Reading in all directions…..

But, from beyond, the North—ice and unbreathed air, lights whose reflections since childhood had brightened and chilled her sky, touching to life at all points a sense of unshared beauty—reclaimed her for its clear solitude.

Elizabeth Bowen, ‘To the North’.

 

The Salinas river was only a part-time river. It was not a fine river at all, but it was the only one we had and so we boasted about it — how dangerous it was in a wet winter and how dry it was in a dry summer. You can boast about anything if it’s all you have.

John Steinbeck, ‘East of Eden’.

Oh, and there’s also this one which I’ve been dipping into lately…..

When we lose certain people, or when we are dispossessed from a place, or a community, we may simply feel that we are undergoing something temporary, that mourning will be over and some restoration of prior order will be achieved. But maybe when we undergo what we do, something about who we are is revealed, something that delineates the ties we have to others, that shows us that these ties constitute what we are, ties or bonds that compose us.

It is not as if an ‘I’ exists independently over here and then simply loses a ‘you’ over there, especially if the attachment to ‘you’ is part of what composes who ‘I’ am. If I lose you, under these conditions, then I not only mourn the loss, but I become inscrutable to myself. Who ‘am’ I, without you? When we lose some of these ties by which we are constituted, we do not know who we are or what to do. On one level, I think I have lost ‘you’ only to discover that ‘I’ have gone missing as well.

excerpt of Judith Butler’s remarks after 9/11, quoted in John Burnside’s ‘The Music of Time: Poetry in the Twentieth Century’.

At least I’m still reading.

Reality, Reality.

The only book I managed to actually finish reading/ listened to in the past two months.

But the strange thing about life was that you could only live the one of them; you couldn’t live the other one, the one where you went to New York instead of London, and then compare and contrast. You couldn’t compare the life you had with the life you might have had though sometimes Vadnie Marlene Sevlon would have liked to be able to shout Stop and after the requisite minutes Start, and then catch the other life, live it for a bit, and if it was not as agreeable as the one in her imagination, well then she’d be able to return to the old life and appreciate it better by simply shouting Stop and Start again.

Jackie Kay, ‘Reality, Reality’.

Many books have been pulled out from various stacks and shelves and begun, in the last two months or so.

But my interest and concentration in them keeps slipping and waning so much so that it has been near impossible to finish anything I’ve started.

So, this has been a small accomplishment of sorts and hopefully the break that I need for getting out of this seemingly lethargic reading cycle I feel stuck in…..

Anyway, back to Jackie Kay.

Although this collection of stories were nowhere near my love for the collection found in her earlier work,  Wish I was Here, this one had a few that really made their way to my heart as well.

Two, in particular –  the second and the second to last story in the book, which essentially, is one story being told from two POVs.

And the funny thing was I didn’t realize it was so (except that both the stories had stood out for me and were clear favourites), until I had finished the book and was looking for my favourite lines to quote in my Goodreads profile, and then it dawned on me. (Yes, I am slow of heart, or head, or both, I guess) :p

 

In case you were interested….

And here’s one of my absolute favourite lines from the book……

So you think I’m paying you to go strolling around the garden? You must think I was born yesterday. Vadnie stopped to consider this seriously for a moment, the idea that the matron could be born yesterday and then grow in such a short space of time into such a nasty old woman. Not possible! Nastiness needs time to build up.

😀

Checking in….

Current view of my bedside stacks.

Couldn’t just let another month slip by without checking in on this poorly neglected space. Work exhaustion has been mainly what had prevented me from doing so earlier, when I was actually most excited to share about my visit to the latest bookish hangout in town, back in July.

The Tsutaya Bookstore, which has just landed on our shores, is a real treat.

I hadn’t had the same level of pleasure with a bookstore ever since my last visit to Taipei in 2018, which incidentally, was where I first came to know of the bookstore chain.

One of the best feature here is the generous amount of reading space the reader is provided with, and the liberty to enjoy unlimited browsing as if you were in a library.

Spend some much enjoyable time with this stack.

In terms of reading, I have been dipping into many, but finishing none.

Well, as long as I enjoy what I’m reading, who’s keeping count, right?

🙂

What We Remember…..

We think we’ll remember it all and we remember hardly anything. Even when the car is only doing forty, it’s still going too fast. The trees are a green and gray blur, the restaurant where we thought we’d die laughing over the misspelled menu has come and gone. Neon-green streaks and bolts of flamingo pink blow up the sky on a winter night in Maine and we think – oh, we will never forget these northern lights, but we do.

