Life is so hard, isn't it?
Anyway, I had a pain au chocolat and a flat white at Fitzbillies while finally finishing Deborah Levy's Swimming Home. I was really excited to read this because the first sentence captivated me when I looked through it at Waterstones. It is a textbook example of an attention-grabbing first sentence, full of intrigue and impeccably-written. Before this, I read a piece by Levy in the New York Times about going on vacation with her boyfriend and how the experience left her disenchanted about the relationship. I thought it was very well-written and so I sought out her books.
Swimming Home is very well-written too; there's really nothing at all to fault on that front. But something about it left me quite cold. I felt a sense of detachment between me and the characters and the story that never went away; something about the characters seemed so unreal as to be somewhat ethereal, such that I could never quite suspend disbelief and imagine for the time that I read the book that these were real people - which is precisely the function (one of many) of a novel. It just wasn't absorbing, and although the book is really short (150 pages, maybe) it felt rather laborious to read.
I think this was perhaps accentuated by the fact that I'd just finished Brideshead Revisited which was deeply absorbing and engrossing, with characters that are believable, and Waugh's writing certainly suspended all disbelief and made the characters real. I'm reminded once more of the importance of reading classics. Although I tend not to like things that are popular, rolling my eyes at every The Great Gatsby or The Catcher in the Rye or To Kill a Mockingbird reference that's meant to demonstrate a literary inclination (nevermind that I actually like these books), there is a reason classics are classics. And so I shall read Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse next which I bought in London on Sunday as part of a 2 for GBP5 deal (the other book is a collection of essays by Graham Greene).
I want to say a few things about this shop where I bought the books. It's a CD/record/DVD store somewhere in Cambridge Circus. I was on the bus to Chinatown to cut my hair, and as I looked out of the window, I saw this massive store with music and movie posters plastered all over its display windows. I got off a stop early to look around the store as I was looking for posters to decorate my room with. I didn't find any posters, but I did relive those moments in my teenaged years, browsing through CDs arranged alphabetically in the 'rock/alternative' section of CD stores such as Tower Records and HMV, feeling excited when I found what I was looking for. Before Sunday, it'd been ages since I last stepped foot in a CD store. Not only do I buy my music from iTunes, but my computer doesn't even have a disc drive.
Ironically, I ended up looking intently at the books in the store. It was clear that books are merely secondary to the business because there was no discernible theme to the books on sale; they were just kind of random. And so I bought two books for 5 pounds, which made me very happy.
I really am not reading enough. This has to be rectified.
I am hungry so I shall go downstairs and eat a sandwich. I'll write another entry sometime later today.