Much loved in March (…. and rather loathed in April!)

This post was supposed to be up in the first week of April. But as with most things that were supposed to have been and and yet not be, here we are. 

March had provided for me quite an unexpected amount of stirring encounters with both books and films. 

The books:

Cassandra ATW
First 5 star read of the year for me. Didn’t expect to love it as much as I did, but love it I did!

She sighed, and after a while she said rather easily: ‘You mean you’ll be burned up if I get married.’ First tactlessness, then callousness. Nine months in New York had not increased my sister’s sensitivity. There was no way to answer. I lay there in all the heat and wondered what it is that gets lovely simple things so knotted and gnarled up. What makes mistletoe move in on a tree and take over, what made the wild cells move in on Jane Edwards; why do weeds flourish and flowers give up? Why does papa have to prefer drinking alone on a ranch to the entrenched inanities of the university world? Where is there to go? Or barring that, where can you hide?

Stars (Emma D)
A second 5 star experience with this one. Donoghue’s brilliant storytelling pulled me right smack into the 1918 flu pandemic situation in Dublin, which feels uncannily relatable to the pandemic situation of today, a century forward. Didn’t realize that the word “influenza” came from the Latin, to mean “the influence of the stars”. What a dreamy connotation to such a grim state of reality.

On the landing yesterday’s poster hooked my attention ‘Would they be dead if they’d stayed in bed?’ I had an impulse to rip it down, but that probably constituted conduct unbecoming to a nurse, as well as treason. ‘Yes, they’d be bloody dead,’ I ranted silently. ‘Dead in their beds or at the kitchen table eating their onion a day. Dead on the tram, falling down in the street, whenever the bone-man happened to catch up with them. Blame the germs, the unburied corpses, the dust of war, the circulation of wind and weather, but Lord God Almighty, blame the stars, just don’t blame the dead, because none of them wished this on themselves.”

And the government’s advice to the public seems not to have changed very much in over a hundred years. :p

PUBLIC IS URGED TO STAY OUT OF PUBLIC PLACES SUCH AS CAFÉS, THEATRES, CINEMAS, AND PUBLIC HOUSES. SEE ONLY THOSE PERSONS ONE NEEDS TO SEE. REFRAIN FROM SHAKING HANDS, LAUGHING, OR CHATTING CLOSELY TOGETHER. IF ONE MUST KISS, DO SO THROUGH A HANDKERCHIEF. SPRINKLE SULPHUR IN THE SHOES.

IF IN DOUBT, DON’T STIR OUT.

🙂

As from films (or rather, one film in particular):

World
This exceeded all expectations and came away with full marks on all fronts. Has one of the best closing scenes I’ve come across in a while, and the haunting music score lingers on…. long after the credits rolls.

“I can’t imagine what more we could do for one another, with our constraints.
“You can’t?”
“I can’t.”
“Well then… it’s a good thing we remember that our imaginations can always be cultivated.”

I almost wanted to end the post on that beautiful note, but just realized that I haven’t mentioned about what I have “rather loathed” in April.

Well, maybe ‘loathed’ is a stronger word than what Henry James’ Wings of the Dove deserved. It was more like an annoying, neverending frustration, trying to get through the book. After the first couple of chapters, I had to resort to listening to the audiobook for the rest of it, letting it play on like some background music.

Admittedly, there were some sparkling lines in there somewhere (and Juliet Stevenson was a pleasure to listen to, as always), but then my patience was just too much tested overall in the whole Jamesian experience.

Safe to say, it won’t be anytime soon before I decide to pull out another one of his books (and I do have quite a few waiting in the stacks, I’m afraid.) :p

Any Henry James fans out here? 🙂

On Providence, and the necessity of aunts.

Have finally gotten around to reading this, and am loving it so far.

The person who undertook the main portion of the vigils was a certain Aunt Maria—whom the girls knew to be not a real aunt, not a powerful, effective aunt like Aunt Harriet of Axe—but a poor second cousin of John Baines; one of those necessitous, pitiful relatives who so often make life difficult for a great family in a small town. The existence of Aunt Maria, after being rather a “trial” to the Baineses, had for twelve years past developed into something absolutely “providential” for them. (It is to be remembered that in those days Providence was still busying himself with everybody’s affairs, and foreseeing the future in the most extraordinary manner. Thus, having foreseen that John Baines would have a “stroke” and need a faithful, tireless nurse, he had begun fifty years in advance by creating Aunt Maria, and had kept her carefully in misfortune’s way, so that at the proper moment she would be ready to cope with the stroke.)

