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! ūüôā

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To Begin, Again….

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I am here. Those three words contain all that can be said – you begin with those and you return to them. Here means on this earth, on this continent and no other, in this city and no other, in this epoch I call mine, this century, this year. I was given no other place, no other time…..

CzesŇāaw MiŇāosz , ‘To Begin Where I Am’.

Today marks the 5th year since A Reader’s Footprints came into being.
I had not plan for a post to mark this day initially, but something in CzesŇāaw MiŇāosz’s words, which I happened to have been reading today, prompted me to.
I am here.
Yes, five years on, I am still here. And why wouldn’t I be? This is my ‘happy place-to-go-to’. This is my fortress built of books and of book loving friends, in which I take refuge in. From all that makes me feel helpless and vulnerable on the outside. From all that tends to rob me of my peace and joy.
Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote in The Secret Garden that “Where you tend a rose, a thistle cannot grow.”
That is how I want this space to be.
A garden where no thistles can grow to choke out that which nourishes.
MiŇāosz seemed to have found just the right words in helping me see clearer the direction in which I would like for this blog to take in the year(s) to come.

On writing:

I have written on various subjects, and not, for the most part, as I would have wished. But I am always aware that what I want is impossible to achieve. I would need the ability to communicate my full amazement at “being here” in one unattainable sentence which would simultaneously transmit the smell and texture of my skin, everything stored in my memory, and all I now assent to, dissent from. However, in pursuing the impossible, I did learn something. Each of us is so ashamed of his own helplessness and ignorance that he considers it appropriate to communicate only what he thinks others will understand. There are however, times when somehow we slowly divest ourselves of that shame and begin to speak openly about all the things we do not understand.

On that note, I will try to not let that ‘shame of my helplessness and ignorance’ deter me from my attempts to communicate on the things that matter to me, regardless of the level of understanding/ skill required. (Am I making sense here?)
For instance, I know that I suck at writing reviews, and that is why I usually avoid doing so. Why have my flaws exposed for all to see, right? But if the book or the reading experience had really meant something to me, I guess I will still try to communicate that over here, flawed as it may be.

On reading:

I have read many books, but to place all those volumes on top of one another and stand on them would not add a cubit to my stature. Their learned terms are of little use when I attempt to seize naked experience, which eludes all accepted ideas. To borrow their language can be helpful in many ways, but it also leads imperceptibly into a self-contained labyrinth, leaving us in alien corridors which allow no exit. And so I must offer resistance, check every moment to be sure I am not departing from what I have actually experienced on my own, what I myself have touched. I cannot invent a new language and I use the one I was first taught, but I can distinguish, I hope, between what is mine and what is merely fashionable. I cannot expel from memory the books I have read, their contending theories and philosophies, but I am free to be suspicious and to ask na√Įve questions instead of joining the chorus which affirms and denies.

I will try to keep myself being ‘free to be suspicious and to ask naive questions instead of joining the chorus which affirms and denies’. That will also mean that my reading choices will be those that are really suited to me, what I really want to read, and not ‘what is merely fashionable’. By that, I don’t mean that all worthy recommendations from fellow readers will just be disregarded, of course. Discretion will be the key word.

Let’s see how well these ‘aspirations’ get to be translated over here in the days to come.
Anyway, I look forward to a good year filled with good books and some great reading.
And I wish the same for all of you, too.
Happy New Year!

ūüôā

May Your Christmas Be Merry & Bright

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The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death, Light has dawned.

Matthew 4:16 (New King James Version)

It started when God said, ‚ÄúLight up the darkness!‚ÄĚ and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.

2 Corinthians 4:6 (The Message)

Blessed Christmas, to one and all!
May His love, joy and peace be with you and yours.
God bless….

And Then There Were ….. More! (final book hauls for the year)

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Bounty from the Big Bad Wolf Book Sales.

When it comes to books, it will¬†only be a ‘more and more’ and never ‘none’ scenario for me, I guess. As with previous years, I wish I had read more and bought less. But¬†as¬†it¬†has been said that anticipation is half the pleasure, I suppose then there’s really no¬†reason or need to feel much regret¬†(or remorse) over this past reading year.

These final book hauls came from two different book sales that took place earlier this month. As compared to previous years, I must say that this time I have shown much more restraint and exercised better control over the buying. See, just one photo to fit it all in. (hah!)

I was more than delighted to find the lovely Penguin Christmas Classics edition of Anthony Trollope’s Christmas at Thompson Hall & Other Christmas Stories. This collection makes for the perfect Christmas reading, while being the thing of beauty that it is, to hold and behold.

