“Those dark fruitful hours….”

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.

Any other Lindsay fans here? 🙂

 

Book Mail!

Look what the postman brought me! 😀

Belated birthday gifts from a dear book loving friend, who clearly knows what floats my boat. 🙂

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.

 

My first ever volume of a Slightly Foxed edition! 🙂

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.

🙂

 

Two Solitudes

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…. 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.

Rainer Maria Rilke, ‘Letters to A Young Poet’.

Happy Valentine’s, everyone! 🙂

Unplanned Plans

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.

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A for Ali Smith, one of my favourite writers. I have been collecting a fair few of her works and reading my way through them over the last ten years. Still a couple of unread ones on the shelves, so I guess it’s high time I pick another.

 

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B for Bennett. Arnold Bennett’s masterpiece, ‘The Old Wives’ Tale’ has been sitting on my TBR shelves for long enough. Its time has come, I think.

 

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C for Charlie Connelly. Years ago, I was fascinated with Connelly’s idea for his two travel writing books – ‘And Did Those Feet: Walking Through 2000 Years of British And Irish History’, and ‘Attention All Shipping: A Journey Around The Shipping Forecast’. It’s strange how both these ‘fascinating’ books are still sitting unread on my shelves after all these years. :p

 

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D for Don Quixote. The sheer size of this tome is daunting for sure, but I really do want to have a go at it. Besides, I really love this Harper Perennial edition…. French flaps and deckled edges are my favourite combinations in a book. It also helps that Edith Grossman’s translation is so very readable (from the little that I’ve sampled).

 

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E for E. M. Forster. I had this packed along with me during my trip to Italy three years ago, thinking how good it would be to read this in Florence, where the book is set. Sadly, I ended up with not much reading done, but at least it was great fun setting up this shot with my friend at the hostel we were staying at, in Florence! 🙂 Time to take care of the ‘unfinished business’ this year.

 

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F for Father Brown. G. K. Chesterton’s endearing Father Brown makes for a rather unlikely, but certainly not unlikeable, mystery solving ‘Sherlock’. I love the cover designs and colours of this Penguin Classics set. Am actually in the middle of the red one, The Wisdom of Father Brown, and I can safely say that it’s as good as it looks!

 

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G for Geert Mak. ‘In Europe: Travels through the Twentieth Century’ is one of the books I am quite determined to get read this year. It’s an account about the year long journey Mak took back in 1999, across the European continent in his quest to trace Europe’s twentieth century history, before the world slipped into the twenty-first.

 

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H is for my favourite travel writer, H. V. Morton. Travel writing has always been one of my favourite genres, and not many can do it as good as Morton, I’d say. His writing is evocative of the old world charm and of a bygone era, brought vividly to life for the reader. It’s a pleasure to ‘see’ the world through his lenses.

 

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I is for ‘I Capture The Castle’. I have long heard of the many good things that fellow readers love about this coming of age modern classic, but have somehow still not gotten around to reading it for myself yet. It’s about time I ‘capture this castle’ too!

 

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J is for James. “When a man has neither wife nor mistress and leads a life which is both orderly and prudent, he does not invite the conventional biographical approach. Henry James was such a man. The richness of his life lies in his words and his relationships.” – Miranda Seymour. These lovely Konemann classics should be good enough incentive to finally get me started on some Henry James. Time to get acquainted with the man through his own words, as suggested.

 

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K is for Kate O’Brien. “O’Brien exquisitely evokes the harem atmosphere of (Irish) convent life, the beauty and the silence, the bickering and the cruelties…… If novels can be music, this is a novel with perfect pitch.” ~ Clare Boylan. Having loved Antonia White’s Frost in May (another coming of age novel with a convent school setting) when I read it some years back, I have been meaning to read O’Brien’s ‘The Land of Spices’ for some time now.

 

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L for The Lost Carving: A Journey To The Heart of Making, by master woodcarver, David Esterly. “Awestruck at the sight of a Grinling Gibbons woodcarving masterpiece in a London church, Esterly chose to dedicate his life to the craft – its physical rhythms, intricate beauty, and intellectual demands.” I have been saving this on the TBR shelves, waiting for just the right moment to savour the journey. I think I should wait no more.

 

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M for The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters. Having collected a fair few of the sisters’ (Nancy, Diana, Jessica and Deborah) individual memoirs, biographies, correspondences and writings but without having read any in proper yet, maybe this would be a good place to start getting acquainted with this extraordinary family!

