Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Art of Fielding

In response to that post below, Going, going ... I’ve kept track of a month’s worth of reading. Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman; The Corner That Held Them, by Sylvia Townsend Warner; Life, Death, Prizes by Steve May; Stray by Amanda Dalton; The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright. That’s not a bad collection, is it? God, it’s a big chunk of my month. A lot of time spent with people who don’t exist, who inhabit made-up worlds, and have fictional problems.

I enjoyed all of them, but the one I want to talk about is the one I’ve just started. The Art of Fielding by Chad Hernbach. I’m only about 40 pages in, but I’m already loving it. It’s the book that left a hole in Jonathan Franzen’s life, apparently. That’s what it says on the cover – ‘It’s left a little hole in my life, the way a really good book will.’ What’s that going to look like? A book-shaped hole? I know what it feels like. I’ve had some bad days lately, days when you feel frustrated and got at and puzzled and infuriated all at once. Coming home on those days it’s good to hug the kids, it helps to have a couple of glasses of wine, but it’s also great to pick up a really good book, like The Art of Fielding. To sit down with it somewhere quiet and comfortable and start reading. The consoling power of literature. It’s like remembering something. Oh yes, this, it’s coming back now, it slipped my mind for a while there, but this is so much more important than all that other stuff. And in a sense this fiction, these words arranged on a page, it’s more real than that other stuff too. I relax into it, feel the stress ebb a bit, feel pleasure tentatively creeping in. That familiar dual pleasure in the story and characters first, but also in the craft, in the knowledge that you're in capable hands. I’ll miss this book when it’s gone. Till the next one.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012


So I went to the Kings Lynn Festival. Home to Leeds, Leeds to Peterborough, Peterborough to Ely, Ely to Kings Lynn … a long journey, a jagged diagonal across the East side of the country, landing up with a load of writers in Norfolk. It’s a good weekend, you do a reading, you sit on a panel or two, you sell a few books and sign them, drink a lot and chatter with the other writers, with the friendly, enthusiastic and tireless organisers, you talk to the audience who mill around the book stall and the tea table in a generally good-humoured, curious way. And I’ve been invited to the Edinburgh Book Festival (12th August, don’t miss it), and to one intriguingly called How The Light Gets In, which is a festival of philosophy and the arts. I’m not a philosopher. I’m also not good off the top of my head. It takes me time to process stuff, to formulate an opinion and a way to articulate it. But it’s nice to be asked, it’s nice to travel round the country talking about these books I write that hardly anyone has seen or heard of before. Hello, here I am, have a look at this, you might like it ...

And back home, I’m introducing two friends who are launching their books locally. The very excellent Amanda Dalton, poet, whose Stray has just been published by Bloodaxe, and the equally excellent Stephen May, whose novel - Life! Death! Prizes! – is published by Bloomsbury. Both recommended.