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Pickle Me This

August 3, 2005

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Busy. We’ve got a second wedding to plan you see and in-laws due to visit in a week. I am going to begin a series of poems based on a old book we bought in Brighton about tiger hunting, and work on edits for my novel, which is now a hard copy for the first time in its life. In other news, I will be a student again in just over a month.

Regarding books, I finished “Small Island” by Andrea Levy and then read “Case Histories” by Kate Atkinson on Sunday. Yes, in one day, and it’s not a short book, I just couldn’t rest until I got to the end. Those two books, along with “We Need to talk about Kevin” by Lionel Shriver, constitute some of very best modern literature I’ve ever read. And now “the best by women” or “the best written recently”. I mean it full stop. Shriver’s book left me gasping and gutted at the final twist. Levy’s book was just astounding, written from four points of view by four quite sympathetic/unsympathetic characters, depending on who was speaking and she bore right into their souls. To write a story so convincingly multi-dimensional in its narrative voice is a feat. It was also a very interesting book about Englishness and what it is to be an outsider in Britain. Atkinson’s book was a whodunit with a litfic twist. I charged through the book, obsessed with finding out who had done it, and once all was known it was clear that the journey had been as good as the destination.

(I don’t want to criticise but “Case Histories” broke down in one spot. There was a character who lived in Toronto and was thus a “Torontian” and had a cottage up in the wild ancient forests on Lake Ontario. I don’t think so! I hate factual inaccuracies in books, because it undermines the storyteller’s authority. It’s a massive responsibility for a writer to get everything perfect, and sometimes it doesn’t matter but often it does.)

In gleanings. Lauren Snyder writes about her Las Vegas wedding and why she didn’t have religious marriage ceremony, explaining that “When I got married, I didn’t want to be lying under oath.” The ever-provocative Lionel Shriver on the troubles: “For the citizens of that province to have murdered one another for decades over a trifling border dispute is a scandal.” The life and times of a dyslexic novelist here.

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