Saturday, December 6, 2008


An evil cold caught up with me so badly that I reread two of my favourite Georgette Heyers, Sylvester and Frederica, and they fulfilled their comfort function admirably, but as I logged them into the reading spreadsheet (yes, I am pitiful and with no life, I do keep records of what I've read), I realised that they were the first two Heyers I've read this year. Or at least, the first two I've logged, because I'm pretty sure I revisited Venetia in the summer.

Nor have I read this year my other favourite comfort writers, Eva Ibbotson and Jennifer Crusie. Playing - as you can - with my spreadsheet I see that this is a year where I've re-read a few of the books on my list, but those were professional reads, in other words, the books I have been teaching. Otherwise, this has been a year where I've read mainly new stuff, much less romance than usual, more history and biography, and the most satisfying reads have been children's fiction and classics, notably my buried treasure, which would be EM Forster's A Passage to India.

I studied APTI at university, but didn't rate it compared with Room with a View and Howard's End in particular. This time round, I have really fallen in love with the book, and that's a lovely and rare feeling, although it hasn't helped me particularly in trying to transmit its delights to a gang of somewhat baffled and overstretched seventeen year olds for whom English is a second language. Still, this time round, the symbolism, the richness of characterisation, the vividness of description, the explorations of spirit and nature have engaged me much more than the more contemporary fiction I've been reading. It's a juicy book, lush and plump, fascinating, with some lovely jokes and much carefully channeled anger. Forster excoriates his fellow Englishmen and women, deservedly so, but his eye for their follies and conceits is incredibly sharp.

Then there was Treasure Island, which really is a terrifically exciting book, very neat and delightful. My image of Long John Silver has been so frequently adjusted and warped by stage and film versions of the book that I had forgotten what a fascinating character he is and I want to see a decent remake of the film with Tom Goodman-Hill in the role, because after watching the amazing, wonderful and compulsive Devil's Whore, I would be happy to see any of the cast, but he did bring considerable comic relief to the down and dirty third episode.

Having meandered round the houses, I'm just going to end by saying that the Killers are just getting better and better. Day & Age is fabulous. This has been a good year for great discoveries - Vampire Weekend and Fleet Foxes are wonderful, but the Killers have come into their own, and while 2008 has been a tough year, at least it has had a terrific soundtrack.

No comments: