Love/Hate Literature

“I refuse to tread the line”
Years & Years – Ready For You

I should probably do some sort of post about Go Set A Watchman, the ‘new’ Harper Lee novel, but I’m not the best person for the job. I’ve not read Mockingbird, and have only ever really made a half-hearted attempt at it, so it doesn’t make much sense to read this new one. It’s very exciting that everyone is so excited about it, and very exciting that there’s been such debate about Atticus Finch (personally, I’m all for interesting and realistic character development, so woo). Queuing up at Midnight for books is always fun to hear about (and I’d like to actually do it one day), and it’s great that there’s such a buzz around it.

But I’m more interested about another aspect of it – and that will lead me onto discussing other love/hate relationships I have amongst literature.

The US cover of Harper Lee’s “Go Set A Watchman”, compared to the UK cover.

The Go Set A Watchman cover (that is, the UK Edition) is both clever and awful. The US Edition is just beautiful, and it beautifully echoes the cover of it’s prequel/sister/ghost/predecessor. The UK Edition, though, is orange. Vibrantly orange. Which is no bad thing really, but it just doesn’t work that well with everything else. The font seems a weird choice and definitely over-sized, and the cover bares no relation to any previous editions of Mockingbird (except that there’s a bit of a tree with a bird). I love that they’ve tried to shadow the original title, and that’s a really clever idea.

But I’m not sure it works. The actual title becomes too split up, and it almost makes the book like it contains both novels. The ‘By the Author Of’ is so small and red that it’s hard to read, and you have to squint to see just what relevance TKaM has. (After all – it’s prominence in this cover does imply it has a little more significance than just being a prequel/etc.) The size of the title dwarfs anything else and squanders any real chance for imagination, so they settle for a tree and a bird, distracted by the horrible spiky font. The US Edition, however, is arty and beautiful, as well as well thought out. It’s maybe not as eye-catching, but it looks much less modern and garish. Their trust in understanding that we know who Harper Lee is is also good, and it means that the novel can stand alone as well.

Frankly I could write a whole blog post on those covers. But to step aside to other things I have a love/hate relationship with, well. I probably have one with reading. I’m not very good at all at finishing books (and I tend to only finish ones that I have really really enjoyed – that does make it easier to pick favourite books though I suppose). I’m also not very good at picking up or indeed choosing a book. But sometimes, it is very worth the wait. And I do enjoy reading, and I love talking about and debating books. Just often, I don’t enjoy the reading enough to keep going with it. I’m fussy.

But specifically, I seem to have a love/hate relationship with Ian McEwan. I mean, not literally, I’m sure he’s a lovely man, but with his writing. His ideas and books interest me despite the fact I’ve never really come away thinking they’re my favourites. I’ve read On Chesil Beach (the edition of that I read is Beautiful) for A-Levels, and I read The Cement Garden for me. I finished both, although skipped large segments of On Chesil Beach, which was both heartbreaking, hilarious (accidentally) and not really worth my time. The Cement Garden was clearly gripping, and I wrote a review here a while back. I’m also slowly working through The Comfort of Strangers, another intriguing read. The appeal is the short novels, the nice editions (although The Children’s Act looks different to the others and this annoys me). He has interesting ideas that I like. But his prose is weighty and often dry. There’s a lot of sex, in various forms, and thinking about sex. (I’m leaving you up to decide if that’s a love or a hate aspect, or indeed either.) But I am fascinated by his books, even if I claim to not enjoy them as much as I enjoy others. Maybe I just ‘like’ some, or bits of some, of them. Maybe that’s enough,

I feel like I have a love/hate relationship with a lot of things in literature, and even in life. Maybe everyone’s like that, maybe there’s an element of that in everything anyway. But I feel like the GSaW covers and Ian McEwan are pretty solid examples. I maybe have the same thing with comics, I’m not sure. I don’t really go in for comics, though I am trying more recently, though they seem to be very hit and miss. Some are very exciting, they’re easy to get through. But I really am not up for following a Marvel continuity that gets rebooted every five seconds (not even including on screen). I think I have a bit of a love/hate with William Empson. Some of his poetry is really beautiful and stylish, but Seven Types of Ambiguity belongs in a Hell the colour of Go Set A Watchman. He also got me my lowest first year mark (though someone had to take the blame I suppose. Sorry Will).

I should probably write a poem about this. If I hadn’t written enough already. Though I have bought myself a ‘poetry notebook’ following yesterday’s post. And if I ever do publish anything – I’m praying to someone that it’s not blood orange.

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