Combining two reading tags into one, today I have a couple of contrasting non-fiction short reads for you…
Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay
Destined to be in thousands of Christmas stockings, this is a bijou helping of more stories in diary form from the author of This is Going to Hurt (reviewed here), recounting seven years on the Christmas nightshift. Being Jewish, Kay got stuck with working over Christmas as a new doctor and it kept on happening. This little book recounts some of the more disgusting and Christmassy events that didn’t make the first book – which the author never stops telling us about.
Yes, there were some funny bits, some gruesomely disgusting bits as promised and some sad bits too, but there were far too many mentions of his first book which irked me. It was the same schtick with tinsel, not so fresh and thus just fell a bit flat for me. It’ll sell shedloads though! (6/10)
William Blake Now: Why He Matters More Than Ever by John Higgs
Now this little paperback is the real business. William Blake seems to exert a hold on people in a way that our greatest authors can’t hope for?
He was multi-talented, being a poet, an artist and printmaker too. Regarded as a forerunner of the Romantic movement, his visionary and philosophical words and art, deeply Christian yet infused with mysticism, were largely unregarded during his life. He died in 1827, during the reign of William IV, (so he wasn’t Victorian).
But once Blake was rediscovered by the Pre-Raphaelites amongst others, he never went away! Today, there are references to him everywhere, in computer games, in countless books, in the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, children still read The Tyger at school, we all sing Jerusalem, Tate Britain has a dedicated Blake room, and a current bigger exhibition which I’d love to see. He is ubiquitous.
John Higgs, writer and cultural historian, sets out to analyse why it is that he is so popular, so revered now in the 21st century. He begins his quest at the unveiling of a new memorial at Bunhill Fields where Blake was buried in an unmarked grave. The Blake Society expected maybe 50 spectators, but many more times that turned up for the ceremony. Higgs goes on to examine the parallels between Blake’s life and our times and in 79 small pages paints a fascinating picture about his relevance today. Some notes and suggestions for further reading complete the picture, but left me really wanting to read more.
This would be a great stocking filler for the intellectually curious. I loved it. (10/10)