I was seized this morning with an urge to tell you all of what I’ve been reading lately. But before I do that I must mention a remarkable young lad I met this morning: this lad is 16 and Home-Educated; and he told me that he is reading, of all things, Thomas a Kempis’ ‘Imitation of Christ’. Not only that, but he is utterly gripped by it, and says it’s the best book he’s ever read. He suggests that though many people may not know it, a lot of its phrases have entered the language, such as ‘there but for the grace of God, go I’. I have a vague memory of reading bits of it in connection with Eng. Lit. at some point; maybe I should dig it out again.
But! thanks to Steve, this week I’ve been reading Caitlin Moran and Khalid Hosseini. You may have heard of Caitlin Moran; she’s a journalist, author, broadcaster and -according to her website – some kind of stand-up:
Anyway, I’ve been reading ‘How to be a Woman’, and I’ve had mixed reactions to it: half the time I want to throw it down in disgust; the other half, I start laughing and carry on reading. It’s sort of like ‘Jackie’ magazine meets Edna o’Brien; or maybe a female Adrian Mole; entertaining with touches of darkness, but on the other hand, distressingly close to chick-lit (which I previously thought was some kind of chewing-gum*). Still, she has a very individual style and on the whole it’s oddly compelling.
Before that I was reading ‘The Kite-Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini. This I can hardly find fault with; it’s a first-rate novel, set in Afghanistan and divided, like the recent history of that place, into two halves. The first half concerns the childhood of Amir, growing up with a servant boy he later learns is his half-brother. The highlight of their year is the kite-fighting which takes place in Kabul; Hassan is the ‘kite-runner’ of the title, who runs to fetch the kites when they fall. The imagery of this is clear; though Hassan is a servant and Amir rich and privileged, Amir cannot survive long without his half-brother. But he betrays him when the neighbourhood thug beats him up, and cannot live with himself. Only in later life does he expiate his crime, going back to Afghanistan from America after the Taliban have taken over. this era of Afghan history is brilliantly portrayed in just a few chapters; and it turns out that the local bully is none other than one of the chief Taliban members. Amir expiates his former cowardice by rescuing the dead Hassan’s son, Sohrab, from an orphanage and finally bringing him back to the States.
The second half is a little drawn-out, I thought; however this is a haunting novel and well worth reading if you haven’t already done so.
*this may not be far from the truth