The Anatomy of Hope

Anatomy of Hope - Groopman

Dr. Jerome Groopman’s The Anatomy of Hope: How People Prevail in the Face of Illness, may not be the kind of book with a title that will grab your attention and make you reach out for it from the shelves, but I am glad I did. Not only did I find it to be insightful and informative, but it was also much more readable than I had imagined (no thanks to the title) and did make for a most engaging read. I was really taken in by the sincere humility and honesty in which Dr. Groopman’s voice came across on the subject matter.

I learned much, and found the writing to be really helpful.

Personally, the past few years have been a rather exhaustive struggle for me in trying to help someone dear in my life, see hope. Dr. Groopman’s insights and observations have no doubt given me now a better understanding on the matter,  and armed me with better tools to approach the subject, moving forward.

I thought about this, how our minds naturally jump to picture the negative outcome and stall there. It is because the mind is frozen by fear, and fear overwhelms hope.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hope can arrive only when you recognize that there are real options and that you have genuine choices. Hope can flourish only when you believe that what you can do can make a difference, that your actions can bring a future different from the present.
To have hope, then, is to acquire belief in your ability to have some control over your circumstances. You are no longer entirely at the mercy of forces outside yourself.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To hope under the most extreme circumstances is an act of defiance that [….] permits a person to live his life on his own terms. It is part of the human spirit to endure and give a miracle a chance to happen….

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’ve come to believe that the way the body talks to the brain powerfully shapes our sense of hope or despair. [….]
Hope, then, is constructed not just from rational deliberation, from the conscious weighing of information; it arises as an amalgam of thought and feeling, the feelings created in part by neural input from the organs and tissues.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The question of hope became more than just a subject of study for Dr. Groopman when a ruptured lumbar disc, sustained while he was training for the 1979 Boston Marathon, found the doctor himself becoming the patient. It was to be the start of a long and debilitating journey, of living life with pain as a constant companion, for the next nineteen years. After nearly having given up all hope of recovery, Dr. Groopman was finally referred to the ‘right’ doctor.

“What do I mean that you are worshiping the volcano god of pain?” he asked. “You interpret pain as a red flag, a warning that you are doing damage to your body. So you sacrifice things that you love, activities that give your life joy, to be kept free from pain. You say to the volcano god: ‘I will give up walking long distances if you keep me out of pain. I will give up lifting my children if you keep me out of pain. I will give up travel, because long trips stress my spine. Just keep me from pain.’
“But this god is never fully satisfied with any offering: It is appeased for only a short while. So the more you sacrifice, the more it demands, until your life contracts, as it has, into a very narrow space. I believe you can be freed from your pain. I believe you can rebuild yourself and do much, much more. [….] You think what I am saying is complete bullshit. You’ve lived all these years without any real hope, and it’s hard to open that door and glimpse a different kind of life.
[….] It’s your choice: to try or not to try. You can walk out of my office now and believe everything you’ve believed for the past nineteen years, and live the way you have. Or you can test me. And I’ll tell you now, I’m right.”

I am glad to let you know that those words were indeed put to the test, and finally he was able to recover back the ‘life’ that he had lost in those nineteen long years of chronic pain.

Dr. Groopman also managed to draw a very clear picture of the Body-Mind and Mind-Body Connection, with regards to hope.

This is the vicious cycle. When we feel pain from our physical debility, that pain amplifies our sense of hopelessness; the less hopeful we feel, the fewer endorphins and enkephalins and the more CCK (a chemical that blocks endorphins) we release. The more pain we experience due to these neurochemicals, the less able we are to feel hope.
To break the cycle is the key. It can be broken by the first spark of hope: Hope sets off a chain reaction. Hope tempers pains, and as we sense less pain, that feeling of hope expands, which further reduces pain. As pain subsides, a significant obstacle to enduring a harsh but necessary therapy is removed.

