Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Leaping Fish

My year in leaping fish (books read/reread) in no particular order and only as far as I can remember:

Oscar and Lucinda (Carey)                                  
True History of the Kelly Gang (Carey)
My Family and Other Animals (Durrell)
A Prayer for Owen Meany (Irving)
Pride and Prejudice (Austen)
The White Bone (two thirds) (Gowdy)
My Brilliant Friend (Ferrante)
Some of Us Eat the Seeds (Bach)
Ammonites and Leaping Fish (Lively)

Leaving the Atocha Station (Lerner)
Velocity (Sayer)
Dreamtime Alice (Sayer)
Down Under (Bryson)
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid (Bryson)
Jeeves and the Yuletide Spirit (Wodehouse)
Lorna Doone (Blackmore)
Orange is the New Black (Kerman)
Little Women (Alcott)

A Walk in the Woods (Bryson)
The Road to Little Dribbling (Bryson)
Boyhood Island (Knausgaard)
Moby Dick (half) (Melville)
The Writers' Festival (Johnson)
The Most of Nora Ephron (Ephron)
Heartburn (Ephron)
The Little White Bird (Barrie)
Illywhacker (Carey)
Not That Kind of Girl (Dunham)
Tender Machines (Neale)
Breathing Lessons (not yet finished) (Tyler)

Leaping fish summary: Thirty books in fifty-two weeks. For the mathematical among us that's four more than one every two weeks, though as two of the 30: White Bone and Moby Dick - incidentally, or not, animal novels both - weren't completed and my current Breathing Lessons is not quite finished either (though nor is the year quite), that is almost exactly one book completed every two weeks. Perhaps not such an impressive reading rate for a wannabe writer, but there's a pleasing consistency at least. And, there may have been more. However, if I can't remember them only so many months later I probably don't deserve to claim them as read. If you're wondering why I don't simply consult my shelves, they're VERY messy and many if not most of the books were borrowed now returned (I think).

Still, I am pleased to see that there is a rough distribution of male and female authors, with a slight favouring of the female, which is perhaps as it should be. There is also a reasonable balance of the old and new, with a slight emphasis on the new, including five brand new 2015 books, which is also perhaps how it should be. The local (NZ and AUS) and the international are fairly equally represented, if with a slight, less pleasing but understandable - it's a MUCH bigger world out there than down here - emphasis on the international.

If I was pressed to pick favourites, as famous authors often are when asked about their literary 'influences', and there's nothing like being prepared, I would probably say my favourite reads for 2015 were Lorna Doone (epic, old-time romance), Leaping Fish (a writer's memoir), the Kelly Gang (Carey at his Australian best) and the playfully post-modern female NZ poets, Bach and Neale.

Of course, nobody makes me laugh like Wodehouse at his best, and I'll always remember, with an explosive laugh, Ephron's joke that if our elbows faced forward we'd kill ourselves (women of a certain age, that is).

This was a Dickens-free year, having spent the previous two cramming nine Dickens down. Next year I might return to finish his catalogue, as I do miss his wit and worldliness and, more importantly, I want to be able to say I've read everything he ever wrote if and when an interviewer should ask that question:

Interviewer: 'So Sacha, have you read much Dickens?
Sacha: 'Are you kidding! I've read everything he ever wrote.'

On that note, I should probably get started on Shakespeare soon, before it's too late.

Of course in our day and age there is much to read besides books and much to watch on Netflix, and it's only getting worse. So by the time I'm interviewed on my reading preferences and credits, I will probably have to make it all up anyway, as my memory isn't getting any sharper either.

Interviewer: 'So Sacha, what have you read lately that you would recommend?'
Sacha: 'Pardon?' (blind panic, my mind a total blank).
Interviewer: 'Are there any books you'd recommend for our listeners?' (This is a radio interview).
Sacha: 'Oh! Well, I do love Dickens...'
Interviewer: 'So no recent books?' (frustration rising)
Sacha: '... ah,...Leaping fish! I can't remember the full title or the author's name or what the book was about, but it definitely had something to do with leaping fish.'
Interviewer: 'I think we've run out of time.'

Indeed we have.

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