Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Night Run

Busy day again yesterday, tying up administrative loose ends. Went out for a run last night: I'd spent so much time sat in front of a computer or a steering wheel I desperately needed a bit of exercise. Stuck my headphones in and, fortunately, caught the Alastair Roberts Trio on Late Junction (Radio 3). (You can still hear the concert for the next six days here, on the BBC website if it's available where you are). I'm not usually a folk music fan, but this struck a nerve. I just liked what I heard (and not just because Roberts is credited, somewhat journalistically, with "reinventing Scottish folk music"). It certainly helped that the combination of bass, guitar, violin and voice is the same as the band I play in - only we're playing jazz. It was interesting to hear a texture that was the same, but different. It was musically thought-provoking.

I'm looking for a good book to read and had a browse through the local Oxfam shop this morning. Several things attracted my attention, but I came away empty handed. I almost bought a Doris Lessing scifi book, almost bought The Gormenghast Trilogy. Both were books I'd like to have read. But I read a page of both and couldn't see myself reading another few hundred in either. In both cases, something about the style got on my nerves. It's a shame - as I'd like to have read both and I'm sure I'd get a lot out of them if I could bring myself. I was left feeling that, having been around for half a century, if there's a book I've wanted to read for years but kept picking up and not reading, there's probably a good reason for it. Why voluntarily knock my head against a brick wall? If I picked up Titus Groan 1982, 1991 and 2001 and put it down again perhaps I should just resign myself to accepting that it's not "me", not bother and look elsewhere.

Or perhaps not. Certainly with music, I often find myself listening to stuff I'd heard years ago and thought I didn't like only to find something in it.

The fact remains, I feel in need of a good book to read, and can't find one. And although you can't make special things happen, I'd quite like it to be a life changing discovery. Some books are. It's not about whether it's a good book or a bad book - but just about the impression it makes on you when you read it. For one reason or another, things after you've read it are never quite the same again.

I can feel a list coming on - books I've read, which have had this effect on me, in no particular order. I've excluded overtly philosophical books as what I'm interested in here is how books that are not directly so can affect the way one thinks. There's no poetry there, either - I decided poetry would warrant a list of its own.

Mountaineering in Scotland and Undiscovered Scotland by WH Murray
Waterlog by Roger Deakin
Swallowdale by Arthur Ransome
Lord of the Rings by Tolkein
Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Composition With Twelve Tones Related Only To One Another by Josef Rufer
The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch
Dune by Frank Herbert
The Collected Sherlock Holmes by Conan Doyle
A Year From Monday by John Cage
Piggly Plays Truant by AJ MacGregor
Fun With Short Wave Radio by Gilbert Davey

It strikes me that there's quite a few doorstops in there. I seem to like big books. That having been said, I've stalled on a few. I'm just over half way through Middlemarch. I had decided to "rest" it (after all, it came out in installments) but when I picked it up again, it suddenly seemed to be hard going. It's billed as "A Study in Provincial Life" and it suddenly seemed very, well, provincial. Did I really want to wade through it? Perhaps I don't like novels - certainly, many books on my list aren't novels.

I'll have to keep looking...


Titus said...

The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead. I need to talk to someone about the ending!

Rachel Fenton said...

In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje is still my fave book. And it's short, so you won't feel you've wated your life with your money!

I'm not finding a decent book of late, either. Got half way through Peter Carey's Theft; a Love Story but got fed up with it. Half way seems about the best I can mamage. Life is all too short, but when you're reading something that isn't making your insides sing, it feels even shorter.

I'm going to root out Titus' suggestion...

tony said...

I have always felt pretty much the same about Tolkien/Lord of The Rings Etc !
I did read Gormenghast(x3) in my yoof.Not sure If i would have the stamina these days !
If your looking for a light but intelligent read , can i suggest you give Fred Vargas a scan? I love her stuff & am currently trying to find and read all her novels.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Oh how well I remember Piggly Plays Truant - do you still have it?

The book I have read lately which has made a profound impression on me is Brian Keenan's 'Four Quarters of Light - An Alaskan Journey'

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for these suggestions: I've just googled them and they all look really interesting. I'm not sure where to start. I've meant to read some Michael Ondaatje but never have, and Colson Whitehead and Fred Vargas are new to me, and sound fascinating.

The Weaver of Grass' suggestion has been discussed with her offline: I still have PPT. As for good reads, she lent me Wildwood by Roger Deakin.