He goes on further to say that even by simply being able to alleviate a patient’s fatigue, which is a common unremitting symptom for many, by just a little, can have major impact on a patient’s sense of hope.

Without hope, nothing could begin; hope offered a real chance to reach a better end. Hope helps us overcome hurdles that we otherwise could not scale, and it moves us forward to a place where healing can occur.

….. no one is beyond the capacity to hope.

And the book closes with these parting thoughts:

….. we are just beginning to appreciate hope’s reach and have not defined its limits. I see hope as the very heart of healing. For those who have hope, it may help some to live longer, and it will help all to live better.

Hebrews 11-1 BW

A Little Goes A Long Way

penguin 5000 miles

Did you all hear of the story about the South American Magellanic penguin who swims 5,000 miles each year to be reunited with the man who saved his life?

It is one of the most heartwarming stories I’ve come across in a long while.

I think we all need to have more stories like this to be reminded  every once in a while, that the world can indeed be a much kinder place, if only we are willing to go the extra mile for a fellow living being, in need of a helping hand.

 

A Matter of Choice

cam01667.jpg

To love at all is to be vulnerable.
Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.
But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change.
It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.
To love is to be vulnerable.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

The Joy of Letters

A lovely tender-hearted letter from you to me, from Rome, once the capital of the world and still capital of the Danesi ladies, came to me this last week. What joy. Bless the inventor of writing, be he Chaldean, Arab, or stone-cutter from prehistoric, shapeless scribes without known geography. By words we can write thoughts, we can write loves, hates, hopes, angers, memories, hungers of the soul and senses and make plans for a future.

Janet Flanner, ‘Darlinghissima: Letters to a Friend’

 

I have always loved the idea of letters, be it in the writing or in the receiving of one. Sadly though, both these activities are scarcely happening nowadays (for me, that is.)

I just learned recently that February happens to be the official month of letters, and so was kind of inspired to read some, at least (yeah, I love reading other people’s letters!) :p
Do you?

letters TBR 3a

January

JANUARY.
It was all things. And it was one thing, like a solid door. Its cold sealed the city in a gray capsule. January was moments, and January was a year. January rained the moments down, and froze them in her memory: the woman she saw peering anxiously by the light of a match at the names in a dark doorway, the man who scribbled a message and handed it to his friend before they parted on the sidewalk, the man who ran a block for a bus and caught it. Every human action seemed to yield a magic. January was a two-faced month, jangling like jester’s bells, crackling like snow crust, pure as any beginning, grim as an old man, mysteriously familiar yet unknown, like a word one can almost but not quite define.

Patricia Highsmith, ‘The Price of Salt’

jan3a

January has been a rather good month, in terms of reading, for me. Managed to finish three books (although two of them were actually started before the year began), and it feels good.

I received a review copy of Anne Goodwin’s Sugar and Snails towards the end of last October, and actually started reading it back then. I usually don’t accept review copies since this blog was never much about book reviews anyway and frankly, because I am quite rubbish at it. But my interest was piqued with the storyline and I am glad to say that it has been a rather compelling read. The fact that I took so long to finish was no fault of the book, but simply my own tendency to get easily distracted.

I enjoyed the writing and although the story is told in alternating timelines between the present and the past, it was seamlessly executed. The slow unfolding of the protagonist’s story, is one coming-of-age story of a woman in her midlife who has to deal with secrets that can no longer be kept ‘secret’. To say more would spoil the way the story is meant to be told by the writer, who has very skillfully constructed the many layers in the storytelling.  Here’s what the writer has to say about the book.

For a book that is much about restraints and repressions, I found this particular passage to be most liberating.

Waking on the morning after Venus’s party, stretching my arms above my head and pointing my toes into the corners of the bed as the bells of St George’s tumbled in the distance, I felt as free as that twirling toddler in the oversized tutu. Revelling in the full four-foot-six of bed width, and the whole house beyond it. Alone, but not lonely. An entire day ahead of me to spend exactly as I wished. Answerable to no one but myself.

