I have never understood cheating and have always applauded monogamy. One at a time I say; unless of course he has a brother or is a member of a team.

This one-on-one habit also extends to my reading. Not for me the Sam Kelly approach of a different book for a different room or mode of transport, although I am impressed by her stamina and ability to remember everyone’s name.

Since starting my MA, I have read far less than usual, a condition I attribute to being overwhelmed by the realisation of just how much I still have to read and discover. I did not know of David Foster Wallace or Roberto Bolaño; I presumed Italo Calvino was best served with a glass of Amarone and although I don’t think I will ever allow China Mièville to get past first base with me, I will French both Neil Gaiman and Cormac McCarthy without insisting on dinner and drinks first.

But I believe you can’t really know what you like unless you try something else to give comparison. Having absolute trust in Sam with all things literary, I decided about two months ago to give serial reading a chance. I chose my partners with care and consideration –

The Usual Rivals

At the time, I was trying to focus on short stories, and I love Murakami so much I decided to add a novel to the mix for pure spice. There were a few others who refused to be photographed including David Shield’s Reality Hunger, and James Joyce’s Ulyseuss.

As an experiment, serial reading was a total disaster. I like to climb into a book and become part of the backdrop. I want to know each contour and disciple-like, I like to honour the words and the story with my fullest attention. I simply couldn’t commit to Qfwfq even when I was very clear with the rest of them that Qf-iffy had the bedtime reading slot. I also found there may be a few days between putting down and picking up each book and as a result, couldn’t always remember where I was in the story – it was being diluted by the time lag and everything else I was reading at the same time. I would open each book at the bookmark, and  realise I needed to go back a few paragraphs or chapters to re-familiarise myself with the story.

Last Thursday was the first day of the second year of the course and my to-read pile has swelled to even greater heights, and to make things more complicated, most of the new additions come with deadlines. I am desperate to start the second part of 2666 by Roberto Bolaño, but the powers that be dictate I must first finish Joseph Knight by James Robertson (no great hardship); Drifnet by Lin Anderson; The Speakers by Heathcote Williams, a book that Sam and Stuart described so well that I wanted it immediately; Roofworld by Christopher Fowler as I finally managed to track down a copy; Behindlings by Nicola Barker and Infinite Jest by the uber-talented David Foster Wallace. Oh – and I want to read The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson and C by Tom McCarthy, which I borrowed from the writers room today. Because what I need is more books starting at me from the shelf where they all sit jostling for attention. Monogamy is exhausting!

There is a wise and slim-thighed youth who advocates a minimum of two hours a day to consume the words one ought to be consuming, and I try to live up to that expectation at least. I will let you know how I get on.

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