No regrets….

Spot any favourites?

So, there’s been a small influx of books over here in the past couple of weeks, thanks to an outing to a book sales, as well as certain online discounts that I seemed to have gladly taken advantage of.

This was probably the ‘catch of the day’ from the outing to the book sale. Not too thrilled about the cover, though.
But pretty excited about what lies between the covers…..


It’s a truly beautiful volume to dip into.


And these are the ones that were not from the book sale. Am actually midway through the Jacobson and am surprised at how much I am enjoying it. Somehow I’ve always had the impression that his writing was not really my cup of tea.
Looking forward to the Koestler, most. The Highsmith was mainly a cover buy (given its ridiculously low price tag).


I have long since decided that I am a fan of Geert Mak, even though it has taken me forever to finish his ‘In Europe’ (still quite abit to go!) :p


This has got to be one of my favourite covers ever!

As I am already rather resigned to the fact that most of my stacks of TBR will very likely outlive me, I guess it’s futile to feel bad and guilty for this ‘extravagance’. Personally, I always feel that the joy and pleasure that I get by just simply gazing at them (even before any actual reading has commenced), is already well worth the price paid for.

As book collectors know all too well: We only regret our economies, never our extravagances.

Michael Dirda

My sentiments, exactly. 🙂






Throwback Thursday : “…. a kind of blue infinity”

I first came here in November 1995; I had just won some money in a short-story competition, and because I was thinking of maybe writing something about Pompeii (it would turn out to be my first novel), my partner and I came to visit the remains and look in the mouth of the volcano. One day on a whim we caught the ferry from Sorrento to Capri, where Gracie Fields and Graham Greene had both lived, which was pretty much all I knew about it. We arrived in the Marina Grande, small and excitingly ramshackle. There was a funicular railway running up the side of the mountain, so we got on. Then we boarded a bus which took us up a ribbon of road too small for a bus and let us off in a tiny white village square. We followed our noses down a shop-lined road, and came to a Moorish-looking building. In we went – by chance exactly 100 years after Munthe bought the land from Master Vincenzo, the carpenter.

[….] It’s as if the air is electrically alive with it. It’s like hearing your own ear waken. I move back into the study for a moment. A lot of people walk past me – one of the curious things about the Villa San Michele is that although it’s pretty busy, nothing feels crowded – and I listen, first to the birdsong at the back of everything, then to what the people say, in all the languages, every time the house springs its surprise of openness and light on them. Oh. Look.

That’s what it’s like to visit the Axel Munthe Museum. You walk through a hall, a kitchen, a bedroom, a study, a place to live that’s lined and scattered with fragments of art, junk, beauty, history. Then you find yourself on a path that gets lighter and lighter; then art, junk, history, home, trees, stone, leaves and sky all shift together on the edge of a view so open that it renews the very word “view” itself. I’m laughing at my own inadequacy, at the inadequacy of memory, but most of all at how cunning this place is, making you open your eyes, ears, senses, leading you through from space to open space until finally you hit it, it hits you – a kind of blue infinity, an epitome of openness.

Ali Smith, ‘The Wings of Capri: Villa San Michel’.

Just read this evocative piece of essay from Ali Smith, and was reminded of the surreal beauty that is Capri. 

There is a stillness and silence in the air up here, that is quite unlike any other I’ve ever encountered elsewhere.

Although this may not be the same view, as described, from Villa San Michele, but it certainly is about as close as it gets to looking at infinity, I’d say.

A lil’ off season reading….

The stories in this collection have the music in them. The rhythm, breath, movement of language, like music, creates emotional situations not dependent on meaning. The meaning is there, but the working of the language itself, separate from its message, allows the brain to make connections that bypass sense. This makes for an experience where there is the satisfaction of meaning but also something deeper, stranger. This deeper stranger place is an antidote to so much of life that is lived on the surface alone. When we read, when we listen to music, when we immerse ourselves in the flow of an opera, we go underneath the surface of life. Like going underwater the noise stops, and we concentrate differently.”

Jeanette Winterson

Am pretty excited with this impressive line up!

Have just finished the first five pieces in this collection, and so far it’s Ali Smith and Jackie Kay who did not disappoint! And Julie Myerson was a rather pleasant surprise, I must say, since I am new to her work. 🙂

Let’s see how the rest goes…..

