(Port Elizabeth last week – writing now in East London)
Four weeks away in SA, the internet has not been great, the landscapes are too big for me to enjoy, everyone warns me not to go out exploring on my own, so I have watched too much cricket in my various hotel rooms, and stagnated for a month.
I have read:
Kudos by Rachel Cusk – the third of a trilogy, I think I’ve read them all on planes, which is appropriate as they are often about travelling and anonymous places, hotels, conferences, meetings where she is meant to be interviewed but instead people just talk to her about themselves. I assume the narrator is the author herself, but that might nbe too much of an assumption. She is dispassionate and affectless, but I’m drawn in.
Milkman by Anna Burns – Northern Ireland in the 70s, immersive, detailed longwinded sentences, addictive voices (has to be read in an Irish accent in your head) – tragic at times, also very funny. Highly recommended, as they say.
Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee – picked it up in Port Elizabeth in a secondhand bookshop, seemed an essential book in trying to understand some aspects of this country – interesting that he himself has now emigrated and become Australian. I wondered as I read it, whether I was meant to sympathise with the narrator/protagonist, as I generally didn’t. Unflinching in looking at (a version of) the white South African experience, but I wondered what a black South African reader would make of it. And where I might find some corresponding black South African writers, to compare and contrast. No success there yet.
Flutter Echo by David Toop – a version of autobiography by a seriously interesting musician/writer/critic – fascinating to learn more about his background and his experiences and his life, always impressed with people who are able to take their art so seriously (with occasional self-deprecation), but also he writes so well, and with generally praiseworthy self-awareness. Similarly his previous book Into The Maelstrom was a great read about the history of British improvised music in the 60s/70s onwards – well worth looking at if you’re interested in that kind of thing!
I appreciate that his brand of music would probably not be everyone’s cup of tea, particularly at Wakefield Jazz on a Friday night – but I am very much looking forward to the autumn line-up, starting with Empirical on Friday 4th October. Wakefield Jazz now there’s a proper plug and an actual link.
I have enjoyed listening to Sarathy Korwar – More Arriving (2019) – and Keith Tippett – Dedicated To You But You Weren’t Listening (c1970), and the joyous new Pigfoot album Pigfoot Shuffle (on Bandcamp here) and am really looking forward to listening to the new Steve Lehman cd The People I Love when I’m back home in Wakefield this week. Mainly I’m looking forward to being at home.