My reading highlights of 2016

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. I’ve been busy working on some writing projects and the good news is my new novel will be out in spring. I’ll write more about that over the coming months.

 

Until then, I’ll leave you with this, my reading highlights of 2016. These are not all books that were published in 2016 (though some were) but books I just happened to read this year. I guess I read about 50 books in total, my average usually is 4 or 5 books a month (depending on their size), but here are the 20 that most impressed.

 

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David Bowie’s Low – Hugo Wilcken

A Manual for Cleaning Women – Lucia Berlin

Undermajordomominor – Patrick Dewitt

Even the Dead – Benjamin Black

At the Existentialist Café – Sarah Bakewell

The Little Red Chairs – Edna O’Brien

The sailor who fell from grace with the sea – Yukio Mishima

How to listen to Jazz – Ted Gioia

New Selected Poems 1988-2013 – Seamus Heaney

The Devil all the Time – Donald Ray Pollock

The Heavenly Table – Donald Ray Pollock

Leaving the Atocha Station – Ben Lerner

The Sick Bag Song – Nick Cave

Here I am – Jonathan Safran Foer

About Beckett: The playwright and the work – John Fletcher

I’ll Sell you a Dog – Juan Pablo Villalobos

An old pub near the angel – James Kelman

Dear Dr. M – Herman Koch

Ingmar Bergman: The Life and Films of the Last Great European Director – Geoffrey McNabb

Nutshell – Ian McEwan

 

my novel of the year goes to…drum roll…

Here I am – Jonathan Safran Foer

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A great read. Maybe over the Xmas holiday season you will have a bit of time on your hands, do yourself a favour and give it a go, it’s big and bold and beautiful.

And for those shopping for Xmas presents (or have yet to read my debut novel!), look no further,  still available here:

http://viewbook.at/killarneyblues

 

 

 

 

Reading when I write?

 

I’m not sure that my reading habits change all that much when I write. The fact is that I’m always writing (even if it’s only a few little scribbles on a napkin) and I’m always reading, both have always been in tandem; I’m quite sure I’ve been taking on influences as I’ve progressed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s inevitable. When something of literary merit affects you, then a sliver is naturally going to rub off on your prose. Writers like Beckett, Banville or Nabokov have always been a huge influence and I know this often seeps into the cadence of a sentence. But what of it? If you are to learn from others you may as well learn from the masters, the absolute best. No point in reading second-rate stuff; the only thing to be gleamed from the inferior is how not to do something.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music might be a better analogy here. The blues masters all learned from each other, as Bernard Dunphy in my debut novel Killarney Blues might tell you. http://viewbook.at/killarneyblues

Muddy had learned from Son House and Robert Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf from Charley Patton and so on. When they were themselves ready they were able to go out and entertain in their own inimitable style. It took time for Muddy Waters to become Muddy Waters, and after a while Wolf could only howl like Wolf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

James Kelman is a writer I’ve always admired and have returned to his singular fiction again and again. His novel A Disaffection (arguably his best) had a huge effect on me when I first read it in 1989. I’ve read it four or five times since, actually just finished it again last month, and it has been an influence on my present work-in-progress, so much so that I may even dedicate my new work to Patrick Doyle, the main character in the novel, and one of my favourite fictional characters of all time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the moment I’m reading A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride, and it’s clear that this author has taken inspiration from (and I think somewhere in an interview she admits to this) James Joyce. Her writing is energetic and uncompromising and also proving to spur me on, to continue with my own vision (yes, it’s possible too to find stimulus in those younger than you).

 

 

 

 

 

I do know people who will say “Oh, I’ll read anything”. Well, I won’t. Certainly not. Life is too short. I’ll read only what I’m pretty sure will interest or inspire me. Anything that doesn’t do so after thirty pages will get violently tossed out the window (I don’t literally do this, my neighbours can be ever so cranky).

 

 

In my writing I know that after another week of reading Pale Fire or The Book of Evidence or The Unnamable that if a wee drop filters through to the pings of my sentences, then that’s okay, all these things make up only a miniscule amount, the rest of the rush that cascades over the falls is all me!

poem; collaboration: Spoke

In my last post I tried to explain briefly the reason I write. I forgot to mention how lonely it can be.