 

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N for Nabokov. I have decided that this will be the year I read my first Nabokov. And it’s gonna be a toss between The Luzhin Defense, and Pnin. Probbaly The Luzhin Defense….. am in the mood for some chess, I think. These Penguin Classics editions are my favourites. Such beauties to hold and behold, don’t you think?

 

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O is for Orlando. Once described as ‘the longest and most charming love letter in literature’, this was Virginia Woolf’s  playfully ingenious tribute to her intimate friend and one-time lover, Vita Sackville-West. This has been biding its time on my TBR shelves for some years now. Thanks to this challenge, some of my sadly neglected books are being brought back to the fore!

 

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P is for Pollan. Michael Pollan’s ‘A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams’ tells the inspiring, insightful, and often hilarious story of Pollan’s quest to realize a room of his own – a small, wooden hut in the forest, ‘a shelter for daydreams’ – built with his own admittedly unhandy hands. It not only explores the history and meaning of all human building, but also demonstrates architecture’s unique power to give our bodies, minds and dreams a home in the world….. Don’t we all need a place like that?

 

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Q is for Q’s Legacy, by Helene Hanff. After reading and loving Hanff’s 84, Charring Cross Road some years back, I immediately went about tracking down her other works too, and was more than happy to net this omnibus of hers which holds four of her other memoirs (as well as Charring Cross Road). Q’s Legacy tells of how a library copy of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch’s series of lectures On The Art of Writing, became the foundation upon which her own writing career took shape. This is a tribute to her mentor whom she had never known except through the printed page.

 

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R for Rainer Maria Rilke. I was thrilled to find these two beautiful hardback Vitalis editions of Rilke’s work at what was once Kafka’s cottage but is now a books and souvenir shop along the Golden Lane in Prague, six years ago. I know I should have brought home a Kafka or two with me instead, but these happened to be in the bargain bin that day….. and I happen to prefer Rilke to Kafka, anyway. :p

 

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S is for Sarton and solitude. “May Sarton’s journal is not only rich in the love of nature, and the love of solitude. It is an honorable confession of the writer’s faults, fears, sadness and disappointments…. This is a beautiful book, wise and warm within its solitude.” ~ Eugenia Thornton. Solitude has always been a subject that is close to my heart. Can’t wait to read this.

 

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T is for A Treasury of Mark Twain. I found this lovely Folio edition in almost pristine condition at a second hand bookshop in Paris five years ago. I’m ashamed to confess that it’s still ‘almost pristine’, sitting patiently on the shelf waiting to be taken out of its slipcase to be read. Will need to rectify that soon!

 

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U is for Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Marriages in Literary London 1910 – 1939. The seven pairs featured in this volume are H.G. & Jane Wells, Vanessa & Clive Campbell, Radclyffe Hall & Una Troubridge, Vera Brittain & George Caitlin, Katherine Mansfield & John Middleton Murry, Ottoline & Phillip Morrell, and Elizabeth von Arnim & John Francis Russell. These couples are said to have triumphantly casted off the inhibitions of the Victorian age while pursuing bohemian ideals of freedom and equality. Time to take a peek at how it’s done back then, I guess.

 

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V is for Van Gogh: The Life, by Steven Naifeh & Gregory White Smith. This doorstopper of a biography may look daunting, but from what I’ve read (the first two chapters), it is highly readable and a very engaging one, too. I just need to try harder to not let the other books distract and detract me from staying on course! Hoping to also get around to reading some of his letters too.

 

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W is for Words In Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. Bishop is one of my favourite poets, and it’s time I start reading one of the many volumes of correspondence I’ve been collecting. Just realized that this photo has another three Ws that can fit the challenge too…… Lucy Worsley’s If Walls Could Talk, Deborah Mitford’s Wait For Me, and a volume of Woolf’s letters. Looks like I’m really spoilt for choice!

 

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X is for Michael Dirda’s Bound To Please: An eXtraordinary One-Volume Literary Education. Yes, I know it’s abit of a cheat but it’s the closest ‘X’ I have on my shelves. :p This lovely collection of essays were responsible for introducing me to many a great writer and their works. Dirda’s enthusiastically persuasive essays made me want to read almost every book that is recommended. A great book to dip into, but a very ‘bad’ one for the TBR shelves!

