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Ian R Macleod

What I'm Reading

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Are You Somebody? by Nuala  O'Faolain

Why did I bother reading this book? It was probably the Angela’s Ashes style cover. That, and the praise from the likes of Edna O’Brien and Roddy Doyle. Anyway, what emerges from this autobiography is a not particularly pleasant person without a great deal to say. The book’s neither the work of literature it seemingly imagines itself to be, nor the gossipy This Is Your Life celebrity-fest towards which it sometimes veers. O’Faolain has certainly known quite a few people who would be interesting in other hands. Indeed, many names are dropped — which no doubt, but rather disappointingly, explains the cover’s glowing blurbs.

 
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Sky Burial by Xinran

Supposedly non-fiction, this books recounts the life story of a Chinese doctor who ends up spending many years searching for her husband in Tibet. As the title suggests, the search isn’t a totally successful one, and there’s a great deal of hardship, but the overall tone is strangely upbeat. Tibet is so far away, and so rooted in the past and in myth that in many places this book is reminiscent of the sort of intelligent, feminist fantasy a writer like Le Guin might produce

 
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Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link

It’s taken me a while to get through this short story collection. Not because Link’s hard work to read — far from it — but I did feel that a similarity of misty who-am-I? viewpoint and the not-quite-of-this-world feel of much of her writing made it more enjoyable if you came back to it after a break. Link’s tone is playful, tangential, and light as a feather, yet the effect she achieves is strong. I must say that few writers in recent years have made me want to write short fiction again myself — but Link has. Next time, though, I’d like to see her tackling a wider range.

 
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Albion by Peter Ackroyd

After London, which some you may realise was a key resource for me in writing The Light Ages, Ackroyd turns to look at all things English. I have to say I found the book to be a disappointment. It’s crammed full — in fact, too full — of anecdote and information, but lacks the overall sense of purpose which London possessed. Ackroyd — or, I rather suspect, his researchers — selects a variety of aspects which supposedly define our national character. Bawdiness, woods and forests, the urban maze — you name it, and it’s probably there. But a great many of these choices, for all the detail which they are dressed up in, seem arbitrary. Still, it isn’t a book I’d be without, not least because it suggested in its chapter about King Arthur what I hope will be the final title for my new novel: In Another Place.

 

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