Another equally satisfying find from the sale came in the form of a Penguin Threads edition of Jane Austen’s Emma.¬†I was hoping to be able to get a copy of it in time to read in conjunction with its¬†200th anniversary celebrations. So, this came at just the right time, and in the exact edition of my choice too! Couldn’t be happier.

A Month in The Country by J. L Carr has long been on my wishlish. I have read many good things about this book and am highly anticipating it.

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These covers had me at hello.

The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy.
This is a volume of 24 short stories, including those from an earlier collection titled Love Begins in Winter.¬†“Set in a range of locations, from Cornwall, Wales, and New York to Paris and Rome, these stark and beautiful stories are a perfect synthesis of intensity and atmosphere. Love, loss, isolation and the power of memory are Van Booy’s themes, and in spare, economical prose he writes about the difficult choices we make in order to retain our humanity, and about the redemptive power of love in a violent world.”

On Looking : About Everything There is to See by Alexandra Horowitz.
I have another book by Horowitz, Inside of A Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know which I have not yet read, and was surprised to find this one, which despite the misleading picture on the cover, has nothing to do with dogs. Instead, it talks about our inattention to the things around us. It is about attending to the joys of the unattended, the perceived ‘ordinary’ and how to rediscover the ‘extraordinary’ in our ordinary routines. Sounds interesting?

After reading and loving Patrick Gale’s The Cat Sanctuary just a couple of months back, I have been on the lookout for more of his works. And so A Sweet Obscurity was picked solely on the strength of my previous encounter with his work. If I had just gone by the¬†blurb on the back of the book, I would surely have passed it by.

Colm Toibin is an author whom I have been meaning to read,¬†particularly his¬†latest¬†novel,¬†Nora Webster and¬†his much earlier piece, The Master. I managed to find two of his titles, both of which I am unfamiliar with, but am much interested in –¬† The Sign of The Cross: Travels in Catholic Europe and The Story of the Night.

I have read good things about Stella Duffy’s The Room of Lost Things and have been curious to try out her books one of these days. Since ¬†Calender Girl was the only title I came across at the sale, I took a chance with it.

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I really love this cover.
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But I was even more excited to see this ……

The Big New Yorker Book of Cats is an anthology of essays, poetry, fiction and cartoons contributed by a stellar list of writers such as Margaret Atwood, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Elizabeth Bishop, Roald Dahl, Ted Hughes and Haruki Murakami.  .Defiinitely a good one to dip into every now and then when one is in the mood for all things kitty.

The Picador Book of Journeys on the other hand, is an anthology of writing which challenges that which we define as travel writing. This selection takes us on a fascinating journey of writers and discoverers such as Chekhov, Doris Lessing, Tobias Wolff, Flaubert, Elizabeth David and V.S Naipaul, among others.

Charles Timoney’s An Englishman Aboard: Discovering France in A Rowing Boat offers an unique way of seeing France via travelling by boat along the entire length of the Seine. Sounds like my cup of tea.

Landscape with Figures: Selected Prose Writings by Richard Jefferies.
Richard Jefferies was the most imaginative and least conventional of nineteenth-century observers of the natural world. Trekking across the English countryside, he recorded his responses to everything from the texture of an owl’s feather and ‘noises in the air’ to the grinding hardship of rural labour. This superb selection of his essays and articles shows a writer who is brimming with intense feeling, acutely aware of the land and those who work on it, and often ambivalent about the countryside. Who does it belong to? Is it a place, an experience or a way of life? In these passionate and idiosyncratic writings, almost all our current ideas and concerns about rural life can be found.” I have never heard of Richard Jefferies before but am now interested to get acquainted.

The Missing Ink: How handwriting made us who we are by Philip Hensher.
From the crucial role of handwriting in a child‚Äôs development, to the novels of Dickens and Proust ‚Äď and whether a person‚Äôs writing really reveals their true personality ‚Äď The Missing Ink goes in search of the stories and characters that have shaped our handwriting, and how it in turn has shaped us.” Interesting food for thought, eh?

What There is To Say We Have Said: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell edited by Suzanne Marrs.
Through more than three hundred letters, Marrs brings us the story of a true, deep friendship and homage to the forgotten art of letter writing.”
Although I have only read Maxwell and nothing of Eudora Welty, I am all for books that pay homage to friendship, as well as the art of letter writing.