 

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Y is for Yates. “Richard Yates was acclaimed as one of the most powerful, compassionate and accomplished writers of America’s post-war generation. Whether addressing the smothered desire of suburban housewives, the white-collar despair of office workers or the heartbreak of a single mother with artistic pretensions, Yates ruthlessly examines the hopes and disappointments of ordinary people with empathy and humour.” High praise indeed, but I have to confess that it was mainly the fabulous cover that sold the book to me!

 

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And lastly, Z for Zweig. I have read and loved Stefan Zweig’s short stories and novellas, but have yet to read any of his full length novels in proper. Think I’ll start with this one. “In this haunting yet compassionate reworking of the Cinderella story, Zweig shows us the human cost of the boom and bust of capitalism. The Post Office Girl was completed during the 1930s as Zweig was driven by the Nazis into exile, and was found among his papers after his suicide in 1942.”

 

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…….

🙂

Taking Stock

Early this month, I had a sudden urge to find out exactly how many books I have in my possession. I’ve long wanted to have some sort of a catalogue or database for keeping track of all the books I’ve come to acquire, but had always been put off by the thought of how much effort it would require to do so. And so the books kept piling, and the task kept looking ever more daunting. I used to have a very clear idea of what books I have and where they are located, but lately it has come to a point where things have started to get fuzzy. I didn’t like the fact that I was slowly losing touch with my books. I wanted to know exactly what are on my shelves, which ones are under my bed in storage, and where the rest are taking refuge in, at all the different nooks and corners around the house. I wanted to be in touch with each of them again, especially the ones that have been out of sight, out of mind. And so, I was finally nudged out of my inertia and set about doing something about it.

I started to build my ‘virtual shelves’ over at Goodreads.

Things got off to a slow start initially, as I fiddled around to see how things worked over there. I had a bit of trouble getting Goodreads to reflect my shelves the way I wanted them to. The default settings were somehow not very helpful in doing that. I think this is mainly due to the fact that Goodreads was designed primarily to serve as a platform for readers to share what they are reading or have read, rather than as a place for organizing one’s personal library, in the way that maybe LibraryThing is. But since I have already registered an account (inactive until now, though) with Goodreads a couple of years back, and also because it’s free (unlike LibraryThing), I stuck on.

After abit more of tinkering about, I finally got the shelves into place and I think it will suffice for now. I have to admit though, it was rather fun to play around with all the sorting and adding of books onto those virtual shelves, once I got the hang of it. And it feels good to be able to see them all gathered together at one place. To be able to survey my entire library, at a glance.

Such clear visibility has certainly helped to put things into clearer perspectives. I now know that I own a total of 953 books (shocking!), out of which I’ve only read 79 of them (shameful…). Even after taking out the 30 odd ones that are coffee table/ photography books, and the 45 of which I’ve started reading at some point but had been left unfinished at various stages, that still leaves me with roughly 800 books waiting to be read! Okay, maybe we can remove another 15 or 20 of those that I no longer think I will ever want to read…. that’s still about 780 unread books sitting on my shelves. What a sobering thought. And I have not even mentioned about the ones lurking in the wishlist and the ‘want to read but not owned’ shelves yet…..

Definitely not a very comforting ‘revelation’.

But as it happens, I just read a beautiful piece by Anthony Doerr and was once again reminded of what it is that I can take comfort in.

For my first seventy-two hours on that island it rained every minute. On my third night—I hadn’t seen another human being in two days—a storm came in and my tent started thrashing about as if large men had ahold of each corner and were trying to shred it. Sheep were groaning nearby, and my sleeping bag was flooding, and I wanted to go home.

I leaned into the little shuddering tent vestibule and got my stove lit. I started boiling noodles. I carefully cut open my can of tomato sauce, anticipating spaghetti. I dipped my finger in. It was ketchup.
I almost started crying. Instead I switched on my flashlight and opened The Story and Its Writer. For no reason I could articulate, I began with “Walker Brothers Cowboy,” by Alice Munro.

By the second paragraph the tent had disappeared. The storm had disappeared. I had disappeared. I had become a little girl, my father was a salesman for Walker Brothers, and we were driving through the Canadian night, little bottles in crates clinking softly in the backseat.

