Tuesday Teaser: Let’s Take The Long Way Home

It’s an old, old story: I had a friend and we shared everything, and then she died and so we shared that, too.

Gail Caldwell, ‘Let’s Take The Long Way Home’.

So begins this gorgeous memoir by Pulitzer Prize winner Gail Caldwell, a testament to the power of friendship, a story of how an extraordinary bond between two women can illuminate the loneliest, funniest, hardest moments in life, including the final and ultimate challenge.

Just started on this today, and am already loving it.

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Love in Action

Your mother goes to the public library, which has been down on its luck for a long time, like most things around here. Last time she brought back a copy of The Trail of the Lonesome Pine that was worn ragged, all held together with tape. She just sank into it, though, she just melted into it. And I made scrambled eggs and toasted cheese sandwiches for our supper so she wouldn’t have to put the book down.

Marilynne Robinson, ‘Gilead’.

Now, that’s a rather beautiful portrait of love in action, wouldn’t you say?
And the ideal partner for any book lover to hope for! 😉

Love consists of this: two solitudes that meet, protect and greet each other.

Rainer Maria Rilke, ‘Letters to a Young Poet.’

What I’ve been reading

random 6 (w2c)

These would have been the next batch in line to receive their moment of due recognition, but as it is, there are no hard and fast rules pertaining to the bookish way of life around my shelves…. and so these have been pre-empted in order to give way to the not-so-random six that has been selected instead.

My Random Six (Week 4)

Elizabeth Bowen – The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen

Henry Green – Nothing, Doting, Blindness.

Rose Macaulay – The Towers of Trebizond.

Graham Greene – Reflections.

Virginia Woolf – The Waves.

Anthony Curtis – Virginia Woolf : Bloomsbury & Beyond.

This ensemble was largely inspired by Lara Feigel’s The Love-Charm of Bombs, which I have been enjoying in the past week. I had initially thought it would be just a sort of ‘touch and go’ kinda thing, but it appears that ‘my random six‘ project is turning out to be a much more comprehensive affair. Not that I’m complaining, though. I’m really glad that it’s getting me to finally read the books that I have been long meaning to.

I read a couple of Bowen’s stories from the war years and discovered that she can actually give Susan Hill a run for her money in the horror story department. 😱 Check out her chilling piece, The Demon Lover, if you want to know what I mean.

Also read a couple of Greene’s essays/ reviews during the war years and am reminded to get around to some J. B. Priestley soon.

Sampled a bit of Henry Green’s debut novel, Blindness, and am making sure that I return to it later. It’s rather good. 🙂

As for Macaulay, she will be getting a post of her own soon. Anyone with the courage to volunteer as an ambulance driver during the Blitz, knowing that she was well over the acceptable age limit (she was fifty nine!), definitely deserves a little bit more, I think.

Love is in the air….

When a bomb exploded, nearby clocks ceased to function, remaining stuck at the time of detonation. London was a city of shock-stopped clocks and for its inhabitants, the suspended present created a climate where intense emotions could flourish. “It came to be rumoured,” Bowen recalled, “that everybody in London was in love.”

Lara Feigel, ‘The Love-charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War’.

Am enjoying this very atmospheric read at the moment, after having pulled it out (along with several others), from under two huge towers of books (and a lot of dust!) that were leaning against my bedroom wall. I decided that it was high time the books get a good wipe down, and so after some careful dismantling of the two towers (& successfully averting a near major landslide of books!), these following six volumes which had been part of the firm foundations for my book towers, were singled out to be given some well-deserved attention.

My Random Six (Week 3)

Ali Smith – The Reader.
Sylvia Townsend Warner – Selected Stories.
Lara Feigel – The Love-charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War.
Adrienne Monnier – The Very Rich Hours of Adrienne Monnier.
Janet Flanner – Janet Flanne’s World: Uncollected Writings 1932-1975.
Kate Marsh – Writers and Their Houses.

