Heavenly: I said what are you thinking about.
Arthur: Oh – things.
Heavenly: Books and things?
Heavenly: Just books?
Heavenly: Oh! Just things. That’s nice. I wish I could think about things.
- Spring Storm, Tennessee Williams
Well Heavenly, perhaps so do I. As it is I just think about books.
But as books do have so strong a hold on me, it’s probably fitting that I start a blog about them. Certainly as someone who both reads and writes obsessively it seems a sensible idea. Besides, I’ve decided it’s about time to attempt, no doubt a little unsuccessfully, to escape from the net of the Victorian Era and all its beautiful fascinating glorious literature.
Let’s have another quote.
I read old books.
- The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield
Well I read old books, chiefly Victorian ones. I long ago found myself lost in Dickens and the chances of escape are now, in all honesty, rather minimal. My list of favourite authors include Dickens, the Brontës, Hardy, Trollope, Austen, Gissing, Gaskell, Wilde... Oh, and Kauzo Ishiguro and Diane Setterfield, so I’m not entirely stuck in the past – only mostly.
I’m going to try, in the next year or so, to untangle myself from the web of nineteenth century literature that I crawled into at the age of thirteen, and to read twentieth-first century novels. I’m going to try to review not old but new books, including both current releases and all those books I may have missed in the last three years while in the bubble of my History and English degree.
I should probably make it clear that I don’t think either new or old books are better. Everything depends on the individual author, on the individual book. But if I really want to write novels for a living, and if I really want to work in publishing in a year’s time after my masters, then I really need to stop my time machine and come back to the present day.
The fact is that the Victorian period is over. Its literature remains, and remains brilliant, but there’d be little sense in either writing or publishing an entirely Victorian novel now. The twentieth-first century has a great deal to offer us, not so much in setting (after all, I love historical novels) as in form or perspective. The novel as a medium is changing. We only have to look at all the people reading on kindles on the tube to see that. And even if the Victorian inside me is somewhat scared of technology, I personality think it’s all rather exciting.
So, don’t be surprised if I start whittling on about Dickens every now and then, but I promise I’m going to do my best.
Next time I’ll be reviewing: Grace McCleen’s The Professor of Poetry