Readers’ corner – October to November 2022

Every month I take a look at the books I’ve been reading, and an article or two that I’d recommend from my travels on the internet.

This month my list is short. That’s because I’ve been doing another kind of reading – proofreading a book that’s set to be published next year. I can’t talk about that, but I can talk about other things that have been keeping me busy since my last post.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street – Natasha Pulley (Bloomsbury)

I quite often pick books in the local library based on the cover, and this was one of those. It turned out to be fascinating.

It’s set in Victorian England – with a side order of the Japan of the same era. There are elements of fantasy mixed in with the mystery of who it is that is setting bombs in government buildings. There are two intertwined love stories too.

The plot is complex (in a Back to the Future time-shifting kind of way) but the characters are wonderfully engaging. I’ll be taking it out of the library again to re-read so that I can catch up on the finer turning points.

Recommended online reading

The Mona Lisa Effect

I was once invited to the theatre – to go and see something by Athol Fugard, if I remember correctly. I declined, and made the mistake of saying what I really thought: that I’d rather spend my Friday night watching something cheerful on the telly.

This piece by British writer Ian Leslie reminded me of the awkward pause that followed my declaration of lowbrow preferences. He looks at how it is that art gets to be “great” – or not. He says:

(The theory is) that some works of art are just great: of intrinsically superior quality. The paintings that win prime spots in galleries, get taught in classes and reproduced in books are the ones that have proved their artistic value over time. If you can’t see they’re superior, that’s your problem. It’s an intimidatingly neat explanation. But some social scientists have been asking awkward questions of it, raising the possibility that artistic canons are little more than fossilised historical accidents.

People – this is not to imply that I disdain Athol Fugard. I think he is a great playwright, and an eminent South African writer. I just sometimes want mindless entertainment, with my feet up in front of the television.

Main picture: JESHOOTS.COM, Unsplash

The stuff that’s always at at the bottom of blog posts…

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  1. I love trashy telly – although I think I may have overdone it during lockdown and now get annoyed by the formulaic nature of most television. Sigh. What a loss!

    But I am weighing in here to say that I think it’s a mistake to divide art/creative output into high- and lowbrow. Those days are over, surely? The days of the theatre snob is long gone.

    My aim for ageing is to keep my mind as wide open as possible – and, speaking for myself, I have seen some theatre that has fundamentally changed me/my life. And I’m grateful for it.

    • I agree – it’s not an either/or thing. Which is the point of Ian Leslie’s article. But there are people who make that highbrow vs lowbrow division, I think. (And I do like theatre… I just never seem to get there any more).

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