This week, I’m still jetlagged from a busy week at the London Book Fair (check out our Instagram pics), talking up Restless Books and discussing the future of reading with editors, agents, and publishers from all over the globe. After the book fair I was bound for Wales, the green, sheep-filled serenity of which couldn’t have been more different than busy London. I always love to travel with a book or two, so before I went I asked the friend I was staying with, “What should I read?” She said that the perfect book to read was Bruce Chatwin’s On the Black Hill, a beautiful novel—his first—about twin boys who grow up inextricably attached to each other, to their mother, and to their sheep farm in southern Wales. Much less bleak and with more streaks of sun coming through the clouds than Nobel winner Halldór Laxness’ Independent People, Chatwin’s novel nevertheless has the same takeaway: Don’t become a sheep farmer.
Not content with only one Welsh novel, I went for a completely different tone in Kingsley Amis’ Booker Prize-winning final novel, The Old Devils, which is about a collection of old drunken frenemies who get together around tall glasses of gin or scotch (for the men) and wine or brandy (for the women), gossip about whoever’s absent, complain ceaselessly about Wales and Welsh people (“bloody Welshman” is a constant refrain. Yes, they’re all Welsh), sleep around, and recover with great effort from mighty hangovers. “Now, from about seventy,” one character reflects, “all those years of maturity or the prime of life or whatever you called it looked like an interval between two bouts of vomiting. Approximately.” Cheers.
In an interview on Canadian radio show Q with Jian Ghomeshi, British author Victoria Henshaw talks about the importance of odors as part of an urban landscape, and advocates for preserving even the more unpleasant ones for the sake of its cultural identity.
In a cleverly structured and incredibly powerful piece well-worth multiple reads, Kiese Laymon lays out the trials and tribulations facing “the black writer today.”