This month’s author recommendations is from local writer Patrick Holland, who’ll be joining us in-store on April 19th to discuss his upcoming novel One. Click on the image to book tickets to the event!
I read a lot of books at once, bits and pieces of them. Among the most interesting things I’ve read lately are The Collected Stories of Paul Bowles. The stories evoke an atmosphere of North Africa/Tangiers that you feel sure is authentic, even though you’ve never been – and never can go to Tangiers circa 1950. The best stories are a strange as Kipling, but, and this accusation was sometimes levelled at Kipling, the author seems to have no normal human sentiments at all. It’s said the Russian realists devoted themselves to objectivity, but we all know what kind of men Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky were i.e. good men. I have no idea how Bowles feels on any moral issue, at times he’s properly frightening in his coldness, and yet, the stories are incredibly compelling, and the strange distance he puts you at, no doubt contributes to this.
On the other hand, also on Africa (I’m planning to go soon), I’ve been reading Ryszard Kapuściński’s book of travel essays, In the Shadow of the Sun. It’s easily the best travel book I’ve ever read, and I wish I’d read it before I wrote Riding the Trains in Japan. I realise now, the aesthetic principles that govern Kapuściński’s book are the ones I was trying to follow. I love Hemingway and Okri on Africa, but Kapuściński makes you breathe the air and taste the water.
The other book I’ve been picking up when I can is Edward Seidensticker’s translation of Lady Murasaki’s The Tale of Genji. I’ve spent plenty of time in the places this – perhaps the first novel ever written – takes place in. But apart from that simple joy of reading about places you know, I enjoy Murasaki’s weaving of plotlines, concerning dozens of characters, and the minimalist poetry she retains throughout. The effect is completely immersive. Like cycling up a mounting, reading Genji you forgot your troubles for a bit.
Ah, and I’m also reading Robert Dessaix’s Night Letters. I’ve come really late to Dessaix – this is the first of his I’ve ever read, and though I’m only about thirty pages in, it’s already an enthralling meditation. It’s the sort of book that blows any preconceived ideas you have about the thematic and stylistic parameters of Australian Literature out the window.