What we remember is only the curling picture in the left-hand drawer, or a gorgeous half page photo in an old travel magazine, but what we saw when we held hands, lifting our chins to the sky as if we could leap into the jagged, jeweled brilliance above us, was seen for ten seconds only, and never again.

Amy Bloom, ‘White Houses’.

How true.

Latest landings…..

New Arrivals!

They have landed, safe and sound.

And it was only after they arrived that I realized I had matching editions of each of these new additions in my existing stacks.

So, after much heaving & hauling, dismantling and re-assembling of my disorganized stacks, I finally managed to pull out the said copies for their photo shoot. :p

These two McCullers come in the form of one of my favourite type of cover designs (ie: black and white photo shots) and I was really happy with this copy of her Collected Stories which includes The Member of the Wedding (which I have been wanting to get my hands on for some time) as well as The Ballad of Sad Cafe. And all for the price of one! 😀

This third and final volume of Janet Flanner’s ‘Paris Journal’ has also been on my wishlist for the longest time. A reasonably priced copy that comes in what is described as “Very Good Condition” (free shipping included) doesn’t happen to come by very often, and when this one did…. grabbed it, I did! I had bought the other copy during my last trip to Paris (almost 7 years ago) at the Shakespeare & Co. (my sole acquisition from the iconic bookshop, and it had made a huge dent on my shoestring traveller’s budget back then!)

I listened to an episode of the Backlisted podcast recently and came away wanting to read Sayer’s Gaudy Night immediately. The editions available on Book Depository had cover designs that came with prices that I had no intention of parting money with. Finding this then, was bliss. And it was at a bargain price, too. Aren’t these lovely to behold?

Yes, I am definitely one of those readers who judge a lot, by the covers.

:p

I made the world a better place…. (again)

No, of course I didn’t order 40 books at one go. It’s a cumulative record of my orders with Better World Books over the years.

And it was just by simply buying more books! Well, whaddayaknow?! 😋

I didn’t realize my last purchase from these good people were way back in 2019.

Well, time flies whether you are having fun, or not!

And I was probably making up for lost time because I ended up making two orders in the same month!

My earlier order had just arrived safely yesterday. 😊

Here they are ……
Am really looking forward to this McGuinness. The brand new copy of this which I had ordered from Book Depository two years ago never did arrive, and it has been out of stock ever since. Here’s hoping that the deferred pleasure will more than make up for the past disappointment. 😉

Another highly anticipated read. I really love these Penguin editions of Trevor’s series of backlist titles, of which I have managed to collect a few (and hope to add on).
Classy, aren’t they?

And now, here’s a little taste of the McGuinness, for your reading pleasure……

Let me take you down the thin cobblestoned streets of the Belgian border town of Bouillon. Let me take you down the alleys that lead into its past. To a town peopled with eccentrics, full of charm, menace and wonder. To the days before television, to Marie Bodard’s sweetshop, to the Nazi occupation and unexpected collaborators. To a place where one neighbour murders another over the misfortune of pigs and potatoes. To the hotel where the French poets and lovers Verlaine and Rimbaud holed up while on the run from family, creditors, and the law.

This exquisite meditation on place, time and memory is an illicit peek into other people’s countries, into the spaces they have populated with their memories, and might just make you revisit your own in a new and surprising way.

– Patrick McGuinness, ‘Other People’s Countries – A Journey into Memory’.

Gee(se)…. I didn’t know that!

Read this interesting piece by E. B. White recently.

THE MOST STIMULATING PIECE of news we’ve heard since Malenkov* came to power is that the British are using geese in Malaya to fight Communist guerrillas. The geese are employed as watchdogs, to sound a warning at the approach of the foe. It happens that we have had quite a good deal to do with geese in our time, and we feel it advisable to pass along a word of caution to the British. Geese, we have found, are alert and articulate and they practically never sleep, but they are also undiscriminating, gossipy, and as easily diverted as children. For every alarum they sound to announce a guerrilla, they will most certainly utter a hundred to announce a British subaltern who is passing by. Everything and everybody interests a goose, and they play no favorites. Geese have their moods, too, and when geese are in one of their moods, an entire band of guerrillas could walk boldly into camp without stirring up so much as a small greeting. Furthermore, geese sometimes get together and retell old tales, and while at it they make as much noise as though they were announcing the invasion of the planet by little green men. We have an idea that the British will get some real help from geese, but if they feel obliged to act on every report a goose turns in while on duty, they’re going to suffer a nervous breakdown into the bargain.

Thought you might be interested, too. 😉

Thursdays, with a little bit of Trollope….

Hanging on till the weekend comes…..

