What I am reading whilst I (impatiently) wait for Ali Smith’s Spring (because we’re not even at the solstice yet), a list:
The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot: is there a more iconic first line in poetry? April is the cruellest month. But is it? A month of riotous greens and pinks that shines light on just how bleak and depressing the winter was. Cruelty in creation. Cruelty in childbirth. Cruelty in the first line of a poem that is so staggeringly beautiful in its shattering of social norms. A poem that muses on how the modern world has become a wasteland, we have forgotten what the earth once was. Collective memory has failed us. Religion no longer has the influence it used to. Like Smith’s seasonal quartet, The Wasteland makes me think our true historical documents aren’t the newspapers or textbooks, but the prose and the poetry of the present.
Attrib. by Eley Williams: if you want wordplay and witticisms you’ll find it in Williams. Not spring-like (should I say springy?) in subject matter, with a focus on language and communication (I’m sure I could twist some metaphor in here), but it’s the narrative voice that gets me – if you like Ali, you’ll like Eley.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens: with every Smith I read, I am reminded of my inability to like Dickens. Autumn’s ‘it was the worst of times, it was the worst of times’, was a Brexified A Tale of Two Cities. Winter’s litany of death was, of course, A Christmas Carol. I’m taking a guess and thinking maybe, maybe Spring will be Great Expectations. With the expectation of things to change. Maybe.
Orlando by Virginia Woolf: change, again. Well, I suppose this seasonal quartet is a musing on time and change itself. So there’s nothing better than reading Woolf’s gender bending time travelling Orlando to remind us how quickly and how frighteningly the world changes.
Artful by Ali Smith: reading Ali Smith as a remedy for Ali Smith. Artful’s speaks to springtime and the liminal space it creates. She perfectly articulates the moment when the light shifts from winter to spring, when ‘the trees shine green and the buds on the ends of the branches glow slightly brighter than the rest of the tree’. A book that is somehow a musing on grief, a piece of literary criticism, and references Beyoncé is a book that I will read over and over again.
Pond by Claire Louise Bennett: with an abundance of flowers, trees, and shrubs blossoming around her, an unnamed narrator moves to the countryside in the middle of Spring. The book is a series of soliloquies (maybe short stories, maybe one multifaceted novel) on solitude in nature – a forgotten garden she begins to cultivate, the birth of a foal, many moments spent watching the light. Light. Spring. Hope. It’s all we’ve got left.