Now that I put them all down together, I realise that all the books I read on holidays were ones I had been intending to read “for a while”:
Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander
Length of “while”: four years, which according to Google is how long ago I first would have noticed yatima blogging about it.
Review: I know I’m in safe hands when Maturin’s outfit is described with the adjective “rusty” on the second page, and then don’t really think of anything except for ships, ships built from lovely words, for the rest of the flight. Haven’t seen the Peter Weir film, and I don’t think I want to. Russell Crowe? Really?
Joyce Cary, The Horse’s Mouth
Length of “while”: tentatively, from when I read Alasdair Gray’s Lanark, one chapter of which provides a marginal gloss of all the various forms of plagiarism (direct, diffuse and implicit) throughout his novel (have I mentioned that Mr Gray is one of the most underrated writers currently living?) and which cites the central character of Cary’s novel Gully Jimson as a primary source, so that would be about eighteen years, since I read Lanark in 1989, I think. More definitely, I bought a ratty old Penguin paperback in a secondhand shop in 2006 but hadn’t got around to reading it.
Review: Like a London version of The Vivisector but with better jokes. Jimson is a highly entertaining old bastard, who I couldn’t stop imagining as being played by Michael Caine, as he appeared in Children of Men, only much less saintly. Lots of Blake references, and the National Gallery in Edinburgh has a Blake exhibition on – just their usual collection but all put in one room, still impressive – and I look at the What’s On leaflet to find that Alasdair Gray is doing a reading from Blake! !!! two days after I leave Scotland!! This sort of thing was happening all the time.
Charles Dickens, Bleak House
Length of “while”: sixteen years, since a law tutor recommended it as “one of the best textbooks on English legal history ever written”.
Review: I’ve tried reading Dickens before but gave up on The Pickwick Papers. This was much better. Made me glad I’d spent that morning in London wandering around Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Picked up a copy at Heathrow for the flight home (no O’Brian – sheer madness, really, in an airport bookstore) and finally finished it yesterday morning. The coincidences are a bit much at times, but it’s amazing how much Dickens gets away with in the first place, just by sheer gusto, leaving the reader thinking that, well, people who don’t have that many coincidences in their lives simply aren’t interesting enough to be in a Dickens novel. Haven’t see the BBC miniseries but I still want to, despite the casting of Lady Dedlock. Gillian Anderson? Really?