Street Reading and Street Reviews

Forgive me WordPress for I have sinned. It’s been nearly three weeks since my last post.

There has been a lot going on, not least my sister being injured in a car crash. It was quite scary the first few days especially when she stopped breathing after her lungs collapsed but I am happy to say that she is going to be absolutely fine once orthopaedics finish stapling and glueing her leg back together.

Travelling to the hospital to see her requires a four hour return trip and given that I haven’t spoken to my sister in 18 years, bedside conversation has been stilted at best. We have a saying in our family which laments that you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.

I have started a number of posts in the past few weeks which I do plan to return to but I wanted to share this post from another blog.

Since starting my MA course I have been re-built as a reader; well I have been deconstructed as a reader and like any good deconstructee, I am awaiting bionic parts for the rebuild. Since I started reading for myself, I have always approached a book with caution. First I conduct a basic litmus, tip of the tongue test to try to determine whether I am going to read the book or not. Sidebar – I want to take a closer look at synopsis and book jackets in another post.

My second test involves opening the book at a random page and reading a short passage. This second test has become a little more advanced recently as I now apply close reading, but prior to starting the course, I would be looking at the font – sometimes good books are ruined by bad font; and if I liked the style/feel/ tone of the writing. My third test was to look at dialogue – so many good books are ruined by dreadful dialogue. My fourth and final test is to start reading the book and periodically check that I am still believing as the story unfolds.

It is my belief that as a reader BC (before course), I looked over and above the writing, my default target always being the story. Unless it was particularly provocative or emotive,  or particularly shite, I never saw the writing, treating it much the same as I do the postal service; my interest is the letter not how it got to my door. Identifying bad writing was instinctive rather than technical, and close reading (bionic parts) is the skill I am honing to shift that knowledge from hunch to fact. I am still quite the novice, but it is exciting to learn.

I read this lovely post about reading in McShandy’s the other week when I came back from seeing my sister. After a day of worry, having to stand by while divers dredged up the past and flung it in muddy, wet lumps at my feet, and numerous fraught journeys in a car that has been given 12 months to live, this  example of thoughtful writing brought me back down into myself as it was about something that is important; vital even, to me. Reading. Books. Writing.

I thought this was a lovely piece and it instantly returned me to when I lived in Maida Vale (my spiritual home) in London, where  I would walk to either Maida Vale or Warwick Avenue tube station to start my journey. If I wasn’t running late I would stop at a little cafe for coffee and I still tell anyone who will listen about the day I had coffee with Paul Weller. Really he was sitting at another table but a girl should be able to have coffee with Paul Weller if she wants to.

Once on the tube, and this never got boring, I would look around to see what everyone was reading. I used to keep a list (please see earlier post about my love of lists, although I lost this particular list) of the books I saw and I would use the number of repeat sightings as a ‘street review’ of books I may want to read.  This is how I discovered Margaret Atwood. On one particular day, on one particular tube, for a particular and peculiar moment, I thought I had walked into a staged scene. Nearly everyone who was reading was holding the same book, Blind Assassin. It is still one of my favourite book covers for this reason alone. I was so blindsided by the tableaux which I took as a sign from God/Buddha/Santa/Coco Chanel (delete as appropriate) that instead of going straight to work I should go straight to Selfridge’s (my second spiritual and oh so material home) to buy the book. I complied of course as one does when CC makes contact.

I have more to say on the McShandy’s post but will stop here just now.

The very copy bought in Selfridges

And just to finish. I loved travelling by tube and found this site a number of years ago. Basically it is some guy who would take a note of what people were talking about when he was travelling by tube.  The site is themanwhofellasleep

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