Now I am on holiday from work, I have lots of lovely time for reading, unfortunately I also have more time for tweeting, blogging and book buying – which all have had rather unfortunate affects upon the amount I have actually read. Since I finished school for the summer on the 18th July I have read: four novels, a novella and a couple of short stories – so I am doing ok.
Last week of course saw the announcement of The Man Booker long-list – this caused much debate/criticism on Twitter and various other book blogs – I couldn’t help but be influenced. I downloaded two of the long-list to my kindle – Siri Hustvedt’s ‘The Blazing World’ – which I rather love the sound of and ‘We are all Completely Beside Ourselves’, by Karen Joy Fowler, who I have never read before and was maybe surprised to see on the list. Now bearing in mind I still have one of last year’s long-listed novels on my kindle tbr – I can’t promise I will read them before the prize is announced – but at the time of writing I am thinking of reading The Blazing World next.
On Thursday this week, I am intending to go along to a new local book group. Well I say local, if a fifteen minute walk followed by a twenty minute bus ride is local – but I can get there. The group, which I stumbled upon on Twitter, meet in a wine bar in an area of Birmingham where I used to live ten or eleven years ago – and a friend of mine already goes. The book they were reading for this meeting was ‘A Girl is a Half Formed Thing’ which won this year’s Bailey’s Women’s Prize for fiction.
Reading ‘A Girl is a Half Formed Thing’ – review tomorrow – was quite an experience. It made me wonder about the rise of so called experimental fiction. There seem to be a number of writers who want to play around with form, structure and grammar conventions. I suppose every art form needs its experimenters, who push the boundaries and make people think. The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth is another Booker long-listed work – and a little look inside it via Amazon’s little magical thing – shows it to be another work which plays with language – in this case using a form of old English to tell the story set in the decade following the Battle of Hastings. Last year’s Booker winner of course was The Luminaries – another novel which experiments a little with form. I loved The Luminaries, but I didn’t really think the mathematically worked out astrologically based structure added anything to the story. I am not saying writers shouldn’t play with language and structure, novel writing is an art form, and like any other it will move and change along with the world in which it is written – but goodness it can be hard work. I finished ‘A Girl is a Half Formed Thing’ on Saturday morning with something of a sour look on my face I suspect – although there were things I admired about it. Honestly it made me go running and screaming back to an old book as with some relief I pulled an old 1930’s Susan Glaspell novel from the shelf, which had only just arrived from ebay.
Nevertheless I am looking forward to the book group – it’s only the second book group I have attended – the other one I went to for a few months but I lost patience with the choices, I am hoping I don’t feel the same about this one. I don’t mind being probed to read things a little outside of my comfort zone – and last time I did read a couple of things that surprised me. Anyway ‘A Girl is a Half Formed Thing’ will certainly make for an interesting discussion.