September turned into a bumper month for reading, which is handy, as it also managed to turn into a bumper month for book buying. The TBR shelf was looking so good in this September picture but you’ll have seen October’s version by now …

Jean Estoril – “Drina’s Dancing Year”

(26 January 2012, Stratford)

Sequel to “Ballet for Drina”, which I reviewed on my old LiveJournal blog. We find our heroine installed in London, cheerfully still in contact with her solid friend, Jenny, who has given up ballet dancing and aims to become a farmer, and thinking about auditions for the Dominick Ballet School, where her mother studied and danced. Of course she does get into a ballet school, then it’s trials, tribulations and hard work all the way. But I like the down-to-earth quality of these books – having sensible friends and sticking up for one another is encouraged, and success never comes without hard work, plus it’s not always A Good Thing to have what is known as “a temperament”. Very beguiling reading on a poorly day!

Larry McMurtry – “Texasville”

(09 April 2000, America)

A re-read of this second book in the Last Picture Show series, as I build up to reading the newly acquired fourth and fifth volumes. It’s thirty years since the events of “The Last Picture Show”. Duane and Sonny are still in Thalia; Duane’s married to the terrifying but wonderful Karla, and Jacy’s rumoured to be back in town. Depression and boredom are rife as the oil recession hits,and everyone in town seems to be sleeping with the wrong person. It’s a depressing but moving slice of small town life, pinned loosely around preparations for the town’s centennial celebrations, even though the original county town, the Texasville of the title, has disappeared into the dust. The book has an open, fluid structure that mirrors that of many of the marriages portrayed, and there are some great wild kids and set pieces – who could forget the tumbleweed stampede? (well, I had, in the 12 years since I last read this). The side characters such as the magnificent Ruth Popper, with her marathon running, make this a full and rich read. Amusingly, Danny Deck has a cameo, or his house did. Danny is the hero of “All My Friends are Going to be Strangers” and later on, “Some Can Whistle” – McMurtry pops characters from one book into another a lot; Cadillac Jack has his own book and appears in another one.

My review from April 2000:

Another of his wonderful books – this one comes between “The Last Picture Show” and “Duane’s Depressed” and we see the tragi-comic life of Thalia (the tumbleweed stampede being a comedy high point). Characters are so, so believable, as are the sprawling events.

Simon Armitage – “Selected Poems”

(28 September 2012 – Kindle)

I picked this up because I’d been invited to go and see Armitage perform at the Book Festival on 5 October – my friend, Sian, helped out with the book stall so got guest list tickets. I’m really bad at arranging to go to things, so this was great (thank you again, Sian!).

Armitage is one of the few poets I enjoy reading. He’s sometimes raw, but the poems are always beautifully crafted and forged out of everyday language and sometimes startling metaphors. Some of them were a little brutal and had to be skimmed, but this collection from his various books of poetry was an excellent read, and made me look forward to the event.