Friday Feature: On Reading Good Literature

What seems to me the highest achievement of art (and the most difficult) is not to make you laugh, or to make you cry, nor to arouse your lust or excite your anger, but to operate like nature – which is to make you dream. Thus all the most beautiful works present this character; their outlook is serene and incomprehensible; as to their method: they are immobile like cliffs, turbulent like the ocean, full of deep, green, murmuring foliages like a forest, sad as the desert, blue as the sky. Homer, Rabelais, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Goethe all seem ruthless to me. They are unfathomable, infinite, many sided. They afford sudden glimpses into abysses – deep down it is dark and vertiginous, and yet a strange sweetness bathes it all! It has the brilliance of light, the smile of the sun, and it is calm! so calm! and powerful like a huge and majestic ox.


Literature enlarges our being by admitting us to experiences not our own. They may be beautiful, terrible, awe-inspiring, exhilarating, pathetic, comic, or merely piquant. Literature gives the entrée to them all. Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realise the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realise it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense, but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. My own eyes are not enough for me … Even the eyes of all humanity are not enough. I regret that the brutes cannot write books. Very gladly would I learn what face things present to a mouse or a bee, more gladly still would I perceive the olfactory world charged with all the information and emotion it carries for a dog. In reading good literature, I become a thousand men, and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and I am never more myself than when I do.

C. S. Lewis

Ahh, the beauty of the written word, done well!
There is truly no frigate like a book, as how Emily Dickinson puts it.

So…… read any good literature lately, dear readers? 🙂

What ‘lost in a book’ looks like….

I’ve looked for this scene in Elizabeth Bowen (Book 1,365, The Last September; Book 1,366, The Death of the Heart, Anchor, New York) and in William Trevor (Book 1,976, The Collected Stories, Penguin, London) and Molly Keane (Book 1,876, Good Behaviour, Virago, London) and in Birchwood (Book 1,973, John Banville, W.W. Norton, New York) but I’ve never quite found it, and so have to believe my father didn’t invent it, it must be true; he stands reading Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, holding the book in his left hand while with his right he pours the tea, his eyes not leaving the page. This act stops the men’s talk. Oddball they expect him to be, he’s a Swain in Ashcroft, but tea-pouring and Hemingway has a certain skill to it they recognise. That’s what Lost-in-a-Book looks like they’re realising, and they have a kind of natural countrymen’s appreciation.

Niall Williams, ‘History of the Rain’.

Yes, I’m still very much savouring my read with this one. Have been taking it out with me for company wherever I go. I have not, however, mastered the art of pouring out tea with one hand while keeping my eyes on the book held in the other, though.

Not yet anyway.


So, what good books have all you dear readers been getting lost in lately, may I ask?

“There are no beautiful women writers… “

There are no beautiful women writers.’

‘Yes there are.’

No there aren’t.

‘Here, look at Emily Dickinson,’ I said, and showed him the passport-sized photo on the back cover of the Collected Poems. ‘Her face, two prunes in porridge.’

‘I don’t know, I think she looks nice,’ he said.


‘She does. She looks interesting.’

Reader, pick any Brontë. Any one, doesn’t matter. What do you see? You see intelligence, you see an observer, you see distance, you don’t see beauty. Look at Maria Edgeworth, Mrs Gaskell. Look at Edith Wharton, she’s Henry James in a dress. Henry called Edith the Angel of Devastation, which is not exactly Top Score in the Feminine Charms department. Agatha Christie is a perfect match for Alastair Sim when he was playing Miss Fritton in the Tesco box-set of the old St Trinian’s. You can’t be beautiful and a writer, because to be a writer you have to be the one doing the looking; if you’re beautiful people will be looking at you.

Niall Williams, ‘History of the Rain’.

Gosh, Emily Dickinson and Edith Wharton must be turning in their graves! 😁

Anyone care to disprove the above with some solid example of beautiful women writers?

Tuesday Teaser – History of the Rain

Our history, our folklore and culture were being washed into the sea and must be defended. MacGhiolla was too passionate to worry about mixed metaphors. He was too passionate to worry about generalisations or broad strokes or let the rational get in the way of his argument. Neither was he bothered by the fact that his pale complexion was deeply unsuited to passion and blotched in disparate patches as he rose to his theme. He spoke standing, hands clasped when not released to fork his red hair with exasperation, eyes locked on the upper left air when not locked on Virgil and burning his point home. He spoke on rising toes, on rolling ankles, he spoke with forward tilt, with lifted shoulders, with forefinger pointing and fist punching. He did verbal pirouettes, he did elongated sentences, he let clauses gather at the river and foam until they found spittle release. He spoke hushed, he spoke his big points in whispers, then drove them in with urgent balletic waves of arm and extended eyebrow as he said the same thing again only louder. He was not then a guns and bombs nationalist. He was the more dangerous kind. He was a poems and stories one.