It’s been an exhausting week and am looking forward to a restful weekend.

I’ve not managed to do any much reading this week but am thankful for whatever little morsel of delight I’ve enjoyed from Trollope’s writing.

It really does put a smile on one’s face. 🙂

Mrs. Proudie has not been portrayed in these pages as an agreeable or an amiable lady.  There has been no intention to impress the reader much in her favour.  It is ordained that all novels should have a male and a female angel and a male and a female devil.  If it be considered that this rule is obeyed in these pages, the latter character must be supposed to have fallen to the lot of Mrs. Proudie.  But she was not all devil.  There was a heart inside that stiff- ribbed bodice, though not, perhaps, of large dimensions and certainly not easily accessible.  Mrs. Quiverful, however, did gain access, and Mrs. Proudie proved herself a woman. 

Anthony Trollope, ‘Barchester Towers’.

The Two Towers

No, not the ones from Tolkien…..

But rather, these two:

The grim & foreboding Black Tower from P. D. James.

The sentence of death had been communicated, as he suspected such sentences usually were, by grave looks, a certain false heartiness, whispered consultations, a superfluity of clinical tests, and until he insisted, a reluctance to pronounce a diagnosis or prognosis. The sentence of life, pronounced with less sophistry when the worst days of his illness were over, had certainly produced the greater outrage.

It was, he had thought, uncommonly inconsiderate if not negligent of his doctors to reconcile him so thoroughly to death and then change their minds. It was embarrassing now to recall with what little regret he had let slip his pleasures and preoccupations, the imminence of loss revealing them for what they were, at best only a solace, at worst a trivial squandering of time and energy. Now he had to lay hold of of them again and believe that they were important, at least to himself.

And the delightful world of Trollope’s Barchester Towers.

The great characteristic of the Stanhopes might probably be said to be heartlessness; but this want of feeling was, in most of them, accompanied by so great an amount of good nature as to make itself but little noticeable to the world.

The Stanhopes would visit you in your sickness (provided it were not contagious), would bring you oranges, French novels, and the last new bit of scandal, and then hear of your death or your recovery with an equally indifferent composure. Their conduct to each other was the same as to the world; they bore and forebore…

I have been enjoying my time in both worlds, albeit in different shades of light. 😉

And what serendipity it was, when I came across this passage in the later parts of the P. D. James:

She became aware of the weight of the book on her lap. It was a paperback edition of Trollope’s ‘Last Chronicle of Barset’. It had lain there all the afternoon. Why, she wondered, was she so strangely reluctant to read it? And then she remembered. This had been the book she was rereading on that dreadful afternoon when Victor’s body had been brought home. She hadn’t opened it since. But that was ridiculous. She must put the thought out of her mind. It was stupid, no, it was wrong, to spoil a book she so loved – its leisurely world of cathedral intrigue, its sanity, its delicate moral sensibility – by contaminating it with images of violence, hatred and blood.

🙂

And oh, for what it’s worth, in case anyone is actually still interested to know which book I finally picked for my birthday treat last month…… I did not.

Yeah, sorry for the anticlimax. :p

I treated myself to this instead.

It was a Bailey’s Valrhona Chocolate Ice Cream cake.

I did, however, receive this as a gift from a dear blogger friend, all the way from Sarajevo.

Any Murdoch fans here?

A little bookish update

This delayed arrival of a Christmas gift still brought much joy and delight! 🙂

Received my first bookmail of the year, and what a joyous feeling it was!

And especially so, because it was thought to have been lost in transit, but arrived when it was least expected to.

I know nothing about knitting, but am (strangely) very much looking forward to reading this.

Currently enjoying this Maigret.

I have not managed to read much lately, but the little that I have been spending time with, was spent in the company of Commissaire Maigret.

And it has been enjoyable, to say the least. (Fun fact: Maigret happens to be the same age as me in this book. :p)

If money was not an issue, I would dearly love to own the entire set of these Penguin Classics editions.

One can always dream…..

By the way, I still have not been able to decide on the one book that I said I was going to treat myself with for my upcoming birthday.

I did sort of narrowed it down to these two, though:

I have heard many good things about Shirley Hazzard and have been wanting to meet her for some time.

Book Depository is offering an attractive discount on this at the moment and that is why I find it hard to decide.

Because my heart is leaning towards meeting Sapienza in Positano, instead.

Italy, especially the southern parts, and the beautiful Amalfi coastline, has been occupying a very special spot in my heart ever since my 2013 Italian trip.

The Sapienza doesn’t have such a good discount on it, though. :p