Hope to make the most out of my time with these before I start reconstructing those book towers again. 🙂

Tuesday Teaser: Memories of London

I was seventeen years old when I made my first journey to London in 1909. I had never until then left my family, where I was as happy as one can be at that age of torment, with a mother and a sister who were ideally companionable. The three of us lived in a state of perpetual enthusiasm for everything that seemed beautiful to us, in whatever domain it might be. Debussy and Maeterlinck were our gods. That year, 1909, had brought us the dazzle of the Ballet Russes.

The Very Rich Hours of Adrienne Monnier.

Just started dipping into (& very much enjoying!) this delightful collection of essays by Adrienne Monnier, the lifelong companion and advisor to the legendary Sylvia Beach, founder of The Shakespeare and Co. bookshop in Paris. The bookshop was originally located across the street from Monnier’s Maison des Amis des Livres (literally translated as the ‘house of the friends of books’) on the Left Bank. 🙂

My Random Six (Week 2)

So, these were the first batch from “My Random Six” titles that were pulled out from their various stacks and shelves, to be given the nod of recognition they deserved.
I am glad to say that it seems to have gotten off to a promising start. I started on the Ali Smith, and wondered why I had waited for so long before getting around to it. Better late than never, I guess. Will be finishing it in a day or two, hopefully, before it returns to the shelves. Same goes for the Robert Macfarlane, and maybe even the William Boyd. They are both slim enough volumes to get through, at least.
It may not be much, but I do find it rather encouraging in terms of making small steps towards my mountains of TBR.

And it feels good! 🙂

Anyway, here are the next six in line.

My Random Six (Week 2)

John Steinbeck – East of Eden.
Ann Bridge – Illyrian Spring.
Evelyn Waugh – The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold.
Virginia Woolf – The Years & Between the Acts.
Lewis Grassic Gibbon – Sunset Song.
Mikhail Bulgakov – The Master & the Margarita.

Spot any personal favourites here?

New Year, New Plan (sort of)

“If you cannot read all your books, at any rate handle, or as it were, fondle them – peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that if you do not know what is in them, you at least know where they are. Let them be your friends; let them at any rate be your acquaintances. If they cannot enter the circle of your life, do not deny them at least a nod of recognition.”

Winston Churchill, ‘Painting as a Pastime’.

If those are not the words of a true kindred spirit, I don’t know what is. 🙂

It will not come as a surprise to anyone here to hear me say that I have long since come to the realization that the books I have acquired todate (& it’s still an ongoing thing) already far exceeds what I could possibly read in my lifetime. My only consolation is that, the pleasure that I get to derive from them are not just limited to the reading of them. It gives me tremendous joy and comfort just knowing that they are there waiting for me, for the right time.

At any rate, one of my intentions for this new reading year, is to endeavor to put Mr. Churchill’s wise words to practice. And to make it more fun (& random) I thought I’d use my Goodreads account to sort and select a random batch of titles in my TBR stacks for me to seek out and explore each week. I don’t mean that I’ll be reading these selections in proper (although I may very well do so too, if I find one that’s too good to be put down!), but rather just to do as Mr. Churchill suggests, to give them the recognition they deserve. This will hopefully help me get back in touch with some of the neglected titles that might have fallen ‘out of sight, out of mind’ along the way….
And so, as it happens, I’ll be starting off with these six here (within the box):

My Random Six (Week 1)

William Boyd, Protobiography’.
Ali Smith, ‘Hotel World’.
Barbara Carole, ‘Twevle Stones: Notes on a Miraculous Journey’.
Muriel Spark, ‘Aiding & Abetting’.
Bruce Chatwin, ‘On the Black Hill’.
Robert Macfarlane, ‘Holloway’.

We’ll see how it goes, and if there’s anything interesting to report back.
🙂

Happy Reading, dear friends! Any exciting plans for the year ahead?

“I call it Joy….”

I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again… I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is.

