Two books, I would dare to put forward, by authors who are fairly generally beloved by my demographic of 40-something, literary-minded, music-loving type folks. Two books we would fall upon with excitement and joy. Unfortunately, both of them have disappointed a little. The reason for the second one disappointing may be that I read it with a cold, but the first was started a while ago. One good thing: I’m typing this on my new laptop – in budget, nice and small and light (unlike my original one, the ULL or Unfeasibly Large Laptop) and seeming to work quite nicely. So that’s a positive.
Stuart Maconie – “The People’s Songs”
(10 October 2015, from Sian)
I was really looking forward to reading this “Story of Modern Britain in 50 Songs”, adapted from a radio series where I THINK they were done in a random order, which explains some of the repetitions when they’re put into date order here (imagine if this had been in random order!). I was unfortunately a bit disappointed; it was terribly arch, which is normally OK in Maconie’s writing but seems annoying here (too many examples of “As one [insert full or original name of pop person] found out …”). The referencing is also dreadfully inconsistent, with some footnotes giving author and book, etc., some of that in the text, some reporting of hearsay or comments, one of which at least I know from a source of mine to be based on the serious reporting of a joke discussion, and some clear quotations not even linked to a person’s name.
There’s plenty of good pop writing and amusing anecdotes, and it’s nice to be reminded of various bands and songs, but some of the essays also felt like they were going through the motions a bit (“We need to have a chapter on x and y”).
Wendy Cope – “Life, Love and The Archers”
(3 Dec 2015 from Sam in the BookCrossing Birmingham secret santa)
I thought this was the lovely poet’s autobiography when I added it to my wishlist (and Cope is one of the few poets I enjoy reading) but it’s autobiographical fragments, and other writings – book reviews, prefaces and columns on TV programmes, the last of which were very ‘of the moment’ so not massively interesting. She’s spoken (and is indeed speaking at the Birmingham Book Festival) about her years in analysis, and that’s great for consciousness-raising, but in the end, I felt I would rather her editor had not as described, gone rummaging through the archive she sold to the British Library to put this book together, as it just made me feel a bit sad, even though there are some lovely pieces about her teaching days and children’s literature, etc. Just not quite what I was expecting, I suppose.
I’ve also just finished “The Gods Arrive” and this month’s Dorothy Richardson, so I’m not actually reading ANYTHING right now, but I have picked a nice easy read off the shelves for an early night. What are you all up to? What’s the last book that really lived up to your expectations / excited and pleased you?