I only read THREE books this month. The shame! I blame my brother, because he lent me the first series of The Bridge and it lobotomised me. Books? What are they? This was my first experience of binge-viewing and it was how I imagine a wild and inappropriate love affair might be: short-lived but utterly consuming.
Anyway, enough excuses. When I finally recovered from my affair, I remembered that I had started Steven Hall’s The Raw Shark Texts.
It was pretty good. Parts of it were great, even. But when a novelist is chosen as one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists, on the strength of only one book, you can’t help expecting that book to be completely mind-blowing. And it was not. It was, however, original, warm, funny, and intriguing. And I’ll definitely read his follow-up.
You know that feeling when you ‘discover’ a novelist whose work you love, and you plan to gobble up everything they’ve written, only to discover they’ve only written four books? This is the story of me and Jennifer Egan. The Invisible Circus was the last of her books I had to read. I bought it months ago and put off reading it, partly because I wanted to have another Egan to look forward to, but also partly because it was a debut novel, and debut novels are so often flawed; i was afraid I would be disappointed by it. Silly me. It was wonderful, and full of her trademark psychological insight.
Finally, for the AWW Challenge I read, and LOVED, Courtney Collins’ The Burial. If I tell you the story is written from the point of view of the protagonist’s dead baby, buried in the soil, that might give you some idea of the virtuosity of Collins’ storytelling. But the best way to let you know how amazing this novel is, is to share the incendiary opening passage:
If the dirt could speak, whose story would it tell? Would it favour the ones who have knelt upon it, whose fingers have split turning it over with their hands> Those who, in the evening would collapse weeping and bleeding into it as if the dirt was their mother? Or would it favour those who seek to be far from it, like birds screeching tearless through the sky?
This must be the longing of the dirt, for the ones who are suspended in flight.
Down here I have come to know two things: birds fall down and dirt can wait. Eventually teeth and skin and twists of bone will all be given up to it. And one day those who seek to be high up and far from it will find themselves planted like a gnarly root in its dark, tight soil. Just as I have.
This must be the lesson of the dirt.
Your turn: Have you read any of these books? What was the best thing you read last month?