I knew I was well overdue for a blog post but I am a bit shame faced that I haven’t blogged since November. The truth is I haven’t been reading much. Over the summer my reading was more aspirational that reality. I did start the new Sarah Waters novel for a change of scene and pace. I was enjoying it and was a fair way through before I had to return it to the library. This has been the pattern over the summer; I’ve bought library books home and put them on my bedside table, and then carried them back to the library treating the books more like dogs that needed walkies rather than literature.
I’ve been on Twitter looking at tweets where people have been skiting about the number of books they’ve read over the summer holidays and I felt a little obligated, knowing that I should be reading those books too. But you know, after a year of study, library work, and teaching I just needed a break from literature, and to clear my head for the last intense nine months (ahh it’s actually 7 months now) of my PhD. I’ve just finished going through a draft of my novel (my PhD project). It’s ready to print out again, to read again, to make changes to again, and then send to my supervisor. Nearing the end of my studies is a time of wavering confidence about my ability to write, and uncertainty as to what will happen to this book (my second first novel), and the great expanse of time post PhD. I started studying a literature degree when I was 27, and now ten years later my university career is coming to an end. It’s slightly terrifying.
I did read one book over the summer. Kate Carty did the MA at the IIML during the same year as I (in a different stream) and has released Run Thomas Run (Escalator Press 2014). The novel is about a family – Thomas, Esther and their children Ramina and George – who are forced to leave Baghdad in 1991 to get away from Saddam’s regime. The novel has a riveting narrative drive in the first part when the family are based in Baghdad, and then the second part is based in England and we learn of the difficulties of adapting to a new country. What is especially interesting is how Ramina and George adapt to England, whereas their parents sense of belonging to England is always uneasy. Thomas especially, still carries with him the paranoia and guilt surrounding an incident with his sister, which opens the novel. I did wonder whether Thomas should have told Esther and his children about what happened with his sister, and what dimension that could have added to the story, but on reflection, a man who has grown up under a regime as severe as Saddam’s is too used to keeping his thoughts and emotions to himself.
I’m also reading Kate’s classmate, Gemma Bowker-Wright’s short story collection at the moment. I am enjoying the confidence of the writing, and the references to nature, time, and the complex relationships between friends, flatmates, husbands and wives. I can’t think of another short story collection that features so successfully the outside world and how people interact with it.
I also bought some books yesterday – I had a voucher that was burning a hole in my pocket. I’ve got Sarah Quigley’s new short story collection (the cover is absolutely terrible WTF was the publisher thinking), and Kirsty Gunn’s collection, as well as Elizabeth Knox’s Inaugural Margaret Mahy lecture (the title on the cover is barely legible), and the essay/non-fiction collection Tell You What. These will keep me busy but I’m not sure that my posts will be as frequent as they have been in the past. The PhD is my priority this year, plus I have a kitten who as I type, is sleeping on my lap. Plus (and perhaps I should put this before the kitten) I have moved in with my partner and his child, so you know, life’s happening which really is the best inspiration for a creative life.