Wednesday, 30 December 2015
My Back Pages
Looking back on 2015 it was quite a varied year in terms of reading, although I would liked to have read much more, if only time would allow it. However there were plenty of highlights during the year. Late in 2014 I met one of my musical heroes in the form of Steve Kilbey from the Australian band The Church. In January I read his excellent autobiography, Something Quite Peculiar (2014) and then met him again with the rest of the band in July when they toured the west coast (they were brilliant by the way...). When literature and music meet I’m a very happy man indeed.
My book club reads this year yielded both pain and pleasure, with Donna Tartt’s The Secret History (1992) taking the crown for the best book I’ve read this year. The Secret History was compelling, absorbing, manipulative and most of all just brilliantly written. Other book club related highlights include Ian McEwan’s succinct and stylish The Children Act (2014), Richard Flannagan’s Man Booker Prize winning The Narrow Road to the Deep North (2013) and Joan London’s The Golden Age (2014), which managed to both charm and move me in equal measure. Book club pain came in the form of Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook (1962), which was not mediocre by any means, just long winded and intensely and neurotically self-conscious. It was also a fascinating and challenging read, so in the end I’m grateful to have read it and I will certainly remember it for a long time to come.
If The Secret History was the best book of the year (in fact one of the best I’ve ever read...), then the biggest disappointment was Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia (1977). Perhaps Chatwin had great adventures in Patagonia, but he managed to make it totally boring on paper. Luckily there were plenty of other highlights from my own (non book club) reading to make up for the tedium of Chatwin. Miranda July weirded me out in a good way with her debut novel, The First Bad Man (2015) and Michel Ondaatje’s Coming Through Slaughter (1976) was simply a great piece of experimental cult fiction. Other highlights were Axiomatic (1995) by Greg Egan and Seven Eves (2015) by Neal Stephenson, both of which left me wanting to read much more of their work.
As for next year I aim to finish the thousand plus pages of Peter Watson’s Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention, from Fire to Freud (2006). I’m reading it a bit at a time, mostly late at night, so hopefully I’ll get through it! What I really have my eye on though is my first love - science fiction. After reading Egan, Stephenson and then recently Huxley, it’s time to catch up with contemporary science fiction and some of the classics that I’ve never got around to reading. Maybe I’ll even read Philip K. Dick’s crackpot The Exegesis of Philip K Dick (2011) this year - now there’s some holiday reading....