I can never quite make up my mind about how best to go about reading a collection of work by different authors: sequentially or randomly? Individually, with a gap between each, or as one continuous experience? If editor Sigrid Rausing had a particular leitmotif in mind when compiling Granta 135 New Irish Writing (in her introduction she writes of identified themes such as the relationship between place and self, and a sense of displacement) it didn’t seem critical. So I played lucky dip, moving backwards and forwards as the fancy took me.
The book gathers together 14 writers ranging from established authors like Colm Tóibín, Roddy Doyle and Emma Donoghue to “emerging writers” although even these seem to have already garnered an impressive list of official accolades. It just shows the weight of Irish writing talent in that the collection is notable for who isn’t included: Anne Enright whose The Green Road was Ireland’s
2014 promises to be as rich a literary year as 2013 with new books due out from authors such as Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, Joyce Carol Oates (February), Emma Donoghue (April), Haruki Murakami and possibly Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light, the third part of her Wolf…
For the first time I kept a list of the books I read during past year and looking back over the months, 2013 was a rich year for literary pleasure. In total I read 76 books. That averaged out at about six books a month I only managed three in June yet nine in May (that’s the luxury of holidays). Apart from reading all the books on the Booker Prize shortlist there was no particular rhyme or reason to my selections. Sometimes I would just see a book in a book shop, other times it was the book selected by my book club. Sometimes it was a review or a news item in a newspaper or magazine or because an author was appearing at a literary festival I was attending (Dublin, Hay-on-Wye in England and Byron Bay in Australia).
Despite all that, I when I read other people’s end-of-year Best Of book lists I was stunned at the number I had not even heard of let alone all those wonderful authors whose books are sitting on my bedside table or in my e-reader but which I haven’t got around to reading yet. I did live up to the promise I made myself to read more collections of short stories and was richly rewarded. I read a pathetically small number of non-fiction which I hope to remedy in 2014. There were one or two which, if it were not for the “I’ve started so I’ll finish” rule, would have immediately been relegated to the bottom of the book pile but thus is the delicious serendipity of reading.
So, before the clock ticks over to a new day and new year, here is my top ten for 2013
Astray is a collection of 14 stories by Emma Donoghue the Irish-born author and historian who is probably most famous for her internationally-acclaimed novel, The Room, which unfolds through the voice of a five-year-old boy whose only world has been the room where he and his mother are kept prisoner.
The Room was inspired by the case of the Austrian Joseph Fritzel who fathered seven children from his own daughter, and Donoghue has also utilised what she called “hybrid faction” in other successful work including The Sealed Letter.
Astray is inspired by, and loosely based on, archival records of real events and people, dating back to the early 1660s, although the intimate detail that makes this such a rich collection is Donaghue’s. She provides the voice behind the yellowing newspaper cutting or entry in a dusty register of births and deaths.
This is the first day of my holidays. The next three weeks stretch ahead enticingly bringing back memories of the end of a school year when the only things that lay ahead were the things i wanted to do, not the things i had to do. What i want to…