Somewhere around, oh, 2006, someone published a list of 1001 books to read before you die. It’s gone through a couple of editions since then, and I’m now trying to work my way through all the books listed in all 4 editions (1305 books. I’ve read 306 so far). I’ve spent a silly amount of money on books. I’ve racked up some impressive library fines. I’m attacking them in a vaguely alphabetical-by-author manner at the moment, standing in Pimlico Library with the 2012 edition, trying to find the books on the shelves. It’s not going well.
A month or so ago, I had a rash of Nigerian literature. All good and interesting, and it’s been infuriating that I can’t get all of Chinua Achebe’s books without ordering them. Prior to that, everything seemed to be South American. I am yet to read a novel by a South American author that isn’t beguilingly bonkers.
July and August seem to be full of homosexual angst. I’ve had Proust (he’s been ongoing for well over a year now) agonising as to whether Albertine’s a lesbian or not (he still can’t make up his mind, and he’s been debating this for about 300 pages now). There’s been William S Burroughs being Queer (having been a Junkie – both excellent books), and now I have James Baldwin telling me about an unhappy love affair with Giovanni. This is supposed to be particularly interesting because he created a furore on publication. Apparently straight black guys can’t write about gay white guys. Except he can, and he does it very well indeed. To counteract this, Martin Amis is talking about Money, and, so far, there’s only one vaguely redeeming character in the whole book. I’m 250-odd pages into that, and I’m finding the relentless pursuit of highs (legal, illegal, dodgy and straightforward) is beginning to get me down. It seems to have been getting the protagonist down since the beginning. Plus I can’t work out exactly how solipsistic Mr Amis is being: the main character is John Self. John Self is having quite a lot of conversations with the writer Martin Amis. It’s all just a bit self-referential.
And it’s a definite antidote to reading the Mitford Sisters’ Letters. Not that I really needed an antidote (except when Unity was telling anyone who’d listen how sweet the Furher was. That was a bit hard to swallow. Brave to publish that, I feel). In fact, I’m now very keen to read In Tearing Haste. And anything else Mitford related. They’re such a fascinating family.
I have today off. I’m to go dancing with a batch of Guides with disabilities. It’s likely to be chaotic fun. I must dig out the instructions for various country dances. I printed them off about 8 or 9 years ago, and we had grand fun in the church. Sylvester McCoy poked his head round the door to see what the noise was about..