Sunday, 8 August 2010


I thought it was time I started talking about books a bit more - I love them as much as I do TV and film, and I read an awful lot too, so it's time to introduce them into culturemouse. I thought I'd start by telling you a little about my favourite books and authors.

THIS is my favourite book of all time - And I Don't Want To Live This Life by Deborah Spungen. It's written by the mother of Nancy Spungen, Sid Vicious's girlfriend and possible murder victim. I can't remember how and why I suddenly became obsessed with the story of Sid and Nancy - I must have heard his name somewhere and looked him up on the Internet and then gone on from there. For some reason their story touched me more than usual, and I decided I needed to read up on them and fill my brain with as much knowledge and detail about their short lives. I went on Amazon and bought a book about Sid, and then wanted a book about Nancy as well - and what better than to buy one written by her own mother? I was 18 when I first read this, and up until that point countless films and TV programmes had made me cry, but never a book. This book made me cry loads. In fact it still does every time I read it - once I was reading it and crying about it on a bus back to my student halls! It's one of those extremely emotional stories because of the frustration, the helplessness and worst of all the reality - all of these horrible things actually happened to a real life girl. A lot of people see Nancy Spungen as the glamorous, fishnet wearing drug taking girlfriend of a Sex Pistol - and so did I until I read this book and realised how deeply, deeply troubled she was from birth. Later when I was reading We Need To Talk About Kevin, a lot of his behaviour took me back to Nancy - only Kevin is a fictional character and Nancy actually did these uncontrollable frightening things, such as run after her babysitter with a pair of scissors when just nine years old. There's that morbid curiosity as you read it, but then as her mother goes onto describe how useless and incompetent the doctors are in helping her or even trying to understand her, the good spells Nancy has leaves you desperately hoping that she stays this way, that she gets better, and then she relapses even worse than before. It's not a particularly well written book, but it doesn't have to be to capture the unremitting love and sadness Deborah has for her lost daughter. I urge you to read it - you don't have to know or care anything about Sid Vicious or the Sex Pistols - just start reading and you'll be in.

Other favourite books of mine which have a special meaning...

Footloose by Kate Cann made me want to write; Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld is word perfect and fic/boarding school heaven; Wasted by Marya Hornbacher completely changed the way I think about food, and The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger made me cry at a bus stop and made me appreciate and value love, so it stays with me for that.

Emily Maguire is my favourite author. She has written three books - the first being one of my all time greats.

This was odd - I read a review of Taming The Beast in Elle Magazine whilst I was having my haircut in my second year at Uni, and as soon as my last split end was chopped off I went off to Waterstone's to buy it. Then I went on holiday to Dublin, so I read it on the journey there (hence why it always reminds me of Dublin. Coincidentally, A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby always reminds me of Spain, Veronika Decides To Die by Paulo Coelho always reminds me of Slovenia, and Bear V Shark by Chris Bachelder always reminds me of Doncaster Airport and our flight to Prague being delayed for six hours). I was in awe of this book. The way the story was crafted about such a taboo subject, and dared to go to places no one else did. The writing was so raw and brutal; she didn't care about making her characters morally right, or pretty, or decent, or even likable - this was about the grit and pain and depravity of the situation: a teenage girl having an affair with one of her teachers. It blew me away, and immediately I wanted to read everything else she had ever written. Unfortunately that was her debut novel, and she's pretty slow at churning them out - one every two or three years! Her follow up, The Gospel According to Luke wasn't as good, but I'm really looking forward to her new one Smoke in the Room which looks like it's one of those 'characters get together and philosophise about love, happiness and life' novels which if cleverly written is wonderfully engrossing. But I don't know when it's coming out over here yet! Sadface.

For other books I'm really looking forward to, check out what's on my Bookdar page at the top of this blog.

The last book I read was this:

You may remember I posted the trailer of the film version a month or so ago, and vowed to get the book and read it before it came to cinemas. Well I went to my local Oxfam Books certain they would have it - and they did - then my hubby to be nicked it (which he ALWAYS does!) so I had to wait until he had finished before I could get my paws on it! And I was so disappointed. I loved The Remains of the Day purely because of the Britishness of it, the restraint, the way the narrator bottles every single emotion and wears that brave face unceasingly. It was so different to anything I had read before, and so heartbreaking because of that stoicism. But this was such a drag. Every dramatic moment, every secret unravelled was built up to a crescendo, and then the reveal showed a crushing melodrama. I didn't like any of the characters and I couldn't care less what happened to them, or who didn't/couldn't end up with who. The big 'twist' at the end was so subtly and yawningly done, I was aghast at how much praise had been heaped upon this novel. Page tarrying, if a book ever so deserved that phrase. I'm sure the film will be solid enough, but I somehow think others will be disappointed with it, too.

I love shopping in Waterstone's for new books. It's one of my favourite past times - the pleasure of having all the time in the world, and no worrying about money, just the freedom to browse, explore and discover new treats. And challenge yourself in the 3for2 section! Anyway, one of my worst habits is buying new books when I have plenty at home that are already on my 'to read' pile. I don't read fast enough to keep up with my squee factor over a new release - if I don't act there and then the feeling subsides and it just becomes another book. So this is me justifying myself. (also I have a thing about hardbacks - I refuse to buy them. I'm not spending an extra 7 or 8 quid on the same story just because it won't fray! pft)
Here is my 'to read' pile at the moment - it's actually pretty manageable:

I'm trying to be good, although I did splurge out the other day. I only went in for the new Books Quarterly...

Top of the pile is The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton which I'm reading at the moment. Took a while to get into because of the way it's written - detached, written in the present tense with a dual narrative. Hard! But she has a great turn of phrase, and it's slowly sucking me in. This has been on my to read list for a while now, so it's a relief to finally be turning the pages. Not sure what I'll pick next - I'll see what mood I'm in.

To end, here's the long list for the Man Booker Prize 2010:

Peter Carey Parrot and Olivier in America
Emma Donoghue Room
Helen Dunmore The Betrayal
Damon Galgut In a Strange Room
Howard Jacobson The Finkler Question
Andrea Levy The Long Song
Tom McCarthy C
David Mitchell The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
Lisa Moore February
Paul Murray Skippy Dies
Rose Tremain Trespass
Christos Tsiolkas The Slap
Alan Warner The Stars in the Bright Sky

The ones in bold are the ones I'm interested in reading - but only when the 'to read' pile has decreased in size, ho ho! The shortlist is announced next month.

Wow, a whole post about books! Here's to more of this literature malarkey - especially with festival season approaching :-)

1 comment:

  1. Let me know what you think of the Book of Lost Things by John Connelly. I read it a while ago and was kind of in two minds about it. Also, really want to read her Fearful Symmetry! I really enjoyed Time Travveller's wife so i expect good things. Did you watch the film of TTW? I must also thank you for mentioning Footloose! I read it when i was 15/16 and loved it! PS, LOVE YOUR BLOG XX