And other things that make me not want to read a book. I’m currently trying to read Klas Östergren’s ‘The Hurricane Party’ part of Canongate’s myth series. It’s a good book but I’m struggling with it just a bit, I knew I would the moment I read those dread words “Set in a dystopian future”. I was sucked in by the promise of Norse Gods and ordered a copy via amazon after dithering for about a year, had I actually seen the book in a shop I almost certainly wouldn’t have bought it and as it is I probably won’t keep it (although I still have about a quarter left to read and might change my mind yet) simply because the future (dystopian or utopian) doesn’t appeal to me.
Entirely by the by but Canongate commissioned this book and presumably commissioned a translator at the same time, but I see from the blurb that Klas Östergren is himself a respected translator which makes me wonder – if he can take a book in English and turn it into Swedish is there a reason why he wouldn’t write in English for a British market? I don’t doubt that the two processes are very different but I’m curious about it.
Now back to things I inexplicably just don’t like. I can’t be bothered with books that are set in Australia (with the possible exception of ‘The Thorn Birds’ which I think I’m going to love.) The non fictional Australia looks and sounds like an incredible place that I dream of visiting, Australia in films (especially that one where Hugh Jackman spent a lot of time without a shirt for seemingly purely decorative reasons) and in television looks great. Make the book into a film and I’d almost certainly watch it with enthusiasm, put the book in front of me and it’s like trying to give pills to a cat.
Sweeping family saga’s, especially if they’re multi generational are another genre I just won’t do – it’s a description that fills me heart with dread, no idea why, it’s not like I’ve had any bad experience – I was never buried in an avalanche of family saga’s as a child forced to read my way out to safety and food, nobody I love has ever been hurt by a tale of multi generational love and struggle but the books might as well be made out of Stilton (which I’m not fond of) for all the enthusiasm I can muster for them.
Despite a youthful flirtation with Terry Pratchett, Robert Rankin, and of course Douglas Adams, I don’t really ‘do’ science fiction either - I can’t rule out a return, but again if it’s going to be sci-fi it’s normally the filmed version which appeals.
But far stranger than the things that repel me are the books that attract; Catholics, alcoholics, lesbians – in any combination seem to be a recurring theme. I’m not (yet) any of those things, nor especially likely to be. Books about or by women, books written before 1950, books with a Scottish connection, depressing books about surplus women, old romances (as opposed to historical fiction), genteel murders, books about Otters, epic chronicles that take in generations of a family in love and strife and which are written by Margaret Oliphant or Anthony Trollope (hmm nothing if not consistent...) all things I like.