Friday, 3 December 2021

Some other things

I went to a Literature Festival poetry event, mainly to hear Andrew McMillan, but came away with a copy of 'A Blood Condition' by Kayo Chingonyi. It was interesting that the ones he read were mostly 'set' in the UK, when in fact the collection reflected much more on his Zambian roots. Many are very brief, like memories encapsulated. I like this one, the word ginnel is very northern:


an interstice
a quarter tone
last known
of missing persons
the world over
From the Old English:
the coast's open maw
pointing the way
to the whale road
gap in the teeth
of a terraced street

Currently enjoying 'The Souvenir Museum' by Elizabeth McCracken, short stories to read in between other longer things.
I ordered 'The Small Backs of Children' by Lidia Yuknavitch and was very disturbed by it. It is an interesting technique where a writer does not give characters names, but identifies them by other means, in this book they are called 'the writer' 'the photographer' 'the artist' and so on. It allows you to stay a step back from their experiences. There were a lot of fucked up people in this story. I did not like it and wished I had not read it, to the extent that I was not going to mention it at all, but decided that the blog is supposed to record all my reading. I don't think I am in a place right now to cope with the darkest side of humanity in my reading. Having said that she is obviously a very well respected writer with interesting things to say.

I found 'Natural Novel' by Georgi Gospodinov in the Oxfam bookshop, where all the best European literature can be found. And who doesn't like a nice self referential storyline, where the writer himself is the main character, and he observes through the novel his own disintegration. Or something like that, I'm not sure to be honest. But a bit of experimental writing never hurt anyone. This is a quote pulled at random:

"My father's ashtray is Finnish, with a lid. It looks a bit like a cask with a single-cigarette indentation. I always liked the idea of a personal ashtray, as personal as only a toothbrush or razor can be. Some completely unfamiliar letters are engraved on the side of the ashtray (my father didn't know what they meant either). Much later, when somebody translated them for me, I was struck by their bluntness: 'Everything is ashes.'
When I smoke, I unconsciously copy my father's gestures. The energetic tapping of the index finger on the cigarette, the knit brow as you suck on it, all the concentration and importance of the gestures. The hardest thing to learn was the natural slight bending of the index and middle fingers. Mine were always artificially straight." (p.75)

Stay safe. Be kind. Read weird stuff (occasionally).

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