The reading day starts with Oliver Double’s Getting the Joke, an examination of stand up comedy, the skills required and the pitfalls peppered around a possible career in it. I first met Oliver when we were both juvenile comics. We played a pub in docklands, before Docklands was the glass mammon city and thoroughfare to distantly viewed entertainment that it is now. The DLR was the train of a ghost robot, stopping and starting where stations were not built yet, and most of the buildings we walked by are probably 21st century motorway ballast. He is a sharp eyed analyst of stand up and his work is never drily academic. He does not turn jokes into equations, the frog still lives after he has examined it. I read his chapter on the environment of stand up and how it is transformed by becoming an arena event, where the comedian is so distant when cannot not know if they are still alive or died many years ago and the light is only just reaching us now.
I had never imagined Milton Berle as a street-fighting man, but Double writes of the night Berle waded into the crowd to punch out an anti-semite. His research is thorough, his anecdotes are fresh, I believe he may well be astute.
The water in the bath was still warn enough to remain in and read a little of Thinking Allowed, a compilation of interviews from a US show os the same name, predominantly with researchers into theories of human mind and brain. I read Charles Tart on introspection.
The train to Steve Lamacq was occupied by Technobiophilia by Sue Thomas. I met her at a NESTA run event on imagined and possible futures. She examines how cyberspace and the web mingles with the ideas and language of nature.
“an increasing number of technology companies know that appealing to our love of nature in order to sell high-tech products is both powerful and influential. But how did this seemingly incongruous synergy come about”.
Thirty pages in, and I am already thinking about the screen and content in front of me differently. Considering the time I spend on my laptop, I am quite ignorant of the world within and behind. I had never even stopped to think of the differences between the internet, the web and cyberspace.
I didn’t read when I got to my Gatwick hotel, I saw a thing on TV that I forgot as I watched it, which is sometimes the way it is meant to be…I suppose.
A lack of sleep and an early flight meant it took a while for my eyes to stop blurring the world. Did I read an article in The Independent about someone who used the word “iteration” too much? I cannot remember, this was the blind sleepy reading of the too early morning.
I bought the Times Literary Supplement at Gatwick, skimmed through it, and then accidentally put it in a bin at Oslo airport, pointlessly leaving me with the Telegraph Business section instead. I now find myself without an inherited opinion the latest novel of Martin Amis, one that will join the growing list of Martin Amis novels I would like to have time to read, but realise I never will.
Once I was alter enough, I returned to Technobiophila. The descriptions of rural endeavours of the web literate, where they would take to the peaks and valleys of the countryside to refresh their 21st century minds makes me want to go camping in the woods again, as long as I don’t have to go potholing this time.
“science and some sorts of mysticism propose that everything is natural. By these lights there is nothing unnatural about New York City, or toxic wastes, or atomic energy, and nothing – by definition – that we do or experience in life is unnatural”
(Sue Thomas quoting Gary Snyder)
The book I spent the most of my time with in and over Oslo was Andy Miller’s The Year of Reading Dangerously. His style belittles me as I realise this is how I should have written my own book on books, The Bad Book Club. An editor by profession, Mr Miller decided that it was time to tackle the classic novels that are spoken about far more than read.
He relates a tale of woe, where Salman Rushdie found himself on television shamefacedly admitting that he has not read Middlemarch. This is a perfect book for plane travel, it is engaging, moves briskly, and educated me too. At the end of each chapter I found myself thinking, I really must read The Master and the Margarita/The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (though in early 20th century edited form if possible)/The Sea, The Sea, and on and on. It toys with the question – is it enough for reading to merely be an activity that passes the time, or should each book remain with you, and you perhaps slightly changed at the end of each novel. Now I just need to find that Graham Greene short story about a man whose father was killed by a falling pig who spends the rest of his life trying to find a way of relating the tale without making the listener laugh.
And what a description of Patrick Hamilton’s The Midnight Bell by Dab Rhodes, “this book is sodden with the wonderful, nasty stuff”.
The Year of Reading Dangerously is like an energy sweet invented by a librarian, a workout DVD produced by Faber and Faber, where authors in tweed jackets and legwarmers motivate you to sit in a corner and read comfortable and incessantly.
When not reading books, I will be touring the UK and then the World – coming up Sheffield, Liverpool, Cardiff, London, Wigtown, Nottingham, Belfast, Goole, Bridgwater and more and more. Details HERE
My lengthy latest DVD is HERE