Arnold Bennett, ‘The Old Wives’ Tale’.

An Update of Random Bits.

February.

My favourite month of the year, for the simple reason that it has my birthday in it.

Not that anything particularly exciting ever happens though. :p

I have been wanting to put something up in this space ever since the last post, but never seem to have enough substance or content, nor the inspiration to make up for a post-worthy piece.

So I thought I will just go ahead and share some of the random bits (bookish and otherwise) that might (or might not) be of interest to anyone visiting these pages. 

This post was supposed to be up last Friday, as I didn’t want the month to go by without leaving some footprint here. But then one of my cats went missing and I was derailed for a bit. 

I am happy to report that all is (almost) well now (hence the appearance of this post), and my cat is safely back, recovering from its wounds after being found on Saturday night, bloodied and traumatized – aftermath from a vicious catfight. 

Speaking of cats, here’s a useful tip I came across on Instagram recently, which might be of interest to some:

 

Random bits on reading.

Some of the books I’ve got going, of which some do not seem to be going anywhere at all. :p

 

And here are some of the ones that have been most recently added to the never-ending list of want-to-reads. I will not attempt to share the list that I have also managed to amass in Scribd. 

 

  • I read a really funny short story by W. Somerset Maugham titled ‘The Luncheon’ and am encouraged to want to read more.
  • I also read some Saki and am reminded of his deliciously wicked wit.
  • Read the first essay in Julian Barnes’ “The Pedant in the Kitchen” and hope to continue soon.
  • Finishing up Ali Smith’s “Public Library & other stories”, and am reminded again of what it was that made me fell for her all those years ago when I first read her slim Pocket Penguin edition of “Ali Smith’s Supersonic 70s”. 

 

Hope to finally finish this Geert Mak soon. At least the marker has moved down progressively in the past weeks.

 

Random bits on listening.

  • One reason I am so in love with Scribd is because of their huge selection of audiobooks.
  • Managed to finish Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders and Barbara Pym’s Jane & Prudence in the last month.
  • Currently making my way through Rachel Cusk’s essays in Coventry and Sinead Gleeson’s anthology of Irish Women Writers in The Long Gaze Back.
  • Most impressive recent discovery is Norah Hoult. Loved her piece in the Irish anthology – ‘When Miss Cole Made the Tea’. Makes me want to track down everything by her now.

Book Arrivals.

Book gifts that were meant for two Christmases and two birthdays. Well, better late than never! :p

 

Some bookmarks came along as well. 🙂

 

Part of the above book parcel, though it was left out from the group photo.

 

This photo does not do the actual physical book justice. It truly is a beauty in the flesh. Texture of the pages and the font are a joy to hold and behold.

 

As with this one too, which was recently pulled out from my stacks. I think it will go very well together with the Italian shorts.

 

Last (but definitely not least!) book gift that just came in last week. Love the cover. In fact, I love all the covers in these VMC editions. Must really start to READ my first Thirkell soon! :p

 

Birthday Cake.

Had this for my birthday, and it was yummy! The description had everything I love – coffee, cheese, chocolate, jelly, biscuit…. The rum was a little too strong in the jelly bits though, and I might have had my first hangover from eating cake! :p

 

Last random bit.

I now weigh exactly the same as my age.  

2020 : How the year has been for me

[source]
 

 

What a year this has been!

While nothing went quite the way we thought it would have panned out at the onset of the year, there was (and still is) much to be thankful for. 

Things could have been worse, and is indeed worse, for so many, and I can only thank God for having kept me and mine, well. 

And that I could still take delight and comfort, refuge and shelter, in these little joys…..

  • Some minor ‘shelf improvements’ around the house.
Very pleased with this new column. And so much shelf space freed up! 😀

 

Another little tweak given to put some books onto the TV console in the living room.

 

  • On one of the occasions before the days of ‘lockdown’, I chanced upon this interesting sight at a cafe and tried my best to zoom in on the book title, without looking like a stalker. :p
After more editing and filtering, managed to finally make out that it’s a Vintage Classics edition of a Haruki Murakami, and I could rest easy finally. Anyone here does this sort of stuff too? :p
  • Some reorganizing of the shelves/ stacks.
Decided to dismantle these bedside stacks to see what’s hiding in there, during the initial weeks of lockdown.
 
Took me forever to get anything organized, as I was too busy flipping through titles that have been hidden from sight (or reach) for so long. :p
 
Things got really unruly, like weeds, all over the place.
And still I was reluctant to pile them back into stacks before spending more time going through them leisurely. Managed to just clear out a pathway, though….
 
