I did a bit of reading over the holidays: The Complete Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby (a highly enjoyable read for booklovers), Holidays on Ice and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris (both of which were sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignant, always wonderful – in true Sedaris style – although Me Talk Pretty One Day is still my favourite of his books), Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt (OH MY GOODNESS I WILL NEVER COMPLAIN ABOUT ANYTHING EVER AGAIN), True Stories by Helen Garner (I now plan to read everything Garner’s ever written in the hope that I will somehow absorb some of her talent; she’s brilliant. I’m completely smitten), and 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker (a book-long exploration of the kinds of things I was thinking through in these posts. This book was another wake-up call, and I intend to study it more closely and slowly with a friend this year**). I also read How to be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson, which I couldn’t help but review more lengthily.
Perhaps I had issues with this book because I read it at the wrong time: a summer holiday is probably the least appropriate time for a lecture on the perks of slowing down and doing less. The book started well, pointing back to the Industrial Revolution as the starting point for our now overly-busy lives; where once people would work just enough to pay for their daily needs before resting for the remainder of their time, now we’re all about working more and more so that we can earn more and more so that we can buy more and more. We don’t think twice about walking while eating or waking ourselves up artificially with caffeine or taking medication when we have a cold so that we can Soldier On (ugh, I HATE this Codral slogan) and be constantly productive and efficient in order to keep The Man happy. Tom Hodgkinson doesn’t quote Empire Records (he chooses poets and Chinese philosophers instead), but they end up saying the same thing: DAMN THE MAN!
So far, so good. But then at some point, it lost me. By the end I was picking it up each time with a sigh and a loud, “When will this book be OVER?!”, which is never a good sign. Throughout the last chapters, I was so bored I could only read a few paragraphs before drifting off to sleep (“Mission accomplished!” cries the author). There are LOTS of chapters, many of which cover the same kinds of topics and seem to be more of an argument for Tom Hodgkinson’s ideal life than for a truly idle life – there was a chapter on sex which had such a tenuous link to idleness that I got the impression that Hodgkinson lost his way during the writing of this book and rather than JUST ENDING IT, decided to continue by talking at length about other random things he happens to like (beer, pubs, moonlight, etc.). In the end, what could have been a tight argument ended up untidy and unconvincing (if you’re such a fan of sleep, Mr Hodgkinson, then why stay up until 5am?!), which was disappointing because I think this is a discussion that our culture could learn a lot from.
I’ve just noticed that all of the books were non-fiction! I still compare all fiction I read to We Need to Talk About Kevin; I’m terrified I’ll never read another novel quite as good again. I did read the prologue and a small section of Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin this holidays, but couldn’t match my husband’s enthusiasm for the book (he fell in love with it instantly); I was surprisingly blasé about getting married, considering it’s the length of this five-book series that’s turned me off (seriously, they’re BIG books, with TINY writing). That and the fact that I DON’T ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND ANY OF IT, so it takes me a week to get through each page.
I’ve no idea how much reading I’ll be doing this year, so this may be my last book-related post for a while. I still haven’t worked out whether to attempt Anna Karenina or just see it when it comes out at the movies. But what if it’s the novel that knocks Kevin off my Best-of-All-Time list?! I can’t have read my last best novel! I’m tooooooooo youuuuuuung!
In other news, I seem to have completely forgotten how to end blog posts.
* Thanks to Justine Clarke, my life is now like a giant musical.
** Though I’ve skimmed over a review, I LOVED this book, and you should DEFINITELY read it.