in which I wrap up… june

Welcome to my ongoing reading slump. I kicked its arse a little bit with a couple of very good books, but it’s still a very slow burn.

(1) Things which I have read and enjoyed.
The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan, which is looking set to be the next Big Book out of America all literary types have to read, so I’m proud to be ahead of the curve on this before I get annoyed by the very mention of it (see, A Little Life whose hype is now too high for me to want to go near). It is, however, wonderful; standing teetering on the brink between great and pretentious, and falling juuuust (for me) on the side of greatness. It’s not actually about horses very much.

Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King was my bookclub book, and my first King – and I enjoyed it a surprising amount. I’m not a thriller/horror reader by and large by this was not hugely scary so I was ok. It was epically readable (I polished it off in one Sunday), with a great voice and a fascinating account of domestic violence, which made me wonder how it was received back in 1992.

Railsea by China Miéville, which has been on my shelf for a while and I am so happy I finally got around to it (and not just because I’m now allowed to buy his latest). It’s definitely a minor Miéville, but none the less a hugely enjoyable read for that – and with a nice line on how stories are told.

(2) Things which I have watched and enjoyed
June opened with the busiest two weeks of my work year and then followed with a week’s holiday, so I made it to the cinema all of once, to see The Nice Guys. However, this was a very enjoyable cinema trip, thank you Mr Shane Black. It’s not quite Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – but that is an unfair standard to set, as KKBB is most excellent indeed. It was sharp, and funny, even if it doesn’t undercut March and Healy’s general unreconstructed-ness and life-problems as well as it might, and it has a smart line in precious kid performances by Angourie Rice (and it was nice to see that Shane Black liked the Kid from Iron Man 3 as much as the rest of us, bringing him back for an opening cameo role).

I did also take myself to the ballet, to see the Royal Ballet’s last triple bill of the season, Obsidian Tear, The Invitation, and Within the Golden Hour. Francesca Hayward was phenomenal in The Invitation which is a flawed piece about a difficult subject (rape), but the way she moved, especially after was quite remarkable. Fortunately, that was the middle piece, and I could soothe my pained self with the very beautiful Within the Golden Hour. And then at last minute notice I took myself off to the Barbican to see Maxim Vengerov play the Sibelius Violin Concerto and conduct Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique symphony, which was exactly as spine-tinglingly wonderful as it was supposed to be.

(3) Things which I wrote
Bookish month, this month:
I wrote about The Sport of Kings and did my own version of the NYT’s By the Book colum, which is a lot of fun.
(The latest actual By the Book is Geoff Dyer, and he is (a) a brilliant writer and (b) fascinating so you should read it and him (and also T.S. Eliot, who he is reading – but read the poems too)

(4) A photo from the month gone by
I went to the Isle of Man, and this is a photo of the world’s tallest working water wheel – the Laxey Wheel.

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In other news, I totally recommend the Isle of Man for a nice holiday.

(5) In the pile for July
Having mentioned Geoff Dyer, it is worth noting that I finally got round to picking up his book The Missing of the Somme, inspired by watching the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme on 30 June. I also picked up Siegfried Sassoon’s Collected Poems, so I’ll be dipping into that. I had, hilariously, ordered William Finnegan’s Barbarians Days with some birthday cash just before reading Geoff Dyer’s By the Book – it’s been on my list since I read the first reviews.

In fiction reading, I’m about to start in on Jessie Burton’s second novel, The Muse. Her first, The Minaturist, is one of the best incredibly hyped bestsellers I’ve read in that I don’t actually regret reading it… in fact I enjoyed it a lot despite feeling it didn’t quite land the ending – so I’m looking forward to this. And then Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies is our bookclub book, so I’m finally picking that up.

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