March has been a strange month for reading. It looks like not a lot got read, but there was plenty of Adorno and Benjamin and DeLillo, mostly in bits and pieces, that’s just not going to get a look-in on this blog. From last month I’m glad to say I finished Nicholson Baker’s Room Temperature – a slim, wondrous book, that I was thrilled to be able to pass on to my brother-in-law, who’s about to enter that strange second world of parenthood – and I was equally thrilled to read Just William’s Luck’s review of Chris Bachelder’s Abbott Awaits, which I’ll be looking out when I’m in the US next month. Together these two books make up what must be the totality of that minor sub-genre Intelligent Dad-Lit. Any other contenders, let me know.
Reviewing-wise, I read Tom Perrotta’s The Leftovers (for the TLS) and Patrick Gale’s A Perfectly Good Man (for the Indy). A sobering pair of authors for someone just having had his own novel sent out to publishers, and seeing the first rejections come back. Here, you might think, is how to write bankable books. Gale’s characters, especially, are delivered up on a plate – so touchable, so knowable, it’s almost fetishistic. People should stop going on about Franzen and McEwan – Gale is today’s realist novelist par excellence, if you take realism to be the strand of literature that sets out, above all, to flatter the bourgeois readership that they, too, have, if not immortal souls, then inviolable selves. Good god, you think: if these characters on the page seem real, then how much more real must I be! (The comeback, of course, being that you only feel real, dear reader, because you’ve been hypnotised into it by all those novels you’ve read.) Continue reading