I’ve kicked my readathon off at 00:01 UK time today as usual. The official start time is 00:01 for the Pacific time zone which equates to 13:01 UK time but honestly, I’ve tried doing lunchtime to lunchtime and it leaves me like a zombie. Plus, there’s something wonderfully decadent about getting up in the middle of the night *just* to read so… :)
Here’s my pile of books if you missed my post on Thursday listing the titles and explaining why some of them were picked:
I’ve decided to start off with A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. It’s the one that’s received the most mixed reviews from those I know who’ve read it and it’s been on my To Be Read pile for a couple of years. My cat, Dante, is helping me read it by currently sitting on top of it. Hmmm. I’ll report back once I’ve managed to wrestle it from under him and read some of it.
Well, what an odd start to the readathon. I read the first ninety or so pages of A Visit From The Goon Squad and while I liked it, I wasn’t well, in like with it. Nothing much had happened and I wasn’t immensely compelled to continue. Perhaps it’s something to do with the coming-of-age feel to the opening chapters or the thread of nostalgia it’s tapping into but I felt I was missing whatever hook I needed to get drawn in. Set aside because it just wasn’t the right book for me as a reader.
Dipping into the first hundred pages of The Old Ways (a book about trackways, landscape and walking) was interesting but I had forgotten how many quotes Macfarlane drops into his work and how the fact that he only seems to have read one female author ever (Nan Shepherd) in comparison to hundreds of male ones drives me nuts. Cast aside in irritation.
Like the proverbial bears and bowls of porridge though my third book pick was a charm. Fear and Trembling by Amelie Nothomb is disturbing and entertaining in equal measure. It appears to be semi-autobiographical (but perhaps it is in fact just fiction, I’m really not sure) and it tells the story of Amelie, a Belgian girl who has perfect Japanese language and social skills after growing up there and who goes to work for a Japanese firm. She starts at the lowest job in the company and manages to somehow descend from there. Even when she is doing her best to fit in her presence disrupts everything in the office. It’s a short book so I’ve managed to finish it before taking this break and I really did enjoy its quirkiness.
I’m not sure what I want to read next but I definitely need to get something to eat first. :)
I’ve just come back from a neighbourhood cafe. It was still so dark and grey here at 09:00 I really needed to get out of the house and go for a walk because I was in danger of falling asleep! One mug of very, very good coffee and a little banter over the Saturday newspapers and their weekend cultural sections later I feel much more lively. The book I settled on earlier was Claire Tomalin’s biography of the author Katherine Mansfield (an author I knew only through the lives she affected rather than for her own life) and I finished it in the cafe before looking through the newspapers. Though Tomalin’s later works – think of her tome on Dickens – are much longer, this book is less than 300 pages and an absorbing read. I don’t think I’ve attempted to read a biography on a readathon before but Tomalin’s skill as a biographer keeps the detail relevant and telling throughout so I never got bogged down in it though I obviously read biography more slowly than fiction.
So, about 630 pages read and two books finished. I’m not really a speed reader so I’m happy with that.
Now that I’m feeling refreshed and alert I fancy tackling some more non-fiction, something to stretch my mind a little. I’m going to dive into Julian Barnes’ Nothing To Be Frightened Of which is a combination of family memoir, meditation on mortality, a conversation about faith and a dialogue with his brother who teaches philosophy. It sounds very unique and I’ve been eager to read it since I bought it on Tuesday…
Well Barnes has certainly entertained and stimulated me, there’s lots of interesting ideas and wry humour in his book of memoir and mortality and it’s quite unlike anything I’ve read before. I’m going to have fun trying to summarise my thoughts on it next week. Perhaps most interesting is seeing the links between stories I’ve heard him tell in interviews and the background to them given in the book, some of them clearly bubbled up in the writing of this book and were then reworked into The Sense of an Ending. The book’s blurb says this is a ‘tour of the mind’ and it is definitely that, the style is so conversational and occasionally confessional that it felt less like reading and more like he was talking to me in my head.
It’s still so dark here in Leeds, it never really brightened up at any point today, that I’m feeling restless again and craving a good, long walk to ponder my reading so far. All three finished books (and the two ‘taste-tested’ books) are very, very different in style and tone and I need to pause to absorb the details and ideas before diving into another. So I’m wrapped up, scarf and all, and heading out for a walk by the canal. I’m taking my music player with me but will keep the volume low – I want to be able to hear the russet and gold leaves I’m crunching underfoot as I go. Back in an hour or two. :)
I got soaked while I was out walking. Not by heavy rain but by persistent drizzle. Bah. To recover I baked sweet potatoes, made curried aubergine to go on top and poured myself a good shot of whisky. I’m now curled up in bed with the cat buried under the duvet keeping my feet warm and purring like a drill. *grin*
I’ve resumed my readathon by starting After The Stroke by May Sarton. I’ve not read Sarton before but she comes recommended by friends and trusted bloggers so I have high hopes for this one. I’m not sure why this readathon I’ve veered towards the non-fiction but it seems to have worked out very well so far.
It seems that even after taking part in plenty of readathons over the years I can still be surprised. My current standing is:
3 books finished (Fear and Trembling, Katherine Mansfield and Nothing To Be Frightened Of)
4 books tried and set aside (A Visit From The Goon Squad, The Old Ways, After The Stroke and The Merciful Women)
1 book I began an hour ago that wasn’t on my pile (Restoration by Rose Tremain)
I don’t think I’ve ever tried as many books from one readathon’s pile before but most of these were new-to-me authors so I suppose it stands to reason that there’s more trial and error with those. I’m rather enjoying Restoration so far, I needed something with strong sense of place and character and so far it’s delivering admirably. I obviously won’t manage to finish it tonight but never mind, I’ll settle for a day of mostly nibbling at books rather than devouring them whole. :)
Good luck to those who started at the official time and who are still reading…