Friday, 30 December 2011
the cake tin
is that place you look in and there's only good things inside, things that for whatever reason conjure up the word yum or its many synonyms.
so, good things about this year. it was a good years for cycling books, indeed the first book i read last january was tomorrow we ride by jean bobet which set me up good style. david miller's racing thru the dark is another worth reading if only to see how he slides ever so easily into drug use a process he makes a whole lot more difficult than it would've been for the likes of me. you want me to ride how far? can i have some drugs please? how i won the yellow jumper by ned boulting is enjoyable fluff for the cyclist in your life and, should that cyclist be the type who pores over maps looking for that great journey that he (and let's face it's almost always a he) deep down knows he's never going to make then one man and his bike by mike carter is worth a look.
all of which is my way of avoiding the topic of uk fiction which was no more inspiring than it was last year. indeed the high point of that might have been the culture show's alternate booker selection process tat they do up the road in comrie had it not been for a.s. byatt with whom i spent a sleepless night reading babel tower while avoiding the cataclysmic snorer i was supposed to be sharing a room with. i'd recently read john fowles' daniel martin with which their makes a rather interesting pendant with byatt coming out on top. maybe, it could be argued because fowles' book and its protagonist is very much of its time but for me byatt trod similarish ground to greater effect.
by way of the comrie lot i read the sisters brothers by patrick de witt which i rather liked and jamrach's menagerie by carol birch which i wanted to like rather more than i did. both are worth a shot especially if you've got one of those days where you've got nothing better to do going on. i did a bit of kazuo ishiguro courtesy of nocturnes and liked it and i was more than happy to read robert alan jamieson's da haapie land.
i could've gone down the moby dick route again seeing as how i'm happily ensconced in close reading it again while parallel reading the utterly superb thing that is matt kish's moby dick in pictures. this last fits into no comfortable genre which, kind of like moby dick itself, is the way it should be. currently i'm thinking i really need to go back and watch the wrath of khan as it's even more closely tied to the moby dick story than i'd previously suspected.
in the end i feared i might have to be going for another graphic novel this year courtesy of bryan talbot's grandville follow up or canales and guarnido's hardboiled delight blacksad and those before i even get started on shaun tan. actually shaun tan gets it by a country mile just for the drawing! but seeing as it's my favourite fiction it'll be a toss up between bernard schlink's the weekend and manuel rivas' the carpenter's pencil. i'd like to say something kind of literary about either of these but, despite shlink's the reader being wildly more popular (possibly because of a british readerships crazy fascination for anything from 'the war') the weekend felt like something much more contemporary and something i can ask the local german's about. plus it was one of those rainy afternoons and it did the trick nicely. as for the carpenter's pencil i got that in foyle's while i was down in london - they were offering a free pencil with pencil themed books! - and i lost myself nicely in it while i was on the train. what can i tell you!
actually i'll change my mind then. fiction book of the year was effi briest by theodor fontaine in part because i'd never heard of it before i read it and also because it's just the sort of book i'd have loved when i was studying. if you liked emma bovary's shenanigans then you'll like this.
(or, as i did while writing this re-read revolutionary road by richard yates. maybe the film version is good - i can't watch it - because ethe book is so well realised that well, why would you?)
onto non-fiction then, of which i read much more and choosing one out of that lot is a much trickier business. a high bar was immediately set by sarah bakewell's how to live: a life of montaigne which, while not being better than actually reading montaigne, is a great way to get into it, feel your way round the different versions and get a view of the life and times of the man.
a different way to live came out in patrick barkham's the butterfly isles in which the author relives some of his times with his dad by trying to get out and see all the native species of butterfly in the british isles in a season while at the same time not realising his home life is heading into rocky waters. it's grand on the lepidoptera tho and it's courtesy of this book i could manage to spot most of the common scottish butterflies from the bike.
a. s. byatt pops up again with he ragnarock another addition in the canon gate myths series and possibly my favourite of them. a real need to read for anyone who's a fan of or, like me, was brought up with norse legends not only does she look at the myth proper byatt style but relates that to her first readings of it as a child. great stuff.
top of the non-fiction tree tho is andrew greig's at the loch of the green corrie. in normal circumstances greig's one of those folk i can take or leave depending on my mood so i ended up getting this when waterstone's were still doing their three for two thing. now i could tell you it's about greig's relationship with norman maccaig and maccaig's poetry. or i could tell you it's about flyfishing. either of those is true but it's about way more than that. i was glued to this from cover to cover. buy it, maybe along with a maccaig selected, and get yourself along to some wee loch or other, sit in the sun and read it. it's brilliant!