It’s been a full 2 months since my last post and 5 months since I wrote “It’s Summer..and?” for the blog. Motivation, like the pervading sense of reality in the world, has inexorably diminished since my literary peak in the second quarter of the year and I’m not entirely sure why. So, here I am with an attempt to rediscover my chutzpah, my ying and my yang and my keyboard Cajones.
What has happened in the world over the period of my hiatus? I’ve spent some of the time reading the books I should have read earlier in life; the reason I mention it in this context is that one of the books I read, Philip. K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle (described on the jacket as “thrilling sci-fi at its best”), seemed more of a fictional, post war period version of 2020, rather than actual science-fiction. When good sci-fi becomes mere suggestion, you know something isn’t right in the world order.
2020 – it’s not fiction
Pictures, as the one below, are not scenes from the aforementioned author, this was California back last month. Waking up to see these on my Twitter feed did actually make me gasp. A US state, with a GDP greater than 190 of the world’s 195 countries, resembled a post-apocalyptic landscape and by the time of writing, over 3 million acres of land lays waste to the ravages of fire.
Everyone needs comparison, so here’s mine: the area of devastation is roughly equal to the whole of Delaware + Rhode Island + the city of Anchorage, Alaska or, for the Brits, Northern Ireland or, for the Europeans (politically, that is), Cyprus + Luxembourg + the non-Asiatic area of Georgia (the one where Stalin was born, not the one Ray Charles sang about). Dependent on your point of view (politics), this is either climate change or the fault of the State’s Democratic Governors, either way, that is a tacit admission it is “manmade”.
A Shepherd’s warning…
Trawling back through the Summer months to find uplifting, positive material to write about has been a struggle. The early Summer weather, in my home country of Poland, had an empathic feel to it. Were those raindrops or the teardrops of Zeus and the Theoi Meteoroi? June, normally a bright and warm month, became a meteorological parable of all that was going on in Europe and the world. In Poland, the Rainbow and all associated manifestations of that wonderful quirk of nature, became political. Proudly and defiantly adorned by those that see justice and freedom as a basic right and violently reviled and demonised by their opponents.
The comforting bubble of a good read..
I recently had a need to travel back to the Land of my Fathers, Wales, for personal reasons; this gave me an opportunity to pop into the local bookstore (unfortunately, a large chain and not an independent) and spend some time perusing the shelves for works that I should have read but haven’t. I bought a couple of recent novels by my second favourite author, John Grisham and the new novel Fifty Fifty, by Steve Cavanagh but the majority of my spree were classic titles. Here’s a very quick book review of what I’ve read so far.
I began with John Buchan’s Thirty Nine Steps, which, at times, is implausible but definitely in the ripping yarn category. In his dedication of the book to Thomas Arthur Nelson, Buchan admits that the idea for the novel came after an illness exhausted his collection of dime novels, prompting him to write what is considered to be one of the first in the genre of espionage novels.
Next up was George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Most (in)famously, Orwell’s allegorical, personal opinion of the genesis and subsequent, nefarious spread of communism, at a time when Stalin was being considered the panacea to the disease of Nazism. I found the book to be thoroughly contemporary in many of its observations, if one looks at it within the framework of the political populism of today. Of all the books I’ve read, this one would go under the category of “authors who have written when angry”. I’m not sure I’ll get to 1984.
My third choice was John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. I have become enchanted by Steinbeck’s syntax since reading Grapes of Wrath; the way that Steinbeck forms sentences is special to me, he uses words more descriptively than any other novelist I’ve read. Because of this, the characters have a latent but fully formed back story; the writing inspired me to imagine who Lennie and George actually were, why they interacted the way that they did and how their relationship formed. I have a painting (below) that gives me the same feeling every time I look at it, a sense of knowing intimacy that is only mine. Fascinating.
I mentioned The Man in the High Castle earlier (unfortunately spoilt by watching the, almost unrelated, first season on TV). I’m not an avid reader of sci fi, the theories of Arthur C Clarke piqued my interest as a teenager but that never extended into the fiction, not even the tomes of 2001 et al. This book was thought provoking; yet to imagine an alternate reality, where all current events are existentially the opposite, has a completely different contextual meaning today, in this era, than when the book was published in 1962, I’m sure.
For this splurge on classic literature, that’s it, with the exception of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman.
And then, last night I did something unusual. I sat for 5 hours reading the Steve Cavanagh book Fifty Fifty, that I referred to above. It’s that good. And that’s enough said. After I’ve written and posted this blog I’ll get back to it to finish it (I’m not sure how long a book is “supposed” to take to read but I do know that good books such as this dispense with the physics of time).
The Epilogue to the Summer
And then the subject that, as I wrote in my blog at the start of Summer, will define an era. When there are over 35 million cases, over 1 million deaths and the Leader of the Free world claims, post hospitalisation after contracting the virus, that there’s nothing to fear from COVID, what can I add to the subject?
Finally, for those that will read this post, thank you. Personal reasons have kept me away from my keyboard but I hope, that you hope, that my motivation has returned and normal service may resume.
Please feel free to comment, like, retweet or ignore at your convenience.
© Andy Collinsson October 2020