I’ve read the fourth and fifth books in my pile of twenty that have been sitting on my shelves for far too long. I am enjoying them at the moment but am quickly piling up another stack of books that look more interesting to me. I am also a little worried that I’m leaving the bigger ones to the end. I don’t really like big books, I cannot lie. Books one, two and three are covered here
#4 of 20 – Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie
‘How does it feel knowing you have been sentenced to death?’
On Valentine’s Day 1989 this is what a journalist asks Salman Rushdie. And so begins over a decade of his living in hiding. This is the first non-fiction book I have read this year and I found it eye-opening. From the way governments and the media reacted to the threat, to the way the publishing industry used to work. I found Rushdie’s meditation on writing amongst the most interesting parts of the book: his inspiration for short stories and novels, the way stories changed, and the ways in which he managed to overcome the dreaded writer’s block. As well, trying to maintain relationships under this pressure must have been hard, and Rushdie isn’t afraid to say he wasn’t at all perfect. This book has been sitting on my shelf since the time it came out, around the time I read Midnight’s Children, in 2012. It gets a little baggy towards the end, with a seemingly endless flurry of names, which is probably what it felt like.
#5 of 20 – Runaway by Alice Munro
Munro’s quiet stories of Canadian life are very different to Rushdie’s memoir. I was surprised how places and characters kept popping up again and again. But there’s something painfully real about these stories that I can’t read them in succession. These people have seemingly small and average lives but carry around grief and heartache. I especially enjoyed the three short stories following Juliet’s life. In ‘Chance’ she is a young girl and she meets a man for the first time, in quite awful circumstances, on a train. In ‘Soon’ she takes their baby to visit her parents. In ‘Silence’ her life has taken another unexpected and sad turn. These stories speak of the fact that we cannot know how our lives will turn out. Munro depicts the loneliness of ordinary people, and often her stories are frustrating because the characters act like ordinary people. They ignore things, repress them. I like how Munro’s stories would go somewhere I wasn’t expecting.