My daughters are not great readers, though one of them looks like she might turn out to be a late-onset writer. But most of the grandchildren are avid for books, which gives me every excuse for loitering in the Dr Seuss end of book shops, and my son, an English major, usually has something interesting to suggest. Which is how I came to borrow his copy of Paul Theroux’s The Kingdom by the Sea.
I’m only telling you this because yesterday I had the rare pleasure of needing to choose not one, but two new books. I always have (at least) two books on the go. There’s my bedside reading for which the criteria are a) that it must not disturb Mr F’s sleep by causing yelps of laughter or the angry gnashing of teeth and b) that it weigh no more than 2lbs. In the unlikely event that I decide to work on my pecs I’ll join a gym. Then I have a pot-stirrer. The book I keep on the kitchen table to read between culinary procedures. A pot-stirrer is not the same as a pot-boiler. But it could be.
So at night I’ve been tramping along the British coast with Paul Theroux. It’s been a good, if dated choice. It kind of made me want to lace up my boots and grab my Senior Rail Card, but he was writing about Eighties Britain. Gone, gone. My pot-stirrer has been Florence King’s Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady, a book so funny it disqualified itself as bedtime reading within its first three pages.
So what next? I’ll level with you. The books in this house are in a mess, thrown on to any old shelf while Mr F languished in a hospital bed and I tried to unpack the Mother of all House Moves. I used the ‘Feck the Dewey System’ system. The aim was simply to empty boxes. Two years on the librarian still hasn’t showed up.
‘Yeah, yeah,’ he says. ‘Tomorrow.’
The consequence is that to find one book one is forced to trawl through the full collection. It can be very annoying. But trawling does sometimes land an unexpected pleasure and yesterday, searching for Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor which I though I might reread, I found a yellowing Florence King Reader. Also Ackroyd’s Dickens which I don’t remember having read, so better late than never. I’m taking him to bed tonight.
For the kitchen I have, shiny and new, The World Turned Upside Down by the excellent Melanie Phillips, and, and, at the click of a mouse, Gogol’s Dead Souls just appeared on my Kindle. How does it do that?
So I’m covered, even for long waits in hospital corridors. Still no sign of Hawksmoor, however.