Sunday, 21 August 2011

Sunday Supplement 1: New books and immanent trips

I've never quite got the hang of this blogging business. Too retiring, perhaps, to share much of myself here. But I'd like to try. Having watched Julie and Julia a couple of week's ago, I'm inspired by - and a little enraptured with - the idea of emotional honesty in blogs, of using them as a journal of experience. Schmaltzy movies always get to me; they tend to feature characters that I want to be more like.

There's so much more to reading than simply reviewing, and that is what I wish to capture here. The joy of discovery, random thoughts that drift through one's mind while reading, how where and when one reads a book impacts on the response to it.

It was my Birthday a couple of weeks ago and I got a few books I'd been hoping for. From Megan, I got The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz, which I discovered through reading Jonathan Safran Foer's die-cut Tree of Codes, and because it was then recommended in The Book Hive, the premier independent bookshop in Norwich, by acclaimed poet George Szirtes. I haven't yet read it, but I will get there soon. Also unwrapped was a signed copy of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, that I borrowed from the library and read earlier this year but wanted a copy of my own to keep . It is a beautifully produced book, one I could flick through for hours just looking at the illustrations. Like the art of Shaun Tan, it would be suited to enlarging and framing and hanging from the wall. Well, if it weren't so dark and foreboding, anyway.

From my parents I also received the latest Andrey Kurkov novel to be translated into English, The Milkman in the Night, and a work of sociology that my mum mentioned reading when she was a student and which had an impact on her thinking. Written in the 1970s, it is called The Gift Relationship and looks at the value altruism plays in a healthy society, considering specifically blood donation. With David Cameron's supposedly radical Big Society in the news at the moment, I was interested in looking back at what altruism can offer and how it can be harnessed for the good of society, rather than coerced for small government ideological reasons. I don't read many academic studies, so I don't know whether I'll get around to reading this or not, but much of book buying, for me at least, is aspirational, reflecting the person I want to be rather than the person I am.

As if that wasn't enough books to keep me busy, on returning to work I found a mound of books that I had requested from publishers. Forthcoming and recently published books by the likes of Joe Dunthorne, Dalgit Nagra, Hari Kunzru, Anna Funder, Esi Edugyan, Erin Morgenstern, and more. It was like having my birthday all over again, and when I came to the last pile I couldn't believe my luck. There, on the bottom of the pile, were proofs of Murakami's forthcoming 1Q84. I hadn't expected there to be proofs, much less that I would be sent one!

Expecting to get something I've put on my birthday list, lets me anticipate it, get used to the idea of wanting it, and plan when to read it. I love it. But presents are best of all when they anticipate what you most want, and give you a complete surprise. Nothing could have beaten the excitement I felt on finding the Murakami proofs. 
I'm off to Edinburgh this week, to check out some authors at the International Book Festival, and play an ingenious place specific poetry game at the Fringe Festival. Run by Cambridge poet Ross Sutherland and social games entrepreneurs Hide and Seek, Hinterland is, according to their website, "about the space that appears when we speak languages that aren’t our mother tongue. And maybe also a bit about how rubbish so many of us tend to be at speaking languages other than English." I don't fully understand it, as yet, but it sounds intriguing, and the collage poem Ross created as a result of their last collaboration recreated the atmosphere or walking alone through an urban night, and is well worth a listen.

I'll let you know what it's like, and which authors caught my eye, next week. In the meantime I have twelve hours or train journey's ahead of me in which to read some of the books I haven't had a chance to yet this year. I'm definitely taking Naomi Wood's The Godless Boys, and probably The Echo Chamber by Luke Williams. But what else I haven't yet decided. Could go for highly rated The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, or possibly The Street of Crocodiles. I'm saving 1Q84 for a luxuriant treat when I get back home.

Happy reading!


Louise said...

Hope you enjoy Edinburgh. I loved Julie & Julia and it's one of the things that inspired me to be more organised with my blogging.

Who knows, in a couple of years time Meryl Street could be playing me... or you

Sam Ruddock said...

Hi Louise. I know film makers take liberties with characters, but I hope they wouldn't go quite as far as having Meryl Streep play me! ;)

Only just discovered your blog but enjoying your work so far. Got plenty to read over the coming days!