But my favourite line from the book was simply this:

I thought I’d managed to compose my face, if not my feelings…..

Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn is not a book I would have likely chosen on my own to read because I am not really into fantasy books or fairy tales. If it wasn’t because this happens to be one of my favourite blogger‘s favourite book, I would have sadly missed out on the fun and wit (and even some rather profound truths) that came from the surprisingly enjoyable reading experience I had from it. Apart from some of the descriptive narrative on certain landscapes and certain characters which I was a little impatient to get over with at times, it was mostly an engaging read. It is a tale about the adventures and journey of an unicorn (and the friends she made along the way) on a mission to search for the rest of her kind, in order to know that she is not alone. It is also a tale of friendship and love (and much more). Told you I was really bad at reviews. :p

Here are some of my favourite lines from the book:

The magic on you is only magic and will vanish as soon as you are free, but the enchantment of error that you put on me I must wear forever in your eyes. We are not always what we seem, and hardly ever what we dream.

from Schmendrick the magician, who has yet to become great.

“Weaver, freedom is better, freedom is better,” but the spider fled unhearing up and down her iron loom.

from the Unicorn to the spider, who would not stop at her meaningless futile labour.

My secrets guard themselves – will yours do the same?

from King Haggard to the Lady Amalthea.

And here’s the one that really made me laugh😀

Prince Lir said hoarsely, “I must go. There is an ogre of some sort devouring village maidens two days’ ride from here. It is said that he can be slain only by the one who wields the Great Axe of Duke Alban. Unfortunately, Duke Alban himself was one of the first consumed – he was dressed as a village maiden at the time, to deceive the monster – and there is little doubt who holds the Great Axe now.If I do not return, think of me. Farewell.”

The writing is lyrical, and the book is peppered with exquisite little gems such as these: ‘the sigh of a satin gown’; ‘seeing the shadow of their dreams scurry over their faces’; ‘Prince Lir marveled suspiciously, which is an awkward thing to manage….’ and lastly, the delightful closing lines: “And this is what they sang as they went away together, out of this story and into another…..”:)

Despite both the above being engaging reads, it is still without doubt that my January has been just like the opening quote up there…. “It was all things. And it was one thing….”  It was Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt (a.k.a. Carol).

I have listened to the audiobook, followed by reading of the ebook (in parts), watched the film, and have been listening to nothing else but the soundtrack from the film ever since. I really love the music score, and am rooting for Carter Burwell to win the Oscar for Best Original Score. And for Cate and Rooney, of course, as well as for Best Screenplay, Best Costumes and Best Cinematography. I still cannot believe that the film was snubbed from a spot for Best Film and Best Director, though.  A real injustice, I feel.

I thought I have read the book some years back, but apparently I must have not read the book properly at all, because I seem to have recalled almost nothing (except the really major scenes) and even what I thought I remembered, turned out to be mostly inaccurate impressions. It was rather shocking to discover how unreliable my memory and impression of the book turned out to be. It was as if I was reading it for the first time again. Which made it all the more thrilling, actually. Quite a treat!

I came away with much more too this time around, and it’s not likely that any of this is going to slip away from memory as easily as it did before, because like a solid door, this particular January and its moments have now been safely shut in.

Carol raised her hand slowly and brushed her hair back, once on either side, and Therese smiled because the gesture was Carol, and it was Carol she loved and would always love. Oh, in a different way now, because she was a different person, and it was like meeting Carol all over again, but it was still Carol and no one else. It would be Carol, in a thousand cities, a thousand houses, in foreign lands where they would go together…..

 

The Rights of A Reader

rights of a reader 2b

You can’t make someone read. Just like you can’t make them fall in love, or dream.

