Friday, August 18, 2006

An experiment...

Our book of the month this month is Either Side of Winter by Ben Markovits.

This post is intended to be a place where people can discuss their thoughts about this book. If there is a strong response we may go ahead with our plans for a bulletin board on the website where people can discuss books etc. So here goes, a little different to the normal blog but...

I had heard various things about Ben Markovits on the literary grape vine, mostly with reference to his debut The Syme Papers. Readers were divided. They either thought it a work of total genius or found it a bit heavy going. I looked at it and decided not to read it.

When Either Side of Winter appeared I was tempted again but initially resisted. This was mainly because of a review of The People's Act of Love by James Meek that Ben wrote in the TLS. I loved The People's Act and felt a bit defensive about the review. Who IS this Markovits? Who does he think he is?

Then Ben came into the shop I was working in (pre C & P) one evening with his wife. He asked if he could sign his book and I said yes. We then chatted for a while about booky stuff and it turned out we had a few mates in common (always the way in bookselling/publishing). The conversation changed my opinion of the man and I decided, I have to say with some reluctance, to give Either Side a go.

Initially I was unconvinced. There was something weird about the sentence structures I could not quite put my finger on, something almost Germanic. But I carried on reading until I became used to the style. I began to appreciate that this was a writer who understood not only the way that people think but how they feel, how changes in the weather or the most tiny, insignificant moments became vastly important to the individual concerned. As the story progressed and the connections and relationships became more developed I realised that I was falling in love! Now I verge on the evangelical when it comes to Ben and his books...

So what do you think? Come in and pick up a copy or order online - join the debate.

Ben Markovits - Brilliant or boring? All opinions welcome!

1 comment:

  1. Oh well I *heart* Either Side of Winter, which sneaked past my anti-short story defenses by interweaving the four novellas that it consists of. (David Mitchell keeps me interested that way too. One of the reasons I hate short stories is that they always stop just as I'm getting into them, which means I'm bored again several times per book, and have little incentive to keep reading even when I am interested. But that's another issue.)

    Ben writes beautifully and has a profound understanding of the emotional lives of his characters, so even if the books aren't filled with event plot-wise, they're constantly gripping for the truths they reveal about the shifting emotional sands within each of us. The characters aren't necessarily particularly pleasant - the teacher who fancies his pupil, the selfish gay man who discoveres he has a daughter from a youthful encounter with a woman - their motivations aren't filled with virtue, but they're all the more real for it. And all the more sympathetic - because who amongst us can say we always do the right thing? I'd recommend this book to anybody, which is just as well, seeing as it's book of the month...