13 January 2009

Some new enthusiasms

Not having posted for ages (sorry - have been writing and translating A LOT and not much room in my brain for other things...), I thought I’d use my return to mention a few of the things I’ve read recently that have felt like interesting discoveries I wanted to tell people about… I can’t remember most of what I’ve read in the last couple of months, but a few things really stick in my memory:

Frozen Fire (Tim Bowler) – I started reading this when I was preparing for an event with Tim at Cheltenham in October (reported in a post below). And for much of the way it seemed like a regularly good thriller – interesting enough and effective, if perhaps unremarkable. A strange, half-hidden figure seen walking on the snowy fells, mysterious phone calls, etc. But as it moved closer towards the end it became more and more peculiar (I mean that in a good way) – more and more unusual, more and more daring. I don’t know quite whether he pulls it off altogether, but the ambition of the thing is impressive. The ideas that swirl around the ending aren’t tidily resolved, but again, this is a positive thing in this case, I think. Really very odd, but it’s stayed with me, and I’d definitely recommend giving it a try.

Various things by Joel Stewart – I was only half-aware of Joel Stewart till last year. I knew of some of his work (at least one featured in the UFBG, for instance) but somehow never stopped to pay much attention. And then recommending Dexter Bexley in a Guardian supplement last spring I started noticing him... In the last couple of months I’ve been buying up various things, some of them sadly out of print, and the more I look the more excited I am by what he does. I’m thinking of him today particularly as I’ve just received a copy of his illustrated Jabberwocky which is beautiful and mad in just the ways should be. I love it. Look out for him.

Leaping to adult non-fiction (but relevant here too) I’ve lately started a book my friend Chester sent me for my birthday called Proust and the Squid, which is a scientific explanation of the processes of reading. Comprehensible even to a completely-non-scientist like myself it’s a fascinating study of a subject I assumed I knew something about and, well, it turns out I didn’t at all. Engaging, insightful, clearly written, and full of things all those of us interested in reading should be thinking about – highly recommended. I'm looking forward to the long train journeys I have in the next week when I'll be able to bury myself in it again.

And another one of the moment: The Pretender (David Belbin) – I can’t pass full comment on this as I’m half way through reading it now, but so far it’s terrific. It’s about a young man who discovers a gift for literary forgery and it’s a great read. I've only read a couple of David's books before and enjoyed them; but this is a subject I’m particularly interested in, and it’s very pleasing to find it handled so well. Will be getting back to it as soon as I’m done with this post, and can’t wait…

When I've finished that (sometime between now and dawn) I've got things lined up waiting to take its place. Beginning with some books I absolutely must get to for the new UTBGSeventh Tide (of which I’ve heard very good things), Un Lun Dun and Triskellion have all been waiting for ages, and I’m glad to say I’m looking forward to them all, which helps! I’ve never read any Farrukh Dhondy, and I should have, so Run! is on the must-read-it-NOW pile, too.

And then a return to a couple of things I’ve read before, the unlikely duo of Margaret Drabble’s The Millstone and some early Ian Rankin Rebus novels; both are things we didn’t include in the first edition of the UTBG and I think we should have, so I feel I ought to re-read them now. Any excuse. Tough job...

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