December Reading

As we lurch towards the end of this annus horribilis, I nevertheless find myself in this festive season with joy in my heart, booze in my belly and a collection of hangovers which seemingly last longer than thought possible. I thought I’d try to keep track of my book-based activities so far this month in this post.

Dark Tales Readalong
I’m taking part in a Shirley Jackson readalong (#DarkTalesReadalong) this month on Instagram. A group of book bloggers/grammers(?) are taking turns reading and commenting on the stories collected in Dark Tales, a new collection of Shirley Jackson stories released by Penguin this year.

As I don’t have a copy of Dark Tales, I’ll be joining in, where possible, using my other collections of Jackson stories (using my Let Me Tell You and the Library of America novel and story collection).

I started the discussion a few days ago with the first tale from the book, The Possibility of Evil. You can read the post here. If you’re on Instagram, you are very welcome to join in. Take a look at my profile and say hello!

Books I’ve Read This Month

My reading routine has been knocked out of sync over the last couple of weeks, what with preparing for Christmastime, seeing friends and family, and drinking heroic amounts of cocktails and beer where possible. I’ve not managed to devote much time to reading, but I’m still trying to grab an hour here and there to catch up with my reading list.

Joseph Conrad – Heart of Darkness
I read this in the last week of November and enjoyed it very much. This was one of the books on my reading list when I studied English Literature at university, and I had serious trouble remembering anything about the book it before I started reading it again. I’m putting that down to not really being about to remember very much academic detail of that time in my life… I just wish I’d read and appreciated this sooner – it was such an incredible novel and Conrad’s style is excellent throughout. I finished reading it quicker than I expected, but I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

Jason Arnopp – A Sincere Warning about the Entity in your Home
A neat, enjoyable novelette that I found on the Kindle Store back in July. I suspect this must have been recommended to me at some point in the past, so thought it was worth a go. Arnopp has a good, clean style but I felt as though he relied far too much on various tired horror tropes in this story. There are frequent tiresome paragraph breaks that you see in a lot of modern horror, often completely over-used for emphasis:

“The room seemed intensely quiet as I waited.
There was a brooding, loaded hush.
Raucous laughter exploded, from out of nowhere.”

Even so, there are a few good ideas and concepts here to keep you entertained – for example, the way in which the “home” of the novel is purportedly your own home was more effective than I’d expected it to be. The fairly abrupt conclusion and mostly unoriginal horror themes were slightly frustrating, but overall this was a fun, scary read. I’ll probably check out more of Arnopp’s work. Let me know if you’ve read any and can suggest a few titles!

Arthur C. Clarke – The Lost Worlds of 2001
This book, originally published in 1972, chronicles the conception, development and eventual publication and release of the novel and film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. The book is made up of early drafts of the story, spliced together with pages from Clarke’s journals from the late 1960s as he works with Kubrick and rewrites numerous drafts of the story. I would have preferred a few more sections devoted to these diaries (one bit in particular grabbed my interest – wherein Clarke is invited to William Burroughs’ and Allen Ginsberg’s hotel room in London!), but the early drafts of the story are also really interesting. It was a bit of a strange experience to essentially revisit the story of 2001 through early drafts of the book. Also included is Clarke’s early short story, The Sentinel, upon which the story of 2001 is based. I don’t know a lot of Clarke’s work so it’s hard to decide whether I’d recommend this to anyone. I suppose if you want something of an “alternate version” of 2001, it’s worth checking out.

Current Reading

Mark Frost – The Secret History of Twin Peaks
I started this last night and I can’t wait to read more of it already! The hardback book is presented as a FBI agent’s analysis of a mysterious document found in Twin Peaks in 2016. It’s apparently designed to fill in the gaps between the end of season two and the start of season three. So far, I’ve only read the first chapter, which deals with Meriweather Lewis’ secret visit to a waterfall in mid-Washington and his reluctance to discuss it. I’ll put my review up when I’ve finished (which hopefully won’t be long).

Max Porter – Grief is the Thing with Feathers
This book caught my eye last year, mainly due to the cover’s visual reference to Ted Hughes’ Crow. I’ve deliberately not read any more about this book, other than seeing how many awards and accolades the author has received. It seems quite a short book but I’m looking forward to it.


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