I have three books on the go – a very companionable threesome. I have long enjoyed the books of David Cornwell, AKA John Le Carré. His gliding prose weaving such believable tales of deceit and broken trust. With each novel the reader feels the author is exposing real truth within the fiction. So I was excited to be given a gift certificate which allowed me to buy John Le Carré: the Biography by Adam Sisman
At Christmas I was given the latest Bill Bryson book – The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island. I had laughed so hard at his first book, about an American in England, that I permanently damaged my ribs. If anything, his second volume about his experiences in the quirky little island of Britain is going to do even greater damage!
The third in my companionable threesome is: The Word in the Wilderness: a Poem a Day for Lent and Easter compiled by Malcolm Guite (including many of Malcolm’s own wonderful sonnets). Each daily poem is followed by a thoughtful reflection by Malcolm. By the way you are probably pronouncing Guite incorrectly in your ear – it rhymes with right, or site.
The biography is both revealing and yet enigma creating. It must have been a fascinating experience to interview David Cornwell and to be given complete access to so much personal material. Yet, either David’s memory is at times faulty or he is deliberately giving different and competing versions of events. The author writes well and keeps the reader engaged in the life presented. Reading about Le Carré is like reading a novel. No wonder so many of his books reflect events and characters from his life. I can enthusiastically recommend this biography, especially to Le Carré fans.
Bill Bryson, if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading him, writes non-fiction (well mainly, he does manage to add many imagined responses to the stupidities of people and institutions). Bill engages the reader with hilarity while imparting an amazing amount of information and lesser known facts. It’s the kind of book you shouldn’t read on an overnight flight. You will be annoying others with your laughter. Even at home I have to keep stopping reading to explain why I laughed out loud. The only criticism I have of his book, is his imagined story of a man having a stroke and collapsing into his bowl of Weetabix – dead! Now I happen to love Weetabix. Weetabix and I have been breakfast companions every day for the last 69 years (except on the few occasions when travelling and unable to obtain any – and hadn’t had the foresight to pack a few of the biscuits in my carry-on). We have a serious relationship, Weetabix and I – as a child I would have races, seeing which of the two biscuits in the bowl would be eaten up first. I almost always guessed the right one. O.K. so I was a strange child, but you may not have met my brother. So when Bill has the man collapse in his Weetabix, well it was a horror story for me.
This is a wonderfully insightful and hilarious trip through Britain twenty years after his first volume.
The third companion fills a spiritual need. Malcolm Guite (no as in Gite – remember?) is, as far as I am concerned, an amazing poet and theologian. He is also, to my mind, a funny looking geezer, but I think all poets should look a little strange. I have had the privilege of hearing Malcolm read some of his sonnets in concerts with Steve Bell, a Winnipeg song-writer/singer in the Christian tradition. When Malcolm starts to read, time stops – all else fades into the background and we find ourselves drawn into new truths exposed through words that engage our psyche as well as our senses. Malcolm is a deeply spiritual man, but a man firmly of this earth – a real Adam.
According to the back of his book, Malcolm is a poet, priest and singer-songwriter. He is Chaplain of Girton College and Associate Chaplain of St Edward King and Martyr in Cambridge. You can read more of Malcolm in his blog and hear him read his poetry at malcolmguite.wordpress,com/blog
A poet I can love and understand.
Happy Reading – Blessed Lent