Tuesday, September 13, 2005


If there's anything in this world that makes me so excited that I want to get up and dance like they do in Brazil, it's good fiction. Fiction so fresh that the happy reader wouldn't be surprised to find a few tender shoots springing up between the pages. Fiction that makes you feel as if you've walked into one person's consciousness, pulled up a chair and really inhabited it.

Like falling in love, that kind of reading experience doesn't happen too often--which is probably a good thing. I mean, I can't dance like they do in Brazil all day every day.

Anyway, it seems like every week or two when I walk out of the library glowing and glittering with my newest cache of books, it always ends the same way. The
books that looked so promising on the shelves fall into four categories:

1. Virtuous Reading: The book's been well reviewed in all the right places and it would undoubtedly benefit my lazy mind and soul to read it. But after a paragraph or two, my mind and soul promptly decides it rather likes its slacker state.

2. Reasonably Satisfying Reading: It pulls me in sufficiently that I read in edible chunks every night before bed. But by the time I reach the middle, I'm forced to ask the big question: Do I really give a damn enough about these invented people to finish their story? Sometimes, if I'm in dutiful schoolgirl mode, I plod onward to the end. Since I've written a couple of novels (as yet unpublished) myself, I know how much proverbial blood and sweat goes into the process and a figure it's the least I can do. But most of the time, I'm a rebel school girl, and I toss it back in my library return basket with the already discarded virtuous reads. Why?
Because in both literature and love, I'm looking for passion. Reasonably satisfying just doesn't cut it.

3. Good novels. These are the ones I really like, enthusiastically recommend, and would never consider putting down before I finish the last paragraph. But neverin the course of reading them do they make me jump up and dance like they do in Brazil. They're good, they're well-behaved, but they never once pick me up by the lapels of my pajamas and shake me.

4. The Novels that readers live for. These are the ones with shoots of grass and the scent of curry, the feel of a tropical of breeze on your cheek trapped within their pages. These are the ones you hold up and shake in people's faces when they say fiction is dead or that no one reads any more.

Small Island by Andrea Levy is the first one that comes to mind, since I'm currently reading it.

A few more that have brought out my inner Brazilian dancer:

Brick Lane by Monica Ali

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

The Accidental by Ali Smith

Is anyone noticing a pattern here? Is it just me or is the U.K. producing the best fiction these days?


katrina said...

I LOVED Small Island.

rdl said...

Great post! Makes me want to run out and buy those books or go dancing.

Unknown said...

Hi Patry, these are wonderful recommendations. I want to dance too!!! Thanks for reading, Patricia
can I link you? Please let me know.

Patry Francis said...

Actually, Katrina, I'm getting ready to go to bed and join Hortense in Small Island right now. I love it when I have a great book to look forward to at the end of the day.

And Paticia: I would love to be linked. Will follow you back to Canada and tell you so...

Patty said...

Great post!

I added the books you mentioned to my amazon.com basket. I've been reading a lot of fiction lately. Gobbling up great quantities of it, which is unusual for me. I generally read poetry. Just finished A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby. It didn't quite make me dance, but it definitely set my feet to tapping.

Russell CJ Duffy said...

try 'the life of pi'. excellent read and certainly as good as the exceptional monica ali's book.

Rubydot said...

You've got great taste in books :) Have you read Cloudstreet by Tim Winton? Definitely up your alley (sorry, just have to plug a bit of Aussie fiction!)

Patry Francis said...

Cocaine Jesus
and rubydot: Wow! I just woke up to three great book recommendations--all of which sound very interesting. Can I dance now?

mushsis said...

loads of good recommendations here - I certainly have to second cj's suggestion - life of pi is wonderful.

also jitterbug perfume if you haven't already read it, is fantastically danceworthy!

Anonymous said...

I may have passed "Samll Island" by without giving it a second glance but your incredible plug has made me decide to go out and get a copy so I can dance too.

Patry Francis said...

mushsis: You know, I've never read Jitterbug Perfume, but you've convinced me. The title alone demands it. Also, glad to see you showed up in the appropriate dancing shoes.

Easywriter: let me know what you think of Small Island. I'm savoring it.

Russell CJ Duffy said...

party francis...dance away son but just don't put on no fucking coldplay!!!

Robin said...

Excellent post, Patry.

We might have different tastes, but I think we feel the same way about books.

Thanks for the smile. Reading this made me suddenly remember -- Oh yeah, I could be smiling. Suddenly life really did feel better. Not that I was feeling down, just that I forgot that things could be a bit brighter, I guess.

Now I'm getting out of here before I drown you all in my sap.


Patry Francis said...

bellibean: so happy to see you here and especially when you're smiling.

And Finn: Somehow I sensed your inner Brazilian. How else could you have such wild dreams?

oh yes, and C.J., I'm probably rather retrograde in my musical taste, but I was just dancing to The Scientist the other day. It wasn't all that cheerful a dance, but it was dancing nonetheless. Bring on the Brazilian music!

S A J Shirazi said...

With you on all the points here. Cool.

Anonymous said...

I don't have my copy of Small Island yet Patry, but I've been promised a copy as my Birthday Gift later on. As soon as I get it I'll let you know. I can't wait. :o)

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