April was a very good month for reading: I finished three novels, three photography books and a full catalogue of a major exhibition by one of Britain’s most accomplished artists.
Starting with the last of those, I was fortunate to catch the 60 year retrospective of David Hockney’s work at Tate Britain in April. The catalogue (ISBN 978-1-84976-443-8) weighs in at 280 pages, is superbly illustrated and covers his long and varied career very well.
It was also a good month for photography books, for which I have passion. I picked up three titles from Hoxton Mini Press – who produce excellent, small-format, short runs of the work of some really interesting and talented London-based photographers.
The first of these was Shoreditch Wildlife – a now out of print edition (ISBN 978-0957699847 and 176 pages) by Dougie Wallace – or Glasweegie as he likes to be known. This is a reprint of his book from a couple of years ago showing the rich and varied party scene in one of London’s trendier quarters.
The second was London Youth by Julian Mahrlein (ISBN 978-1910566206 an 128 pages) which I enjoyed – with the caveat that the photography / printing all seemed a little too high-key. These are street portraits, rather than street photography. So the shots are posed. With some quotes and insight from the subjects it offers an interesting take on what it means to be young in London today.
The third, like London Youth, was from the series Tales of the City, for which I bought myself a subscription using some money received for Christmas. This one, Urban Dirt Bikers (978-1910566213 and 128 pages) by Spencer Murphy. In this collection the photographer, having gained the trust of this sub-culture’s members goes on location with them as they show and perform stunts on their motorcycles and mopeds.
I also read three novels this month. The first and second were for our small bookclub: A Trick I Learned From Dead Men (ISBN 978-0099570196 and 224 pages) by Kitty Aldridge and Testimonies by Patrick O’Brian (ISBN 978-0006476528 and 224 pages). The first of these was a contemporary novel the central character of which worked in an undertaker’s business and lived at home with his troubled brother and non-communicative step-father. This was a surprisingly touching tale written in a modern, easy-to-read-fashion.
The second, by Patrick O’Brian, the author of the Master and Commander series, predates that series, and in fact is his first novel. It is set in a grim Welsh Valley just after the second world war. This was an oppressive tale, written in an unusual style – the characters giving testimonies (as in the title) although to whom is never made clear. Given that one of those giving their testimony is in fact dead, there is quite a bit of speculation online that the testimonies are being given to St Peter or some other celestial being. Don’t let that put you off. I would recommend this if you like something dark, and a little more challenging.
The third and final novel which I read was Possessions By Sara Flannery Murphy (ISBN 978-1911344032 and 368 pages). The time period of the story is never given, although I took it to be near future, and the central character works as a medium in a business which provides the bereaved with the means to contact recently departed loved ones. The plot centres on the growing relationship with one of her clients, in all its disfunctionality. It is part mystery, part romance, works well and keeps your attention to the end.
Total pages read this month: 1,528
Total Pages this year to date: 5,952
See previous postings here.