Reading fiction, even really enjoyable novels, tends to feel like work these days since I'm always on the lookout for something to comment on in my monthly column for Writing Magazine, which means I can't resist instinctively deconstructing and analysing.
So I turn to nonfiction, but even a short history of absolutely anything seems to be too long for the time available. Which is why I was delighted to discover SUM, a collection of whimsical essays so short you can read it from start to finish in the Easyjet check-in queue (I did) and so fascinating you can keep on rereading and reflecting on it endlessly.
David Eagleman's 'Tales from the afterlives' are 40 alternative possibilities of life after death, each one enchantingly absurd, with satiric humour so gentle and profound it takes a while to realise that none of these hypotheses are any sillier than the ones actually promoted on a daily basis across our planet. Essential reading, especially for any education secretary pondering compulsory religious assemblies.
A new production of Leaves of Glass by Philip "One-of-the-world's-greatest-living -playwrights" Ridley at the Alma Tavern is selling well, but it would be hard for any production to live up to the hyperbole of the programme notes. "A work of staggering poetry and fragile haunting beauty" it isn't, nor is the subject - paedophilic abuse - staggeringly original. The two male leads, brothers slowly (it's over 2 hours long) and unsuccessfully unpicking the damage of their early experiences, were well taken though the wife and mother didn't make much of their thin material. But the main deterrent to any real connection with their tragedy was the intrusive set which required bustling refurbishment of tables chairs settees and rugs after every cameo scene, of which there were many, thus shattering the cumulative emotional mood as effectively as the tiresomely numerous symbols of breakage in the script. The whole thing would probably have worked better as a 45 minute radio play.
Off to Edinburgh for a taste of the Fringe next week, tra-la, so next posting will be from there.