Friday, 26 February 2010


I've always been a reader, ever since I was a small child. My mum reckons I could read upside down when I was six years old. I put that down to being left handed. Or possibly to being upside down.

I do want to use this space to post a brief review or crit of whatever it is I happen to be reading right now. That's not as straightforward as it should be though, because for me, reading books isn't a strictly linear finish-one-start-another process. Nor are all of the books made of paper and ink. For example, I've been listening to a couple of audiobooks lately. They are "The Handmaid's tale" by Margaret Attwood, "The Life of Pi" by Yann Martell, and "Transition" by Iain (M) Banks. They typically form part of my driving soundtrack, particularly if I'm on a long journey, and I'm alone in the car.

What "Real" books get read depends on where I am and what I'm doing. Beside my bed I have a stack of books. Actually, "stack" gives too much of a sense of order. Beside my bed I have a jumble of books. Some read, some partly read. Some waiting to be read. I can't even say what they all are off the top of my head. I have just finished "Lord Foul's Bane", the first part of the first trilogy of Thomas Covenant, by Steven Donaldson. This is something I read about 20 years ago. I feel the same way about it now as I did then.

Donaldson handles the fantasy elements really well, although his protagonist is frequently infuriating. The bits of the book that are set in the "real" world are horribly stilted. They grate enormously, and I had to force my way through the first couple of chapters until Covenant stood atop Kevin's Watch, with his legs turning to jelly with vertigo and disorientation. It's got a lot in common with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, in that it's a black and white struggle between good and evil. And it's got a ring of power in it. And a map, which bears some resemblence to Middle Earth. There are places in Donaldon's Land that could be seen as analogues to locations in Middle Earth. Andelain is Lorien. Gravin Threndor/Mount Thunder is Mount Doom. the Characters too are of a familiar type. Lord Foul is Sauron. Lord Mhoram is the Hero Figure. Aragorn, but more complex. Covenant himself saves the book from being a straightforward monomyth.

I suppose I should read part 2 now, but I have other books that I want to get my teeth into. Jared Diamond's "The Third Chimpanzee" is gathering dust waiting for me to read it. George Monbiot's "Captive State" lies half read and ignored. I got very bored with it, I must admit. It is a few years old now, and the issues are well known to me. I've also got a book about space exploration winging it's way across the Atlantic as I type. I'd expect that to be here within a week or so.

There's also the toilet book.

Traditionally, in our lavvy, we have reading material that can be perused for brief satisfying periods of just a few minutes. One good one was an art book called "The Art of Looking Sideways". A recent one was a series of short essays and newspaper columns by Sandi Toksvig. It had it's moments but I wouldn't eat laxatives just so that I could go read it or anything.

Currently, Douglas Adams' "The restaurant at the end of the Universe" resides in the bathroom. I've read it to bits, and whatever random page I open it up at, it's too familiar, but I haven't got round to returning it to the bookshelf yet.

Fortunately, there's also a book of Calvin and Hobbes cartoon strips to read. Now they're excellent. I find myself linering far longer than I need to.

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