Saturday, 19 February 2011

Books of 2011, so far

I'm away for a few days with the family to wander around Brixham and read some more. I love to read on holiday. I've done okay on the book front so far this year though and neglected to blog accordingly.

So far it's been:

One Day - David Nicholls 9/10
Winner of the Galaxy chocolate book of 2010 or something but don't be put off by it's popularity to a mass market, it's great. Two students get together on the night of their graduation and the book devotes a chapter to each subsequent anniversary of that date. An easy read but Jonathan Coe likes it too, so it must be intelligent as well.

Last Night In Twisted River - John Irving 9/10
I'm a sucker for Irving, Owen Meaney being an all-time fave. This is him doing what he does so well, again. Echoes of Owen Meaney too in the bizarre death of a mother-figure. The rest of the novel deals with the consequences of a father and son as they go into hiding over it. And, of course, there are bears and wrestlers and writers in this book too.

The Fry Chronicles - Stephen Fry 5/10
Bit disappointed in this. After a while his constant apologising for his background and being miserable about himself get a bit wearing. And I suspect that the interesting stuff about his manic depression is missing - unless it started after this period in his life. Went to two lectures at Cambridge all the time he was there apparently. No wonder he missed out on his first. Ending rather infuriating, mentions a cocaine habit and then tells us we have to wait until the next book for that story.

Preachers, Keep Yourself From Idols - Derek Tidball 6/10
And now for something completely different. This is a month old, from IVP. Thought it would be good to read about the traps preachers can fall into and one or two of the chapters were rather fine. Overall not so great though.

It's Only A Movie - Mark Kermode 4/10
Another autobiography - of sorts. I guess it was a bit specialised for my tastes in terms of some of the films he obsesses over. Some unpleasant stuff on censorship and what is okay to watch - we'd disagree on some of those things but I've never been into horror at all. Don't really get on with his writing style either, all a bit too overblown for me.

As these have been read in the order they appear here, you can see that I need to up my game!

PS - John Irving's book had a fascinating note at the end on how he writes his books. He cannot start to write, he says, until he knows the last sentence. And that last sentence doesn't change in the rest of the process.

From the last sentence he works out a plan to find out how the story comes to that end point. He maps it out to work out a beginning and the characters and where everthing fits. This takes him 12-18 months. Only then does he sit down and write the thing. It took him three years to write "Last Night on Twisted River" once he had his road map in place - which he says is fast for him. Having the germ of the story in his head for twenty years helped him write 'so fast'.

For this reason and for so many others, I will never write a novel!

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