Next I flipped to Italo Calvino’s “The Distance of the Moon.” Now I was clambering up a ladder onto the moon. The last page left me smiling and awed and misty: “I imagine I can see her, her or something of her, but only her, in a hundred, a thousand different vistas, she who makes the Moon the Moon. . . . ”

Then I lost myself in the menacing, half-drunk suburbia of Raymond Carver. Then Isak Dinesen’s “The Blue Jar.” The line “When I am dead you will cut out my heart and lay it in the blue jar” is still underlined—underlined by a younger, wetter, braver version of me—as I sit here in Idaho with the book almost twenty years later, warm and dry, no ketchup in sight. I press my nose to the page: I smell paper, mud, memory.

[…..] For seven months I carried The Story and Its Writer through New Zealand. I hiked my way from the tip of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island and Nadine Gordimer came with me; Flannery O’Connor came with me; Tim O’Brien came with me. On a sheep farm in Timaru, John Steinbeck whispered, “The high grey-flannel fog of winter closed off the Salinas Valley from the sky and from all the rest of the world.” In a hostel in Queens-town, Joyce whispered, “His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe.” In a climber’s hut beneath the summit of Mount Tongariro, John Cheever whispered, “Is forgetfulness some part of the mysteriousness of life?”

[…..] What I have learned and relearned all my life, what I learned growing up in a house overspilling with books, what The Story and Its Writer taught me, what I relearned last night reading Harry Potter to my five-year-old sons, is that if you are willing to let yourself go, to fall into the dazzle of well-made sentences, each strung lightly one after the next—“Upon the half decayed veranda of a small frame house that stood near the edge of a ravine near the town of Winesburg, Ohio, a fat little old man walked nervously up and down.” – if you live with stories, you will never be alone.

The Story And Its Writer – Anthony Doerr
~
taken from ‘Bound To Last: 30 Writers on Their Most Cherished Book’, edited by Sean Manning

Now, I am thrilled to know what awaits me.
🙂

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.

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The Rights of A Reader

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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.

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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. 🙂

Up With The Larks

Up With The Larks

This book made me smile, a lot. 🙂

I had the most enjoyable time in the company of Tessa Hainsworth’s memoir, recounting her first year as a village post-mistress in Cornwall after she had traded in her high-powered job as marketing manager at The Body Shop in London in search of a more balanced and fulfilling life with her young family.

The story of her transformation from outsider to ‘posh postie’ in her new community in the Cornish seaside village of Treverny, is filled with many heartwarming, amusing, inspiring and poignant moments. Cornwall has always had a special place in my heart ever since my first encounter with it five years ago. I loved the rugged yet idyllic atmosphere that Cornwall manages to evoke so effortlessly. Reading this memoir was the ideal way to be given a snapshot of life up close and personal, in one of my favourite corners in the world.

Firmly back in the present, I stop at the hamlet down from Eleanor Gibland’s cottage. It is a cluster of six granite and slate houses on a slope overlooking the sea and I park the van where Susie had parked when she was showing me the route, in a rough lay-by at the edge of the narrow track up to the houses. Then I grab my satchel ready to set out, but first I had to sort out the dog biscuits, as this is deep canine country. Susie had given me a list of each dog’s requirements.
The first two houses have either sheepdogs or mutts that will eat anything, the third one with a yellow door has a cat and no dog, but the last three are tricky. There is the border terrier that will only eat the green biscuits and an odd poodle/ bearded collie cross that likes only the bone-shaped yellow ones. As for that last house at the edge of the cluster, there is a black German shepherd dog that will eat anything you throw into the enclosed garden, including posties if you are not careful.

🙂
I am looking forward to continue reading on to follow Hainsworth’s further adventures in her second volume Seagulls in the Attic.

The Two Towers

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No, not the ones in Lord of The Rings but rather, the ‘two towers’ by my bedside that are just as intimidating (to me!) & seem to be growing by the day….. fingers crossed that they won’t topple over in my sleep one of these days (or nights). :p

When I came across a blog post two days ago talking about the original publication of Tolkien’s The Two Towers back in November 1954, my brain somehow associated that piece of information with the picture above.

🙂

A Bookish Interlude

wpid-cam01528.jpgTime for another bit of some bookish goodness before I continue on with more photos from my trip to France.

So, here we go…. I managed to grab these from a recent book sales where everything was going for RM5 (that would be less than a pound, and slightly more than a US dollar each, based on the current exchange rate). As you can see, I have certainly gotten more than my money’s worth here.

