After reading my letter from October about how much I loved A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, a friend asked to borrow it as she was travelling to Paris to stay for a month. She was eager to read it.The size of the book was probably a bit of a surprise, as she stood by her suitcase wondering whether to take it or not. If she did take it, what would have to come out of her luggage to make space for it? It is, after all, a huge 700+ page novel! I’m not sure what was left behind, but she certainly erred on the side of good sense and took the book.
I am always hesitant when giving friends books because of what happened when I once gave someone Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I pressed the book into her hands, saying how much I loved it and how I’m sure she would too. After all, how could she not? When she finished it she handed it back, screwing up her nose and saying that she didn’t like it at all. No book will please everyone – I understand that. But I couldn’t help being shocked, disappointed and, in a way, even hurt. All very silly on my part, but it has certainly made me hesitant about being quite so enthusiastic in trying to get someone to read a book. So my friend jetted off to Paris. It was good to read messages from her that she had arrived safely and was enjoying the book.Then the messages came faster. She was loving it. She couldn’t wait to get back from sightseeing to read it! I was feeling quite vindicated and, dare I say, a little smug.Then she finished it.Why didn’t it win the Booker? I don’t know either, although I haven’t read the winner, so I can’t really comment.
The next message was one of despair and an emotion I also felt after finishing the book. A feeling of being bereft.What to read next? Nothing seemed to satisfy. I tried all sorts of books, starting them and putting them down, but nothing was right. I’m not sure how, in the end, my friend overcame this feeling. But I’m sure you’ve felt the same way after a book that really had you hook, line and sinker. I ended up reading short ghost stories. Eventually they seemed to satiate my need to read something.
It’s interesting that a book can have such a powerful effect on you.You can be so invested in the characters that you are there with them, feeling what they feel, imagining yourself with them.You’re only an observer, but you’re still wholly engaged.
But one thing leads to another.While reading my collection of ghost stories – Ghostly, edited by Audrey Niffenegger and featuring tales from Neil Gaiman, Rudyard Kipling, Edgar Allan Poe and others – I read a writer I had never read before. It’s somebody I’ve always intended to read but somehow never got around to. It’s the famous P G Wodehouse. I enjoyed his ghost story ‘Honeysuckle Cottage’ so much; how many ghost stories do you giggle in?
So now I’m on the hunt for the next book. Should it be the first ‘Jeeves’ book from Wodehouse? Have you read him? I’d love to hear what you think. Or I’d welcome a review of a Wodehouse story that you’ve enjoyed.
As this is our last issue of the year I feel a bit nostalgic. Fifteen years ago this was my last month working in bookshops, slogging through the Christmas rush, getting home on Christmas Eve and just wanting to hit the sack, while everyone else was bouncing with energy. I hung up my retail apron and cleaned out he back room of our house to begin Good Reading, which has become a passion and a life-changing project. It took almost six months of planning and talking before we brought out our first issue in July 2001. It feels like just a little while ago. I say that I feel nostalgic, but I also feel grateful, happy, lucky and just a wee bit tired.
Next year we will be celebrating our 15th birthday and I hope you’ll join us to celebrate with a new website and new ways of reading the magazine. In the meantime I am looking forward to putting my feet up and reading for the holidays.Thank you all for your letters, your support, your enthusiasm and your sharing of books that you love.You are like a family, and I mean that. Someone said to me once at a book expo that she felt that being there was like being with her tribe. And that’s a connection I think I have with all of you.
And Baxter, who thinks fireworks are really annoying!