This is Daniel Pennac’s passionate defense of reading for pleasure, and one in which I have decided to take refuge in right at the onset of this new reading year.  I find his reminder to readers of their rights to read anything, anywhere, at any time, as long as they are enjoying themselves, to be rather timely in helping me decide to stop reading Emma (in fact, I had already stopped a couple of weeks ago) and to put it back onto the shelves (without feeling guilty) until I find it calling again. My initial plans to read it in conjunction with its 200th anniversary seems to have hit a snag and instead of struggling to overcome it, I have opted to exercise my “right to not finish a book”. For now, at least. I certainly want to come back to it someday, just not now.

rights of a reader 1a

I got this copy from the recent book sales, but it was somehow misplaced and I didn’t even realize it was missing when I shared the photos of the book hauls in my previous year end  post until it re-surfaced again sometime last week. Just when I was debating on what to do with Emma. A bookish godsend, I guess.:)

A New Chapter Begins

new chapter (2016) b

WordPress just reminded me that today is the 4th year since I first registered my little blog with them.

Four years ago today, I had wanted a place to call my own, a place where I can indulge in all my bookish passions and obsessions, with little or no reservations. Four years later this day, I am still as enthusiastic about this space as I was then and what it means to me. Though often the enthusiasm may not have been as well represented in terms of the frequency or consistency in the maintenance of the blog, I am still very glad for the existence of this little corner of the blogosphere where I can call, ‘home’.

Here, I know that I am with friends.

:)

And Then There Were ….. More! (final book hauls for the year)

IMG_3457c
Bounty from the Big Bad Wolf Book Sales.

When it comes to books, it will only be a ‘more and more’ and never ‘none’ scenario for me, I guess. As with previous years, I wish I had read more and bought less. But as it has been said that anticipation is half the pleasure, I suppose then there’s really no reason or need to feel much regret (or remorse) over this past reading year.

These final book hauls came from two different book sales that took place earlier this month. As compared to previous years, I must say that this time I have shown much more restraint and exercised better control over the buying. See, just one photo to fit it all in. (hah!)

I was more than delighted to find the lovely Penguin Christmas Classics edition of Anthony Trollope’s Christmas at Thompson Hall & Other Christmas Stories. This collection makes for the perfect Christmas reading, while being the thing of beauty that it is, to hold and behold.

Another equally satisfying find from the sale came in the form of a Penguin Threads edition of Jane Austen’s EmmaI was hoping to be able to get a copy of it in time to read in conjunction with its 200th anniversary celebrations. So, this came at just the right time, and in the exact edition of my choice too! Couldn’t be happier.

A Month in The Country by J. L Carr has long been on my wishlish. I have read many good things about this book and am highly anticipating it.

IMG_3463a
These covers had me at hello.

The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy.
This is a volume of 24 short stories, including those from an earlier collection titled Love Begins in Winter. “Set in a range of locations, from Cornwall, Wales, and New York to Paris and Rome, these stark and beautiful stories are a perfect synthesis of intensity and atmosphere. Love, loss, isolation and the power of memory are Van Booy’s themes, and in spare, economical prose he writes about the difficult choices we make in order to retain our humanity, and about the redemptive power of love in a violent world.”

On Looking : About Everything There is to See by Alexandra Horowitz.
I have another book by Horowitz, Inside of A Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know which I have not yet read, and was surprised to find this one, which despite the misleading picture on the cover, has nothing to do with dogs. Instead, it talks about our inattention to the things around us. It is about attending to the joys of the unattended, the perceived ‘ordinary’ and how to rediscover the ‘extraordinary’ in our ordinary routines. Sounds interesting?

After reading and loving Patrick Gale’s The Cat Sanctuary just a couple of months back, I have been on the lookout for more of his works. And so A Sweet Obscurity was picked solely on the strength of my previous encounter with his work. If I had just gone by the blurb on the back of the book, I would surely have passed it by.

Colm Toibin is an author whom I have been meaning to read, particularly his latest novel, Nora Webster and his much earlier piece, The Master. I managed to find two of his titles, both of which I am unfamiliar with, but am much interested in –  The Sign of The Cross: Travels in Catholic Europe and The Story of the Night.

