Not long after Donald Trump became President of the United States, there was a massive increase in sales of 1984. The George Orwell dystopia received a boost after Kellyanne Conway uttered the phrase “alternative facts” in a TV interview. Everywhere you look, people were turning to social media to make sure the world knew that they knew how Orwellian it was. That’s the great thing about social media. Thousands of people are having the same original thought at the same time. Just think about what Orwell would have made of Twitter. But I digress. The point is, it seemed that everyone had suddenly decided that we were living in a time that was just as awful as the one Orwell had imagined. In the same way that people had started to see the world as mimicking Gilead, we were suddenly living in a version of Airstrip One. It’s a fun idea but, let’s be honest, it’s total bollocks.
I’ve had the Simon Callow reading of Animal Farm in my Audible library for a while now but it’s never felt like the right time to listen. Until this weekend. I just had a desire to revisit George Orwell’s animal allegory. I’ve always loved Animal Farm. I think it’s a really great book and is so readable. I love a book that you can digest in one sitting and I love one that does exactly what it needs to. Plus, the idea of it being read by Simon Callow was wonderful. I love his voice and the thought of him playing an angry pig made me very happy.
It was announced recently that the sequel to Ready Player One will be released on November this year. I can’t say that I’m too excited by the news. I found the book really annoying and thought the film was kind of dull. I think it’s a problem with all novels that rely too heavily on their pop culture references. For one thing, I think it shows a lack of imagination and writing ability. For another, I think it’s a really lazy way of getting your readers onside. It’s using nostalgia to create engagement instead of a captivating story or developed characters. I’d go so far as to say that Ernest Cline’s YA novel made me quite angry. So angry that I’ve really stopped trusting any book that uses popular culture to draw people in. Which means that Slay wasn’t a natural choice for me to start reading. It’s a YA novel about an online video game and it’s really pushing the Black Panther connection. Writer Brittney Morris was inspired by the movie to write her first novel. Something she apparently accomplished in 11 days. But would it read like an 11-day long composition or would it actually make up for the wounds left by Cline? There was only one way to find out.
I feel tired this week but I also feel good. I had some good news on Tuesday when I found out that I passed my apprenticeship. Not only that but I got a distinction! Part of me is sure this has something to do with the fact that I’m about twice as old as the typical apprentice and have made it through an Undergraduate and Postgraduate degree. However, I’m choosing not to focus on that and, instead, am focusing on my achievement. Something my boss isn’t doing. I’ve only heard from one person I work with since I got my grade, which really sums up their whole attitude towards the whole thing. I’m not letting it get me down. I feel great about what I achieved and how I achieved it. Now I just need to start thinking about the next chapter. It’s a shame that Covid-19 has made that more difficult than I’d have liked.
This is one of those books that everyone seems to have read when they were younger but it passed me by. I don’t know why but I just never read it. I mean it is often referred to as one of the greatest pieces of English literature of recent years. In 2019, BBC News included it in their list of 100 most influential novels. So, there must be plenty of people out there who think it was worth reading. I just never did. Maybe I just didn’t like the idea of reading a boy’s diary? As much as I don’t want to perpetuate the idea of gender stereotypes, I wasn’t exactly interested in what a 13/14-year-old boy had to say. Or maybe it was something about diaries in general? I never wrote a diary when I was younger. I think I was always a bit too embarrassed. It seemed too self-indulgent and pathetic. Why did I think my life was so worthy that it deserved being immortalised in a diary? Part of me is quite sad I never did, especially as my memory is o bad these days. Of course, every time one of my friends tells me about reading their old diaries, I am overjoyed that I never tried. Remembering what I was like as a teenager, I can be assured that it wouldn’t make for an easy read.
It’s only my third month of being part of a virtual book club but it’s already given me an excuse to read books that I’ve always wanted to. This month’s selection is another that I’ve been interested in but would never have read off my own back. Mostly because I always thought it would be a letdown. When this was suggested as a possible book, it was picked by someone who had seen the film. Now, I enjoyed Spike Lee’s adaptation of the book as much as the next person but I also knew that a lot of the plot had been made up. The bomb plot, for example, was not part of Ron Stallworth’s story but had been added for the film. I suspected that the person who put it forward was under the impression that the film was accurate. After all, she had described it as “shocking content (of the film was anything to go by)”. When it came to the vote, I went with another choice but was outvoted. I’m not complaining, merely stating a fact. I got my copy of the book and started to read. Boy, was it a bit of a slog.
I’ll be honest, I’ve not done that well this week. It’s taking me ages to get through my current read but I’m hopeful that I’ll get ahead this week. Well, I can hope. I could really do with a break. I know that holidays are sort of off the agenda at the moment but I had a week booked this month. I might not be able to go anywhere but getting some time off work would be so good. The last few months have been tough for everyone and I just want to sleep and read. But I always want to do that. Whether there’s a pandemic or not.
In his essay The Death of the Author, Roland Barthes argued that the only way to read a book was to separate it from its author. According to Barthes, authorial context and intent wouldn’t provide insight into the meaning of the text. Instead, it would limit the amount of meaning a reader could take from it. Giving a text an author before you analyse it was nothing more than a convenient and simple way to understand it. For Barthes, the meaning of a book wasn’t dependent on who the author was but on who the reader was. As we can never really be sure of what an author intended, trying to understand a novel based on who they were as a person would always be flawed. The author, thus, becomes not a God but merely a “scriptor”. They aren’t imposing meaning but merely translating putting the meaning on paper for the reader to untangle themselves.
Can we all come to some sort of agreement, please? That we stop comparing contemporary crime thrillers to Agatha Christie? I know that she still has a reputation as a cosy crime writer but Christie is the type of writer that very few can live up to. She has a deep understanding of human behaviour and knows how to mislead her readers convincingly. I blame her writing for the fact that I so often guess book twists. She, and to some extent Arthur Conan Doyle, has trained me to start thinking too critically about everything I read. I’m always disappointed by modern crime books. Especially those super hyped ones that everyone loves. Like The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. I’ve heard so many people praising it but I was not blown away. I’d guessed who the victim was from the start and it was super obvious who had killed them. So, I hadn’t intended to read her follow-up The Guest List. Until the ebook was on offer. It might not be a great read but at least it would dull the boredom for a while.
It’s been another tough week but, hopefully, it’s going to get better from here on out. We’ve been super stretched but things are getting easier. And I might actually get a break this month. Pre-Covid, I was meant to be going away with my family this month. Obviously, the holiday is off but I might still be able to use my days. Although, work may very well turn around and say they can’t spare me. Hopefully not. The idea of having a week off is the only thing keeping me going right now. A week to read, relax, and catch up on my sleep. Yes, it’s not like I go anywhere or do anything but I’m a homebody anyway.