Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A year of magical reading

2012 looks set to be memorable for a host of reasons. The Queen's Diamond Jubilee (Gawd bless yer, ma'am), the London Olympics, important elections (Obama versus the flat earthers, Sarkozy versus the French, bumptious cock versus slippery newt) and a global picture of droughts, floods, economic misery and crap pop music.
There are, however, things to look forward to. I'm talking, of course, about books. Some of my favourite contemporary (or, alas, near-contemporary) authors have new titles coming out in 2012, and here follow my top tips. (I'm aware of the homosocial nature of this selection. It's not by design. I mean, I do read books by women.)

Jon McGregor, This Isn't The Sort of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You (Bloomsbury) One of our best young writers has sunk his teeth into global warming and its ghastly implications, in what looks set to be a pretty extraordinary first collection of short stories.
Geoff Dyer, Zona (Canongate) Dyer's publisher was expecting him to write a book about tennis. Instead he produced a scene-by-scene account of, and meditation on,  Andrei Tarkovsky's film, Stalker. It shouldn't work but having read it in a day I can assure you that it does. The book made me see the film again in my imagination and sent me back to the DVD with renewed fervour.
John Lanchester, Capital (Faber) Following on from Whoops!, his non-fiction expose on, and explanation of, our current financial woes, John Lanchester is publishing his first novel in a decade. Here he is talking about it:
Russell Hoban, Soonchild (Walker Books) The 'cult' author of Riddley Walker - for my money one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century - died in London in December. This, then, is likely to be his last book.

Tom Bullough, Konstantin (Penguin Books) My friend Tom's third novel is about Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, "the father of Russian rocketry", a nineteenth century theorist of space travel. John Banville likes it, which is recommendation enough. I really admired Tom's previous novel, The Claude Glass, and look forward to getting my hands on this new work. Plus, it's got a beautiful cover design.
Robert Macfarlane, The Old Ways (Penguin Books) Macfarlane appears to have written the very book I have been meaning to write for years. I'm sure he's done it better than I could have.

Lawrence Norfolk, John Saturnall's Feast (Bloomsbury) It's been twelve years since Norfolk's last novel, In the Shape of a Boar. Looks like it will have been worth the wait.

Alan Garner, Boneland (Harper Collins) Perhaps the most exciting prospect of all! I was introduced to Garner only last year by my friend Dougald Hine, and he immediately leapt to the top of my reader's pantheon of British writers. Garner, that is. Dougald's got more writing to do yet. Boneland returns to Alderley Edge and the protagonists of his first and second novels. It's a return to his literary origins, as well as a return to the origins of human art and mythology.

You can watch the great man in a rare film interview here. After the witless commercial.


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