… but fortunately, also, binge reading. Passing bloggers: you might not want to bother with this post unless you are a binge reader yourself.
A Georgian Marriage consists of a selection of family letters stitched together with a brief historical narrative. These people are not aristocrats, heroes, intellectuals, famous in any way, but people ‘of the middling sort’ – a lawyer, and the wife who was considered to be somewhat beneath him, and their family’s modest successes and average tragedies. They might have come from any Austen novel, but you hear their own voices telling their own story.
Darlington is not writing about natural history, but is on a quest. She is wandering around the UK for a year and everywhere she goes she writes about not finding otters. She is describing otter poo, mostly, and inditing slightly mauve if not purple prose about the atmospherics of wet places. She is writing in the present tense about a year of her life for THREE HUNDRED AND FORTY PAGES and I can’t tell you how much I wish people would not do that. Nevertheless it must have something, as I find I am reading it all the way to page 341.
Mercifully this one does consist mostly of natural history, as Scales is a marine biologist, with a few modest glimpses of the author to be companionable. It’s full of treasurable stuff I didn’t know: about sea silk; about why hermit crabs queue up for each others’ shells; about the improbable sea butterfly; about scientists who get crabs to run on treadmills to find out how much energy they expend … and things.
I read all the Falco novels, enjoying the earlier ones more, but hadn’t clocked that a series with a new twist was underway. I don’t think this has quite the punch of The Silver Pigs as an introduction to a new protagonist, but it was very readable and I’ll be on the lookout for subsequent volumes.
Neville Cardus was a distinguished critic, once famous for writing about cricket and classical music, and this autobiography was written when he was in his early fifties. There was a good deal more writing ahead of him, but of course the Second World War was a watershed for him as for many, and perhaps prompted him to consider his story so far. It’s very much a period piece: born in late Victorian industrial Manchester, poor, illegitimate, half-abandoned, self-educated (let’s hear it for public libraries, people!), dogged, obsessive, lucky and at last making good. I knew I was in safe hands on the first page of the first chapter, where Cardus gives us an account of the lumps on his grandfather’s head, and I relaxed thankfully into the stream.
In passing: it was good to read a book printed with proper type – none of this digital stuff. Look at the lovely italic fount, impressed into the page. I don’t know which it is, but someone out there please tell me if you do.
Church after Christendom is a good deal more interesting than you might think, and quite well-written too (except that Murray did use the word ‘winsome’ at least twice, which was unfortunate). The consideration of what the Church and churches might do over the next few years/decades is informed by the author’s Anabaptist background – the implication being that the Church took a wrong turn with Constantine in AD 300-and-something (and who am I to argue with that?). It seems a balanced account, though, and the book is now studded with little notes-to-self, which is usually a good sign.
Collections of poems are a bit like recipe books: you will never like all of the individual items, but if you get one good recipe (or poem) from the book, which works for you ever after, it is worth the purchase price. This moderate selection has passed the test – at least eight ‘stayers’, and a number more which may grow on me when I learn how to make a good reading of them. Some I suspect will never come to be beloved, but that is only right.
Binge buying? Well, yes; these cost about £30 in total. While changing trains yesterday, I noted that in a certain coffee bar this sum would have paid for ten cups of coffee. So, keep taking a bottle of tap water in the bag; and continue to binge on books.