I don’t really like fish but I am much looking forward to Andrew Grieg’s account of ghost casting for the great poet Norman MacCaig, At the Loch of the Green Corrie. I am not much of a mountain-man either but will certainly read Jim Perrin’s West, the climbing writer’s memoir. The good news is that, on first glance, it has more sex in it than rocks. Richard Mabey is producing at least a book a year at the moment, his next could well be right up there with his best – Weeds promises to be a passionate manifesto for the marginal, overlooked and under-loved. On the back burner, two brilliant long poems slow cooking to perfection: David Jones’s In Parenthesis of 1937, a poem that beautifully annotates all the breakages of the First World War; and a dazzling discovery (for me), Ronald Johnson’s The Book of the Green Man. A poem published in 1967, the same year as The Peregrine by J. A. Baker and as essential and equally weird.
My summer reading falls into two camps: unbearably sad, muggy books about melancholy women (not me, Sir), or trashy, sweaty, gobble-me-up racy paperbacks. Last month, I read Jean Rhys’ incredible Good Morning, Midnight, about a sad woman in Paris, alone and adrift. It was perfect – one of those books which burrows into the darkest bits of the mind and the marrow, and to which the lack of any strong plot is no real obstacle. Still, the way her secrets emerged through the murk of her life reminded me how subtle writing can be properly heartbreaking. Then, for reasons of work as well as escapism, I doused myself in Louise Bagshawe’s Desire, a gung-ho romp about a bride falsely accused of murdering her husband on her wedding night, which makes little sense but is all the better for it. A short, sharp shock of daftness after a long wallow in melancholy – a fizzy lager-top after a strong gin and tonic – is what summer often needs.