I read a little less than normal this January. Only three books. When I read I want to be as attentive to it as I can be, and when I have other stuff going on that is taking up a lot of my brain capacity my reading can really slow to a crawl. I’m sure it’s familiar to everyone but that sudden realisation that I have been reading for thirty minutes but have no idea what any of it said has been happening to me a lot recently.
But I did manage three books. The Pre-War House and Other Stories by Alison Moore, Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino and Widow Basquiat by Jennifer Clement
I read Alison Moore’s collection of short stories after reading her three novels, The Lighthouse, He Wants and Death and the Seaside. I love Alison Moore’s writing. I read The Lighthouse years ago when it was short-listed for the Booker prize and it really made an impact on me. I couldn’t get it out of my head for ages after. All her writing has this quiet, whispery, haunting quality and the stories kind of get away from you as you are reading them. The writing is so delicate and so understated in places that it is only once you have finished reading that you realise what you just read. It is only once it has all gone that you realise it was unraveling. It’s an amazing feat. The pattern I adopted while reading her shorts was to read the story to its conclusion, and then read the last two pages again, just to take it all in. Highly recommended and a writer whose books will be must-reads for me from now on.
Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino was supposed to be my light-hearted crime novel for the month. When I have a lot going on and I am finding it hard to relax I like a good crime novel so that I have something fun and easy to read. This didn’t turn out to be as light as I was looking for but it was still compelling and fascinating. On the surface it’s a story about two prostitutes who get murdered and the past they shared. Under the surface it is a story about deceit (of others and oneself), the slow untangling of our own lives and the lies we tell ourselves along the way. It takes unreliable narrators to a new level, with three separate narrators in different sections of the book, none of whom come off as especially credible. So really good, but next time I want something junky to wile away an evening with I may not pick another of Kirino’s books. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be back to read more of her work in the future.
Lastly was Widow Basquiat. I found this in Waterstone’s purely by chance and bought it instantly. A long time ago I saw the movie Basquiat and loved it. I watched the movie more times than I can count. Basquiat was an artist living in New York in the eighties who died of a drug overdose. He was a black artist fighting for his place in a white world. This book was Basquiat’s story from the perspective of his girlfriend, Suzanne. It’s written in a chaotic jumble of scenes, thoughts and images all tossed together. But the picture of Basquiat and the world he lived in that emerges is fascinating. I started reading it on Friday evening and finished it on Saturday afternoon. I couldn’t put it down.
So that was my January reading. I hope yours was as rewarding as mine was.