It’s been a funny old year thus far for books – having for once not even kept a list, I’m struggling to remember what, if anything, I read while winter was still with us.
That wouldn’t be a first – it seems a sort of unofficial habit of mine: to start off slowly in January and pick up as the months pass.
Venice gave me a kick on the book front: after re-reading Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice for the umpteenth time, it was on to Donna Leon’s police procedurals set amid the canals and featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti.
So far, I’ve read Death at La Fenice, Death in a Strange Country, The Anonymous Venetian, A Venetian Reckoning and Acqua Alta.
They good fun; quite dark and a bit obsessed with the Mafia and corruption, but with a cast of main characters that are reasonably well drawn. They're hardly the apotheosis of the genre, but they're enjoyable for when I want something light, which doesn't tax "the little grey cells" too much.
And there are plenty more in the series, but given the speed at which I gobble them up, I’m keeping a couple for summer and the beach.
I have also managed a couple of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels – Monstrous Regiment and then Night Watch, both of which were as brilliant as one expects from Sir Tez, plus Gore Vidal’s Sexually Speaking: Collected Sex Writings, which was odd, since it had nowhere near the amount of sex I was hoping for, but was superb anyway and had me ordering another collection of Vidal’s essays straight away.
And then, as seen in yesterday’s review, Blake Morrison’s The Last Weekend.
That interrupted a re-read of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep – and thank goodness I could return to that on Sunday evening.
Re-reads are intriguing. There aren’t many books I’ve read more than once – let alone more than that. I should take that as a lesson and I’d easily and quickly be able to cull my library. But Chandler, as with Mann, would be at no risk of eviction.
There have been other bits and pieces in the past few months – I can rarely read history in one go and have two tomes on the ‘reading-in-process’ pile at present.
But my mind is already turning to my reading list for Collioure at the end of August. We barely took enough last year and, since my new case (the old one had to be Sellotaped up on the way back from Venice) is bigger and lighter, it shouldn’t be a problem to ensure a nice variety this time.
On the more serious front, I’ve promised myself I’ll take Elizabeth David: A Biography by Lisa Chaney.
On something of a crime fiction kick, I’m tempted to try one of Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano novels, which are set in Sicily, together with one of the Wallander novels by Henning Mankell, plus – as mentioned already – some more Donna Leon and inevitably, some Maigret.
I may pack the new collection of Vidal essays and possibly the first volume of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, plus some poetry: I’m about two thirds of the way through Ted Hughes’s Tales from Ovid, which has finally conveyed to me the glories of Greek mythology – not least in actually getting me familiar with a few of the stories. On these grounds, I’m contemplating some more Hughes.
Such a selection should keep me going. At least for a few days!