So, after finishing Valeria Luiselli’s Sidewalks, I was prompted to dig out my Joseph Brodsky, as Luiselli’s rather engaging essay on the account of her attempt to search out Brodsky’s tomb in Venice had reminded me of how I had been wanting to read his essays ever since I came across a copy of Less Than One a couple of years back, at one of the book sales.
But once I opened its pages, the first thing that caught my attention was this quote by Czeslaw Milosz: “And the heart doesn’t die when one thinks it should”.
This again reminded me of how I had loved Milosz’s writing, when I had read some of his essays in his collection To Begin Where I Am, at the start of last year.
And so, back to the shelves I went looking for the other volume of Milosz’s essays which I have in the Penguin Central European Classics edition. This series was one of the more thrilling finds I had chanced upon at one of the previous years’ Big Bad Wolf book sales. I remembered how excited I was when I had picked those four volumes out, despite not having heard of any of the writers’ names before. Somehow my gut feelings told me that I was on to something good. 🙂
I ended up favouring Thomas Bernhard’s Old Masters over the Milosz as my next current read.
This whole little episode has just reminded me again, of how essential and satisfying it is to have a personal library that is curated well enough to cater to one’s whole gamut of interests and inclinations. A library small enough to be housed within the confines of one’s limited four walls, and yet, large enough to allow for the occasional wandering around, that one’s bookish whims and fancies might call for.
I thought I would have been able to put up a year end post before the new year commenced, but I failed once again, just as I have failed at so many other points in time in the year gone by, with regards to maintaining this blog. I’m sorry that even my New Year greetings are four days late, but please do know that I sincerely wish all of you the very best in all things to come for the year ahead!
I know I have been remiss and neglected this little space here badly, while I was busy tinkering away over at a new platform – Instagram. I found myself rather enjoying the instant gratification that came from all the bookish visuals treats offered there, and the convenience and ease at sharing my bookish pursuits through snapshots that are accompanied by just a brief text. While it has been fun (it still is!), and new friends have been met and made (and hopefully, to be kept), it isn’t the same as this. It isn’t ‘home’.
This is. This little corner of the blogosphere here, is still that one special place which I feel is well and truly mine to call ‘home’. Coming here is akin to coming back to my first love.
And so, although I am not a good one for making (and keeping to) plans, you have my word here that I have every intention to keep this space going! (btw, WordPress reminded me that today happens to be the 6th year since the day A Reader’s Footprints began).
Anyway, before we start the year off proper, here’s a quick peek at the new stacks that have mushroomed over the last month…..
Lastly, some bookish treats that I received for Christmas (something that does not happen very often!)
What about the rest of you? Found any bookish treats under your trees? 🙂
This really is a literal picking of things up from where they were since my last post on the Big Bad Wolf Box Sale haul. As you can see, the books are still sitting quietly in the box, as pictured (there are two other boxes as well that are not shown), three months down the road from when they were first brought home. It really is high time to get things moving….
I managed to haul back quite an interesting selection and variety of non-fiction titles from the box sale this year.
Cezanne: A Life by Alex Danchev. Victor Hugo by Graham Robb. I have been a fan of Robb’s subject matters and style of writing for some years now, and this looks like another gem to be added to the stack.
Now All Roads Lead To France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas by Matthew Hollis.
Another one that I’m quite looking forward to reading, especially having just recently learnt of the story of his close friendship with Robert Frost, whose words in ‘The Road Not Taken’ became the deciding factor for Thomas to enlist in the army, which sadly led to fatal consequences.
Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation and GPS Technology by Caroline Paul (illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton). This looks like a delightful volume, accompanied by some lovely illustrations.
Barbara Demick’s Besieged: Life Under Fire on a Sarajevo Streetis another piece of journalistic ‘dispatch’ that I am very interested to be given an insight to. I have been impressed with Demick’s writing (even from the little that I’ve read) ever since coming across her reporting on the lives of ordinary people in North Korea in Nothing To Envy. This looks to be just as good.
The Scientists: A Family Romance by Marco Roth is the memoir of a “….. precocious only child of a doctor and a classical musician, whose world had revolved around house concerts, a private library of literary classics, and discussions of the latest advances in medicine―and one that ended when Marco’s father started to suffer the worst effects of the AIDS virus that had infected him in the early 1980s. [….] it’s a book that grapples with a troubled intellectual and emotional inheritance―the ways in which we learn from our parents, and then learn to see them separately from ourselves.”
Herta Müller’s The Land of Green Plums . I’ve heard of this one for some time and was happy to find it at the sale. Has anyone here read it?
