How to break up with a book (and other stories)

Finding a book you can be happy with is exactly the same as finding a lover.

First, you assume there will be serendipity. You go to all the right places; you see what covers take your fancy. The lighting is all wrong in a supermarket (and you are not swayed by ‘3 for 2’) and it’s hard to read in a club; you hope, then, for recommendation by a mutual friend. Your friends think very hard for you (they are happily committed to their books; they can’t wait to meet the book you eventually decide upon), perhaps even suggest a name or two, but the hope is short lived and your friends find your taste unpredictable.

You sift through memories, then, of all the books you’ve read in the past (some will multiply this number by seven, some will divide; there is a certain pride reserved for those who have taken years to read one single book), and think about what exactly you would like to be different (or the same), this time. Some people slip up here, and re-read previous tomes; this never ends well and if you once were together and then decided to part, each shrinking backward, then warning horns should be blaring; the readerly experience cannot un-yellow in absence alone. That is basic fact. Continue reading

Advertisements

On taking off clothes in front of friends

(Or: why I almost never agree to send my manuscript to my friends.)

It’s a bit like offering to take your clothes off and wait, naked, while they smile – politely – having spurred you on with nods and enthusiasm as though nothing else could be more usual for an innocent afternoon.

There are hundreds of books whose first pages I’ve read, or whose first paragraphs I’ve skimmed, before promptly dismissing them for some arguably flippant reason. Maybe I didn’t like the style, or the person in which it’s written. Maybe it was written in the present tense. Continue reading

Doing interesting things with my time. (What is success anyway?)

On Friday I travelled to Leicester to stay with a good friend for the night and travelled home on Saturday. I spent the train journeys (each punctuated by a jaunt to the horrific metropolis of Birmingham New Street Station – soundtrack: ‘we are sorry to announce…’, whose policy of charging 30 pence and a spin of a turn-stile to use the loo haunts me as possibly one of the most basic acts of inhospitality conceivable*, but there we go…) reading an engrossing book written by a friend of mine I haven’t seen in a little while – I read the first half on the way and finished on the return ride: ‘F**k The Radio, We’ve Got Apple Juice‘, by Miranda Ward.

I’d downloaded it to my kindle a long time ago, then stopped using my kindle, then rediscovered it and found the title pinging up on the home screen, like an idea presenting itself from the depths of my to do list. Continue reading