Thursday, 12 April 2012

Earthshaking book news!

Books bought in the week I've been on holiday: 0! Books read: many! I've turned over a new lead.

Off the top of my head:
Ben Masters, Noughties: not as good as the author thinks it is, but a decent stab at a modern campus novel. A possible replacement for Freshers on my first-year module, despite its' Oxbridge snobbery. Interesting attempt at structural and narrative trickery though I'm not convinced students are as endlessly fascinating as the book appears to believe. (Obviously my students are. Please don't firebomb my office). The sad lecturer who thinks he's cool and down with the kids was a particular favourite character. No resemblance to any persons living or dead etc. Ahem.

Jackie Kay, Trumpet. I hate jazz (except Dave Brubeck, Oscar Peterson and Chet Baker, to whom I'm listening at the moment - I know this makes me an ignorant prick, but tough), but this novel swings. It's about a dead jazzman who turns out to have been a living jazz woman. What links the two themes, I guess, is improvisation. Utterly compelling.

I've read some other books too, but these are at the forefront of my mind. I'm also part-way through another jazz novel, Jim Crace's All That Follows: I'm only 50 pages in but it's entrancingly odd so far.

Meanwhile, a pile turned up in the post while I was away:

The Faber Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry. No longer contemporary (1986) but a good collection by Paul Muldoon.
Tom Perrotta's The Leftovers: an anti-Rapture novel which follows the lives of those not taken into heaven when Jesus turns up again. I'm hoping it genuinely is satire and not covert proselytising.
Paul Durcan's new collection, Praise in Which I Live and Move and Have My Being. I don't know Durcan's work, but I liked 'A Cast-Iron Excuse', cited in its entirety in the Guardian's review:
"Sorry I cannot come to your reading tonight. / I have to go to the South Pole."
Also arrived:
another adolescent's post-apocalypse novel, After the Snow by S. D. Crockett. The current high point is Rosoff's How I Live Now because it doesn't obsessively chase plot detail (nor does The Road) and concentrates on human emotion.  This one sounds a little light on the details of life, but decent enough as an icy Bildungsroman, albeit influenced (who could avoid it?) by Riddley Walker.
Iain Banks's new one, Stonemouth. I'm going to be controversial and say that I think his recent work is pretty good. The critics constantly go on about his early work, but they've forgotten that much of the impact was the shock of the new. You can only have one first album/novel/play…
Poet Stephen Spender's own (annotated) copy of F. R. Leavis's Revaluation. I'm pretty much diametrically opposed to Leavis, but it's a fascinating read.
Sam Mills' The Quiddity of Will Self. Who could resist a comic novel which appears to be little more than a woman's sexual fantasies about the great man wrapped up in a mystery plot? Iin case you don't get the Will Self thing, here are a couple of my favourite recent appearances by the great man (his appearance on Room 101 is also a joy:

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