It’s not culled from the world of nature but what I’m reading at the moment, which I wished I’d saved for a sylvan glade somewhere, is ‘How I Escaped My Certain Fate’ (Faber & Faber) by the comedian Stewart Lee. Ostensibly, it’s but three transcriptions of Lee’s stand-up routines from the past ten years, in a book, for £12.99. A shocking liberty, you might think. But Lee, the 21st Century comic master of pause, intellectual zig zag and theoretical sally, has bolstered these baggy-pants photostats with profound forewords, self-mocking footnotes and painfully honest asides, resulting in a brutally funny masterpiece of Brechtian autobiography. I kid you not.
I’m also working my way through the novels of Charles Portis; another leafy meadow of perfect prose.
‘Ordinary Thunderstorm’ by William Boyd. What a pleasure to read a gripping, suspense-driven novel that is both well written and believable. For me the description of the Thames in all its diurnal and rhythmic changes were a delight; observational based writing that rung true, and then acted as the backdrop and stage for the central characters’ habits and habitats in the book. A novel to be re-read and re-interpreted full of metaphor and nuances but also nail-bitingly gripping. And I’m about to get stuck into ‘The Lacuna’ by the great Barbara Kingsolver on Caroline’s recommendation – “a tremendous read” about the extraordinary lives of the Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera and all their craziness.
I usually read (re-read) Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. His novel, The Leopard has been described by L P Hartley as ‘Perhaps the greatest novel of the century’ (20th.of course) I love reading it for Lampedusa’s poetic prose. It’s the story of the decline of a traditional way of life in Sicily, with a large cast of characters existing at the cutting edge of a revolution. I’m also planning to read Richmal Crompton’s ‘Just William’ books. Several have recently been re-issued by Macmillan, but to find out why I have gone for William you will have to read Frank Cottrell Boyce’s foreword to William the Fourth. Best wishes to all for many happy hours of reading during the summer.