Reader, I’m a terrible reader, with the attention span of a mosquito. Although, in fact, mosquitos must have rather long attention spans if their noisy commitment to nocturnal blood-feasting is anything to go by. Anyway, my planned holiday reading remains half-read. I think I was a little overambitious. My suitcase was so heavy I was almost charged extra by Sleazyjet.
This was largely down to Steven Pinker’s new book The Stuff of Thought – it’s a lovely big turquoise hardback that runs to 439 pages. I’m 77 pages in, and enjoying it. As a practising writer I find his investigation of metaphor of particular interest. Pinker’s is a very theoretical approach to linguistics – he’s interested in grammar and semantics; the rules that govern everything we say. I occasionally miss a more sociolinguistical approach. It would fill in some of the gaps and paint a more realistic picture of language production.
I’ve also purchased a copy of Karen Armstrong’s The Great Transformation: The World in the Time of Buddha, Socrates, Confucius and Jeremiah. I’ve always had a passion for comparative religion and can’t wait to get my teeth into this one. Despite the threats of bigotry and backwardness posed by (amongst others) radical Islam, nationalist Hinduism and evangelical Christianity, I am pleased, I think, that religion is back in fashion. It’s interesting to note that in the cases of Islam and Christianity at least, radical thought tends to be the result of a doctrinal enslavement to text. A rigidity that does not allow for the evolution of religious and cultural practices, and which seems to me utterly alien to the postmodern world-view. Speaking as a ‘resting’ Catholic, I would consider the Bible to be a starting point not the be-all and end-all. Two thousand years of organic, often pragmatic, theological development seems like a good thing to me. The original tenets of faith remain, but filtered through the cultural standards of each successive age.
I did manage to read Ben Borek’s Donjong Heights – a brilliant, virtuosic debut by a young poet from Camberwell (South London represent!). The prospect of a 150 page novel in verse – written in Onegin stanzas after Pushkin – hardly set my heart racing, but I was pleasantly blown away by Borek’s sheer linguistic verve and sharp eye for satire. This is a highly recommended read, and congrats to Eggbox for producing such a fine thing to handle.
Finally I read most of London Noir, a collection of crime stories edited by Cathi Unsworth. A mixed bunch to be frank, but I did enjoy Stewart Home’s Rigor Mortis, a short narrative set in Ladbroke Grove (an area I know well from my skateboarding days).