Random Bookish Thoughts – 19 October

In the complete absence of any new reviews for the past few weeks, a selection of random, tangentially-book-related musings.

What I’ve been reading

Although I haven’t been writing reviews, I’m on holiday in northern California this week and last week, so I have been reading. After finishing Vanity Fair at the beginning of October, I rewarded myself with the new Salman Rushdie (raced through whilst on trains; I don’t know why, but Rushdie’s stories seem to lend themselves to movement). Then I read a couple of Meg Wolitzer’s earlier novels, having read The Interestings last year and liked it. I think she is getting better with age; The Interestings was better than either The Wife or The Uncoupling.

I also raced through Villa America by Liza Klaussmann; I’ll read pretty much anything based in the Jazz Age. The standout read of the month for me so far, though, is The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant. It charts the story of a woman’s life, from the dawn of the 20th century until she turns 85, and I found it utterly addictive – especially after being a little bit disappointed by Sweet Caress by William Boyd, which was (nominally) along the same lines. I know I’m horribly behind with book reviews, but I’ll post a proper review of this one soon (or soonish, anyway).

Books about authors

I like reading about authors almost as much as people seem to like writing about them. I didn’t notice at first, but there’s been a definite authorly trend in this month’s reading matter. ‘The Wife’ featured a celebrated novelist, and Villa America was studded with the literary stars of the 1920s. I’ve now embarked upon Sophie and the Sibyl, by Patricia Duncker, which features George Eliot as one of the main characters and the ‘Sibyl’ of the title.

Nick Hornby doesn’t like the fact that there are so many novels about writers and writing. In one of his Believer articles (which have been published in two books, The Complete Polysyllabic Spree and Stuff I’ve Been Reading, both of which are very worthwhile for any book nut), he wonders aloud (well, on paper) whether it’s this that is turning reading into such a minority activity – i.e., to read a new novel, you have to have a passing knowledge of every novel that’s gone before. (I haven’t read it for a while, so I may be misquoting, but I think that’s the thrust of his argument.) I’m not sure I agree; I think if a novel is written well, then it should stand on its own, whatever the subject matter. Entirely subjectively, I love reading about authors for any number of reasons: because I grew up wanting to be one, because it helps me to get to know the text, and in some cases simply because they had the most fascinating, glitzy, disastrous lives (yes, Fitzgeralds, I’m looking at you) and I’m a terrible gossip.

The Classics Club Women’s Classic Literature Event

I recently reposted the starter post for this, and I think it’s a fantastic idea. I’ll be scanning down my Classics Club list for the books to bump up to next year, and perhaps adding a couple of new titles as well, including The Yellow Wallpaper as suggested by the fabulous thepocobookreader . Look out for a proper starter post, again let’s say ‘soonish’.

Right, I’m going to go and read for an hour in the California sunshine before starting the day’s adventures. Hope everyone has a great week!

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