August 5, 2011

With a knee operation and subsequent bad reaction to medications behind me, I am now back to reading and at least thinking about writing and publishing.

I'm stumbling along with The Brothers Karamazov, finding it, well, overwrought. Am also noticing how contemporary some of its concerns are and actually improving my understanding of what christianity/religion can mean to people, mainly through the character of Alyosha, the youngest brother. So I’m far from giving up on it, but reading other things alongside.

Re-reading Sarah Bakewell’s How To Live: A Life of Montaigne, is a delight. Bakewell is most impressive in the way she brings together historical context, what is known of Montaingne’s life, his reading and influences, and of course the ideas in his Essays. His ideas about how to live are worth thinking about, though at times I get annoyed with them.

J.M.Coetzee’s Diary of A Bad Year runs three versions of itself across the pages. Along the bottom of each page, separated by a thin line, is the story of a (not overtly sexual) relationship between an aging author and a woman in the same apartment block who types up the manuscript of a collection of thoughts he is writing. Starting a little way into the book is another stream, from the woman’s point of view. Across the top half - and more - of each page are the ‘thoughts’ of the author. I decided to read one strand at a time, starting from the one at the bottom of the pages, and this worked for me. As did the whole book. I admired it and enjoyed reading it and found the ideas of the short essays interesting, particularly the early ones about the state and the succession of power.

I’m finding it hard to think about the publishing of the new novel. There’s still a little editing to do, but that’s no reason to not at least settle on the beginnings of a plan. (Made a phone call to a friend, got more energised, watch this space.)

It seems a long time since I wrote anything new. There are a couple of ideas in there somewhere, I need to shake them out and see if they go anywhere, which means settling down at the computer and getting some words down.

I have written up the China travels, with photos, and put the file up on the web. You can access it at
without having to sign up for anything or identify yourself.

Tian'an Men Square, Beijing.
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