I posted at the end of last year that I was hoping to finish The Lit and Unlit World by the end of 2019, and while I didn't quite manage that, I made good progress. The final weeks on any project are always an interesting time: you see the overall manuscript finally taking shape from the various intricate pieces you have put together, you say goodbye to each part as it's finished (sometimes reluctantly, sometimes gladly), and you start to see it with an outsider's eyes and appraise it more dispassionately. I enjoy the process of writing a final draft, but I've also learned from experience that it needs to be given its proper time. Otherwise, the book tends to end up patchy in terms of pacing and structure and needs unpicking in the edits a few months later. By the time you've written five or six books you know some of what your editor is going to say before they say it, and so it's important to hang onto the book until you can't find anything else you can improve on your own, and only then hand it in. That way your editor's (or multiple editors', in my case) input takes it to a higher, more polished level. So that final version is what I'll be working on over the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, 2020 has been a good year for me so far in terms of reading. Particular highlights have been Silence by Shusaku Endo (slow to get started but full of depth and moving), and Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo (whose characters - and the compassion and wisdom with which they are written - really stayed with me all month; this is a book I'll reread). Also Partigiane: Le Donne della Resistenza by Marina Addis Saba (Italian language - a lovingly researched account of women involved in the Italian resistance). I've also been reading Storie di Piemonte by Carlo Petrini (Italian language - a collection of short non-fiction accounts of people working in different professions around Piemonte, from vine-growers to bookshop owners to a monk who has lived at the top of a mountain in seclusion for the past thirty years). I also enjoyed In the Woods by Tana French (a mystery, which has a beautiful, quite intricate literary style and strong characterisation). You're always very welcome to say hello to me on GoodReads, or to send me your recommendations - I love receiving them, and usually add them to my list, which is probably why my to-read pile is in the state it currently is... But I'm trying to note down more of the books I read this year, rather than forgetting half the titles by the time the end of the year comes round - we'll see how that goes as the year progresses, but in January I managed to keep track.
While on the topic of reading, I have added a lot of books to my reading list as a result of discussions this month over Latinx writers in the US book trade and the wider issue of representation. If you don't know what these discussions are about, a useful summary can be found on this Latino USA / NPR podcast (warning that there are some issues discussed which may be upsetting if you have personal experiences of migration across the US border, as well as loss or injury of children - but if you've already heard about the debates and feel you want to be more informed, Maria Hinojosa approaches the discussion in a very fair and balanced way). I think it's always helpful to have a wider contextual view on how the books we are reading intersect with the real world in which we are living, and as a reader and writer I'll be continuing to follow this discussion and the responses in the book trade in the coming weeks.
That's all for now. Let me know if you would like to see more monthly updates like this - I will do my best this year to write more regular blog posts. And in the meantime, I wish you all a happy and peaceful February 2020. I'm planning to spend it getting much closer to finishing The Lit and Unlit World.
With warmest greetings from Italy,