Thursday, May 25, 2006

Reading Matters

So I’m reading ‘Eldest’ by Christopher Paolini at the moment. Actually I’m also reading ‘The House at Pooh Corner’ and I’m near the end where Pooh and Christopher Robin go off together and leave everyone behind and I think it’ll make me cry and I just can’t face that bit yet. And then there’s my metro read ‘An Area of Darkness’ by V.S. Naipaul, it fits neatly into my handbag and was purchased a few weeks ago when I also thought I would be purchasing a plane ticket to India and a Lonely Planet guide to India, before my travel companion got put off by a little bit of rain. What’s the problem? V.S. Naipaul put up with the rain, Indians put up with the rain. Pffff! Oh and there’s also ‘The Salmon of Doubt’. I got a bit stuck with that around the bit where he starts getting all technical and talks more than usual about wires and gadgetry and Apple Macs. Douglas Adams did use the word ‘pootling’ though, which I thought I had invented when I was about sixteen. Seems I didn’t, seems it even has an Oxford English Dictionary definition. I don’t like the OED definition and have decided that I did invent the word, because in my head it’s more to do with ambling aimlessly in a Pooh bear sort of way.

Anyway, back to ‘Eldest’. Someone else wants to read it and I’m on page 166 and there are 668 pages in total (you do the math) and I’m beginning to wish I was reading it in French, like I did with the first tome 'Eragon'. See the thing with reading in French is that I was so lazy, I couldn’t really be bothered to look up all the words I didn’t know, but he used ‘guère’ so much that I did learn that*. One word out of a thousand pages! I also got the impression that I had read sixty different descriptions of sunsets or sunrises. Well I now realise that I must have because I’m on page 166 and I’ve read countless descriptions of valleys and mountains and plains and fields and... Basically our boy Paolini likes his descriptions. But it’s nowhere near as bad as Brian Jacques. I was once subjected to this author not once, but twice. I learnt that the way to read him was to skip all descriptions of food, ignore all the poems and songs and the book is about two thirds shorter, but still a very bad mixture of Beatrix Potter and Lord of the Rings... and shoot me down in flames but J.R.R. Tolkein was one imaginative man, but he was not a great writer of literature.

From this train of thought came a list, a list of such shining brilliance that I felt I ought to share it with the world at large: Authors I have lurrrrved (You have to say it in a Barry White/Isaac Hayes type voice to get the full effect there).

Authors I have Lurrrrved:

1. Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Best reads:
Everything I’ve read, he has an amazing ability to weave you into his world so that you do not question a thing and then his endings are so perfect that you don’t feel as if something has been taken away from you. It’s the right time for the story to end.
Worst reads:
Not that anything can be bad by my man Marquez, but ‘News of a Kidnapping’. It was a book that needed to be written, and I learnt a great deal through it, but it wasn’t fiction. (And that last sentence indicates why I am neither a book reviewer nor a published writer – sheesh!)

2. James Baldwin
Best reads:
Oh mmm, everything I’ve read. Don’t know a single thing about Jazz, but if there is a great Jazz novel, then it’s ‘Another Country’ and this man wrote it.
Worst reads:
Nope, not one I’ve read yet.

3. David Almond
Best reads:
Ooh I was going to say everything again. OK I’ll commit myself; ‘Heaven Eyes’ (although I do really love Skellig), after I had read it I realised that he was the first non Latin American author I had read who had completely captured the essence of magic-realism. Not only that, but he was a pigeon-holed as a children’s author. In his case I think adults who don’t read him are missing out, his stories are beautiful.
Worst reads:
But this is in a positive way. I recently found a book of his short stories in the library:’ Shooting Stars’ I think it’s called, I can’t remember. They all had that essence of the writer he was too become, but some of them were pretty rough around the edges. In the end I stopped reading them because it just wasn’t to the same standard as I was used to. But it keeps me writing, because I hope that one day I too can write something as magical and moving as David Almond.

