I can give up any time I want

Hey there! Long time no wotsit! I’m on a train at the moment, so if this all seems a bit wobbly to you, that would certainly explain it.

So. You know how a while ago I was banging on how about the internet is a terrible distraction and how I was going to not have the internet and it was all going to be great? Yeah, well. I have come to my senses and realised that I can no more manage without the internet than I could manage without teabags or eggcups, or any of the other basic human needs. I am currently in a state of waiting/longing for someone to come and hook me up to the world, which is going to happen in about four weeks’ time. Four weeks! I called them and explained how that was too very long and I cry my eye, but they remained unmoved and insisted that four weeks is exactly the same as the ten days they had originally promised me, but that they would certainly ‘log’ my ‘complaint.’ Thank you very much, not. Also, all your trains smell of wee wee.

It’s true, of course, that the internet is an awful problem for writers. Then again, a lot of things are awful problems for writers, not least the fact that they feel compelled to make stuff up and pretend it’s really really serious and true. Why should I pick on the internet as being especially bad? When there it is being really useful, and having Eastenders on all the time, and making nice pingy noises when I have an email. I’m so sorry I ever doubted you, the internet.

Because of the lack of internet, I have been forced to read more books than normal, which also means I’ve had to buy more books than normal, as most of my books are still in boxes in another country. Here’s a few of my favourites from the last fortnight:

The Beginner’s Goodbye – Anne Tyler. If you don’t already know Anne Tyler’s novels, then I feel very jealous of you. Start with The Accidental Tourist, or perhaps Saint Maybe.  But you must definitely also read her new novel, which is quite beautiful and brilliant. The opening line alone is worth the cover price, but what I loved about it most was the devastatingly cool way she used a first person narrator to tell both sides of a marriage. So clever. The novel also has a strong speculative element, which I liked a lot.

The Driver’s Seat – Muriel Spark. It pisses me off that the writers’ museum in Edinburgh is obsessed with those three old farts: Scott, Stevenson and Burns. No one cares about Walter Scott, although his monument is rather impressive. And as for Robbie Burns! All I can ever recall of his is “Nine inches will please a lady,” which is simultaneously wrong and deeply unpoetic. I don’t really understand why the Writers’ Museum doesn’t seem to care about all the amazing Scottish writers, such as Muriel Spark. This novel (novella, really) is a very sinister and disturbing crime story, turned inside out. Muriel Spark had a great talent for creating unpleasant people, but in the end, your sympathies are turned very much around.

So I Am Glad – A L Kennedy. Oh. This woman can write anything, everything, and knocks pretty much all other Scottish writers into a cocked hat. ‘So I Am Glad’ is a comedy, but it’s also very touching, and is peopled by completely real yet utterly preposterous characters. The narrator is absolutely believable, even though her story is deeply suspect. I don’t want to give the plot away – not even the premise – because it is so deliciously bizarre and unique. Just read it.

The Silver Wind – Nina Allen. Her style rather reminds me of Christopher Priest – which is a pretty big compliment as far as I’m concerned. These five interlinked stories about people’s obsession with time creates an intriguing puzzle of a novella. A shame that the mystery is somewhat dampened by an indulgent and unnecessary epilogue. Then again, it’s rare to find a really clever and interesting novel that deals with time travel and parallel universes, and this is a real treat.

What are you reading? Feel free to recommend something in the comments.

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