I have read good things about Stella Duffy’s The Room of Lost Things and have been curious to try out her books one of these days. Since  Calender Girl was the only title I came across at the sale, I took a chance with it.

IMG_3467a
I really love this cover.
IMG_3469a
But I was even more excited to see this ……

The Big New Yorker Book of Cats is an anthology of essays, poetry, fiction and cartoons contributed by a stellar list of writers such as Margaret Atwood, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Elizabeth Bishop, Roald Dahl, Ted Hughes and Haruki Murakami.  .Defiinitely a good one to dip into every now and then when one is in the mood for all things kitty.

The Picador Book of Journeys on the other hand, is an anthology of writing which challenges that which we define as travel writing. This selection takes us on a fascinating journey of writers and discoverers such as Chekhov, Doris Lessing, Tobias Wolff, Flaubert, Elizabeth David and V.S Naipaul, among others.

Charles Timoney’s An Englishman Aboard: Discovering France in A Rowing Boat offers an unique way of seeing France via travelling by boat along the entire length of the Seine. Sounds like my cup of tea.

Landscape with Figures: Selected Prose Writings by Richard Jefferies.
Richard Jefferies was the most imaginative and least conventional of nineteenth-century observers of the natural world. Trekking across the English countryside, he recorded his responses to everything from the texture of an owl’s feather and ‘noises in the air’ to the grinding hardship of rural labour. This superb selection of his essays and articles shows a writer who is brimming with intense feeling, acutely aware of the land and those who work on it, and often ambivalent about the countryside. Who does it belong to? Is it a place, an experience or a way of life? In these passionate and idiosyncratic writings, almost all our current ideas and concerns about rural life can be found.” I have never heard of Richard Jefferies before but am now interested to get acquainted.

The Missing Ink: How handwriting made us who we are by Philip Hensher.
From the crucial role of handwriting in a child’s development, to the novels of Dickens and Proust – and whether a person’s writing really reveals their true personality – The Missing Ink goes in search of the stories and characters that have shaped our handwriting, and how it in turn has shaped us.” Interesting food for thought, eh?

What There is To Say We Have Said: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell edited by Suzanne Marrs.
Through more than three hundred letters, Marrs brings us the story of a true, deep friendship and homage to the forgotten art of letter writing.”
Although I have only read Maxwell and nothing of Eudora Welty, I am all for books that pay homage to friendship, as well as the art of letter writing.

IMG_3465a

Sharon Lovejoy’s A Blessing of Toads: A Gardener’s Guide to Living with Nature is a lovely discovery. Beautiful illustrations accompanying delightful essays on the boundless joys of a country garden. This is a lovely addition to the growing pile of armchair gardening books that I seem to have been steadily acquiring in recent years.

A. W. Tozer’s My Daily Pursuit: Devotions for Every Day is a treasure trove of never-before-published teachings from the author of the spiritual classic, The Pursuit of God.

 

IMG_3470a
A book that every bibliophile should have.

IMG_3471a

Lastly, a coffee table book that every bibliophile should have – Living With Books by Alan Powers. “This is an inspirational book that explores over 150 ways in which books can not only be stored, but made to play a full part in the character of a home, be it large or small, minimalist or full of cluttered charm. Books are among the commonest but most treasured possessions in a home, yet their storage and display is often neglected and not given serious consideration as part of the interior design – something all the more necessary as the functions of home and workplace now often merge.”
Now, this will probably give me a better idea as to how to deal with these new stacks!

Alright, moving on to the next haul….

