Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
From The Sunday Times June 22, 2008 Burning is too good for them Some books are supposed to be classics, but all they ignite in us is anger. Rod Liddle presents his red-mist list.
For many years, in my youth, I refused to read Anthony Powell, simply on account of the way he pronounced his name. “That’s as in Pole, dear boy,” I imagined the Old Etonian saying chidingly. You cannot be a good proto-commie and enjoy Anthony Powell, I thought to myself in my frowsy bedsit, surrounded by garish SWP posters, Tom Robinson records and the collected works of Marx and Marcuse. You could call it a question of upbringing, I suppose. Instead, I would sit myself down with Edward Upward’s trilogy The Spiral Ascent, a hideous and rightly forgotten stab at Marxist literature that can be read now only as unwitting satire. I either didn’t know or didn’t care that Upward’s middle name was Falaise, and that he had been educated at Repton. Maybe I thought Repton was sort of okay, because Isherwood went there too, and he was a good comrade. I think you should be allowed a degree of inconsistency, or stupidity, in youth.
It was a long time later that I came to read A Dance to the Music of Time. I was in my mid- to late twenties, I think, when almost all of my adolescent ideological misapprehensions had been cast overboard. And I can remember, halfway through reading the novel in the sequence titled A Question of Upbringing, flinging it aside and thinking: well, son, you were wrong about Marxism, nuclear weapons, radical feminism, council house sales, positive discrimination, Tony Benn, the Soviet Union, Gramsci and Edward Upward, but by God you were right about Anthony Powell. What ineffectual, pointless drivel.