What I’ve been reading
Recently, as I’m sure you’re aware, time has been a little more free. I’m taking the opportunity to reignite my love for reading, something that – with an English degree equating reading with work – often fades. I’m reuniting with favourite authors, picking up books I bought and never got around to reading, and reading books I always meant to. Today, I want to talk about three authors I’ve recently read.
Reuniting with favourite authors: Kazuo Ishiguro
I’m on somewhat of a mission to read everything ever written by Kazuo Ishiguro: partly because he is the author of one of my favourite books (Never Let Me Go); partly because I have claimed – on multiple occasions – that he is my favourite writer, and it feels disingenuous to say this when I haven’t actually read all of his work.
On a trip to Waterstones on one of my final days in Cambridge, I treated myself to 2 Ishiguro books: Nocturnes and The Unconsoled.
Nocturnes is a collection of five short stories that all revolve, however closely, around music. Each story was contemplative and reminiscent – like most of Ishiguro’s work – but also sweet and rich. I read them while the world felt like it was falling apart, and they gave me a hazy sense of hope that it could be pieced back together again.
The Unconsoled reads like a dream – or perhaps a mild nightmare. The whole book has the logic of dreams, with private conversations performed – literally performed – in public, distorted timescales, distorted spatial rules, and other illogical things that I’ve only ever experienced whilst asleep. It made the book frustrating, and I think it was supposed to be, because the way it’s written allows us to experience the protagonist’s frustration right alongside him. It’s the strangest Ishiguro book I’ve read so far – perhaps the strangest book I’ve ever read completely – and it taught me a lot about expectation, and what we can realistically expect from a book as a reader; what it is supposed to give us and how it feels when that set of requirements is incomplete.
Picking up books I bought and never got around to reading: Raymond Chandler
I have a habit, when I’m stressed, of spending money. A lot of the time, this is expressed in a trip to Waterstones, where I’ll buy a couple of books based merely on their cover and blurb. One time, I’m not sure which, this resulted in me buying The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler.
The particular edition I have is so ~aesthetic~ that it makes complete sense that I would pick it up on a whim. Luckily for me, though, this book ended up being really enjoyable. It’s quick and fluid, and Chandler writes in a style that feels familiar, and yet I can’t put my finger on any other writer quite like him. He has a way with simile and metaphor that feels less like embellishment, more like clarity. The way he writes faces – comparing a smile to a pie crust, or a frown to sand dragged away by the ocean – is alluring and amusing and made me linger for a moment, so accustomed to strict realism and practicality.
Reading books I always meant to: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I read We Should All Be Feminists a couple of years ago, and have read snippets of Dear Ijeawele here and there, but I’ve always been intrigued by Adichie’s fiction. Hence, on another fateful trip to Waterstones, upon seeing (and buying) a gorgeous edition of Half of a Yellow Sun, I took the first step to achieving this.
Half of a Yellow Sun is a fictionalised account of the Biafran War, and an experience in rupture. The narrative is fractured over three narrators and three time frames, all of whom are wrong and wronged, liars and lied to, and detestable and yet forgivably human (to an extent). It made me challenge a lot of the ideas I already had about marriage and fidelity, and what it means to read an author already knowing their political/ideological opinions.