Well, it’s been quiet on here as the Family Robinson have been away on holiday – having fun to put the thought of this next week’s A Level and GCSE results out of our minds. Well, that’s what my wife and I were doing, not sure about the kids…
Anyway, after a day and a half of dealing with the things marked urgent, I thought I’d relax for a few minutes and create Arts Counselling’s first ‘annual feature’ and share with you my holiday reading.
The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland – entertaining tale told in epistolary and note form with an novel-within-a-novel that did make me laugh out loud, and then go back to rewatch Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Read this and you’ll never go into Staples without thinking of it.
The Great Lover by Jill Dawson. Beautifully imagined story of the poet Rupert Brooke and a housemaid. The facts of Brooke’s youth and artistic circle are seamlessly woven into a picture switching between Brooke and the maid – who becomes so real you think she must have been a real person too. (Arts Council England gets some nice thanks for support whilst writing of this, by the way.)
The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano. A massive (though not as huge as his final book 2666) and massively lively story of the founders of the Mexican school of Visceral Realist poetry – apparently based on Bolano’s own youth in Mexico City. A bit like Kerouac’s Desolation Angels rewritten by Thomas Pynchon. A bit.
Cider with Roadies by Stuart Maconie. Not sure why I hadn’t read this before… forty-something man reminisces in humorous fashion about the punk and post-punk years growing up in the North West of England, it could have been written to give me a relaxing day. (Maconie grew up in Wigan, which is where the 113 bus that went past my childhood home went. He even worked for a while at Courtaulds like my Dad.) Warm, self-deprecating and fun, slipped down like a pint of Boddingtons.
The Masterpiece by Emile Zola. Don’t know why, felt like a bit of 19th Century French naturalism by the end of the fortnight. Suffice to say, you can’t get much further from Stuart Maconie’s good humour than Zola’s ‘never-going-to-end-well’ school of realism, but what better way to prepare for the return to work than a book about artists and their visions and travails.
I knew I was writing this for a reason: looking at this list they are all about one form of art or another, and the search for ways of making that manifest in society and in life. Hmm...
Back soon with some serious policy related stuff - just getting back in the swing.