Friday, January 03, 2003

So many books, so little time

Over the last week or so I've raced through J G Ballard's 'Super-Cannes'. I keep reading that it's almost a sequel to 'Cocaine Nights', so perhaps I should have started with that, but never mind - I enjoyed it anyway. The novel is very Ballard, centering on the nightmare at the heart of the corporate dream. He conjures up lurid visions of the violent and sexual perversions in which the corporate uberclass indulge in order to keep themselves productive and efficient and mentally stable in the high-pressure working environment. Ballard creates an impressively believable world (although not 'real' in any conventional sense - the whole point is that this world is almost hyperreal, where appearance and actuality are blurred), a horrifying dystopia which is far more than a mere flight of fancy, or a novelist flexing his imaginative muscles - this dystopia of the Eden-Olympia business park is central to Ballard's self-appointed role as social and cultural commentator, and the darkly foreboding critique is razor-sharp. What's more, the fact that it's a heavyweight novel in terms of ideas means there's no need to feel guilty about getting drawn into the intricacies of the plot and getting swept along as you might with your standard fast-paced but ultimately utterly vacuous thriller. 'Super-Cannes' is a whole lot more intellectually satisfying than that.

I suddenly seem to have rediscovered my lust for books and reading in general. There's an explanation close at hand, I suppose - reading books incessantly for the PhD I am currently (if only occasionally...) labouring towards, as well as for teaching undergraduates, has the unfortunate consequence of dulling the appetite for reading for pleasure. I remember the way a desire to gorge myself on books suddenly hit me the summer after I'd finished my undergraduate degree. Well, it seems as though the Christmas break has had the same effect. Now I can't go into bookshops without salivating in exactly the same way as I do when I pass through the hallowed doorway of Selectadisc. The problem now is that I'm buying more books at a faster rate than I can possibly read them, even allowing for my vastly increased appetite. So, recent purchases piling up and awaiting perusal include:
'Stupid White Men' - Michael Moore
'The Trial' - Franz Kafka
'The Secret History' - Donna Tartt
'England's Dreaming' - Jon Savage
'Resurrection Men' - Ian Rankin
'Underworld' - Don DeLillo
'24 Hour Party People' - Tony Wilson
'The Bonfire Of The Vanities' - Tom Wolfe
That's not to mention quite a few books on my shelves that remain unread, and several that I want to return to.

New Year's Resolution: Read more for pleasure. Better get cracking...

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