Hidden Cities : Travels to the Secret Corners of the World’s Great Metropolises (by Moses Gates)
In this fascinating glimpse into the world of urban exploration, Moses Gates describes his trespasses in some of the most illustrious cities in the world from Paris to Cairo to Moscow.

Gates is a new breed of adventurer for the 21st century. He thrives on the thrill of seeing what others do not see, let alone even know exists. It all began quite innocuously. After moving to New York City and pursuing graduate studies in Urban Planning, he began unearthing hidden facets of the city—abandoned structures, disused subway stops, incredible rooftop views that belonged to cordoned-off buildings.

Sounds like something that is off the beaten track, but I think I’d prefer to do the ‘exploring’ from the safety of my home and leave the trespassing for someone else to do. 😉

The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie (by Wendy McClure)
“… an incredibly funny first-person account of obsessive reading, and a story about what happens when we reconnect with our childhood touchstones—and find that our old love has only deepened.”
And I find the premise of this book rather appealing even though I have to admit that I have never read Little House on The Prairie before.

Alice Waters and Chez Panisse (by Thomas McNamee)
Described as ‘… the first authorized biography of Alice Waters (the mother of American cooking, and the person responsible for introducing Americans to goat cheese and cappuccino). Looking forward to this.

No One Gardens Alone: A Life of Elizabeth Lawrence (by Emily Herring Wilson)
I have not heard of Elizabeth Lawrence before but after coming across this book, I have a feeling I will be hunting down her books on garden writing as well as her correspondence with Katherine S. White, the legendary editor at The New Yorker, wife of E.B. White, and fellow garden enthusiast in Two Gardeners: Katharine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence–A Friendship in Letters. (I can hear the shelves groaning already.)

Animal Magnetism: My Life with Creatures Great and Small (by Rita Mae Brown)
I have been wanting to read her infamous Rubyfruit Jungle for some time now, but somehow have yet to do so. Maybe I’ll start with this instead.

The Last Days of Haute Cuisine: The Coming of Age of American Restaurants (by Patric Kuh)
Chef and food writer Patric Kuh offers an excellent, clear-eyed look at the death of old-fashioned American restaurants and the advent of a new kind of eating. Kuh takes readers inside this high-stakes business, sharing little-known anecdotes, describing legendary cooks and bright new star chefs, and relating his own reminiscences. Populated by a host of food personalities, including Julia Child, M.F.K. Fisher, and James Beard, Kuh’s social and cultural history of America’s great restaurants reveals the dramatic transformations in U.S. cuisine.
This should go well as a companion read with the Alice Waters.

Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters (edited by Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower & Charles Foley)
As most of you would have already known, I love reading letters. So, this was a no-brainer for me.

Same goes for Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh (edited by Irving Stone).

The Memory Chalet (by Tony Judt)
A memoir in the form of essays, composed when the acclaimed historian was paralyzed with a devastating illness that finally took his life, this book seems like a poignant read. I love the book cover. Reminds me of Christmas. Or maybe something from Agatha Christie….

Memory Chalet

Coming to My Senses: A Story of Perfume, Pleasure, and an Unlikely Bride (by Alyssa Harad)
Perfumes are not something that I can enjoy in real life but in the realm of words, I think it should be more pleasurable.

I managed to bring home two very interesting books by Simon Garfield, one is about maps, On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks, and the other is about fonts, Just My Type: A Book About Fonts. Has anyone here read them yet?

The Beauvoir Sisters: An Intimate Look at How Simone and Hélène Influenced Each Other and the World (by Claudine Monteil)
This was an unexpected find, and is one that I am rather excited about.

Sprinkled with astounding fragments of conversations Monteil witnessed firsthand between Simone, Jean Paul Sartre, Pablo Picasso, and other luminaries, the sisters’ story is told by a woman who had the distinct privilege of belonging to their intimate circle of friends and who has been a leading figure in France’s women’s movement since the 1960s. Spanning the period between World War I and Helen’s death in 2001, The Beauvoir Sisters is also the story of an era, as Monteil immerses the reader in the artistic and intellectual life of twentieth-century Paris, the effects of the Cold War, and the feminist movement in France and in the United States.

