July 12th, 2009

breaking bad

What I read on my holidays

I had a very good time in Brittany. It was bright and sunny and also windy so that it didn't get too hot. I had a good time with Howard, walking for miles and eating seafood. We went to a lot of places: The Silver River in Huelgoat, Quimper, Yeun Elez, Roche point, the Glenan Islands, and multiple visits to Bar Nautilus, my favourite.

I didn't miss the children too much. My daughter is on her way home today - probably just got off the trans-Siberian railway at Moscow, and I'll meet her at the airport this evening.

I slept a lot - about twelve hours every day - and that's had a big effect on me. I gave up coffee altogether, and I think that's done me good.

But because of sleeping and walking on the dunes and beaches with Howard I have read much less than I usually do on holiday. I've read one book and listened to two on audio, and I haven't finished any of them. I can't believe it. This never happens to me on holiday.

What I read:

2666 by Roberto Bolaño. This is a brilliant massive novel, which I will do a separate post on.

Gifts by Ursula Le Guin (on audio) - A children's fantasy book, about feudal mountain people with supernatural destructive powers. It's very short - six hours unabridged - and I listened to most of it on the drive back from Plymouth last night. As always, well written, humane, engaging. Packs a lot into a small compass.

A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara Tuchman (on audio) - This is a history of 14th century Europe which is an attempt to get inside what it felt like to be a person in those days. It's quite a well known book, written in the seventies. I'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in that sort of thing.
breaking bad

2666 by Roberto Bolaño

2666 is a massive novel, and it's translated from Spanish. I think it's worth the commitment of time and attention, and I haven't read any reviews from any of my friends. Hopefully, this overview will let you judge if it's the type of thing for you.

2666 is about 900 pages long. Bolaño died as he was finishing it. He left instructions for his heirs to release it as five novels over five years, to maximise income, because he wouldn't be there to provide for them. Instead they have published it according to its original conception - as one huge novel, divided into five semi-autonomous parts. One advantage of this is that you can tackle each sub-novel as a smaller commitment than taking on the whole. Though, alas for this tactic, the first novel is probably the least accessible.

The central theme of the novel is the fictional Mexican border town of Santa Teresa in Sonora, which is based on real-life Ciudad Juarez in Chihuaha. I was already interested in Juarez, because it is the centre of a real-life wave of misogynist murders, in which hundreds of women and little girls have been tortured and killed and dumped in vacant lots and in the desert. Possibly by the most prolific serial killer ever, and possibly as part of an organised operation by porn cartels, or by sex tourists.

The book is compassionate and complex. It values all people, and it is written as such with interlocking lives, in a range of different literary forms. It's is also quite surreal and mystical.
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