Friday, 28 January 2011

reading in 2011

This blog is going to remain structureless for a bit longer yet, though hopefully as I get some more writing done and maybe publish some articles over the next few months (my new job could come in handy with that) I will start to make this something more professional, a little advert for myself and my services and all that. Whoever's reading this, and someone must be reading this right now, you who are reading this right now - it's the tree falling in the woods thing, isn't it - I apologise for the messiness, the lack of any contribution to your life and mind, etc etc etc, also I hope you've enjoyed it so far...

Anyway, it occurred to me I might get some writing practise by writing about books, or something. I'm not going to start this properly yet, I'm just going to ramble a bit. But it's going to be great anyway, so if you've read this far I reckon you should read a bit further. Come on pal. I'm getting all if on a winter's night a traveller on your ass... which brings me to my next point:

Unlike a lot of my fellow students, particularly fellow English students, I managed to read a lot during my degree. a lot of people I knew found that reading had become 'work' and no longer found it enjoyable; conversely, my constant sensations of guilt have always been assuaged by the fact that I consider reading to be, somehow, a kind of work. So I read as much as possible. I don't feel guilty when I read, even though I enjoy it so much. I feel guilty doing many things which I think aren't really worth feeling guilty about - watching tv, sleeping, eating (especially at night, but pretty much all the time), spending money (especially on the internet, but pretty much anywhere else as well), taking long showers and baths, using moisturiser, playing the piano or guitar on my own, etc etc etc. Reading, listening to music, playing music with others, walking out of doors, cycling anywhere, dancing, having sex, running, cooking, fixing things or building things: these are all things I enjoy a great deal, but don't feel guilty about. They've retained something wholesome; an aspect of them is 'work', and rather than detracting from the pleasure they give me, this increases it.

Yeah, there's something sick and a bit puritan work ethic about that, but there's also a positive element. To quote Wilhelm Reich, someone I've been reading recently:

Love, work, and knowledge are the wellsprings of life; they should also govern it

So, in a good way, I felt that at university. I tried to let love, work and knowledge act as positive, governing forces in my life. And reading was an example of that. So I read a lot.

As a result, 2010 - half of which was spent finishing my degree - had the best of all possible reading worlds. And a lot of what I read I now consider to be highly important to me. Chuang Tzu, the Manyoshu poetry, Akiko Yosana's poetry, Kerouac's Big Sur, all of Raymond Chandler (except Playback, which doesn't look worthwhile to me), Philip K Dick's Valis and The Man in the High Castle, Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker, Allegro's little book on the dead sea scrolls (before he turned into an immense theological shroom head!), lots of Richard Brautigan, Petrarch's Canzoniere... there are a lot of books, many more than that of course, a year's worth but a good year's worth. It was a good year for books. I even got through things I wasn't sure of, but I'm pretty sure were still worthwhile (R D Laing, Salman Rushdie, Kazuo Ishiguro, that sort of thing). And I ended the year on a high - Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveller, truly amazing; Wyndham's Midwich Cuckoos, followed by his slightly-trashy-but-with-incredible-moments rediscovered novel Plan for Chaos, Dante's Divine Comedy (which I haven't finished; I'm stuck halfway through Paradiso, symbolically enough) and Vita Nouvo; these were among several things I got through in December, but these are the ones that stood out. I don't know if any of it means anything. I just wanted to look back on it. I wonder what about me has changed.

So far this year I've only read two novels, Quentin S. Crisp's astonishing Remember You're A One-Ball!, Atwood's The Year of the Flood. I've dipped into some other things, of course; some of Petrarch's prose, and Hodges' Turing biography (I'm about halfway through, BUT IT'S SO LONG AND DIFFICULT), Wilhelm Reich's Mass Psychology of Fascism (among various works on fascism I've been reading lately; stylewise, Reich's is certainly the most interesting, if perhaps not too informative [its history, if not its thinking, feels a little bit far in the past considering the contemporariness of the issue, but then it was written in the 30's]), Deneslow's book on political pop music (When The Music's Over), and some other things I've no doubt forgotten. The plan is, for all of 2011, to write up something about every single book I read. Starting tomorrow, maybe?

If you actually read this far, I genuinely feel sorry for you.


  1. how have you read two novels already? it's not even autumn yet. you're weird. this is like the longest thing i've read since this one time there was a power cut and it was cold outside, and even then it just felt like a novelty activty.

  2. you're unstoppable. respect.