IT SEEMS ODD to be in London, sitting in pubs or on underground trains or cafes or wherever, and just reading. But I love it. Especially when the book revolves around the place where I am.
I finished The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi moments ago and I can't think of a better way to have spent the last four or five days.
It's a fascinating tale about London and it's people - the complex relationships they have with their familial backgrounds and their present situations, as well as their relationships with each other.
Karim, the teenage primary character, is an Englishman born to an Indian immigrant father (Haroon Amir) and an English mother (Margaret). He doesn't easily fit into any categories so he really doesn't have a social group (he's too English for the Indian immigrants and too Indian for the white folks). At the same time, he represents so many categories (racially, sexually and intellectually) that he easily gets swept into various activities - almost none of which he feels an attachment to.
Throughout the entire novel, he's on a quest of self-discovery during an era of great tumult in London - the 1970s. We see hippies and punks and New Wavers. He lives - for a period - in West Kensington, one neighborhood away from my Earl's Court flat (a neighborhood he describes as being home to whores, transvestites, addicts and Australians).
Part of my discomfort about reading while in a different land stems from the idea that I'm reading about people doing stuff, rather than actually doing stuff myself.
Ultimately, books make me feel a greater connection to the place, I think. For the most part, sadly, I am a tourist here (today I visited Big Ben and Parliament). I could never live the characters' experiences, even over the six weeks I am here. But books provide context for what I do actually get to experience.
Now I need another book that takes place in London.