 

 

How nice it is then to collaborate every once in a while; my good friend Bill Blizzard (who kindly gave me his photo for the cover of my novel Killarney Blues, see right) has a stock of excellent pictures which I occasionally browse. I’m hoping to put poems to some of these images. Here’s one just finished.

 

 

Spoke

 

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They said

I should speak

so I spoke.

 

They said

I should try harder

so I tried.

 

When they were unhappy

they let me know it

(I tried not to, but I cried).

 

Cottoned on now,

only my bicycle

I ride.

 

 

 

 

You can find my debut novel Killarney Blues here: http://viewbook.at/killarneyblues

Why I write

Why I write

 

I write because I have to.

No message, no voice.

I write for it demands me.

Because I have no choice.

 

I wake and think of writing,

I go to bed the same.

All day I think of writing,

My antidote, my pain.

 

Nothing matters but the writing,

Not people, place or things.

There’s only that unbidden quest

To make a sentence sing.

 

When the writing stops I stop.

In this way it’s like breath.

I do it for I have to

And must continue until death.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              You can find my debut novel here: http://viewbook.at/killarneyblues

St. Patrick’s Day Greetings

Just a quick post today, to wish everyone a Happy St. Patrick’s Day (even though they don’t celebrate it, or have even heard of it here in Japan – except for a handful of guys in Yokohama and… Kitty-chan).

 

 

Whether you are Irish or not it doesn’t matter, go find a sprig of shamrock somewhere (make one if you have to), pin it on, and then go get yourself a pint of stout, or whatever is your tipple. I’m sure you deserve it (at least that’s my excuse.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

If all the celebrating and the craic gets too much and you’d rather a quiet place with a good book…then my debut novel is available here: http://viewbook.at/killarneyblues

(but really I think you should wait till the 18th to begin your reading, it’s only once a year folks )

Review of Richard Kalich’s Penthouse F

– So we are going to do this like a courtroom drama, or an interrogation?

– Yes. We are. We are indeed.

– Why?

– Because most of the book is done in that style.

 

 

 

 

 

–  I see. Was the book impressive?

– Yes, very impressive. Mr. Kalich is a great writer.

– And he appears in the book too?

– Yes, if it really is him, if you know what I mean…you can call the book postmodern, or that he uses meta-narratives or…

– That all sounds a bit confusing.

– In theory yes, but it’s a very entertaining book. Says a lot about writing. And the creative process. It’s playful, but not flippant. We’re dealing with a serious artist here.

– Oh, really?

 

 

 

 

 

– “He’s an idiot. So disconnected . . . conflicted . . . torn apart.”

– What?

– Just joking. That’s actually a quote from the book. He often sidesteps you like that. Reminds you of people like Gombrowicz.

– Who?

– Oh…never mind. Actually he quotes Gombrowicz in the text. More and more meta eh?

– What?

– “I do not believe that death is man’s real problem, or that art entirely permeated by it is completely authentic. The real issue is growing old, that aspect of death which we experience daily. Yet not even growing old, and that property of it, the fact that it is so completely, so terribly cut off from beauty. Our gradual dying does not disturb us, it is rather the beauty of life becomes inaccessible to us.”

 

 

 

Image result for gombrowicz

 

 

– I’ve no idea what you are talking about.

– You should read more. Educate yourself.

– Back to Mr. Kalich.

– Great writer.

– So you would recommend this novel?

– Of course. It’s the second in the Central Park West Trilogy, lovingly brought back to life by Betimes Books.

– I see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

– And you’ll need to find out what he does with the Boy and the Girl.

– Who?

– The Boy and the Girl. And the whole suicide thing…or was it?

– So it’s a mystery?

– Life is a mystery.

– Quite.

– “He decided to watch everything very carefully and to record it constantly, all with the aim of not missing the smallest detail, because he realized with a shock that to ignore the apparently insignificant was to admit that one was condemned to sit defenseless on the parapet connecting the rising and falling members of the bridge between chaos and comprehensible order.”

– Is that from Mr. Kalich’s book?

– No, that’s a quote from Satantango, by László Krasznahorkai.

 

 

 

 

 

 

– Why are you quoting that? Is it relevant?

– What do you think?

– Well…I…I…

– You lawyers. You really should read more.

 

 

 

You can find my debut novel, Killarney Blues here:

http://viewbook.at/killarneyblues