Wish You Were Here by Graham Swift
Take a box of ordinary paper clips. Start looping them together into a long chain. Every now and then add an extra one that can hang down below the others. After a while pick your chain up and attach it to the corner of the room, then allow yourself a little smile when you raise the other end, only to discover that it reaches perfectly; that there’s a satisfying belly to the way it hangs.
Repeat with the next chain and then start to attach your other chains to the seemingly superfluous little droppers you left here and there. Before long you’re grinning from ear to ear as each one, without any extraneous effort or design, fits perfectly.
This is what Graham Swift does with ordinary words.
Of course there is design, and effort too, but the smiles are all mine. It’s a joy I seem to derive from Swift more than any other; this lifting of the moment when one of those deft connections is made. Even on a subject such as this I find him a joy to read.
Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
You could lift the rules sections out of this book and it would be useful: but how dull it would be!
I wouldn’t laugh on the train at Dick’s missing apostrophe. I wouldn’t caress its covers and blissfully recognise that I’m not alone. I wouldn’t nod knowingly at the remembered taste of frustration in the face of a (what was it Amis called them?) who simply can’t or won’t comprehend an error highlighted.
About one thing I am certain: all teenagers should be force to watch TV in a desultory way.
The Panda saying No should be on the national curriculum!
Drift by Rachel Maddow
A madman describes the thing he sees. He describes his worst fears. He believes them to be real, though they’re not. He believes them vehemently, and wants us to believe them too. He gets more and more unnerved, the more we are inclined to question. The thing he sees becomes more and more distorted, more and more dangerous. He urges us to believe. The more he urges, the more we question, the more his view distorts.
Eventually we realise that he has become the thing he fears; that the thing he describes is his own reflection.
Politics is an insidious disease. The trouble with Politics is that it invariably most affects those who’ve not contracted it, or perhaps those who are paying the least attention. I guess Politicians are the virus then. It’s only after having read the book that the apposite title really comes to the fore.
I think that’s what’s really good about this book. Whether you take Rachel Maddow’s words as cold fact, as interesting and informative, or with a Republican size block of salt, you can’t help but think about what you’ve read. As I’ve said before; what more can we ask of any book but that it makes us think.
I suspect there are depths and intricacies that pass me by, being from the other side of the pond. I do remember the palpable cloud of fear that we all lived under in the eighties though. I do remember seeing and hearing the things that Reagan said and thinking ‘Did he really just say that?’
It’s clear the box is well and truly open. Is this book the winged hope we all seek? I don’t know, but it’s a comfort at least to know there are people who are prepared to look beyond the mirror, and encourage us to do the same.