reading / watching 03-09-2010

i started reading two books on holiday and failed to finished them, which isn’t unusual, except that they were two self-evidently good books (the testament of gideon mack by james robertson and wildwood by roger deakin, whose waterlog went some considerable way to changing my life). back home i picked up the methuen book of royal court plays 2000-2010 and i was gripped, partly because  of the quality of the writing and partly because i was learning something. 

being a writer i spend way way too much time thinking about myself, in spite of which it had never occurred to me that i never read purely for entertainment. i watch enjoyably crap tv and films for entertainment (see below), but when i read i want to learn something, something about the world or, better still, something i can carry over into my own writing. consequently reading something really good is sometimes a slow business, as i keep pausing to ponder and scribble.

all of which led to another revelation, that contemporary british theatre is so much more vital than the contemporary british novel. there are shit plays, of course. lots of them. but where are the novels which show you what it’s like to be black and british in the way that the plays of roy williams do? where is the novel as brutal and hilarious and prescient as simon stephens’ motortown? where are the novels are persistently experimental as those of martin crimp and caryl churchill? where are the novels which get anywhere near the sublime horror of sarah kane’s work? where are the novels dealing with the wars in iraq or afghanistan (the tricycle put on 13 at the same time – the great game).  where are the novels that pick you up and spit you out and make you think holy shit...

i know a novel is the quieter more conversational form. i know, most of the work i’m talking about is performed in subsidised, not-for-profit theatres (some of which will doubtless be culled in a couple of weeks’ time). i know, the audiences are smaller and more willing to be challenged, but, but, but…

oh well, maybe it’s just the time of the month.

(under a blue sky by david eldridge, fallout by roy williams, motortown by simon stephens, my child by mike Bartlett, enron by lucy prebble)