Wednesday, March 13, 2024

The reading habit

My reading habit is almost as bad as my writing habit. In fact it may be worse. It costs more for a start and it has the added disadvantage of cluttering the place up with its remnants - books. I usually read a couple of them a week. Sometimes non-fiction but most of the time these days fiction. A long term ambition has been to make some sort of reference to what I read here, on this blog. But that's too much pressure. And the trouble is that I don't quite know what I think about a piece of writing until sometime afterwards and by then I've started on something else and then I forget what I thought before. My clearest thoughts about my reading usually begin to crystallise out as I'm reading, but somehow it seems wrong to write them down before I've finished the whole thing. Wrong and probably unfair. So my first impressions of Checkout 19 was that it was a rather clumsy attempt to claim cultural capital with all those references to her reading. That was until it started to impress me with its deep interiority and its own grappling with the writing/reading process. But all that fell away when I started to admire the jaw-dropping way that it would lurch into full-blown fantasy. Still when I reached the end it had become something else again, another kind of story. Bennet's book is unsettling. It's hard to compare it with anything else and perhaps that's why I can't quite bring myself to say I enjoyed it. OK, it shares some common features with something like Amy Liptrot's The Outrun, but then that's a more conventional form, a memoir with an explicit trajectory, a memoir that dwells directly on its central character and context. On some occasions when I read I just get absorbed in technique and with Checkout 19 I found myself turning back the pages on a couple of occasions to find out how skilfully Claire-Louise Bennett got us from A to B. Quite remarkable in itself. I turn the corner of the page as if I'll go back again which is something I rarely do, because by then I'm on to the next thing which in this case is Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead.