So, LP Hartley, Graham Greene, Guy de Maupassant and Ammianus Marcellinus go into a pub one night to discuss which Tim Robson article, short story, or er, novel, they like best.
LPH: I like his early stuff. It's different - almost a different country.
GG: Bollocks mates, I love all of it. As a writer, I measure my love by the extent of my jealousy. And I'm really jealous of Tim.
GdM: J'aime ses articles francais.
GG: In English mate.
GdM: I love it when he swears a lot and talks about getting pissed and failing with girls.
AM: Rather reminds me of a young Julian.
LPH: No Spear of Destiny in this one I'm afraid.
GG: What? The shite 80's band?
AM: No. Anyway, I like his stuff about the 4th Century Roman Empire.
GdM: Talking your own book again?
Etc etc. Yes, I used to write like this once. When I edited the school magazine. Well, sans les filles, something had to amuse me.
So this rather long preamble is my annoying way to mention that I've started to read again. As a literary autodidact I range freely within self imposed barriers. I'm not really a fan of the latest literature - maybe because I want to read what history has determined is worth reading rather follow the latest trend. Classics, in fact. And yes, I also distrust gatekeepers (in life, in knowledge) but I'll let this pass. The judgement of history - over time - tends to be validated.
So, recently I've been reading:-
- LP Hartley - The Go-Between
- Graham Greene - The End of the Affair
- Guy de Maupassant - Bel Ami
- Ammianus - Roman History
Three fiction and one non fiction which is a pretty good balance, I think. For too long I've been reading history, history, history so it's nice to refresh my love of literature. I devour these books with the eye of a writer; hoarding phrases, constructions, unusual words for later adaption and use myself. Yeah, I borrow from the best. If I'm struck by a phrase, I'll write it down and try to adapt it for my needs. The Bible's good for this too! I'm not proud.
And where do I get this treasure trove of endless literature?
Battersea Library, Lavender Hill. Yeah, unfashionable and dusty, the good old library. Like a good bookshop, I go in with no preconceptions and end up borrowing something I didn't intend. That's the beauty of it - challenging myself to read new authors, new books and push beyond quotidian Hardy, Austin, Balzac, Wilde, Zola (fuck, I'm well read!).
Libraries. Another great 19th Century invention along with the Rochdale co-operative movement. Self help. Knowledge. Confronting the world as it is not as it should be. One hundred and fifty years ago I would have been a Radical Liberal or a Socialist.
I don't preach. But a house with books is better than a house with a large TV. I stick with this prejudice though often it hurts. Rousseau beats Hobbes every time. Eventually.