2015 was really not a good year. 2014 was pretty horrific and I was told things ‘could only get better’ then, which is of course a cretinous thing to2015 was really not a good year. 2014 was pretty horrific and I was told things ‘could only get better’ then, which is of course a cretinous thing to say because things could get better, or they could stay the same or they could get worse. There is no universal law preventing shit from getting shittier. And it did get shittier I’m sorry to report. Between the things that happened inside my head and the things that happened outside my head I finally stopped managing some time in November. I am now on a cocktail of meds and things are looking up, so 2015 – good riddance, I say.
As a result of all of the above I’ve only read 38 books this year which is the lowest number since I started tracking this. On a positive note in the last two months I’ve watched seven seasons of Law and Order, eleven seasons of Bones, one season of Jessica Jones, one season of Gilmore Girls and one season of Castle. That must count for something, that’s commitment.
I was also totally off my reviewing game, although I did pen a review of ‘My Brilliant Friend’ which is now my second most popular review on Goodreads. Among other achievements I can say I slogged through 700 pages of Story of Philosophy and I’m not any wiser.
As for the highlights – they all belong to women: Elena Ferrante, Ali Smith, Magda Szabo, Katherine Mansfield. Go women. I think my favourite book of the year is ‘How to Be Both’ by Ali Smith. I think that’s the only book that continues to affect me still.
I was mildly disappointed with Between the World and Me. Given the hype I was expecting to emerge from this reading experience unable to breathe. And while I think it is a good and very important book that should be read widely, I am still breathing.
As usual I’ve read few new books and those that I did read I read only because my book club made me, which leads me to my New Year’s reading resolution to read more new books so that I can participate in the discussion, rather than trying to join 4 years later when no one remembers what those books were even about. I’d like to interact with my Goodreads friends more because it seems like a lot of fun. Also I think I should read something in Spanish before I completely forget the language.
Other resolutions include getting off anti-depressants, falling in love and writing more reviews. ...more
I know the premise in historical romance novels is often silly and you have to just play along but this really was too much even for such a seasoned pI know the premise in historical romance novels is often silly and you have to just play along but this really was too much even for such a seasoned player as yours truly. Serial killers, masked heroes and the most far-fetched 'deal' between the hero and heroine which is the pretext for their romance to start.
I don't ask for my historical romance novels to be extremely historically accurate, but this was so anachronistic that it read like a contemporary romance where the characters just wore period costumes for some reason.
Either I'm finally growing out of romance novels or I've been picking particularly silly ones....more
It was fitting that this was the very first Granta issue to arrive at my door after I subscribed. Britain, it said. What, no longer Great, I thought.It was fitting that this was the very first Granta issue to arrive at my door after I subscribed. Britain, it said. What, no longer Great, I thought.
When I first moved to the UK, I didn’t think I would stay here very long. I had 400 pounds to my name and my head was full of nonsense. I had acted on many half-cooked ideas before and somewhat expected this to be just another one of the kind. And yet, I weirdly found home here. I now have been here for almost seven years and it was a belated coming of age experience. A good 40% of who I am now has been moulded by this country. So even though I still rebel against the separate water taps, I will never put milk in my tea, or choose Sunday roast if there is anything else less … beige available, I will be applying for my Britihs passport soon (that is as soon as I manage to save up 800 pounds, as I’m somehow as poor again as I was when I first arrived). As much as it smells of old age I've resigned myself to the notion that I will never want to live aywhere else for good. (Well, maybe Canada).
This Granta issue is as rich and diverse as the country itself. However, you won’t find any of the usual tropes here - royalty, upper class, dinner parties and all that. And I almost didn’t notice - it's not part of my Britain either.
I know that my view of the UK is very London-centric and London is a world unto itself, separate from the rest of the country, so it was very interesting to see all those different facets of my adopted country, that I don’t normally get to see.
Gary Younge’s fascinating description of growing up in Stevenage showed me that it wasn’t only behind the Iron Curtain where people got enamoured with the idea of an urban utopia. I plan on learning more about the post-war Britian. This opening piece was probably the one that stayed most true to the theme of exploring ‘Britishness’.
Ross Raisin wrote an unnerving story of a young footballer and I should probably check out his book in hope of finding more of those violent emotions.
My favourite piece from the collection is Robert Macfarlane’s 'Silt'. I had heard about him before and couldn’t quite understand why people would buy books describing his walks in the fairly monotonous British countryside. Now I understand. This was bewitching.
Of course, there is also an excerpt from my favourite writer’s book titled here ‘The Celt’ (the actual title of the book is The Dream of the Celt). I’m not sure who edited this excerpt but they did not do a good job. They literally cut out all the good bits, robbing the piece of its emotion and making it sound amateurish. You don’t do that Mario Vargas Llosa.
Another two writers I must definitely check out after reading their stories are Tania James and Cynan Jones.
The biggest surprise was Mark Haddon, whom I didn’t expect to ever enjoy after the disaster that was 'A Spot Of Bother'. However, it turns out that he is an excellent writer when he doesn’t try to be funny.
Sam Byers, on the other hand, does the funny-sad exceptionally well and I will be checking out his book Idiopathy, whose excerpt was the only fictional piece in the collection which featured a woman as the main character.
There was quite a lot of stories with adolescent boys and a coming of age theme. Is it that Britian in its new post-imperial form is still in the early adolescent stage, trying to ‘grow into itself’ (to borrow from the title of Raisin’s story)?
The odd one out in the collection was a piece about Belarus Free Theatre, which seemed to have nothing to do with the UK at first, but a little googling told me that the people behind Belarus Free Theatre applied for asylum in the UK and are now performing in London (check them out here: http://www.belarusfreetheatre.com/)