flowed through my mind as I read. But now I feel I am being bogged down with annoyingly clever, pithy quips and quotes, and the substance of the book seems to have disappeared.

I have never read it before but of course know the story's basic premise. It seems to be taking an awfully long time to get there. Nevertheless I will persevere because it is a Classic, because it is not too long (finger's crossed for the Anna Karenina currently on my kitchen table), and because Wilde wrote the book before reality TV was invented, so one should be forgiving of what seems to be slow paced.

Who knows when I'll finish it or what i'll think of it by the end... The huge tower of books by my bed is composed of a fair amount of meaty, Serious Literature: Andre Makine, Nabokov, Richard Yates, which will take a lot of time and brain power to get through. Despite that I picked up a couple of new books today and have started reading a historical biography. When I eventually manage to finish one complete book in the middle of this mess i will feel a true sense of achievement but it could take a while so don't hold your breath.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Miss Polly Had A Dolly

Just like Miss Polly’s Dolly, I have been sick, sick, sick. A good excuse for not updating the blog for a while but being stuck in bed with a hideous cold gave me more reading time, so now I have a lot of catching up to do.

There are certain things I am quite happy to read when stuck in bed not feeling well, that I am not so keen on at other times. I started reading The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory and got almost halfway before I realised that I completely hated it. I think I was starting to get better so I became more discerning. Now that I come to write about why I hated the book so much, I realise that it is for the same reason I hated a Peter Carey I was required to read about 10 years ago. Namely, a highly unlikeable character who is at the centre of a tale told in first person narrative. There is almost nothing more excruciating than having to wade through the thoughts and experiences of someone you know you would detest in real life.

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton (due for release in November) was a great book to read while not feeling 100% “the thing”. It was very easy on the brain but actually had a lot of stuff going on. Such a book is, I feel, deceptively hard to write as well as being the most fun to read. Without going into too much detail I’ll just say that it was well layered, full of fleshed out characters and very, very Gothic. I enjoyed it so much that I am now reading her previous novel The Forgotten Garden.

Always on the lookout for an easy read when I am overtired or not well, I recently reread a book that I first came across about 5 or so years ago. Although I used to reread constantly when I was a child and teenager, it isn’t something I tend to do these days. Mostly this is down to the fact that I am gripped with a panic that I will never, ever, ever be able to read even half the books in the world that I would like to; there isn’t nearly enough time!!! At times it feels as if every single reading choice is precious and must not be wasted. I feel guilty reading something for a second time.

This time I felt compelled. It was the first time in several years that I had reread something other than Georgette Heyer, which I consider “throwaway” reading anyway. This time the book once more by the bed was The Lost Art Of Keeping Secrets (Eva Rice). All the way through The Distant Hours I’d been reminiscing about this book. The atmosphere of “1950s: cakes and crumpets for tea” was conjured equally evocatively in both novels. Maybe it’s partially down to all the books about English boarding schools that I read as a child but there’s something about this vibe that I find completely comforting and utterly entrancing in equal measure.

I am still not totally up to date with all that I've read in the last 6 weeks or so but i am going to publish and be damned. Hopefully, I will manage to get around to a full round up in the coming weeks. Currently in the reading works is a newly rekindled fetish for early to mid 20th Century British toff fiction and what - for want of a better phrase - I am going to call pulp non-fiction. Details to follow!