Sunday, 6 January 2013


Reading: Spooky Little Girl by Laurie Notaro
Listening to: "Giving In" by Adema
Outside: Looks downright tropical for an English winter's day

First of all, Happy 2013, everyone!

Hello and welcome back, my loyal readers. I'm writing to you now as a thirty-year-old, which means my blog posts will be much more mature and insightful than the previous standard. Either that, or I will find more funny pictures of cats and entertain you with that.

I've recently returned from my fantastic Christmas holiday in the States and I'm now reattaching myself to my Normal Life. I'm winding my body clock back to Greenwich Mean Time, researching the reading habits of literary agents, and coralling the dust bunnies in my house into at least a semblance of order. (Reading, writing, and dreaming continue no matter where I am.)

And so! Today!
We are going to discuss Will Self!


His latest book Umbrella.

Given to me by one of my readerly friends, and shortlisted for the coveted Man Booker Prize 2012, Umbrella really blew me away.

I approached it with caution: It starts with an epigraph from James Joyce, who (I have to admit) I am not a huge fan of. Like, I don't have a giant foam finger that says James Joyce is #1 or anything. My last experience involving Joyce was my Postmodernism class at the University of Leeds, in which I shovelled my way through Finnegan's Wake, unaware the entire time that I was reading about a rugby match. Football match? He was at the zoo? Getting a deep-tissue massage? What?

See what I mean?

And so. Starts with Joyce, and in the jacket blurb mentions the word modernism.

Which, again.

Not a fan.

It's not that I don't understand it, it's just that, well, I'm distracted by shiny things and ghosts.

And so.

However - I am one of the best people I know at suspending disbelief (I read Yann Martel's Life of Pi with relative ease and great enjoyment), and also dealing with very little or no punctuation (Cormac McCarthy, William Faulkner), and stream-of-consciousness (Charlotte Perkins Gilman).

This one threw in a curveball - there are no chapter breaks. It is amazing how much I have come to depend on chapter breaks. Used to, I thought they were just sort of... there. A blob of white space, a new page, a place to stop and go to the bathroom. In more literary novels, chapters contain a mini-story with their own beginning and end. Chapters form a level of coherent structure and a way to sort our thoughts. But even more than that, I've learned from reading Umbrella that chapter breaks give me breathing room. With Self's book, there is no breathing room, which is perhaps one of the not-so subtle hints at the claustrophobia of turn-of-the-century understanding of/link between psychiatry and illness.

Self delivers an outstanding book, while maintaining a steady swing-your-partner-round-and-round character point of view shift, that begins with bafflement and ends with a jewel of complete pithy truth.

I really did enjoy it, and I give Self two thumbs up for taking language, bending it around, and twisting it into the shape that he did - it's 400 pages of pure, raw beauty.

I highly recommend it to anyone who is crazy enough to try to read it likes a challenge. You won't regret it.

Happy Sunday, everyone!

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