Yesterday, I started reading a couple of books, one I'd recently bought which had been short-listed for the James Tait award a couple of years ago, and the other which had been long-listed for several prizes (including a Commonwealth award and the Dylan Thomas prize), and both were unreadable, at least to me. The first was 'too clever' concentrating more on its literary devices rather than telling the story, so I abandoned it. The second was merely a sample, deemed to be a shining example of the author's work (in the mind of the author, at least, because it was on her website) but contained such unbearable clunkiness of prose that I soon tired of that too. It's a shame, really, because both books seemed promising in outline. Looking on sites such as Librarything and Goodreads I see that my views are shared by the majority of readers. I am becoming more and more convinced that prizes of these sorts are really publicity vehicles for books of publishing houses that need a bit of help; either because they are just starting out on a new imprint, or because they have paid an outrageously huge advance to the author.
Happily, then, I returned to my anthology of Japanese short stories and continued with them, and what a wonderful treat the first one turned out to be: Aguri by Tanizaki Jun'ichiro. It concerns a vain man who is the partner of a geisha, and he is obsessed with his weight. He is becoming too thin. Each rib is showing and his veins are beginning to look like earthworms. I am going to spend the rest of the day reading stories by (mostly) dead authors. Bliss.