|Credit: Simon Ings|
Today Simon shares his Six books with us.
This winter, for the first time in years, I spent Christmas alone. I figured that since I was going to be a grumpy bugger, I had better make a virtue of necessity. A litre bottle of frozen vodka and Robert Chandler's translation of Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate (think War and Peace for the Stalinist era) did the job nicely -- up to a point. Two-thirds of the way through, its cast of thousands got all tangled up in my head, so now I'm having to re-read the bloody thing. Why am I doing this to myself?
That title's no joke, by the way: there's a whole world here, and all of it is burning.
My mate Tim Maughan has his first novel out from FSG in March. Infinite Detail is set five minutes into the future, in a corner of Bristol not a stone's throw from where I began what I laughingly call my career. So lots of unearned roman a clef moments are assured.
Talking of futures, Paul Dobraszczyk's Future Cities: Architecture and the Imagination has just come in from Reaktion Books. Not your usual Verne/Robida medley, this promises to take speculative design and design fiction out of the hands of -- well, people like Tim Maughan, actually -- and to place it bang in the middle of architectural practice. There's nothing new under the sun, my friends, and least of all the new.
One of the many things I hate about myself is that I never bother to re-read anything. The book that's been burning a hole in my bedside table for years is Wyndham Lewis's satirical epic The Apes of God. It gave me the voice I was sorely missing for my second novel, and I swore blind at the time that it had changed my ideas about the sort of writer I wanted to be. I have no idea now what I was on about, and am almost afraid to find out -- so there it still sits.
Because I don't re-read, I never really develop such nice nuanced relationships with books. What I do tend to do is build ridiculous edifices of received opinion against works I'm frankly too afraid to tackle. I can't be the only one, I mean who has actually had the temerity to read Joyce's Ulysses?
I'll tackle Freud before that. Freud is like Death. The more you run from him, the greater your risk of running into him. Time for me to face the music.
John Christopher got under my skin as a child and has never let me go. Kids' books like The Prince in Waiting fed me those nostalgic and valedictory notes you need if you're going to write into the British fantasy tradition. Much, much later I discovered the man had teeth: Death of Grass is a sort of John-Wyndham-without-the-apology tale about how personal virtue actually works in a disintegrating culture. Kindness is not a virtue. It is a sentiment. There, I've said it. But JC said it first.
It's a novel called The Smoke, about London (there is no better city), and tribalism, and about how there can never be an "us" without a "them". And it's about all the work we do, sincerely and with good will, to negotiate around that awful fact. The Smoke is awesome because, along with the speciation and the spaceships, it's a love story, a twisted memoir if you like, about the woman to whom the book is dedicated. She's gone now -- which is where we came in.
POSTED BY: Paul Weimer. Ubiquitous in Shadow, but I’m just this guy, you know? @princejvstin.