What I’ve been reading
I tend to read fiction and non-fiction often at the same time, or at least I alternate one with the other. Then come those not-so-often periods when I end up reading only the one. The past week has been like that.
So what have I been reading? Well, an enduring classic, a magnificent meditation on old age, and a rather frightening, yet compelling book about raising overachieving children.
*Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell: On a whim (and a lot of reading is on a whim), I took down from my shelf this terrific account of the meaning and nature of poverty in two of the greatest cities of the world. As the Penguin Modern Classics edition shows, there is now doubt about whether it was memoir or fiction (or at least partly fiction), and Orwell has said various things on the matter at various times. It’s a flawed book, but it is intensely moving. As the introduction of the Penguin Modern Classics edition says, not many of the writer’s admirers call this the greatest Orwell, but many say it is their most favourite book by the writer.
Here is Christopher Hitchens talking about Orwell.
*Somewhere towards the End by Diana Athill: A witty, warm, and compassionate memoir about growing old by one of the grand dames of London publishing. Diana Athill was the lady who first published VS Naipaul, and Stet, her account of her publishing years, is a rewarding, rollicking read. In this book, she looks at death and dying and dwindling, and despite the bleak subject, she infuses the text with good nature and humour.
Here is a review.
*Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua: Greeted with howls of outrage, incredulity and envy on recent publication in the US, this is a provocative memoir about raising children – in the Chinese way – to be super achievers. If, in your heart of hearts, you are a pushy parent (even if you don’t want to admit it, especially if you don’t want to admit it), Amy Chua ought to be a role model for you.
Read a review here.
I shall return to this book – here or elsewhere.