Saturday, September 02, 2006

As a regular reader of two particular blogs, www.jessicamusic.blogspot.com, and also vilniushhh.blogspot.com I find it very odd that when I access my own blog, there are no new messages - and I have to put them in myself!

So, I have just finished reading in German A.L. Kennedy's 'So am I glad'. I am sure the title is a quotation of something...biblical? religious hymnal (she would not dare to do that in Scotland, surely)? musical? It's a book about a young woman in Glasgow meeting up, and falling in love with, with a reincarnation of a rather high profile French person who lived a few hundred years ago. Can't say more than that without giving the story away. An interesting book, mixing past and present, though I also wonder whether it was not a rather nice opportunity to do lots of research in sunny France. The narrator describes her childhood as having been rather odd, and I wonder how Kennedy's parents felt about it all. It's very readable, and has lots of little funny moments, in a quite Scottish way. Previously I had come across only very brief bits of her writing and felt that she let her skill with words get in the way of what she was trying to say. But here the story chunters on and it is fairly unputdownable. Knowing the Glasgow scene and the little details of Scottish life, even though these are a bit backgroundish, helps a lot, I think. When I think of Jessica Duchen's 'Rite of Spring' set in Jewish families in middle-class London the difference is really, really striking. I am not sure if Kennedy's book could be an Aga saga (is there an urban equivalent of an Aga? - if they drive four-wheel cars all over London, maybe they have Agas too in urban London homes) in the same way that Jessica's book is. Jessica's book is much more accessible/identifiable in that it describes some perfectly ordinary dysfunctional families, and it is a light(ish) read, though compulsively unputdownable. Kennedy's main character is much less identifiable with but the book also describes a chunk of real Scottish life.
This is beginning to turn into a 'compare and contrast'..... The other nice bit about Jessica's book is that, what with Jessica Duchen being a very highclass music journo who has also studied music, is that the story line develops along the lines of the 'Rite of Spring' (the piece by Igor Stravinsky, Russian composer etc) and the action drives relentlessly forward to its conclusion, much like the music. Kennedy's book is paced very much more gently and the there are more options for the end until quite close before it.

Whenever I read a book in translation, particularly from English, I often try to work out how a particular sentence or expression would have sounded in English. Some translators are brilliant (but it's too late to go and look up books I read recently); this book is a bit so-so. It would have been interesting to know whether the Scottish dialogues were written in Scots or in English. Translated, the speakers all sound quite well spoken. Possibly not the most inspired translation I have read.

Now, the ultimate putdownable books that I have read recently, and many continue being put down, are the books by Orhan Pamuk; peace prize winner or not, they are extremely hard work. Due to luggage going missing on a recent trip I found myself on the way to Tajikistan without any reading materials, and found Orhan Pamuk as one of the few books available to me at Istanbul airport. I really did not need to buy that one, too.