4. E.M. Forster
Best reads:
Oh it’s difficult... mmm... I’m going to have to say everything again. I can’t remember any one particular book in enough detail, it’s just these impressions of people and flaws and pain.
Worst reads:
Ooh can’t do it. Why did I come up with this idea, ahh yes.

5. Salman Rushdie
Best reads:
‘Midnight’s Children’ from the first to the last sentence, this book just blows you away. I am still trying to imagine the main character’s nose, I’ve forgotten his name, but I remember his nose. And I learnt so much about Indian Independence in one chapter about mercurochrome (I think that’s what it’s called).
Worst reads:
‘The Ground Beneath her Feet’ – Oh Salman!

6. Cornelia Funke
Best reads:
Ok another difficult one, but I’m going to say ‘The Thief Lord’ because Venice was still so alive in my head when I read it and Cornelia added even more magic. And then ‘Inkheart’ just because above all it’s about her love for books, it spills out from every page.
Worst reads:
‘Dragon Rider’ not because it was bad, far from it, this woman can’t pen a bad sentence. I’m just not really into talking animals. And ‘Inkspell’ because I love fire and the magic that can be created with fire, so I’m a bit peeved. Unless you’ve read it you won’t know what I’m talking about, but if I say more I’ll ruin the book.

7. John Irving
Best reads:
‘Setting Free the Bears’. I could read it again and again and I’ll still laugh out loud and cry.
Worst reads:
‘The Fourth Hand’. Just didn’t enjoy it as much as the others.

Authors I have dallied with:
Terry Pratchett – Loved the disc world books for a long while and then... there is only so much. Still read his kid’s books though, loved the one about the cat and ... ‘Maurice and ...’ Dear me my memory!
Kashugo Ishiguro - Will probably read more of him, I’m really into Japanese writers at the moment.
Virginia Woolf – Finally read Mrs Dalloway after watching ‘The Hours’ it had only been on my book shelf since I did my degree! Got ‘Orlando’ in my pile to read pile
Margaret Atwood – I did realise that my above list was almost exclusively male. I really really like Atwood, she is extremely clever and had stolen all my science fiction ideas –either that or I am incredibly unoriginal - but I just couldn’t justify putting her up there.
Jeanette Winterson – Read ‘The Passion’ recently, I’ve had a big break from Winterson, but I think if I read her again I would put her in my ‘lurrrve’ list.
J.K. Rowling – I am addicted to Harry Potter’s life like millions of others, but I suspect that when I close book 7 and after the last film has come out then that’s it.

Right this list could go on FOREVER and I’ve already been at this for an hour and a half, so let’s draw to a close with a final category...

Authors whose pens, laptops, computers, pencils, crayons, anything that makes a mark should be taken away and they should have their fingers snapped:

Paulo Coelho
– I know that as a jumped up wannabe that this is very contentious territory, but I can’t put a book down when I start reading it and this was the very worst waste of time EVER. I didn’t care about his characters, I went and checked up on Alchemy because his writing was so unconvincing and considering my dream was to go to the desert I just wanted everyone to drop down dead of thirst. Coelho, you made me hate the written word and I will never forgive you for that.


* It means hardly.


Minx said...

Also love Margaret Attwood and many of your choices above. Have recently got into Hilary Mantel but reading has slowed as I'm writing so much. Been a 'forever' fan of Terry Pratchett and see myself as a Nanny Ogg crossed with Agnes Nit! Also like Tanith Lee, Stephen Donaldson, China Mielville(?)and Iain M banks. Oh God could go on forever...I like books ok!!

Verilion said...

Yeah there were loads I left out. It's silly really to try and compile books I love into one list. I was cleaning (uh hum, yes it happens once in a while) and I realised I had left out so much. I also realised I had created this writer called Virginia Bloom. I think I can work out my early morning train of thought there, but luckily I managed to change the post before anyone spotted my mistake (or at least anyone commented on it). Will check out some of the authors you recommend, ehm next year maybe. Know what you mean about reading slowing down, although it's the box sets of DVD's that are slowing me down!


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