Objects of Our Affection: Uncovering My Family’s Past, One Chair, Pistol, and Pickle Fork at a Time (by Lisa Tracy)
Am very thrilled with this find. Sounds just like the kind of book I’d love to read.
After their mother’s death, Lisa Tracy and her sister, Jeanne, are left to contend with several households’ worth of furniture and memorabilia, much of it accumulated during their family’s many decades of military service in far-flung outposts from the American frontier to the World War Two–era Pacific. In this engaging and deeply moving book, Tracy chronicles the wondrous interior life of those possessions and discovers that the roots of our passion for acquisition often lie not in shallow materialism but in our desire to possess the most treasured commodity of all: a connection to the past.”

One Thousand Gifts Devotional: Reflections on Finding Everyday Graces (by Ann Voskamp)
A devotional comprising of sixty reflections on how in the world do we find real joy and experience grace in the midst of deadlines, debt, drama, and all the daily duties.

Photos: Style Recipes (by Samantha Moss & David Matheson)
An inspiring volume that gives one plenty of ideas on how to tastefully decorate one’s living space with photos. Am looking forward to be inspired into action. 🙂

wpid-cam01533.jpgI don’t often read graphic novels but came across two really interesting volumes that look really appealing to me. Feynman by Jim Ottaviani & Leland Myrick, and Relish: My Life In The Kitchen by Lucy Knisley (whose works I’m fast becoming a fan of). While one is a biography of one the greatest minds of the twentieth century, the other is an honest, thoughtful and funny memoir of a talented young cartoonist who loves food. Being the daughter of a chef and a gourmet probably played a large part in fuelling that passion.

Relish 2 Relish

The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World (by Sophia Dembling)
A book that’s just right up my alley.

I have read good things about Patrick Gale’s works before but have yet to read any until now. And amazingly, I have already actually finished reading one of the two books of his that I found at the sales, which is something that doesn’t happen very often. I seldom read my new purchases that soon (as I feel that it’s some sort of an injustice to the others who have been queuing in the long line of TBRs), but had simply found The Cat Sanctuary to be very readable and hard to put down. I loved it.

Now I am half tempted to move on to the next book of his, The Whole Day Through, a bittersweet love story, told from the events of a single summer’s day.

Calvin Trillin’s About Alice is a moving portrait of the writer’s devastating loss of his beloved wife Alice. The dedication of the first book he published after her death read, “I wrote this for Alice. Actually, I wrote everything for Alice.” I have only read some of his essays on food so far, this will certainly be something else.

I was really happy to spot a copy of the Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume Two, The Defining Years, 1933-1938 to add on to the first volume which I had gotten from last year’s sales.

William Trevor’s Two Lives is actually made up of two novels, Reading Turgenev and My House in Umbria. Getting two for the price of one is certainly incentive for me to try Trevor again as I seem to have failed to get on with his writing before.

The Maine Woods is Henry David Thoreau’s account on the three trips that he made to the largely unexplored woods of Maine over a three year period. He climbed mountains, paddled a canoe by moonlight, and dined on cedar beer, hemlock tea and moose lips while taking notes constantly. This should be interesting.

The Mark Twain Anthology: Great Writers on His Life and Work
In this unique collection scores of these literary legatees from the U.S. and around the world take the measure of Twain and his genius, among them: José Martí, Rudyard Kipling, Theodor Herzl, George Bernard Shaw, H. L. Mencken, Helen Keller, Jorge Luis Borges, Sterling Brown, George Orwell, T. S. Eliot, Richard Wright, W. H. Auden, Ralph Ellison, Kenzaburo Oe, Robert Penn Warren, Ursula Le Guin, Norman Mailer, Erica Jong, Gore Vidal, David Bradley, Kurt Vonnegut, Toni Morrison, Min Jin Lee, Roy Blount, Jr., and many others (including actor Hal Holbrook, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, stand-up comedians Dick Gregory and Will Rogers, and presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Barack Obama).

The Maid and The Queen: The Secret History of Joan of Arc by Nancy Goldstone.
Having just been to view the site where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake in Rouen during my recent trip to France, this book appeals much at the moment.

And last but certainly not least, Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth. This one probably needs no introduction as most of you would have either read or heard of it. I am actually more interested in her Testament of Friendship: The Story of Winifred Holtby but until I get my hands on a copy of that, I think I should content myself with this first.

Any of these appeals to any of you? 🙂