Three of the six books I’ve read so far this year have been non-fiction, which is probably more non-fiction than I read all last year. And of course I’m ploughing my way through 2021’s Wisden, all 1,248 pages of it, though for some reason with a lot less resolution than I’ve read my way through previous Wisdens (and for those of you not familiar with that book, it’s all about cricket and its statistics for the previous 12 months – and all-time cricket stats records – and is published in the April after the year it covers). Samuel Beckett loved and played cricket (to a high standard). Those with no appreciation of the long form of the game might even say that Waiting For Godot was inspired by cricket.
Anyway, last year I read 90 books, and this year I’ve reduced my target to 60, because part of me thought that aiming for fewer books to read might actually increase the time I had to create books of my own. Instead, I seem just to be reading more slowly, and I suppose that can’t be a bad thing; I might absorb more of what I’ve actually read. And there are still three more non-fiction books in my TBR pile. But today, I need some fiction. The problem is that most of our books are still in boxes in a shed, and that the books I have so far decanted into the office are double-stacked, so finding a novel to read has been a bit of a trial this morning. But I did find a YA book that appealed to me, so I started reading that over breakfast just now. Something about time stopping at midnight every day. Maybe it appeals because I wish time would stop (he says, one eye on the clock as I’m on air at 10, and like to be prepared).
Why this need for fiction? I must admit that I think the non-fiction autobiographical books I’ve read root me too much in the present. They don’t take me into a different world, however interesting they might be. They don’t show me alternate universes where nothing is quite the same as in the universe I live in. Although I did just read an article about how UFO research is becoming more refined and is being taken more seriously by those sciences that congratulate themselves on their own gravitas and importance. Actually, make that four non-fiction books to be read, as I got a book about the universe for Christmas that is pretty hefty and that I’m looking forward to reading (but not over any meal, because it’s too big for the table). We may yet discover life in the universe we inhabit.
I sometimes (often) ask myself why I chose to write fiction, why I decided I was a story-teller. Perhaps it’s that otherness Alison mentioned the other day, the wish to separate myself even further from a world that I don’t understand, have never understood, have never really liked, where I’ve felt so often that it’s only the alpha males who succeed, only the liars and thieves, and where goodness can be difficult to find, and where redemption is rare. Perhaps that’s why my stories always have some sort of redemption in them (perhaps I should have issued a spoiler alert there), why they’re populated by misfits and strong women, why they have this thread of the spiritual in them, because that’s the only thread I have to hold on to in a world that values practicality and deceit above impracticality, dreaming, and vision.
This has been a fragmented morning, and this has been put together piece by piece, interrupted, as too often, by my worst enemy, my body. Some might say my body rebels against me because of my mind. And perhaps that’s what I’ve always tried to escape from.