Sunday, July 24, 2005

Reading in the Shade

More a question than a blog (drum roll for the chain of references please...): I'm reading Neil Jordan's Shade, having started to read my mum's copy a while back, and it's making me nostalgic for a whole case of books (as I suppose the plural noun must be) I read about the same time as his earlier Sunrise with Sea Monsters, such as Colm Toíbin's The South, which I just saw on a top ten somewhere (much of a blogger I am...) and an Anne Tyler book about a woman who leaves her family that has, early on, a sentence to the effect that "she was a woman who knew how to eat alone at a restaurant, without a book" (something I'm well nigh incapable of) -- but then that memory, as well as making me wonder if anyone out there knows the name of the Tyler book I'm thinking of (could be Ladder of Years or A Slipping Down Life), sets me off on two streams of consciousness: the first, about reading in restaurants, cafés, bus shelters, and the way in which books become indelibly associated with the place in which they are read (most of The Aeneid in a park in Bath, resulting in uneven but quite severe sunburn; bell hook's all about love on the Dundas West via King streetcar, in a summery blur; HP 2 through 4 on my friend Malve's sofa in her beautiful house, the house of perfection that I will always long for, where I also read...) anyway, stream of consciousness 2, somehow intertwined with 1: Anne Tyler makes me think about realist writers writing across gender, because of an article Sebastian Faulks wrote about one of her more recent books, commenting on a male character who stops to comment, internally, on the fabric of the bra worn by the woman he is seducing - this is relevant to Jordan, who switches between male and female characters living in the same era as those in Faulks' best known novel, Birdsong... and this stream meanders into the thought that I rarely read this kind of serious, adult, largely realist (Shade is narrated by a ghost) fiction any more - I'm bored by the thought of tackling nine out of ten novels that get reviewed. But I can't bring myself to give away those shelves & shelves of such fiction. There's still the odd writer who could get me to read anything from a post-it note upwards: A.L. Kennedy, Angela Carter (who wrote the screenplay of Company of Wolves, directed by Jordan), Elizabeth Bowen (still have a couple of her novels that I found at a book sale waiting for the right time), David Mitchell - but then, none of them are realists, are they?