Ground zero.

 

The only thing to show for, after weeks of disarray.

 

  • Hitting a speed bump.
Everything came to a halt (books and reading, included) in the months of May – July, when my health hit a speed bump and I had to undergo surgery and thereafter, weeks of medication, follow ups, and medical leave.  It wasn’t an easy period for sure, but by God’s grace, the good that came out of it, did outweigh the bad. 
  • Discovered the convenience and joy in using e-hailing services and online food delivery orders, as a result of the above circumstances. (It used to be me, providing such services to the family :p) 

 

  • Book hauls & gifts (though far and few between, but came they did).

 

Made good of some exceptionally deep discounts from Book Depository, in the early quarter of the year and got these beauties in one of my most loved editions.

 

 
Fast forward to the last quarter of the year, and these came.

 

My new discovery of the year. Very excited about this one.

 

The other exciting new discovery for me this year – Kapka Kassabova. Don’t you just love the name? Makes me think of Kafka and bassanova. Strangely not Cassanova, though….

 

The year end Big Bad Wolf Books Sale happened online, this time. A much subdued affair (for me, by all counts) but nevertheless, still something to cheer for. 🙂 The title that you probably can’t make out is The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History by Kassia St Clair, in case you were interested. :p

 

More from the BBW sale. Was most excited and thrilled to find both Janet White’s The Sheep Stell and Witold Rybczynski’s Now I Sit Me Down in the offering. Both had been sitting in my wishlist for quite some time. 🙂

 

Last bit from the BBW. And they are in my favourite shades. 🙂

 

And here are my Christmas presents that just arrived yesterday! Isn’t this a beauty?

 

The Ali Smith that I had first gotten acquainted with fifteen years ago was through her short stories. I still think I prefer them to her longer works. Maybe first love really does seem to leave a more lasting impact……

 

And that, was how my year had been for me.

How has it been for you?

Blessed Christmas!

“…. the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawn.” (Matthew 4:16)

May you feel the quiet beauty of that

holy, silent night,

When God sent the little Christ child to

be this dark world’s light.

May you know the peace He promised,

may you feel His presence near,

Not only just at Christmas, but

throughout a happy year.

Helen Steiner Rice

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1: 4 – 5 (NIV)

A very blessed Christmas to you and yours, dear friends!

May you always have Light with you in your dwellings, no matter how dark the times may be.

God bless.

Reading, not drowning…..

Contrary to how it may look like, this is in fact, a happy picture. :p

I felt the overwhelming nature of the words on the page and the pages in all the volumes […] I could drown in so many words. This thought filled me not with the panic of my childhood, more a sense that one day I would sink below the surface of all that literature and disappear into it. The stuff that had nurtured me, the stuff that had kept me alive, would one day be a place in which I would submerge entirely.

Andrew Relph, ‘Not Drowning, Reading’.

Just a little sort-of post to show some signs of life over here.
I know this space has been deathly quiet for far too long….
But yeah, definitely not drowning (nor drowned!) but rather, reading. 😉
(& listening to loads of audiobooks!!)

p/s: Did I forget to mention that I’m in love with Scribd? 😀

Levels of Life

We live on the flat, on the level, and yet – and so – we aspire. Groundlings, we can sometimes reach as far as the gods. Some soar with art, others with religion; most with love. But when we soar, we can also crash. There are few soft landings. We may find ourselves bouncing across the ground with leg-fracturing force, dragged towards some foreign railway line. Every love story is a potential grief story. If not at first, then later. If not for one, then for the other. Sometimes, for both.

 Julian Barnes, ‘Levels of Life’.

For Barnes, this was his grief story. A raw and honest piece of writing that details the loss of his wife and soulmate of thirty years. An account of a grief, unflinchingly observed.

How you feel and how you look may or may not be the same. So how do you feel? As if you have dropped from a height of several hundred feet, conscious all the time, have landed feet first in a rose bed with an impact that has driven you in up to the knees, and whose shock has caused your internal organs to rupture and burst forth from your body. This is what it feels like, and why should it look any different?

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

I do not believe I shall ever see her again. Never see, hear, touch, embrace, listen to, laugh with; never again wait for her footstep, smile at the sound of an opening door, fit her body into mine, mine into hers. Nor do I believe we shall meet in some dematerialised form. I believe dead is dead.

