This has been the strangest month and I still haven’t managed to get myself organised to review and blog properly at all!
Could I really still have a blogging hangover from all that work in March?
I have been reading as much as ever, but my planning hasn’t been great and I have missed the deadline for the 1965 Club. I had planned to review Stoner by John Williams but I am finding it slow going. I hope that a review will appear next week. While undoubtedly a beautiful book, I am having a difficult time reading it, but will reserve judgement until I’ve finished.
So, I am copping out again and writing two mini-reviews of two more books that I have crossed off that epic 746 list. My aim to get into the 400s by the end of the year is going well, so that is something positive at least!
No 531 White Noise by Don DeLillo
Regular readers of the blog will know that I am a big fan of Don DeLillo, so I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to read White Noise, particularly given that I’ve owned my copy since 1999!
A quintessential postmodern novel, White Noise was published in 1985 and is considered to be the novel that brought DeLillo to much wider critical attention. It is a dazzling satire of academia and consumerism that tells the story of a college professor and his family whose small Midwestern town is evacuated after an industrial accident.
Jack Gladney, our narrator, is a Professor of Hitler Studies, and he lives with his wife Babette and their four children from various marriages. Babette has developed an irrational and debilitating fear of death, for which she seeks out the most unorthodox of treatments, while Jack becomes convinced that he has been infected by the airborne toxins of the industrial accident and is literally facing the fear that is so consuming his wife. For a novel that explores our lives under the shadow of inevitable extinction, White Noise is extremely funny. It explores how we as humans retreat into consumerism and light entertainment to avoid the realities of our diminishing time on earth. The ‘white noise’ of televisions, advertisements, supermarket aisles and shopping trips is everywhere in life, keeping our attention firmly fixed on the need to buy more, to own more and to think less.
White Noise perfectly balances its sense of humour with an underlying sense of menace to create a sharp, hilarious look at modern day American society.
Read on: Book
Number Read: 216
Number Remaining: 530
No 530 Are You Somebody? By Nuala O’Faolain
Are You Somebody? was another book I read for Reading Ireland Month that I didn’t get round to reading at the time.
Nuala O’Faolain was a household name in Ireland in the 1980s for her work as a journalist and broadcaster, but it was the publication of this candid memoir in 1996 that brought her to wider attention and cemented her reputation as a writer.
Born in Dublin, O’Faolain was the second eldest of nine children. Her father, Tomas O’Faolain, was a novelist, short-story writer and journalist who unfortunately was also a philanderer and largely absent from the family. Her mother, exhausted by bringing up the children on her own with little money, turned increasingly to alcohol and reading to cope. Nuala also turned to books and after boarding school, completed an undergraduate degree in medieval English at Hull University and a postgraduate degree in 19th-century literature at Oxford University (both on scholarships) before returning to the UCD English department as an academic.
She was a key member of heavy drinking Dublin’s literary scene of the late 1960s and early 1970s, mixing with writers such as Mary Lavin, John McGahern, Patrick Kavanagh, Leland Bardwell and Louis MacNeice.
During the 70s she worked as a television producer for RTE, making programmes that explored women’s lives in Ireland and in the 80s was a columnist for the Irish Times. Are You Somebody? was initially to be a collection of her columns for the Irish Times, but turned into a starkly honest, illuminating memoir exploring her difficult childhood, her complicated relationship with men and the reality of being an unmarried middle-aged woman.
This is a memoir of great warmth, humour and openness. O’Faolain is a complicated woman – ostensibly a feminist, but aware of her own reliance on men; a daughter who finds it hard to forgive either parent, despite her love for them and a writer who often struggled to find her place.
She was diagnosed with cancer in 2007 and before her untimely death at the age of 68, she gave a radio interview to RTE, with her friend Marian Finucane that is astonishing in its unsentimental bravery in the face of death and is considered a landmark piece of Irish radio broadcasting.
This is an astonishing memoir by an astonishing woman and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Read On: Book
Number Read: 217
Number Remaining: 529
And in the latest instalment of ‘Cathy Meets an Author and Feels the Need to Show Off About it on every available Social Media platform’ – this weekend I was really excited to meet one of my all-time favourite novelists David Mitchell.
I have been a fan for a long time and have read all his books and he was an absolute gent. At his event at HomePlace, he read from his new novel, which is coming out next year, and talked about how he wants each novel he writes to be completely different from the last, meaning he is always nervous as to whether or not it will be any good.
From the sections, we heard on Saturday, I do not think he has anything to worry about and I can’t wait to read the whole thing. He was interviewed by the poet and broadcaster John Kelly and here I am looking like a little kid who has just squeezed in between them for a picture!
So that’s been my reading and working life this week – looking forward to getting back into the swing of things in May when I’ll be reading some Daphne du Maurier for Heaven Ali’s Du Maurier Reading Week and will be finalising my list and announcing the dates for this years 20 Books of Summer!
Anyone planning to join me?
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!