Last year, my Christmas reading was an early birthday present of Claire Tomalin’s biography of Dickens. Each winter’s evening, in the run up to Dec 25th, I couldn’t wait to light the fire, draw up a chair, pour a glass of wine and get reading. A marvellous book.
This year, it’s a bit different: a rereading of Josephine Tey’s novel The Daughter of Time which looks at the complexities and mysteries surrounding Richard lll: his women, the princes in the tower, his relationship with his mother – all told as a detective story. In tandem, I’ll have to hand the Oxford World Classic annotated edition of the play itself – plus my own memories of the many productions I’ve seen including those of Ian Mckellan, Derek Jacobi, Kathryn Hunter, Mark Rylance, Kevin Spacey, Peter Dinklage, Fayez Kazak,Barrie Rutter,Richard Clothier – and many others!
I’ll also be rereading The Calligrapher’s Night – a gift from an earlier Christmas – which is an evocative novel about a present-day Istanbul-based calligrapher and is written by Yasmine Ghata, a French/Lebanese writer. The image below – a projection of the prayer Bismillah – is from the excellent exhibition of Arab art and culture at the Louvre.
This will stand me in good staid when planning the presentation (on Syria) I am giving in Dublin’s Chester Beatty Library, on February 2nd and which will touch on examples of calligraphy at the Library – among other aspects of Syrian culture.
For poetry, I will have Donegal poet Francis Harvey’s Collected Poems, published by Daedalus. My favourite is the one about the heron which, the poet has told me, is one he is almost sick of reading because it is so often requested by his fans. Well, I’m a fan and I can’t read it often enough.
And, yet another present (how well people know what I like to read!) is Ian Cobain’s Cruel Britannia A Secret History of Torture which includes analysis, narrative and exposure and is especially of interest since Shannon Airport was used by the US and the UK and their allies to render to Guantanamo people suspected of terrorist acts.
For other ( light?) reading, I intend going to a bookshop today and choosing a book of short stories. Watch this space….