Evil and the Mask by Fuminori Nakamura book cover
Much to my great indignation we have had an actual summer over the past few weeks – yes, sun, sandals, and melted lollies – it’s quite unexpected and all together unwanted in these quarters. Give me gloomy Autumn weather any day. Incidentally, for those of you not from these shores, it is, as Kate Fox observes in Watching the English, absolutely necessary that all conversations in Britain should be started by a discussion of the weather, the ineptness of the weather wo/men, and a general feeling that the plants want for some rain (ok, I'm paraphrasing). We all collude in this weather opener, and now you must too. Of course, none of us actually give a blinking shoehorn about what’s actually going on out there, it’s just a neat way to confirm that someone is open to the idea of a conversation with you. i.e. If Maud says to Mavis, “Bit hot out there, isn’t it?” and Mavis replies, “Oh yes, very muggy,” then Maud can reasonably assume that Mavis is up for a little verbal intercourse and the two can get right down to it. Do you see - complex, isn’t it? Now, on the other hand, if Maud says to Mavis, “Bit hot out there, isn’t it?” and Mavis growls like a rabid dog and drives a size 10 knitting needle straight into Maud’s trachea, we might assume that she is not up for even a cursory bit of chit chat. Mardy cow.

Are we all on the same page? Good. Then if we can all agree that it’s really quite hot out there – you know, really hot, not like abroad-hot (different heat entirely) but proper muggy hot – then I think we might safely proceed onwards to some book-related chat.

Following last month’s jamboree of summer-inspired reading, I’m reverting to form and choosing reads based on nothing more than whims. This month, I’m going to make Evil and the Mask my main read – a less sunny book you’ll be want to find. This is the second of Fuminori Nakamura’s novels to be translated into English, following up on The Thief (my review), which was released last year. Fumihiro Kuki, the last son of Shozo Kuki, is sired to be a cancer to the world but as he grows he struggles against this path, wanting to make his own way in the world.

Just in case I haven’t got my fill of bleakness by then, I’ll pick up Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaghterhouse-Five for a little more abject death and despair. Mixing science-fiction with realism, and shoving both time and space into the great literary blender, the outcome is a very unique look at war and the bombing of Dresden by allied forces in 1945.

A little closer to home for my final two reads, and I’ll look first at Metroland by Julian Barnes – bildungsroman of the English suburbs. Set in the part of outer London where I grew up (admittedly a few years later than the main character here) I think I have every chance of empathising. Barnes’s style is so clean and measured that it often feels overly simple – probably a mark of real quality – and I look forward to reading his first novel and marking any differences in his early style.

Finally, an indulgence. For those who are unaware or uninterested in the world of Football Manager, look away now. The definitive football management sim now has a book that brings together the toil and heartache that all of the game’s players will know. A celebration of the community which has grown up over the last two decades, Football Manager Stole My Life is, I will admit, a niche read, but it’s my niche baby, so let’s roll…

Notable Posts from July