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

You put two people who have not been put together before. Sometimes it is like that first attempt to harness a hydrogen balloon to a fire balloon: do you prefer crash and burn, or burn and crash? But sometimes it works, and something new is made, and the world is changed. Then at some point, sooner or later, for this reason or that, one of them is taken away. And what is taken away is greater than the sum of what was there. This may not be mathematically possible; but it is emotionally possible.

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

It was thirty seven days from diagnosis to death. I tried never to look away, always to face it: and a kind of crazy lucidity resulted. Most evenings, as I left the hospital, I would find myself staring resentfully at people on buses merely going home at the end of their day. How could they sit there so idly and unknowingly, their indifferent profiles on display, when the world was about to be changed?

Interestingly, Barnes realized that he had already predicted his own probable feelings in such an event, thirty years ago, in one of his novels. He read this particular passage at her funeral.

When she dies, you are not at first surprised. Part of love is preparing for death. You feel confirmed in your love when she dies. You got it right. This is part of it all. Afterwards comes the madness. And then the loneliness: not the spectacular solitude you had anticipated, not the interesting martyrdom of widowhood, but just loneliness. It’s just misery as regular as a job…. [People say] you’ll come out of it…. And you do come out of it, that’s true.

But you don’t come out of it like a train coming out of a tunnel, bursting through the Downs into sunshine and that swift, rattling descent to the Channel; you come out of it as a gull comes out of an oil slick; you are tarred and feathered for life.

A friend wrote to him: ‘The things is – nature is so exact, it hurts exactly as much as it is worth, so in a way one relishes the pain, I think. If it didn’t matter, it wouldn’t matter.’

And that, is precisely what Barnes has managed to present the reader in this slim volume.
We get to see exactly just how much it mattered.

Tuesday Teaser: Silences, or A Woman’s Life.

I love the cover! 💖

Ten years of partial paralysis had subjected her to a pitiless apprenticeship of immobility, but they had taught her as well the art of movement. None of her gestures was haphazard. She was aware of the slightest blink of her eyelids, of the smallest arc her good arm described. It was a feat to drink a cup of tea without spilling a drop. To follow an entire conversation and respond to every question demanded of her a concentration that only her infinite pride could disguise as easygoing urbanity. Her liveliest moments were thus for her the most exhausting. But she let nothing show—at most a flush would redden her brow or a sigh escape her lips.

Marie Chaix, ‘Silences, or A Woman’s Life.’

Surprised by Lewis

I had always been more violent in my negative than in my positive demands. Thus, in personal relations, I could forgive much neglect more easily than the least degree of what I regarded as interference. […] In the course of life, I could put up with any amount of monotony far more patiently than even the smallest disturbance, bother or bustle. Never at any age did I clamour to be amused; always and at all ages (where I dared) I hotly demanded not to be interrupted. The pessimism, or cowardice, which would prefer non-existence itself to even the mildest unhappiness was thus merely the generalization of all these pusillanimous preferences.

C. S. Lewis, “Surprised by Joy”.

While I have long been an admirer of C.S Lewis’s writing, and the way his brilliant mind is able to articulate thoughts and sentiments that have resonated deeply with me in the past, I was nevertheless taken by surprise upon learning that he and I, both happen to share a very similar temperament in our core personality.

It is the part of me that I have never been able to put into words as clearly, but yet have been keenly aware of its influence and the crucial role that it plays in most of my decision making, resulting in paths taken (or not taken) thus far, in my life. Like Lewis, I have lived life as one who ‘…. was far more eager to escape pain than to achieve happiness’, and have always found it much easier to navigate my way around the things I could bear to live with, rather than in pursuing after things that I could not bear to live without.

This probably also helps to explain why it is that I seem to be clearer about the things that I don’t want, as opposed to the things I do want, in life.

Reading Lewis’s personal account of his early life and the journey that his spiritual quest had taken him,  from that of being an atheist to one who was eventually convinced of the truth and reality of the Christian faith, was both a pleasure and privilege. His honest and transparent articulation with regards to matters of the mind, heart and will, leaves one with much to chew upon and digest. I will probably be returning to its pages, in time to come.

Because he really gets me.

No word in my vocabulary expressed deeper hatred than the word Interference. But Christianity placed at the centre what then seemed to me a transcendental Interferer. If its picture were true then no sort of ‘treaty with reality’ could ever be possible. There was no region even in the innermost depth of one’s soul (nay, there least of all) which one could surround with a barbed wire fence and guard with a notice ‘No Admittance’. And that was what I wanted; some area, however small, of which I could say to all other beings, ‘This is my business and mine only.’

I am aware that I still have not taken down that barbed wire fence and notice, even though I have long started on the journey.

Not yet, anyway.