I Remember – #981

I remember sending, on birthdays, photos to two different friends.  This was at its strongest with my friend David from ~2013 onwards (and still going, more or less), and it involved doctoring photos of either ourselves or writers we admired with streamers, hats, balloons, googly eyes and other such nonsense via MS Paint.

-29 May 2017

This post is part of the I Remember series.

The first 40 books – 2019

As of 20 May 2019 I have read 40 books for the year.  Let’s take a look at some statistics:

  • 7/40 or 17.5% were written by women
  • 29/40 or 72.5% were translations
  • 4/40 or 10% were by Nobel Prize winning writers
  • 5/40 or 12.5% were fantasy novels

Before we discuss the elephant in the room, I will say that, broadly speaking, I am definitely pleased with the number of translations.  I aim to keep that number high, and really it’s the fantasy novels that tend to drag it down, as they are very often written by people writing in English, very often by men, and very often by Americans.  Not always, but it’s a clear difference to the majority of the literature that I read.

I started the year quite heavily focused on fantasy, which I have put down to wanting to ease into the year with some books that weren’t going to challenge me and which would ensure that I started the year strong in terms of page- and book-count.  And I did, or near enough.  But at the same time, I would like fantasy to challenge me more, to push me.  I recognise that this is largely due to the kind of fantasy I tend to read – the fantasy of my youth, of nostalgia, of memory.  Of my teenage years, when I had no taste whatsoever.  Sometimes I wander down more interesting paths, but so far, not this year.

In terms of translation, I spent a good chunk of March reading Roberto Bolaño, because I love his work and I wanted to celebrate my birthday in some way.  So that was the way.  Curiously, I have not read a single work by W. G. Sebald this year, and only one by Enrique Vila-Matas.  Very often these works dominate my year, and yet here we are, close to halfway, and not much to speak of.

Ok, so the elephant in the room.  17.5% of all books read this year so far being women is just not good enough.  I haven’t put enough effort in here, and that’s really all there is to say.  That number should be much higher, nearer to 50%, but it isn’t.  I could explain it away by saying that I don’t own anywhere near as many books written by women as I do by men, but isn’t that also part of the problem?

(I will note that since writing this I have read one more book, and it was by a woman, but even still).

Consequently I’m going to make a great push over the next month or so to even those numbers out a little more.  I have Rachel Cusk’s wonderful Outline Trilogy at hand, and while I’ve read the first two I haven’t yet read the third, and this is, I think, a fine time to read the full trilogy.

But I do fully recognise that I need to read more widely and regularly, and that I am neglecting a significant part of literature by doing so.  I have the books.  I have them – translated writers, prize-winning writers, big books, small books.  I own them, they are there.

Time to act.

I Remember – #980

I remember the wooden gate at the top of the external staircase at our home which had three rusted nails in it, three nails that liked to loosen and protrude every few days and which made closing the gate challenging.  And on top of that, we put up with this hassle for – three years before fixing it?  All we needed was a few new nails and a hammer.  Our ability to become accustomed to minor irritations is astounding.

-28 May 2017

This post is part of the I Remember series.

I Remember – #979

I remember the British television show, Coupling, which my father absolutely loved.  It started, I think, quite strong, and then fell into a morass of dirty jokes and innuendo which, instead of coming across as subversive and clever instead felt forced and juvenile.

-27 May 2017

This post is part of the I Remember series.

I Remember – #976

I remember attempting, by the current count of my failures, Thomas Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers.  Four times.  Four times, and four times a-failin’.  My lack of interest in ancient Egyptian history is so strong that I find anything set during that time period extremely difficult to read as my eyes slide off the page.  How I ever managed to finish Norman Mailer’s Ancient Evenings I will never understand (the cover of the copy I owned compared it favourably to Gravity’s Rainbow.  In no way is this comparison appropriate, and is in fact extremely unkind to Thomas Pynchon).

-24 May 2017

This post is part of the I Remember series.

I Remember – #975

I remember watching Anna play with our nephew, Fred, who was right at that age when a baby goes from a lump of crying and poo into an interactive little person.  And my heart – to pardon the cliche – beat fast and burst with love and excitement for, one day, our own little baby and the thought of watching them play together (May 2019 update – we now have our own baby, and she is wonderful, and watching them play does, indeed, gladden my heart).

-23 May 2017

This post is part of the I Remember series.