Spring has sprung, which means it’s time for us to share our seasonal reading list! And, depending on the weather, it’s also time for you to open your windows, enjoy the springtime sun and while away the hours with a good book/time to batten down the hatches, hide away from springtime showers and unexpected hail storms and cosy up inside with a good book (delete as appropriate).
Since this is the season of all things new, in this reading list we’ll be hoping to introduce you to some new books, which will open your mind to all the possibilities in the world.
Here, Nothing in the Rulebook’s very own Giant Chinese Salamander – and littérateur extraordinaire – Professor Wu, gives us his essential literary picks for spring 2016. Enjoy!
River of Ink – Paul M.M. Cooper
So, what gives? Welcome to thirteenth century Sri Lanka – the setting of this searing debut novel by Paul M.M. Cooper (read our interview with him here). Here we meet Asanka – an initially timid court poet whose written words come to change the world and fight injustice and tyranny.
The pen is mightier than the sword. Well of course. Cooper’s real skill here lies in bringing mediaeval Sri Lanka – and its inhabitants – to life. Indeed, the reader quickly becomes submerged in this world of steaming jungles and half-lost ruins; thanks in part to Cooper’s extensive research, and his ability to convey his world clearly through concise – and, appropriately, poetic – language. From these solid foundations we are presented with an ancient world, which nonetheless holds a mirror up to our own. And at a time when the world seems, at times, to be descending into chaos, with tyrannical world leaders, corruption on a global scale, and devastating conflict, Cooper’s novel reminds us of the importance of both reason and of art and culture.
Verdict: More than ever, we need stories like River of Ink, which remind us of the unstoppable power of ideas – and therefore also the value of the written word. This fable about resistance to tyranny and the suppression of culture and ideas is exactly what the doctor ordered. As Tracy Chapman sang, it’s time we started talkin’ bout a revolution.
The Inevitable Gift Shop – Will Eaves
So, what gives? Well, everything, to be quite honest. Spontaneous, unique, and packed with artistic risk, Eaves’s book stands as an example of writing that not only challenges traditional literary frameworks and structures; but poses a clear alternative to them.
So what does that look like? Episodic. We might call it a book for want of a better word, since The Inevitable Gift Shop combines prose with poetry, as well as with literary critique and philosophy. It is memoir; it is collage. Sections range in length from a single line to two or three pages, and in each of these mini-narratives and episodes, Eaves explores new ways of looking at the world. We are presented with countless new ideas, new styles of writing. And the writing never loses its ability to surprise us. Subtitled “A memoir by other means”, there is something incredibly personal about the book, which is surely appropriate for a memoir, and in the end it leaves you feeling as though you’ve spent a long while in the intimate company of a stranger, who nonetheless somehow feels achingly familiar.
Verdict: Irrespective of whether the weather is sunny or overcast, dry or wet, find a quiet place to sit in the company of this novel and let the episodes wash over you. Immerse yourself in these funny, wry, acute and startling observations – and allow your imagination to be stirred; your horizons widened.
Kingdom – Russ Litten
So, what gives? As we wrote in our full review of Litten’s latest novel (read it here), few books capture your attention from the first page in the way Kingdom’s quasi-surrealist opening does. And the magic of this book is that it retains your attention for the length of the entire novel.
Go on… With pleasure! This is a book about the gradual exploration of both the world and the self, and throughout it runs Litten’s infectious writing style. Indeed, with his crisp, fast writing, Kingdom presents the reader with a vivid depiction of working class inner city life. The novel’s protagonist, Alistair Kingdom, is a newly risen ghost (so we may, therefore, call this novel a ghost story), who must gradually rediscover the world, and also himself. We follow Kingdom on his quest – which is both physical and emotional – and through his eyes we are presented with some of the realities of modern Britain that are often left unmentioned and unseen.
Verdict: Litten’s remarkable writing skills are on display throughout Kingdom, and play a key role in making this an extremely political – and potent – book for the 21st Century state of the United Kingdom. On paper, we might describe it as a ghost story; but it is so much more than that.
So, where can you pick these books up?
- To order River of Inkvisit bloomsbury.com/uk/river-of-ink-9781408862230/
- To orderKingdom, visit http://wreckingballpress.com/product/kingdom/
- To order a The Inevitable Gift Shop, visit http://www.cbeditions.com/eaves2.html