Niall Williams, ‘History of the Rain’.

My current read is turning out to be one very delectable literary treat.

Beauty in the Ordinary

But how can all of this be known, when it has not yet come to pass? We all of us look towards a personal future that is imaginary; although the absence of either tragedy or remarkable good luck may indeed deliver up to us, as though we were somewhat inept fortune-tellers, a rough approximation of what we think is going to happen. To engage too much with the future, in all its fragility and uncertainty, can make us feel dizzy with unease. Let us think, then, of the past, so that we may speak of real things that have actually happened; conscious always that the past, like the future, also shimmers behind the veil of imagination.

Deirdre Madden, ‘Time Present and Time Past’.

Just finished this beauty of a book, and I have quite decided that I now want to read everything else that Ms. Madden has ever written.

A rash decision, you might say, considering the fact that it’s just based on the strength of one positive encounter, but I guess that’s how it is when one realizes that one has fallen in love with a new writer. 🙂

It was through a review that I read from Goodreads, describing this book as one that speaks of the ‘beauty in the ordinary’, whereby it is such a rare delight that one gets to meet a happy family, amidst all the dysfunctional ones that we are so used to reading about in fiction, that got my interest to search out Madden’s book. Tolstoy’s observation that “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”, might be a good indicator as to why most writers would prefer to choose an unhappy family to work on in weaving out tale after woeful tale of family dramas and sagas, as the possibilities offered are seemingly limitless, so to speak. Only a daring novelist would choose to embrace the simplicity of the ordinary, as her subject.

And this, she managed to pull off brilliantly, in the book.

Here are some of my favourite passages:

{ this warmed my heart }

Like her husband, Colette could do with losing a little weight. She is also rather a plain woman, something of which she is acutely aware, but which other people almost never remark upon because she is inordinately kind, and this kindness, suffusing her face, makes her look more attractive than many a cold beauty half her age.


{ this made me ponder…..}

Is it because the images are in black and white that they seem irredeemably distant? But once Beth had shown him a photograph which reconciled the past and the present: an Edwardian miss with a straw hat, some long-forgotten ancestor of theirs, who bore an extraordinary resemblance to Fintan’s sister Martina. And he remembers now also a remark Lucy had made once when they were trawling through a box of old family photographs at home: weddings, rainy picnics, late lamented terriers. ‘When did the world become coloured?’ It had taken him a moment to understand what she meant, and then he thought he had never heard such a delightful notion. He loved the idea of a monochrome world suddenly flooded with colour.


{ this made me smile 🙂 }

Colette can’t sleep. It is four in the morning, a difficult hour for humanity. It is a time when one’s conscious defences are down, when one is psychically most vulnerable, prey to brooding and regrets, to dark thoughts. But Colette has no darkness in her soul, no demons. She is brooding, yes, but about nothing more sinister than the lasagne she left out of the freezer the night before.


{ and this, made me dream….}

Tonight, as so often, all of Ireland lies under a soft thick blanket of cloud. The wind rises, and soon it begins to rain.
But none of them hears it: only the cat, awake and alert, sitting in total darkness at the top of the stairs in Beth and Martina’s house; only the cat lifts its head and listens to the sound of the raindrops. And if either woman, in the drowsiness of sleep, were to suddenly switch on the light and come upon it there on the landing, the cat, with its folded paws and perfect markings, might well appear to them fabulous as a unicorn.

Did I mention that I love the book?

Tuesday Teaser: “…. faithful as Lassie”

Where does it all begin? Perhaps here, in Baggot Street, on the first floor of one of Dublin’s best restaurants, on a day in spring. It seems as good a place to start as any. Fintan is sitting at table before the ruins of a good lunch, with crumbs on the tablecloth and empty wine glasses, together with half-empty bottles of mineral water, both still and sparkling. There are two tiny coffee cups on the table, and a crumpled white linen napkin discarded on the place opposite. One might imagine that a disgruntled lover has just flounced off, but Fintan, faithful as Lassie, is not that kind of man.

Deidre Madden, ‘Time Present and Time Past’.

I think the opening lines to this book are definitely getting a place on my list of personal favourites. Just gotta love that ‘faithful as Lassie’ bit, don’t you? :p

And the title is actually taken from T.S. Eliot’s ‘Burnt Norton’, in case you were interested :

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.

This will be my first encounter with Madden’s work, and going by the strength of that opening alone, I think I’m gonna be in pleasant company with this particular Irish maiden.

Any Madden fans here?