Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Lows and highs

Have I mentioned my book group?

We meet once a month. Our last meeting focus on Illuminations, the story of  Hildegard von Bingen, by Mary Sharrat. .I had chosen it myself, all the more confident because it had apparently won a prize. The book was only interesting in the facts it revealed about Hildegard. The writing was poor, and the author failed to show us what it means to be a genius or a polymath in the body of a medieval woman. I found that the prize - the name of which I cannot remember - is awarded to writing in the New Age/cheap spirituality genre, which describes this book well. Many people have raved about it. I find it facile.

Cees Nooteboom has written a  book I am enjoying re-reading called - in the English translation from Dutch - The Following Story. Having finished it - it is nice and slim - I started again from the beginning, laughing to myself as I realised how much he had revealed which I only understood right at the end. I may have been particularly dense, but I believe that it is his intention that unwitting reader should embark on a voyage of discovery, and I won't reveal any more.Nootebook has won many prizes of an august nature and continues to write. Some of his articles and books are in the travel genre which he takes pleasure in deriding in The Following Story. Another feature of his writing is that he kindly provides opportunities for digression - he refers to other authors and their works, to artworks, to places. I find myself following his hints with pleasure. In The Following Story his hero walks through Lisbon and I followed his footsteps (thank you Wikipedia and Google), amused and edified.

I have also read Niall Williams for the first time and wonder how come I've not heard of him before, nor had anyone else in the book group. Very Irish.