Tag Archives: 2012

December reads

Still going strong

 

I know that lots of literary sites and blogs are putting up their Best Of 2012 lists about now but I am in resistance! The year is not over til those bells chime on Hogmanay. With that resolution in heart, Endless Reads 2012 continues into December. So far I have read Somewhere (which I will review shortly) and I’m closing in on 1Q84. After that, the titles above, so thoughtfully complimentary coloured:

 

The Missing Shade of Blue by Jennie Erdal, a philosophical mystery published by Abacus – the title comes from a philosophical problem posed by David Hume regarding the conception of a colour you have never seen (it’s a bit complicated to explain so here’s the wiki). It’s set in Edinburgh, which makes it I think the only first-read of the year set in my own city (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was a welcome re-read).

 

The Light and The Dark by Mikhail Shishkin (Quercus) is a book that has not yet been released and that I have acquired through the generosity of Blackwell’s on South Bridge’s Christmas Book Quiz. D and I inadvertently showed up when the quiz was starting, and decided to join in, though D was there  do some preparatory work for an interview and is not overly interested in contemporary fiction. Our team, Book Shaped Heart, came 8th out of 11, which was not too shabby considering the difficulty level. Because it was Christmas, everyone who participated had the chance to choose a book from a few boxes set up in the back and this was my choice – from the blurb on the back it seems to be a kind of Russian literary version of the film The Lakehouse. Which I haven’t seen because Romantic films aren’t really my thing. But! The book might be anything, really.

 

The Last title is Another Country by Anjali Joseph (Fourth Estate). This was sent to me by a friend, and the author is a friend of his. It’s about a woman in her twenties living in Paris, London and Bombay. I have high hopes – it was savaged in The Telegraph for being (shock horror) more about character than plot, and seems to focus on un-belonging and rootlessness which I think I will enjoy.

 

Whether I will get through all of these titles before the bells remains to be seen, but I’m going to have a good time trying. They’re all newly published (or in the case of the second, unpublished) so I’m still keeping to my promise of reading new, vibrant things. What will Endless Reads 2013 bring? I haven’t decided yet. Should I have a theme? Would that be too artificial? What would you like to see?

 

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First Foot/First Book

D and I were cold-stricken, and for our health were going to stay in quietly for Hogmanay. That is, until five minutes before the bells – D urged us outside, and up the short walk to the Royal Mile, to be with the crowd, to see the fireworks.

Two minutes or so to midnight, we join the north bridge contingent

There is a sense of anticipation, amiable, drunken. There are premature shouts of ‘happy new year’. We can’t see the castle from here, but the bridge overlooks the gardens and Princes St, where some band are playing, lights flashing on the wall of the museum on the mound.  Beside us, a group of men dressed as Edwardians (complete with genuine waxed moustaches) light up their pipes. There is a clock on the far side of the bridge, on clock tower of The Balmoral Hotel, but no one seems sure whether to trust it. It is the fireworks that will tell us –

The golden halo behind The Scotsman building

On the other side, facing the invisible sea - a traffic cone is carried in jubilant procession

Part of the final bloom of light - and following it, the crowd spontaneously bursts into applause and staggering cheers

And then, as if at a signal, the crowd moves back up the bridge, dispersing. The New Year seen in, time to go back to the pub (or the flat, in our case)

And, as part of my wish for the moment of the year change, I read a little of my first book of the year, Bhanu Kapil’s Humanimal: A Project for Future Children.

Endless Reads 2012 off with a bang

A confession: I couldn’t resist starting it an hour before the bells. I’ve now finished it, 36 minutes into the new year.

So this is my review, which will probably be typical. Impressionistic and lacking in any great insights:

This is a prose-poem hybrid of a novel describing the writer’s journey to India as part of a film crew making a documentary on the true tale of two girls raised by wolves from infancy and recovered, somewhat, into the human fold by a minister who kept them in an orphanage until they died. It is a haunted text, haunted by the lost faces of the girls (apparently never successfully captured in a photograph together, except once, in sleep, entwined in a kind of nest comprised of themselves), the writer haunted by their fleetingness, their unreal realness. The texture of the landscape of India adds a weight that the absence of the girls, the unreliability of memory and record lack.

21. Slow, wet orange sun and such a bright full moon over the jungle’s horizon Looking down from the lodge, there are long saffron scratches where the sun has caught a mineral vein. Notes for film: “A girl emerges from a darker space into the upper rooms of the jungle. Blurry photographs/transitions of light.” How does this sentence go into animals? Notes for an animal-human mix: “reaching and touching were the beginning actions.”” Humanimal, Bhanu Kapil.

In repetition of colours, yellows, pinks, reds, browns, blues, whites,  we have echoes of the bodies of the girls. We have touchstones of familiarity. The attempt is to find out something, not to crudely expose in the manner of a carnival. To probe the experience of being so ‘other’ but human at the same time. Overlap, blurring, membranes. If it sounds unclear, then it is – until the text is read. There is a lot going on, but the words on the page are not deliberately obscure. They are reaching to unite observation, difficult concepts, into art.  Details of malnutrition and tangled hair and troubled feeding are not concealed, smoothed away in language, but held up for examination, turned in various directions. In other places, Kapil talks about her childhood, growing up in Britain as an outsider, demarcated by her skin colour, her father’s terrible scars.  Humanimal is a short, rich book – one I hope to return to at a later time to re-visit its vivid, yearning nature.

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