Books I've Read in 2012
Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now, As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It and Long for It
21st May - 28th May. Londoners, Craig Taylor. Terrific collection of interviews, all told in a direct, first person way, from many different people who have a connection with London. Some of the individual stories are real standouts - the East End mortician changing to keep up with immigration by doing deals with Polish undertakers, the pilot who begins and ends the book - but others are distinguished by what they add to the symphony of voices who love and hate the city equally. Recommended.
Life and Fate
26th April - 20th May. Life And Fate, Vassily Grossman. I admit it, I admit defeat. 400 pages into this nearly 900 page novel about Stalingrad and every emotion that went into it, and came out of it, and it's time to say I just didn't connect with it. Too many characters (new ones are still being introduced on page 300!), and I found it weirdly lacking in movement, with flat dynamics. That said, I am prepared to admit that with this one, I think I just lost the thread.
Our Man in Havana (Vintage Classics)
17th Feb - 25th Feb, Our Man in Havana, Graham Greene. Written only a few years later than The Quiet American, and with some of the same concerns - western agents in foreign climes, the end of many empires - only this time, it's a satire and a gas, comedy rather than tragedy.
4th - 14th Feb. C, Tom McCarthy. An interesting take on modernism, telling the story of Serge Carrefax - enthusiast of early radio and photography, WW1 pilot, 20s heroin fiend and Egyptian explorer. It's a rich mix and McCarthy doesn't go for a complex, complete synthesis - so in some ways it's a bit disappointing (the plot is thin) but it's good to see a writer taking on technology's impact.
The Line of Beauty
1st Jan - 8th Jan. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst. Marvellous writing; there are passages which are flawless, original and daring yet so incredibly true and right his words seem like the only way to say it. And yet, the narrative is so weak and few of the characters engaging. At time it seems a cliched and heavy handed reduction of the 80s; the strength of the prose saves it, but when something is only beautiful and doesn't take you anywhere, it can't help but feel slightly disappointing.