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 that book myself, confident it was good because it had won a prize. Disappoinment: the known facts revealed about Hildegard were the only attraction. The writing was poor, the author failing to evoke what it means to be a genius in the body of a medieval woman.The prize - the name of which I cannot remember - is awarded to writing in the New Age genre, which describes this book well. It is facile, though many people raved about it.

Dutch author Cees Nooteboom has written a book I am re-reading called - in the English translation - The Following Story. Having finished it - it is nice and slim - I went back to the beginning, laughing to myself as I realised how much he'd revealed which I only understood at the end. I may have been particularly dense. I believe that he intends for his unwitting reader to embark on a voyage of discovery. I won't reveal more.

Now in his eighties, Nooteboom has won many respected prizes and continues to write. Some of his articles and books are in the travel genre which he derides 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.

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