The Myth of Wu Tao-tzuby Sven Lindqvist is a meditation on art and its relationship with life. Inspired by the myth of the Chinese artist who was said to have walked right into his own piece of art and disappeared behind its painted gates, Lindqvist takes us on a fascinating journey through his moral awakening as a young man, and his grappling with profound questions of aesthetics.
Estimating Emerson: An Anthology of Criticism from Carlyle to Cavell by David LaRocca. “Estimating Emerson is the most comprehensive collection yet assembled of the finest minds writing on one of America’s finest minds. It serves as both a resource for easily accessing the abundant and profound commentary on Emerson’s work and as a compendium of exceptional prose to inspire further thought about his contribution to our thinking.” I think I may have struck gold with this find. 🙂
Also found a couple of fun coffee table books on London, on interior decorating, and a most practical one titled, You Need More Sleep: Advice from Cats. Definitely sound advice to listen to from the ‘experts’ on the subject, I’d say. :p (hahaha….)
Enough of non-fiction for now, let’s get back to some good old fashioned story telling, shall we? To start off, there’s the two lovely editions of Picador Classic that I am very happy to have picked up. Barbara Pym’s Quartet in Autumnand Robert McCrum’s memoir on recovering after a stroke in My Year Off. Then there’s the lovely copy of Louisa May Alcott’s A Merry Christmas & other Christmas storiesin a beautiful Penguin Christmas Classics edition. This will keep my Trollope’s Christmas at Thompson Hallin good company. 🙂
Next up are the Penguin Modern Classics editions, another favourite of mine! Managed to find Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger, which is one book that has long been on my to-read list, and so naturally I am very happy about the find. Although I am not one who is much into reading plays, finding J. B. Priestley’s much acclaimed An Inspector Calls and other Plays was still nothing short of thrilling. I loved that it came in this edition.
I am generally not a fan of Japanese literature, but I quite like the title of Yukio Mishima’s The Sound of Waves, so into the box it went.
I have yet to read any Zola todate, and so finding his Therese Raquinat the sale seemed to be an added incentive to try him soon.
The same goes for Graham Swift, whom I have also yet to read. Earlier this year, I came across a fair few good reviews on his Mothering Sunday, which sort of triggered my interest in checking him out. It’s a timely thing that I found two of his works at the sale. Ever Afterand Making an Elephant both seems like good starting points.
I sometimes hold it half a sin To put in words the grief I feel; For words, like Nature, half reveal And half conceal the Soul within.
But, for the unquiet heart and brain, A use in measured language lies; The sad mechanic exercise, Like dull narcotics, numbing pain.
In words, like weeds, I’ll wrap me o’er, Like coarsest clothes against the cold: But that large grief which these enfold Is given in outline and no more.
Alfred Tennyson, ‘In Memoriam’.
“For words, like Nature, half reveal and half conceal the soul within”.
I came across this line of Tennyson’s in the preface of a book I was flipping through last night, and it struck a chord in me.
I have been struggling to come up with a post for the past one over month simply because I did not have the words.
July had been an unexpectedly trying month for me, filled with a fair share of loss, grief and stress. Although it had to do with the animals in my life, and not the humans, it was by no means any less easy to bear. I was robbed of my peace and joy for the most part of it, and all plans for taking part in one of my favourite annual blogging events, the Paris in July, were sadly not to be. Plans for sharing the rest of my haul from the box sale were also not possible. Even reading was at times, a struggle. Nothing seemed to appeal at first. And then, it was as if the pendulum had swung to the other extreme end, and everything seemed to appeal and I was eager to read as much as I possibly could.
Having had no words of my own to offer, it was as though I had to stuff myself with the words of others in order to assuage the unrest that was within. I read with an intensity that was quite unlike my usual slow and laid back approach. I got many a book started but not all were able to hold my interest and mood right till the end. Three in particular, did. And one stood out, especially. That book was Thornton Wilder’s exceptionally brilliant Pulitzer Prize winner, The Bridge of San Luis Rey.
On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below.
‘Why did this happen to those five?’ If there were any plan in the universe at all, if there were any pattern in a human life, surely it could be discovered mysteriously latent in those lives so suddenly cut off. Either we live by accident and die by accident, or we live by plan and die by plan. And on that instant Brother Juniper made the resolve to inquire into the secret lives of those five persons, that moment falling through the air, and to surmise the reason of their taking off.
The things that happen to us or those around us, are they (in the words of Wilder) “…. perhaps an accident?”, or are they “….perhaps an intention?” That was the premise of the book. But Wilder does not pretend to have the answers to those questions. “The business of literature is not to answer questions, but to state them fairly”, he once said.
That was exactly what he did with book.
And that is how it is with life too, I guess.
We don’t always need to have all the answers….. in order for it to go on.
