A few words about some of the books i’ve been reading recently.
Friends lent a copy of Andrew Nicoll’s The Good Mayor. This is a pleasant enough story with occasional interesting twists, and Nicoll’s style is not wholly conventional narrative in an eye-of-god manner: it is, but he frequently breaks away from conservative aspects the story line suggests it might follow. One paragraph i liked goes like this:
Human beings have an almost limitless capacity to delude themselves – a tenacious ability to deny the blindingly obvious, a heartbreakingly lovely talent for believing in something rather nicer than whatever it is that is staring them, baldly, in the face, right the way up to the clanging doors of ‘the shower block’. And what a great blessing that is. It’s what makes us write poems. It’s what makes us sing songs and paint pictures and build cathedrals. It’s the reason that Doric columns exist when a tree trunk would do the job just as well. It is a glorious, beautiful, agonising gift and it makes us human.
The release of the movie Where the Wild Things Are made me realise that while i was familiar with the cover of Sendak’s book in book shops i’d never actually read it. I’ve remedied that oversight, and it is, of course as everyone else knows, delightful – wonderfully phrased, and those phrases superbly spaced over the pages to pace with the evocative drawings in their quietly mellow colours. And i’m surprised just how long ago it was that Sendak wrote his story. To follow up i’ve now read Dave Eggers’ extended novel version of Max’s adventures based on his co-written screenplay. Have still to see the movie. Eggers’ book is ok, but Maurice Sendak takes the prize for his original.
Then there is The Book Thief. I had read about Markus Zusak’s novel but am not sure why i’d not pursued it earlier. I guess i tend to think, ‘Oh, all the stories of WWII have been written’ – but it turns out they haven’t. This is one of the unexpected ones. I like that it is told by Death: Zusak’s style and subject matter drew me in immediately and Liesel Meminger’s experiences in Nazi Germany compelled my increasingly fascinated attention. Once i’d read the last pages i found myself sitting, still, contemplating; when C walked into the room moments later i broke into sobs. He sat with me to comfort me, then confessed he’d also cried when he’d finished the book.