Posted by: Corri van de Stege | July 13, 2008

The Sunday Salon – still grey, but it’s stopped raining….

The Sunday Salon – 13 July 2008

 It is curious how the books you read at any one time influence your own writing and your approach to writing.  I picked up Anne Enright’s The Gathering at the beginning of the week from the pile of books that’s currently on my desk, all tbr.  I don’t know how or when I expect to get through them all, but anyway, I picked up Anne Enright and found myself enthralled as well as slightly, what? , disliking it?, overwhelmed?, irritated?, wanting it to be over with but unable to put it down?  All of those things really, the speed of her writing, the sentences that seem to crawl one into the other and then take off again at high speed so that you cannot keep up and have to go back and reread because you did not quite get what it was that was being revealed, described, hinted at.  Yes, it’s a very dense book, the subject area one that is highly in fashion especially when it’s about large Irish (and catholic) families, but this story seems to be related in a slightly different tone, more rebellious, angry, giving us the technique of good writing as well.  And then you feel you are being carried away with it and yes, you do want to know why she is so angry, this woman, this child of a family of 12 and 7 miscarriages and then you realise that she does not realise herself until she gets to the end of the story and knows what happened to her brother, who is now dead.  So, one of those books that you want to read, if only for its capability and mastery of this angry and urgent style of telling a story, without becoming soppy or sentimental. 

Reading this compelled me to get on with my own writing, with my own stories so from that point of view it was helpful, if slightly intimidating.  I ended up writing the beginning of another short story and some extra paragraphs here and there to my main project.

So what will I read today and the rest of the week?  There are the papers of course, and I love going through the book reviews, the short stories, the odd poem that I find there.  Following on from my reference to mslexia and its article on e-books, Nick Hornby in the News Review provides his verdict on e-books under the title ‘I’ll never be caught reading an e-book.  It is, he says ‘attempting to sell people something for £400 that merely enables them to read something that they won’t buy at one hundredth of the price’  and this ‘seems to me a thankless task.’  There you have it, ‘the truth is that people don’t like reading books much anyway: a 2004 survey of 2,000 adults found that 34% did not read books at all.’  There’s a sobering thought!  Nick Hornby’s article can also be found on his blog at

I must pick up a book that is easy to carry around as I will be on the road again next week, two days in Wales and two days in London so I will carry my memory stick to plug into the laptop if and when and perhaps a book of short stories for the nights in the hotel, or one of the novels on my tbr shelf.  Last night I picked up Breath by Tim Winton and could not stop reading until well after 12, burning the midnight oil.  It is as breathtaking as reviewers have promised and will take me nicely though today.



  1. I know what you mean about what you read influencing your writing. I didn’t even dare trying to write while reading Austen.

    I don’t like reading e-books, either, though for different reasons than Hornby. I need something real and tangible in my hands, preferably with a cover, to take it seriously as a book. That may make me in line to be obsolete, but that’s just the way I feel.

    And those statistics of non-readers never fail to disgust me. How can you live in a world where such treasures as books exists and not read? Ugh! It’s like starving to death when your house is furnished with gold bars.

  2. I felt the same way about Enright’s book when I read it earlier this year. Is it possible to dislike a book and love it at the same time? That’s how I felt about it. The story was tough, but the writing was amazing.

  3. I look forward to reading the Hornby article here later today when I take a break from my reading and blogging. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Thanks for sharing the Nick Hornby link.

  5. I’m sorry to say I’ll be absent from the island for a full week, so I’m afraid I won’t be able to comment on your excellent posts for that time.

  6. The Gathering is such an odd book, isn’t it? I had much the same love/hate relationship with it that you describe.

    I know I wouldn’t enjoy reading e-books. I’m much too tactile – I love the feeling of holding the book in my hand and turning the pages. But I’m frightened at the thought that only 34% of the population likes to read!

  7. The Gathering is not an easily likable book. I read it while I was taking a semi-holiday/interviewing in Hong Kong. I made very little progress of the book because I often had to go back and re-read those sentences that seemed to have crawl into one another and went off the tangent. I did not like the feeling that I have missed some of the details and only to realized that 50 pages later. Her writing is very emotionally detached but I do have to give her credit as a good story teller.

  8. I started The Gathering over the weekend and I am not sure yet I like it because it is so detached. I find myself able to read only a bit at a time before the atmosphere and the writing get to me. On the other hand, I don’t want to put the book away either. I hope once I have finished the book I will be able to specify these remarks, because right now I can’t really put my finger on why I feel the way I do about the book.

    I hope you will write a review here once you have finished it, I am very much looking forward to what you have to say.

  9. the koolaidmom: yes, there’s something essential and physical about holding a book, turning the pages and scribble all over it if the mood takes you. You just couldn’t do that with e-books, could you?

    wendy: perhaps it’s one of those books you have to read again in order to really appreciate it? Mind you, by the time I finished it I actually liked it!

    unfinished person: enjoy!

    Anni: glad it’s useful.

    Jose: I’ll miss you around: I hope it’s for pleasure, you being away? xx

    Ravenous reader: yes, if only that 66% realised what they’re missing, they’d be into bookshops and libraries like a shot!

    Matthew: absolutely, you can almost hear her speak in a very urgent way, a bit like Julie Walters?

    Myrthe: persevere, it’s worth it! I’ll try and get round to writing those reviews…

  10. I was out of town last week and when I came home, my copy of THE GATHERING had arrived. I’ve been looking forward to this one, and you’ve got me even more eager to start it.

    On the e-readers; I’ve got a Kindle and although I don’t use it much (unless I’m traveling and really don’t want to lug a huge number of books along), it’s got some advantages. It could never replace my “real” books, but it’s a nice complement.

  11. Lisa: well, I’ve just come back from Wales, which is almost like a retreat, only it was work! Enjoy The Gathering, I am working up a review. and e-readers and Kindles, yes, the touchy feely tangibleness of books just cannot be replaced by a ‘gadget’, can it?

  12. […] couple of weeks ago I mentioned Nick Hornby’s comments on the i-Liad (the e-reader)   .  Today’s Observer (The review section) has some more on this: I have read the […]

  13. […] Laura at Musings Jill at The Magic Lasso Michelle at 1 More Chapter Wendy at Caribousmom 51Stories […]

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