IMG_3481a
The bounty from the other book sale. These were all priced at approximately less than USD1.20 each

First up, Cleopatra’s Nose: 39 Varieties of Desire by Judith Thurman.
I had no idea what the book was about before picking it up, although the author’s name sounded familiar. Upon closer inspection, I found that this is a volume of essays and profiles written for the New Yorker by the author (and biographer of Isak Dinesen & Colette) on the subjects of human vanity & femininity. Looking forward to this one. And yes, there really is a write up on Cleopatra’s Nose, in case you are interested.😉

Gentry: Six Hundred Years of a Peculiarly English Class by Adam Nicolson.
Adam Nicolson tells the story of England through the history of fourteen gentry families – from the 15th century to the present day. This sparkling work of history reads like a real-life Downton Abbey, as the loves, hatreds and many times of grief of his chosen cast illuminate the grand events of history.”
With BBC’s Downton Abbey having finally drawn to a close, this might not be a bad alternative to consider helping with the possible withdrawal symptoms.

Edward Lear’s The Complete Verse and Other Nonsense seemed like a fun one to bring home.
This delightful collection, the most comprehensive ever compiled of his work, presents all of Lear’s verse and other nonsense writings, including stories, letters, and illustrated alphabets, as well as previously unpublished material.
I used to enjoy writing silly limericks myself when I was much younger, and together with my best friend, we used to call ourselves The Rhyme Slime (doesn’t sound very complimentary, I know :p) so, this really should be my kind of book, I guess.

I also got myself two 3-in-1 volumes of The Adventures of Tintin (Volume 6 & 7), simply because they were such good value for the money. And besides, I really like Snowy the dog.:)

I have long been aware of Philip Roth’s fame but somehow have never found any of his books to be appealing enough to try. And even this one, Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories, I was actually first drawn to it by its cover more than anything else. I am happy to find that the stories in this volume at least,  do not seem to put me off. Let’s see how well Mr. Roth and I will get along then.

I actually do already own a copy of Virginia Woolf’s Between The Acts but this was a lovely Vintage edition which I find really beautiful, plus it features a Foreword by Jeanette Winterson and an Introduction by Jackie Kay, which were all the more reason to get this copy too.

Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places  “…. is both an intellectual and a physical journey, and Macfarlane travels in time as well as space. Guided by monks, questers, scientists, philosophers, poets and artists, both living and dead, he explores our changing ideas of the wild. From the cliffs of Cape Wrath, to the holloways of Dorset, the storm-beaches of Norfolk, the saltmarshes and estuaries of Essex, and the moors of Rannoch and the Pennines, his journeys become the conductors of people and cultures, past and present, who have had intense relationships with these places.”
I am wondering if I should start with this book first or The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot….. any suggestions?

IMG_3479a
Beautiful, isn’t it?

Christopher Benfey is a new name to me, but I found two of his works in this sale and both appeals to me very much.
A Summer of Hummingbirds: Love, Art, and Scandal in the Intersecting Worlds of Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain , Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Martin Johnson Heade.
“At the close of the Civil War, the lives of Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Martin Johnson Heade intersected in an intricate map of friendship, family, and romance that marked a milestone in the development of American art and literature. Using the image of a flitting hummingbird as a metaphor for the gossamer strands that connect these larger-than-life personalities, Christopher Benfey re-creates the summer of 1882, the summer when Mabel Louise Todd-the protégé to the painter Heade-confesses her love for Emily Dickinson’s brother, Austin, and the players suddenly find themselves caught in the crossfire between the Calvinist world of decorum, restraint, and judgment and a new, unconventional world in which nature prevails and freedom is all.”

Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay: Reflections on Art, Family, and Survival.
An unforgettable voyage across the reaches of America and the depths of memory, this generational memoir of one incredible family reveals America’s unique craft tradition. In Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay, renowned critic Christopher Benfey shares stories—of his mother’s upbringing in rural North Carolina among centuries-old folk potteries; of his father’s escape from Nazi Europe; of his great-aunt and -uncle Josef and Anni Albers, famed Bauhaus artists exiled at Black Mountain College—unearthing an ancestry, and an aesthetic, that is quintessentially American. With the grace of a novelist and the eye of a historian, Benfey threads these stories together into a radiant and mesmerizing harmony.”

