Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Reading non-fiction

(Let's skip the usual 'oh no, I haven't been here in so long, I'm a terrible person' shall we, and get right down to business.)

I have never been much of a non-fiction reader, perhaps because I've not found it sufficiently absorbing, and also due to the fact that I have such a terrible memory that I forget all the interesting stuff I feel I ought to be learning from it. However, I have recently started reading it more than anything else for some reason, and I'm finding quite a lot to engage with. OK, I'm kindof cheating, in that much of what I'm reading is quite strongly related to fiction, but I'm still making a gesture towards non-fiction, which is worth something.

One of the best books I've read in ages is Burn This Book, a PEN book edited by Toni Morrison, in which several authors write on the subject of literary censorship and oppression. It's very interesting, in that so many different approaches were taken, when I might have worried that they'd be a repeat of the same argument over and over. I'd really recommend it.

I've also recently read How to Be Alone by Jonathan Franzen, and I'm currently on Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace. I guess what's interesting about these two is that the essays within them are on topics of almost unbelievably irrelevant detail (50 pages on the demise of the Chicago post system from JF, another 50 on the porn world's version of the Oscars from DFW). I think that it's probably this detail that I love, in the same way that I love entering a completely foreign situation in a novel. It's like peeking behind some heavy curtain that you were never even meant to notice was there.

My real non-fiction love, however, is always going to be the Paris Review Interview books. I'm pretty sure I've written about them here before:

I love them so much, and they meant such a great deal to me at a particular time in my life (a time that I now feel strongly reconnected with), that I've got the quotation marks tattooed on my ankle. I wanted quotes for a while, and it made them feel more significant to get these particular ones, as they were so personal to me:

I really love the tattoo. It's a strange one though because I've thought about it for so long that it already feels as though I've always had it.

I went to my favourite local place today, Quiller Books in Buntingford, and picked up some more lovely non-fiction (including a lovely edition of Walden, complete with beautiful monochrome woodcut illustrations), so I'm off to get back to some reading!