Monday, 27 July 2009
I’ve just started American writer Arthur Phillips’ fourth novel The Song Is You, which is published in Britain by Duckworth. Phillips’ first novel, which shot him to fame in the US although it was largely overlooked here, was the lovely Prague. About a group of bright young American expats, Prague is set in Budapest; the characters just wish they were in Prague.
Phillips is the sort of writer I would aspire to be like. Of course we’ll none of us ever write like Dostoyevsky or Proust and, among contemporary authors, I could never be as disarming as Geoff Dyer, as fluent as Michael Chabon, as out there as Haruki Murakami or as sharp as Douglas Coupland (and certainly never as clever as David Foster Wallace). But – if I could write really well – I’d want to be as bright, witty and warm as Phillips.
I haven’t got very far, but The Song Is You has already captured the role of music in our lives brilliantly – especially its cathartic qualities. I love having my iPod on shuffle when walking in London and nothing beats that moment when an uplifting song intro comes on, the sun breaks through the clouds and the crowds part in front of you. (In the main I’m not a great advocate for being plugged into music when wandering around as you can miss little glimpses of conversation.)