― C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons behind one’s lack of restraint when it comes to buying books? :p

At any rate, here are some of the reasons for my recent joy and pleasure. 🙂

These two pair up rather well, don’t you think?
As with these two….

Happy reading, dear fellow readers!
Wishing all of you a brand new year ahead, filled with all things wonderful.

🙂

Highlights from the haul (2)

Of art and travel and memoirs, with a dash of espionage and the Russians…
Have been wanting to read this sad beauty for a long time now. I think this cover is done just right.
The Russian stack.
This is another beauty of a cover, done to perfection in my opinion. Can’t wait to dive in.
I was beyond thrilled when I saw this one at the bargain table. As it happens, I had been eyeing this one over the past couple of weeks and was contemplating of making an online purchase of it. :p

 

“Journey into an Obsession” / “Journey into a Painting”. Two rather one-of-a kind, distinct journeys. So interesting to see them placed side by side. 🙂
I may have just started on a new collection with these Apollo Library editions. The covers and endpapers are just so rich. And they seem to be a worthy set of forgotten works too. Anyone familiar with any of these?

 

A little story on bookish serendipity here: I first spotted the Bowen and made a quick check on my Goodreads account to see if I already owned a copy of it (yes, it has come to that stage :p). While checking, I came upon a review of the Bowen by a reviewer (whom I have high regards for), and in it she mentioned about a neglected copy Norman Douglas’ South Wind being featured in one passage of The Last September. Her curiosity led her to eventually seek out the Douglas to read and found it to be so, so good. It was the first time I had heard of Norman Douglas too, and shortly after putting the Bowen into my cart, I glimpsed a copy of the just newly acquainted and ‘highly regarded’ Douglas on the next table. 😀
Two very unusual and unique books that tells the story of lives, that of the Bronte sisters and of women in the 20th Century, through the various objects found in a cabinet and button box. I just love books like these.
One of my favourite (yes, I have many favourites! :p) finds at the sale. This is a beauty to hold and behold (& also to read, of course). Have started reading this and am loving it so far. 🙂
The insides are just as lovely.

Highlights from the haul (1)

Let’s take a closer look at some of these, shall we? 🙂

 

Really thrilled to spot these three at the sale! Aren’t they simply gorgeous? These editions of the Vintage Classic Birds & Bees series are truly a thing of beauty, with their French flaps and intricate cover designs.
NYRB classics are something of a rare sight over here, I’ve noticed, and I think this is the first time I’ve seen any of them appearing at the BBW sale. What more, four!

 

Am especially pleased with these two – Edith Wharton and J. L . Carr (even though I already own the Carr in different edition). :p

 

Having read Brownrigg’s ‘Pages for You’ more than 10 years ago, I was really looking forward to getting my hands on this one, her sequel to the earlier book. It feels as if I too, have grown along with the protagonists over the passing years, and it would be interesting to see what has become of them, now. Also, I think the cover looks great, don’t you?
And while I’m being nostalgic, here’s another one that really goes back a long way with me. Definitely not going to pass up the chance of taking this Virago’s 20th Anniversary Edition of Sarah Waters’ debut home with me. I still think that my earlier edition of this (the one with the pair of dancing shoes featured) has the best cover ever, although sadly, its pages have long since yellowed…. this looks like a hardy one! :p

 

This was the most pricey item I paid for at the sale, at the whopping cost of RM30 (around USD 7), and it comes complete with a slipcase and two hardback volumes of Bishop’s complete poems and prose. I’d say it’s still a steal, what say you? 😀 On a side note, I’m actually more interested in her prose than her poems, although that is what she is best known for. Having said that though, her poem “One Art”, is possibly my all time favourite poem.

 

These two look really exciting, and inviting. One is a collection of stories by women celebrating women, while the other is about five women writers who changed the world!

 

In case you were wondering who the five women are. 🙂 And some of the contributors to the short stories include the likes of Angela Carter, Margaret Atwood, Alice Walker etc….

 

To be continued…….