The summer so far has been spent with poetry from Simon Armitage (Seeing Stars) and as ever, Wallace Stevens’ Collected Poems, which I hope I never tire of. I am also half way through Hunger by Knut Hamsun, which has been on my list of books to read for an age, and is so far living up to all expectations, and also providing some much needed perspective on my own financial concerns – as anyone who has met me will attest, I am anything but starving to death..!
This summer I am going to be reading Waterlog by Roger Deakin. Thanks to Jeff and all at CBTR I have discovered so many new writers, books and music that I have felt the need to read and listen to. Waterlog is one of them. Deakin wanted to go on a big swim throughout the British Isles exploring long lost swimming holes and stretches of river and sea. From what I have read so far this is a brilliant device he uses to travel and explore our land and waterways as he stops and surveys our worlds of today and yesterday. Littered with anecdotes, history and chance encounters, it is a book that examines our culture, our heritage, our country and our people, and paints a unique portrait of Britain.
I also discovered Charlotte Paton’s “The King of the Norfolk Poachers”, the biography of Frederick Rolfe (1862-1938). He was the star of the 1935 rural classic, “I Walked by Night, Being the Philosophy of the King of the Norfolk Poachers” by L. Rider Haggard, who adapted Rolfe’s diaries into this bestselling study of rural life at the turn of the last century. This biography examines the man and his life behind the diaries.
For a novel I recommend The Devil’s Paintbrush by Jake Arnott. Aleister Crowley, Paris, and the occult should make a page-turner.
Although it may be more than likely ineligible for Waterstones’ bestseller chart, this summer I’m going to be catching up on a few issues of National Geographic – I’ve been eyeing a number of those distinctive yellow spines on my bedside table for a couple of weeks now and frankly the time has come.
Once solely the preserve of the bearded geology teacher, National Geographic now markets itself to a different sort of reader (what few adverts there are tend to be for $2000 watches), and just flicking through a couple of recent issues you can see the content is diverse enough to cover everything from Mexican drug gangs to studies of the lavish decorative habits of Bower birds in Australia. Well worth stumping up a few quid for if you’re taking a long train ride (and the photography is reliably great).
On a more low-brow level, I’ve also been reading Justin Halpern’s “Sh*t my Dad Says” – the story behind (and the best bits from) the Twitter page (http://twitter.com/Shitmydadsays ) of the same name. Although really just a set of anecdotes and quotes from the author’s father, it’s fantastically funny. Justin’s dad is intelligent but foul-mouthed, and he loves his family, but he still points a loaded shotgun at his sister-in-law (whilst he lies naked, sniper-style, in the hallway under the cover of darkness), and encourages his sons with such nuggets as – (on learning Justin has taken a cook’s job at the local Hooters): “You my good man, are not as dumb as I first fucking suspected”. Comic gold.