May is one of the nicest months of the year, when the weather is good. The trouble is that I have divided loyalties this month. I enjoy the pottering around in the garden and this incredible freedom I suddenly have not being required to sit behind my computer or in meetings all day. At times I pinch myself as I just cannot believe that the sometimes stressful demands have gone forever.
I now juggle various different activities, keeping my garden in shape (for the first time in my life), writing and editing my next novel, editing some of my short stories that have been languishing in my drawers for so long and which one of my tutors at the Advanced Creative Writing course deemed to be ‘readily publishable’, and of course reading all these wonderful books, lists of them, and then reviewing them for my blog.
I was struck by a comment made by Philip Roth, who announced his literary retirement last week in an interview with Robert McCrum in The Guardian: “I believe that we should read only those books that bite and sting us. If a book we’re reading does not rouse us with a blow to the head, then why read it?”
He is so right of course, life is too short and there are too many books to read to be bothered with the sense that one “has to read this book”. So I’ve decided that for the time I’ve got left I will stick to this resolve that I made years and years ago, in a similar vein to Roth’s comment, that I will not persevere with books that I don’t like, or that simply don’t grab me for whatever reason.
This means that I have stopped reading a couple of books that I started or that I downloaded on my Kindle ‘for future reading’. I’m not going to say which ones, because I also think that reading is a very personal affair. The books I like may very well be books that someone else loves. For example I’m not a great fan of sci fi whereas others love them and so having stopped reading them doesn’t mean that they’re not well written!
I’ve finished rereading Boyd’s Any Human Heart, for the third time, and still love it as much as I did when I read it for the first time.
A friend of mine handed me Kamila Shamsie’s Burnt Shadows and this is one of the most tantalising books I’ve read for a long time. It is beautifully written and very moving. I’ll write a review for this shortly. It was shortlisted for the 2009 Orange Prize for fiction but I completely missed it at the time.
And now I’m going back to my own “Notes on Anna’, which needs a lot of editing before it can be published.