He was the awkwardest speaker in the world apart from the lore of the sea, but there are times when it requires a high courage to speak the banal. He could not be sure the figure on the floor was listening, but he said, “We do what we can. We push on, Esteban, as best we can. It isn’t for long, you know. Time keeps going by. You’ll be surprised at the way time passes.”
I have been so overwhelmed by the amount of treasures that came home with me from this year’s Big Bad Wolf Box Sale that it has taken me forever to get this post up on the blog, simply because I just didn’t know where to begin in sharing the richness of this loot! 😀
There are so many good finds in there that I am more than excited to show and tell. So, without further ado, here there are:
I remember having read some good things about the Beatrix Potter biography some time back and was very happy that I also managed to get my hands on a Peter Rabbit box set to bring home with me. As I have never been properly acquainted with Potter and her creations before, they would do well to complement the biography, I think.
Finding a copy of Durrell’s The Corfu Trilogy and The Whispering Land also brought much cheer to the box. 🙂 I recall finding two other of his works at last year’s box sale and they were also in the same edition as the one found this time, so that makes it even better.
“Natural Histories allows readers a privileged glimpse of these seldom-seen, fully illustrated scientific works.Forty essays from the museum’s top experts in a variety of disciplines enhance each rare tome’s unique qualities and scientific contribution, and three to four illustrations accompany each one. This beautiful book will fascinate natural science and art lovers alike.”
As usual, the loot also included a fair few tomes on one of my favourite genres: travel writing.
I was especially happy with the Geert Mak (I actually gave a small squeal of delight, I think!) when I saw the solitary volume among the stacks on the table. In America: Travels with John Steinbeckhas been on my wishlist ever since I knew of it. I love Mak’s writing and am currently making slow but steady progress with his In Europe: Travels through the Twentieth Century.
Gary Kamiya’s Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco, “…. is a one-of-a-kind book for a one-of-a-kind city. It’s a love song in 49 chapters to an extraordinary place, taking 49 different sites around the city as points of entry and inspiration-from a seedy intersection in the Tenderloin to the soaring sea cliffs at Lands End. Encompassing the city’s Spanish missionary past, a gold rush, a couple of earthquakes, the Beats, the hippies, and the dot-com boom, this book is at once a rambling walking tour, a natural and human history, and a celebration of place itself-a guide to loving any place more faithfully and fully.”
Next to New York, San Francisco (& Seattle) are the cities I would love most to have the chance to visit in the US, someday. Am expecting good things from this one!
The Other Side of The Tiber: Reflections on Time in Italyby Wallis Wilde-Menozzi. “Beginning her story with a hitchhiking trip to Rome when she was a student in England, she illuminates a passionate, creative, and vocal people who are often confined to stereotypes. Earthquakes and volcanoes; a hundred-year-old man; Siena as a walled city; Keats in Rome; the refugee camp of Manduria; the Slow Food movement; realism in Caravaggio; the concept of good and evil; Mary the Madonna as a subject―from these varied angles, Wilde-Menozzi traces a society skeptical about competition and tolerant of contradiction. Bringing them together in the present, she suggests the compensations of the Italians’ long view of time.” Another one that sounds rather promising.
Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic travelogue, Travels with A Donkey in the Cervennes, was picked mainly for its slim size which is a very handy feature to look out for in a box sale. They make for great gap-fillers (no offense to Mr Stevenson, I hope!) :p
I found an unexpected piece of gem in London: A Literary Anthology, a lovely British Library Publishing edition that features “…… a wide-ranging collection of poems and scenes from novels that stretch from the 15th century to the present day. They range from Daniel Defoe hymning “the greatest, the finest, the richest city in the world” to Rudyard Kipling declaring impatiently, “I am sick of London town;” from William Makepeace Thackeray moving among “the very greatest circles of the London fashion” to Charles Dickens venturing into an “infernal gulf.” Experience London for the first time with Lord Byron’s Don Juan, and James Berry in his Caribbean gear “beginning in the city.” Plunge into the multi-racial whirlpool described in William Wordsworth’s Prelude, Hanif Kureishi’s The Black Album, and Zadie Smith’s White Teeth. See the ever-changing city through the eyes of Tobias Smollett, John Galsworthy, and Angela Carter. From well-known texts to others that are less familiar, here is London brought to life through the words of many of the greatest writers in the English language.”
There is much to be savoured from this one, no doubt! 🙂
The Spirit of the Dog and The Elegance of the Cat are two lavishly illustrated volumes that is bound to be treasured by dog lovers and cat lovers alike. Beautiful photography by the award-winning photographer Astrid Harrisson makes these two a real pleasure to behold.
And now, on to the fiction stack…..
First up, the recent Penguin reprints of William Trevor’s backlist. I just love the black and white photos used on these covers. I find the effect to be so very evocative and appealing. Just like an invitation to step into another world, another time…..
