Celsius 451: Fireproof Reading

on Friday, January 17, 2014
Greetings from all nine rings of hell. Yes, after mocking us with a moderately warm December peppered with thunderstorms and the odd cold snap, Melbourne has decided to give us a chance to surf the solar flares. For four days now we have sweltered in this inferno. Forty plus degrees every day. Overnight lows of thirty. Well played, Satan. Well played. The city has all but shut down. Australian Open tennis players are melting on contact with the court. Swimmers are being boiled alive on our beaches. A power pole just exploded in the street (I heard it on a news flash). And, sadly, bush fires are raging out of control on the city's outskirts.

I, of course, am having none of it. Apart from one sojourn outside (to court where, I should add, the only suit that should be required in this heat is a birthday suit) I've locked myself away in a small, air-conditioned room with Louie, a jug of iced water and a big pile of books. Two and a half weeks into the year and I'm onto book thirteen. It's been a great start. After being floored by the brilliance of Jesse Ball's Silence Once Begun, I've managed a run of not-quite-as-good but still wonderful reads. Graphic fiction has featured prominently with Property by Rutu Mordan, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Essex County by Jeff Lamire and Wilson by Daniel Clowes. They've proved a fantastic escape from the heat - complex stories and ideas presented in a lively way that does not numb your eyes with repetitive black print. I also thoroughly enjoyed the action-lit (not my usual thing) of Almost Dead by Assaf Gavron and God's Dog by Diego Marani as well as the brain thumping complexity of Josef Winkler's House-That-Jack-Built-In-Hell, When The Time Comes.

Come to think of it, I can't remember another year that started this well. Nor can I remember a year so heavily front loaded with hits. I've just begun Chang Rae Lee's On Such A Full Sea which, thus far, is a totally unexpected, highly compelling, JG Ballard-esque joy to read. I'm anxiously anticipating the arrival of the new E.L. Doctorow, Andrew's Brain as well as Leaving The Sea, Ben Marcus's latest collection of short stories. I loved Homer and Langley and was a big fan of The Flame Alphabet, even if Marcus didn't quite see the humour in my rave (apparently my Australian way didn't translate well to the American idiom). I expect big things from their follow ups.

With novels expected from other heavy hitters in the first half of 2014, this is shaping up to be another amazing read for book lovers. Now, if only I can think of a special B4BW reading project (preferably less onerous than "Review Every Book I Read) I'll be all set to keep this silly little blog enjoyable for you. I'd happily take suggestions!


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