Hilary Usfun

the end of the literary road…

Posted on: November 16, 2009

So as I reach my advancing years, or as some would say, my prime, it seems as though the world is running out of books. Now I realise how that sounds, I really do. It sounds as though I am both well read and slightly smug, whereas in reality I am mostly an enthusiastic reader and a slight fuckwit. Anyway.

So I have Colm Toibin recommended to me, and I borrow Blackwater Lightship from the library, and have nearly finished it. It’s an engaging read – the story is set in Ireland, I’m moved by the family story, and the characters in the main seem real. I worry that the ending may be dreadful – I’ll keep you posted. However, I’m mostly thinking ‘good, but not as good as Patrick Gale‘. Now I love Patrick Gale. And I love complex subtle family stories with families which include gay people.  So I’m left wondering whether I’d have liked Colm Toibin more if I’d read him before Patrick Gale? Perhaps not; I’ve visited Cornwall and love the place, and find Gale’s books easier to relate to.

(Yes, I know, I’ve only read one Colm Toibin, and I will read another, but it’s my blog and I’ll meander if I want to, meander if I want, meander if I want to….)

But it got me thinking; does the first book you read of a particular type dictate how you view other books in that field? It must do; your first time does colour, however affectionately your future endeavours. Would I have loved Carol Shields in the same way if I’d read Anne Tyler first? I love Anne Tyler, but any human who doesn’t love Unless, frankly, there’s your coat. begone. I even hope people haven’t read it so I don’t have to have the discussion.

So it seems that almost any book I read reminds me of another – and I don’t really know how to proceed.  There are the odd one or two which buck the trend, but really….

Hold me Internet. I badly need your help.


4 Responses to "the end of the literary road…"

I loved Blackwater Lightship, but I too haven’t yet read anything else by Mr Toibin. I didn’t love Unless as much as other Carol Shields books, sorry (I’ll get me coat)

The book I’ve read recently that most doesn’t remind me of anything else is The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall. I don’t think it fits in a ‘type’ (there’s a joke in there somewhere but I can’t be bothered to look for it). Recommended, if you haven’t come across it already (it came out in 2007 but I only discovered it this year).

(Do you think I have a bracket addiction?)

But it got me thinking; does the first book you read of a particular type dictate how you view other books in that field?

Absolutely. And sometimes it’s difficult to read different things at the same time because styles and influences leech over.

Also, very difficult to read something whilst trying to write something!

Queenie – what is your favourite Carol Shields book? I will probably allow you to stay 😉 Am tracking down your other recommendation on GreenMetropolis.

Brennig – so so true!

It’s a toss-up between The Stone Diaries and Small Ceremonies. Thank you!

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