As opposed to the beautiful set of Trevors, the copy of Willa Cather’s The Bohemian Girl that I managed to bring home from the sale, has to be one of the ugliest edition I have ever come across! :p If it was not Cather’s name that was on the cover, I would never have picked it up. Yes, I am a shallow reader who tends to judge a book by its cover, sorry!
Colette’s The Last of Cheri was another one that was picked for its handy size and purpose.
Rose Macaulay’s The Towers of Trebizond has been on my wishlist for some years now, so spotting it at the sale was a joy. And it was in very pretty edition too. 🙂
Angela Thirkell’s recent VMC reprints are another set of titles that have been on my wishlist in the last couple of years. I just love the cover designs on all their covers! Pomfret Towers is the first one I have managed to get my hands on, and I am sure it won’t be the last.
Also managed to add two lovely editions of Gabriel Garcia Marquez into the box, and I am especially in love with the cover for his One Hundred Years of Solitude. Hope it’s as good as it looks!
Yet another fabulous find, James Joyce’s Dubliners in the Penguin Classics Deluxe edition. Am so glad it was this that turned up, and not Ulysses! :p
Last but not least, the Centennial Edition of Steinbeck’s masterpiece East of Eden. This had to come home with me even if it had meant the disposing of some other books in the box to make room for it, and ignoring the fact that I already have a perfectly fine copy of it in the Penguin Modern Classics edition!
Blame it on those French flaps and deckle-edged pages.
Although we are necessarily concerned, in a chronicle of events, with physical action by the light of day, history suggests that the human spirit wanders farthest in the silent hours between midnight and dawn. Those dark fruitful hours, seldom recorded, whose secret flowerings breed peace and war, loves and hates, the crowning or uncrowning of heads.”
Joan Lindsay, ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’.
Just finished this book over the weekend, and I am happy to report that it was one stellar bit of storytelling that Lindsay managed to pull off! I really enjoyed her style of writing (beautiful prose too, as can be seen from the quote) and sense of humour which comes off surprisingly well in a book that is supposedly inclined towards the darker side of things.
If only Lindsay had written more books than just the handful (listed on Wikipedia), I would gladly seek them all out and explore further. As it is, I think I will probably just check out the film adaption of the book for a start.
It has been a long while since I last had the pleasure of having the postman drop books into my mailbox. And it’s been even longer since I last received any books as birthday gifts. So naturally, I was more than thrilled to find these lovelies waiting for me at home on two separate occasions in the last two weeks.
Thanks to the big hearted folks over at Slightly Foxed who had a recent huge giveaway on their Instagram account (@foxedquarterly), I am now the proud owner of one of their long-coveted objects of beauty!
John Moore’s Brensham Village, which captures life in the English countryside during the 1930s, sounds like a book that’s just my cup of tea.
…. one day, there will be girls and women whose name will no longer just signify the opposite of the male but something in their own right, something which does not make one think of any supplement or limit but only of life and existence: the female human being.
This step forward [….] will transform the experience of love, which is now full of error, alter it root and branch, reshape it into a relation between two human beings and on longer between man and woman.
And this more human form of love [….] will resemble the one we are struggling and toiling to prepare the way for, the love that consists in two solitudes protecting, defining and welcoming one another.
I had started the year without any specific reading plans or lists because I knew I was not a good one for keeping to pre-planned plans when it comes to reading. I prefer to do my reading at whim.
So, I thought it was probably futile to have one and was not quite inspired to make any.
But then something changed.
And now, I think I do have one, and it’s one that I am quite excited about and feeling rather determined (or hopeful!) to see it through.
What happened was this.
I started an Instagram account sometime in December, after discovering the delights in being able to feast my eyes on a regular dose of book porn, through the various bookstagrammers’ feed out there. I was actually amazed to find that there are so many talented book lovers (cum photographers) out there who can effortlessly make books look so desirable as objects.
Creating the account was intended to mainly facilitate my ease of accessing to these feeds on a regular basis.
But when the new year started out on an unexpectedly rough note for me, I soon found myself in desperate need for a diversion of sorts.
As it happens, there was a book challenge hosted by some bookstagrammers that was taking place for the month, called the #AtoZbookchallenge, whereby one is to post a photo a day for each of the alphabets, relating to either book titles or themes or authors that goes with the particular alphabet each day.
Preferably, it should be books that are already on one’s existing physical TBR shelves.
I thought that sounded diverting enough.
And that’s how my unplanned reading plans came to be.
Here’s the A to Z of it.
Not sure how long it will take for me to complete this A to Z reading list, being the slow reader that I am. What I do know is that right now, I’m feeling pretty enthusiastic about it, and that’s a good start!
Let’s just hope that I won’t be stuck at ‘D’ for a long, long time…….