Considering May is always the best month of the year weather-wise here in Lanarkshire, I have faint hope for the rest of the year. Atrocious doesn’t even begin to cover it. Fortunately I have been well and truly ruined with online literary treats. The month began with the London Library Literary Festival; the Walter Scott Prize treated us to events with all the shortlisted authors and Edinburgh Book Festival came early with interviews with all six Man Booker International Prize shortlistees.
There was also a two-day Reading In Translation conference where I joined Stu and David to talk about blogging about world literature. I’m not sure if it’s going to be made available on catch-up, but other sessions have been. Check out The Translator and the Reader session – it is unmissable. That conference ran in tandem with a Marlen Haushofer conference, which I’ll catch up on sometime soon.
You know I’m feeling a little zoomed out. So I’ve subscribed to the Hay Festival Player so that I can enjoy this year’s sessions according to a timetable of my choosing. (I.e when the weather is better and I can enjoy it in the garden like last year) (Edit – Finally sat out in the garden for the first time this year yesterday, 30.05!)
With so many literary diversions, I’m surprised to see that I managed to complete 10 reads this month. I wrote 6 reviews, 2 catchups from April (Boschwitz, Stelling,) and 4 from May (Manning, Maunder, Schmidt, von Lucadou). Kathrin Schmidt’s You’re Not Dying takes Book of the Month.
Tom Stoppard’s Leopoldstadt is brilliant, but I want to see it performed before writing about it. I’m reviewing Lemaître’s All Human Wisdom for the European Literary Network in June, but am drawing a line under the rest including the two Man Booker International Prize shortlistees. I enjoyed Vuillard’s The War of the Poor though it covered a lot of ground in only 80 pages. As a result it read like history in many places, and his event felt more like a lecture than a conversation. If ever an author didn’t want to talk about his own novel this was it. Instead he talked about Gogol, Christie, Flaubert – at length – and that was very frustrating, especially for the chair. I mean how can you interrupt online in a polite way? Conversely Olga Ravn’s event sparked interest in The Employees, a novel that had passed me by until then. Unfortunately I found the book very dull and nowhere near as engaging on Julia von Lucadou’s The High-Rise Diver which shares the theme of human productivity (or lack of it.) Hopefully I’ll have better luck with the two other shortlistees in my TBR (Diop, Labatut). What’s the betting the prize will go to one of the two I have little interest in reading (Enrique, Stepanova)? Though I’ve had this inkling about the Labatut ever since it was published …
So into June and #20booksofsummer we go with a clean slate, though I’m still working out what I shall be reading. I shall have a final ponder in the garden this afternoon. It looks like May is finally performing to expectations!