In which there is talk of the slim stories which have travelled with me within the city.
While bulkier volumes stayed home.
Like Robertson Davies’ Murther and Walking Spirits (1991).
And Nazanine Hozar’s Aria (2019).
These are awkward travelling companions: thick and heavy
But some of the skinnies in my current stack are awkward travelling companions too.
Like Mikella Nicol’s Aphelia (Trans. Lesley Trites).
Which is the kind of book that you could read on a single (long) train ride (but which requires more concentration than you might guess).
Travelling with books: a delicate business.
Although it isn’t how one is intended to read it, I have found Mike Barnes’ Be With: Letters to a Caregiver (2018) to be good company when travelling on public transit in the city’s core.
When the distance between stops is shorter and the conditions occasionally crowded; it is a compact volume which nestles into one’s hand and the narrative is structured so that caregivers can read in short bursts.
Barnes is an experienced writer and he strikes the perfect tone here: intimate and universal, fundamental and profound.
It reads the way that I imagine another person’s religious text might satisfy them, so that one can read a few lines or pages and contemplate or, simply, breathe.
The book landed on my stack thanks to its recent nomination for the Toronto Book Award and the blurb from Margaret Atwood on the cover – “Timely, lyrical, tough, accurate” – intrigued me further.
Tope Folarin won the Caine Prize in 2013 and was shortlisted again three years later.
His debut novel A Particular Kind of Black Man (2019) takes readers straight to the heart of Tunde, rooting us in a way that Tunde himself longs for:
“Home, in my mind, was a jumble of the various places I’d lived. My favorite bookshop in Hartville right next to my favorite pizza place in Cirrilo. Friends from Bountiful and Cirrilo and Hartville laughing and gossiping with one another. The place I missed did not even exist.”
Although a quiet coming-of-age story in many ways, the narrative voice is so engaging that even the events of the past feel urgent.
Perhaps because it is a young man’s memories which close the gap between what he longs for and what is within his grasp.
I stopped on a park bench the day I brought this home from the library because I found the first few pages so compelling (for character, not for plot).
Jane Gardam’s A Few Fair Days (1971) is her first published work and she is one of my MRE (MustReadEverything) Authors.
When I was browsing the shelves in the children’s library, reluctant to leave because it was so hot outdoors and so pleasantly cool inside the library, it seemed a delightful idea to bring home this collection of stories about a summer “in a small cold town by the sea in the farthest part of the north of Yorkshire where things changed very slowly” and I started reading on the subway home.
The book is arranged in chapters, which makes sense because some of the chronicled events are in sequence (so, for instance, a family member is absent at the beginning but restored to the family home later in the work).
Bbut there are some stories within these stories which make it seem, simultaneously, more a collection of tales.
The overall sense is beyond both of these: that nostalgic sense of time suspended, where Lucy and the others girls are summering and they are all-the-ages-there-ever-were all at once.