I try to shy away from first-person writing about books, but there’s no other way to do this post. On October 6th, I broke my leg while on my way into work, and after four days of excellent treatment in hospital, I’ve been recuperating at home. All the indications are that I should get back to normal eventually – after 4-6 weeks – and I’m already contemplating a gradual process of starting to do my day-job from home. But in the meantime, as you can imagine, I’ve been reading a lot.
The first thing I did was plough through the pile of books I’d accumulated for my December Locus retrospective column, on Brian Aldiss. (I’d originally contemplated covering Gene Wolfe next, but felt that “under the influence of morphine” was not the best state in which to arrive at stable readings of The Fifth Head of Cerberus and The Book of the New Sun.) But now, as you can imagine, I have a large pile of to-be-read stuff looming over me and (especially tempting in my current state) an equally large set of books that I know I like and could re-read. To be clear, it’s not that I’m having a problem concentrating on long works, or ones that require some memory of past events – one of my projects, which is going fine, is to get through all of Shelby Foote’s 3000-page trilogy on the US Civil War. But there are some things I’m bouncing off at the moment: the more affected or baroque prose styles, stories that mess around with the whole one-thing-entails-another thing that constitutes the spine of story, stories that spend too long foreshadowing and not getting to the point. (I’m probably forming a very unfair impression of the new Iain Banks, Transition, for this last reason, but it has a Prologue that consists almost entirely of trailers for the half-dozen plot-strands the Prologue is delaying me from reading. My patience was quickly exhausted.) On the other hand, the things I’ve been enjoying have been things set in self-contained worlds which knit themselves up neatly (too neatly?) within that frame – Sherlock Holmes and Father Brown stories, or almost anything by P G Wodehouse.
So… from your own experience, or from what I’ve said above, any more suggestions for recovery reading?