The Bosnia List: A Memoir of War, Exile, and Return by Kenan Trebincevic and Susan Shapiro, is a memoir of a different kind. It tells the tale of a young survivor of the Bosnian War, returning to his homeland after two decades to confront those who betrayed his family. While the subject matter may be rather heavy, the heart of the story is said to be one mesmerizing tale of survival and healing.

Now for something much lighter, but no less thoughtful, Linda Grant’s The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter, the thinking woman’s guide on what to wear.
For centuries, an interest in clothes has been dismissed as the trivial pursuit of vain, empty-headed women. Yet, clothes matter, whether you are interested in fashion or not, because how we choose to dress defines who we are. How we look and what we wear tells a story.”
Hopefully this can help bring about some improvement/ enhancement on my wardrobe, of which my mum is of the opinion of it being a disgrace. :p

Missing Lucile: Memories of the Grandmother I Never Knew by Suzanne Berne. 
Yet another memoir (I do have a fondness for them), and this time it’s about the writer’s attempt at uncovering the woman who was her grandmother.
Every family has a missing person, someone who died young or disappeared, leaving a legacy of loss. Aided by vintage photographs and a box of old keepsakes, Berne sets out to fill in her grandmother’s silhouette and along the way uncovers her own foothold in American history.”

Christopher Isherwood’s The Sixties – Diaries: 1960-1969.
This second volume of Christopher Isherwood’s remarkable diaries opens on his fifty-sixth birthday, as the fifties give way to the decade of social and sexual revolution. Isherwood takes the reader from the bohemian sunshine of Southern California to a London finally swinging free of post-war gloom, to the racy cosmopolitanism of New York and to the raw Australian outback.
The diaries are crammed with wicked gossip and probing psychological insights about the cultural icons of the time—Francis Bacon, Richard Burton, Leslie Caron, Marianne Faithfull, David Hockney, Mick Jagger, Hope Lange, W. Somerset Maugham, John Osborne, Vanessa Redgrave, Tony Richardson, David O. Selznick, Igor Stravinsky, Gore Vidal, and many others. But the diaries are most revealing about Isherwood himself—his fiction (including A Single Man and Down There on a Visit), his film writing, his college teaching, and his affairs of the heart.

As with memoirs and correspondences, diaries are yet another genre that I have a fondness for, as they are probably the most intimate insight we can hope to have of the person behind the writer. I still have his Berlin stories yet to be read, and but have enjoyed A Single Man (the movie version, though).

IMG_3483a

Last but not least, this was one of the most promising unexpected finds from the sale – Jessica A. Fox’s Three Things You Need to Know About Rockets: A Real-Life Scottish Fairy Tale.
If it wasn’t for the cover, a book with a title like that would certainly have had my eyes glazing over it. Now we all know how important book covers are…. (as with book titles!) :p
Jessica Fox was living in Hollywood, an ambitious 26-year-old film-maker with a high-stress job at NASA. Working late one night, craving another life, she was seized by a moment of inspiration and tapped “second hand bookshop Scotland” into Google. She clicked the first link she saw.
A month later, she arrived 2,000 miles across the Atlantic in Wigtown, on the west coast of Scotland, and knocked on the door of the bookshop she would be living in for the next month . . .”

As it happens, I had just read about the same bookshop in Wigtown that offers travellers a holiday experience of the bookish kind, just a week or so before chancing upon this book. A bookish serendipity of sorts, for me.:)

It’s always a tough choice to decide which books get to be read first (out of all these lovelies), but this time, the choice has been rather easy and timely.

CAM01609a
Am halfway through this, and have been reminded that I really want to read more Trollope in the year to come.

 

And with that, I wish you all the very best in all regards and a very Happy New Year, to be filled with many joyous hours of reading pleasure, and all things dear.

Oh, one last bit of goodness to leave you with before I go….. enjoy!:)