1. Brother of the More Famous Jack, Barbara Trapido
This small, seemingly unassuming novel was recommended to me by a new friend in London. She went to her bookcase and slipped it out from between two other books – the sky blue cover and enigmatic title piqued my curiosity. This was once her favourite coming-of-age read.
Brother of the More Famous Jack simultaneously critiques and casts admiration on academic relationships. With great wit and deftly-composed prose, the novel teeters between pomp and circumstance as it follows the life of protagonist Katherine, from school girl to woman. The Sunday Telegraph described the novel as 'the fiction equivalent of a brisk walk followed by a hot buttered crumpet: fresh, invigorating, comforting and heartening.' Truly, Brother of the More Famous Jack is a gutting book, filled with profound moments of tenderness and vulnerability. Like a crumpet, the novel feels exquisitely British.
2. Faith, Hope and Carnage, Nick Cave
Faith, Hope and Carnage is a book compiled as a series of telephone interviews conducted by Sean O'Hagan. An exceptional read. I wept reading the chapters, moved by the poetic "stores of wisdom and beauty" that Cave brings to the conversation. These stores of wisdom and beauty chime with "informed improvisation," similar to the "mindful improvisation" that caverns Cave's new album Ghosteen:
We were falling into this sound, following our hearts and our understanding of each other as collaborators, towards this newness.
Throughout the interviews, Cave talks about themes of religion, grief, sorrow and art. He writes:
A dishonest line tends to deteriorate somehow after singing; a truthful line collects meaning [...] Certain lines can appear at the time to be incomprehensible, but they nevertheless feel very true, very true indeed. And not just true, but necessary, and humming with a kind of unrevealed meaning. Through writing, you can enter a space of deep yearning that drags its past along with it and whispers into the future, that has an acute understanding of the way of things. You write a line that requires the future to reveal its meaning.
Cave describes music as a "private gesture that signals a willingness to hand a part of oneself over to the mysterious, in the same way that prayer is."
I resonate with this. Poetry is the private gesture that signals my willingness to hand myself over to the mysterious divine, Creator through which all of creation was born. Poetry is the gesture that remind me of my smallness. A smallness that directs my gaze to the heavens: to the expansiveness of our world and its galaxies. A world with much space to fill.