Further to my discovery of Backlisted Pod I followed up with a read of The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller, one of the hosts. Famed on Twitter for his skyscraper stack of books read each month which is often followed by some heated trolling about whether he has a life, or a job or a family, nevertheless his reading prowess (it's his job) is extraordinary and his choices fascinating. The Year of Reading Dangerously is about one man's attempt to up his reading game by filling in the gaps, exploring how and what we read and 'why we should make time to do so.' There's something of the mid-life-oh-my-god-I'm-almost-forty to the premise and with a sense of renewed enthusiasm and some urgency Andy sets about a chosen list of titles to read in the year. Time must be carved out of seemingly non-existent hours and it is surprising how it mounts up into a good chunk of reading time per day.
One early saviour, when the project looks doomed to failure at the second hurdle known as Middlemarch, is for Andy to set himself a set number of pages in a day. Now I'm remembering our year long read of Middlemarch on here a few years ago, when Bookhound carved a spare copy into eight equal segments to mirror the instalments that the Victorians had read and we were up and away.
If you love other people's reading journeys then this is the book for you. If you don't then I'm sure Andy Miller (who has a very self-effacing sense of humour) would say just get on and read the books you do want to read and pass this one by...except you'll miss...oh well, never mind.
I really feel I should devote a whole blog post to Spring but to be honest, much as I enjoyed reading it, I'm not sure I've really grasped the nettle and fully embraced the project. This might be sacrilege, and I may be cast out, but perhaps I should have read Autumn and Winter, the first two in this seasonal quartet first. I'm a devotee of some but not all of Ali Smith's writing and suspect this might be more about whether my reading mood is ready to be challenged by the post-post modern approach or whether it just needs a jolly good story. How clever am I feeling in other words, because I think Spring is a very clever book that requires some application. Nevertheless, returning to Backlisted Pod (who aren't sending me cheques in the post or anything, but are informing my reading a little right now) there is a brilliant episode where Andy Miller (see above, he's not sending me cheques either) reads out the first few pages and I was transfixed among my 150 dahlia seedlings in the greenhouse as I listened. If you have read Hard Times by Charles Dickens then you will get the Gradgrindian gist of Ali Smith's opening pages and perhaps proceed to relate the book to our own times.
The Heavens by Sandra Newman
Set in New York in 2000 and London in 1598 time travel is my first potential for confusion, which is not helped by the intentional incongruences...a flag has been planted on Mars, there is no war anywhere and a Green Party senator is about to become the first female president of the United States.
Kate seems to live both in the present and via her dreams in the past, frequently 'waking' as Emilia, 'the mistress of a nobleman and surrounded by the plague. My recent plague and pestilence affinity helped, as did the occasional location of Nonsuch Palace for the action. The Palace long gone but replaced by a girls' school in the 1930s, and of course my alma mater in the 1960s. I'm not sure we gave much thought to the fact that Henry VIII might have galloped over our hockey pitch, but anyway the slightest mention in any book and I'm right back there bullying off.
It is certainly a story of love and madness and I begged my Reading Friend to read it too (especially given her workaday psychiatric experience) in the hope that we might figure it out between us. To be honest we didn't so if you have read The Heavens and have some thoughts to offer about this, or any of the other books, please do.
Meanwhile, what have you all been reading?
Let’s have ourselves a list of good suggestions for the summer holidays....