Friday, July 23, 2021

Spectacular and Stupendous

By Abir 

Do you read books outside your usual interest? For example, do you read award-winning books out of curiosity, even if they aren’t your usual type of book? If you usually read thrillers, would you try a cozy if it was highly recommended? And vice versa?

Morning! It’s Friday again, but this Friday is different to the eighty odd Fridays before it. This Friday is special, because this Friday I am attending – in person - my first crime fiction festival in over a year. And not just any festival –  I’m at the daddy of them all (at least in UK terms) The Theakston’s Crime Festival in Harrogate.


You may have to forgive me if this post is slightly below my usual standards (and I admit that’s a low bar to start with) but I’m nursing a bit of a hangover this morning, having arrived at the festival at 5pm yesterday and then discovering the bar at 5.02.


In my defence, I should point out that I was in the running for an award last night – the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. Alas, despite being somewhat old and very peculiar, I didn’t win. That honour deservedly went to Chris Whittaker for his brilliant book ‘We Begin at the End’, and if you haven’t read it, I do recommend it. It’s fantastic. Anyway, I took not winning as an opportunity to drown my sorrows. Indeed this beautiful tankard they gave me for not winning certainly came in handy.

My prize for not winning. I now have three of these.

I phoned my family this morning and my six year old son told me where I went wrong. ‘You need to use more stupendous and spectacular words, daddy…like stupendous and spectacular.’ Maybe he’s on to something?


It’s wonderful to be back in the company of writers and crime fiction fans again; so many friends that I hadn’t seen for so long. I’m on a couple of panels later today but right now I can’t remember what they’re about. I’m sure it’ll be ok. 


Anyway, on to today’s question. Do I read books outside my usual areas of interest. That’s a tough one. The answer is probably ‘not enough’. Most of the time I’m reading crime fiction, history, politics, historical fiction, science, or a combination of any of the above. These are things I like. And there’s a lot to choose from in those categories. It doesn’t leave time for much else. Having said that, if someone says I should read something, particularly literary fiction, I’ll give it a go. More often than not though, I find that I don’t particularly enjoy them. I tend to get bored by a book unless it speaks to me in some way. I suppose if there’s a common thread to the books I enjoy outside of my areas of interest it’s that they tend to have something to do with India, or are written by Indian or other authors of Indian origin. I love the work of Jhumpa Lahiri and Vikram Seth. Lahiri’s ‘The Namesake’ and Seth’s ‘An Equal Music’ will always make my list of top 10 favourite books of all time. I’m also a huge fan of the works of Neel Mukherjee and Salman Rushdie. There’s something about the writing of these authors, a poetry infused with a culture that I partially understand; something in their writing that appeals to something in my core, my DNA, my bones, that somehow sets them apart.


But my favourite works by even those authors are probably from two decades ago. In more recent times I’ve struggled to find many books outside my interest areas that I’ve truly enjoyed. Maybe that’s just a function of getting old. Maybe I’ve become too set in my ways; too crusty and crotchety. Just like I’m convinced that music peaked in 1986 and that anything released this side of the millennium is strange, scary and basically just noise, maybe the same is true of my literary tastes. Have I become some sort of cultural dinosaur, who knows what he likes and likes what he knows? Probably, but that’s ok, isn’t it? Or should I read more widely? 


I’d be interested in what you all think, so please let me know.


For now I’m off to my first hotel breakfast in eighteen months. Congealed eggs, cold sausages and bacon you could line the soles of your shoes with.  Truly a stupendous and spectacular breakfast if ever there was one.


Stay safe folks and have a great weekend.


Brenda Chapman said...

Stupendous post, Abir, and congratulations on making that shortlist!

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Great post,Abir, and congratulations for making the shortlist. Have a great time at the festival.

Susan C Shea said...

Abir, you always make me laugh out loud somewhere in your posts! Bacon you could line your shoes with….