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Sharon Lovejoy’s A Blessing of Toads: A Gardener’s Guide to Living with Nature is a lovely discovery. Beautiful illustrations accompanying delightful essays on the boundless joys of a country garden. This is a lovely addition to the growing pile of armchair gardening books that I seem to have been steadily acquiring in recent years.

A. W. Tozer’s¬†My Daily Pursuit: Devotions for Every Day is a treasure trove of never-before-published teachings from the author of the spiritual classic, The Pursuit of God.

 

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A book that every bibliophile should have.

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Lastly, a coffee table book that every bibliophile should have – Living With Books¬†by Alan Powers. “This is an inspirational book that explores over 150 ways in which books can not only be stored, but made to play a full part in the character of a home, be it large or small, minimalist or full of cluttered charm. Books are among the commonest but most treasured possessions in a home, yet their storage and display is often neglected and not given serious consideration as part of the interior design – something all the more necessary as the functions of home and workplace now often merge.”
Now, this will probably give me a better idea as to how to deal with these new stacks!

Alright, moving on to the next haul….

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The bounty from the other book sale. These were all priced at approximately less than USD1.20 each

First up, Cleopatra’s Nose: 39 Varieties of Desire¬†by Judith Thurman.
I had no idea what the book was about before picking it up, although the author’s name sounded familiar. Upon closer inspection, I found that this is a volume of essays and profiles written for the New Yorker by the author (and biographer of Isak Dinesen & Colette) on the subjects of human vanity & femininity. Looking forward to this one. And yes, there really is a write up on Cleopatra’s Nose, in case you are interested. ūüėČ

Gentry: Six Hundred Years of a Peculiarly English Class by Adam Nicolson.
Adam Nicolson tells the story of England through the history of fourteen gentry families ‚Äď from the 15th century to the present day. This sparkling work of history reads like a real-life Downton Abbey, as the loves, hatreds and many times of grief of his chosen cast illuminate the grand events of history.”
With BBC’s Downton Abbey having finally drawn to a close, this might not be a bad alternative to consider helping with the possible withdrawal symptoms.

Edward Lear’s The Complete Verse and Other Nonsense¬†seemed like a fun one to bring home.
This delightful collection, the most comprehensive ever compiled of his work, presents all of Lear’s verse and other nonsense writings, including stories, letters, and illustrated alphabets, as well as previously unpublished material.
I used to enjoy writing silly limericks myself when I was much younger, and together with my best friend, we used to call ourselves The Rhyme Slime (doesn’t sound very complimentary, I know :p) so, this really should be my kind of book, I guess.

I also got myself two 3-in-1 volumes of The Adventures of Tintin (Volume 6 & 7), simply because they were such good value for the money. And besides,¬†I really like Snowy the dog. ūüôā

I have long been aware of Philip Roth’s fame¬†but somehow¬†have never found any of his books to be appealing enough to try. And even this one, Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories, I was actually first drawn to it by its cover¬†more than anything else. I am happy¬†to find¬†that the stories¬†in this volume at least,¬† do not seem to put me off.¬†Let’s see how well Mr. Roth and I will get along then.

I¬†actually do¬†already own a copy of Virginia Woolf’s Between The Acts¬†but this was a lovely Vintage edition which I find really beautiful, plus it features a Foreword by Jeanette Winterson and an Introduction by Jackie Kay, which¬†were all the more reason to get this copy too.

Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places¬†¬†“…. is both an intellectual and a physical journey, and Macfarlane travels in time as well as space. Guided by monks, questers, scientists, philosophers, poets and artists, both living and dead, he explores our changing ideas of the wild. From the cliffs of Cape Wrath, to the holloways of Dorset, the storm-beaches of Norfolk, the saltmarshes and estuaries of Essex, and the moors of Rannoch and the Pennines, his journeys become the conductors of people and cultures, past and present, who have had intense relationships with these places.”
I am wondering if I should start with this book first or The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot….. any suggestions?

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Beautiful, isn’t it?

Christopher Benfey is a new name to me, but I found two of his works in this sale and both appeals to me very much.
A Summer of Hummingbirds: Love, Art, and Scandal in the Intersecting Worlds of Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain , Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Martin Johnson Heade.
“At the close of the Civil War, the lives of Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Martin Johnson Heade intersected in an intricate map of friendship, family, and romance that marked a milestone in the development of American art and literature. Using the image of a flitting hummingbird as a metaphor for the gossamer strands that connect these larger-than-life personalities, Christopher Benfey re-creates the summer of 1882, the summer when Mabel Louise Todd-the prot√©g√© to the painter Heade-confesses her love for Emily Dickinson’s brother, Austin, and the players suddenly find themselves caught in the crossfire between the Calvinist world of decorum, restraint, and judgment and a new, unconventional world in which nature prevails and freedom is all.”

Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay: Reflections on Art, Family, and Survival.
An unforgettable voyage across the reaches of America and the depths of memory, this generational memoir of one incredible family reveals America‚Äôs unique craft tradition. In Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay, renowned critic Christopher Benfey shares stories‚ÄĒof his mother‚Äôs upbringing in rural North Carolina among centuries-old folk potteries; of his father‚Äôs escape from Nazi Europe; of his great-aunt and -uncle Josef and Anni Albers, famed Bauhaus artists exiled at Black Mountain College‚ÄĒunearthing an ancestry, and an aesthetic, that is quintessentially American. With the grace of a novelist and the eye of a historian, Benfey threads these stories together into a radiant and mesmerizing harmony.”

The Bosnia List: A Memoir of War, Exile, and Return by Kenan Trebincevic and Susan Shapiro, is a memoir of a different kind. It tells the tale of a young survivor of the Bosnian War, returning to his homeland after two decades to confront those who betrayed his family. While the subject matter may be rather heavy, the heart of the story is said to be one mesmerizing tale of survival and healing.

Now for something much lighter, but no less thoughtful, Linda Grant’s The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter, the thinking woman’s guide on what to wear.
For centuries, an interest in clothes has been dismissed as the trivial pursuit of vain, empty-headed women. Yet, clothes matter, whether you are interested in fashion or not, because how we choose to dress defines who we are. How we look and what we wear tells a story.”
Hopefully this can help bring about some improvement/ enhancement on my wardrobe, of which my mum is of the opinion of it being a disgrace. :p

Missing Lucile: Memories of the Grandmother I Never Knew by Suzanne Berne. 
Yet another memoir (I do have a fondness for them), and this time it’s about the writer’s attempt at uncovering the woman who was her grandmother.
Every family has a missing person, someone who died young or disappeared, leaving a legacy of loss. Aided by vintage photographs and a box of old keepsakes, Berne sets out to fill in her grandmother‚Äôs silhouette and along the way uncovers her own foothold in American history.”

Christopher Isherwood’s The Sixties – Diaries: 1960-1969.
This second volume of Christopher Isherwood’s remarkable diaries opens on his fifty-sixth birthday, as the fifties give way to the decade of social and sexual revolution. Isherwood takes the reader from the bohemian sunshine of Southern California to a London finally swinging free of post-war gloom, to the racy cosmopolitanism of New York and to the raw Australian outback.
The diaries are crammed with wicked gossip and probing psychological insights about the cultural icons of the time‚ÄĒFrancis Bacon, Richard Burton, Leslie Caron, Marianne Faithfull, David Hockney, Mick Jagger, Hope Lange, W. Somerset Maugham, John Osborne, Vanessa Redgrave, Tony Richardson, David O. Selznick, Igor Stravinsky, Gore Vidal, and many others. But the diaries are most revealing about Isherwood himself‚ÄĒhis fiction (including A Single Man and Down There on a Visit), his film writing, his college teaching, and his affairs of the heart.

As with memoirs and correspondences, diaries are yet another genre that I have a fondness for, as they are probably the most intimate insight we can hope to have of the person behind the writer. I still have his Berlin stories yet to be read, and but have enjoyed A Single Man (the movie version, though).

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Last but not least, this was one of the most promising unexpected finds from the sale – Jessica A. Fox’s Three Things You Need to Know About Rockets: A Real-Life Scottish Fairy Tale.
If it wasn’t for the cover, a book with a title like that would certainly have had my eyes glazing over it. Now we all know how important book covers are…. (as with book titles!) :p
Jessica Fox was living in Hollywood, an ambitious 26-year-old film-maker with a high-stress job at NASA. Working late one night, craving another life, she was seized by a moment of inspiration and tapped ‚Äúsecond hand bookshop Scotland‚ÄĚ into Google. She clicked the first link she saw.
A month later, she arrived 2,000 miles across the Atlantic in Wigtown, on the west coast of Scotland, and knocked on the door of the bookshop she would be living in for the next month . . .”

As it happens, I had just read about the same bookshop in Wigtown that offers travellers a holiday experience of the bookish kind, just a week or so before chancing upon this book.¬†A bookish¬†serendipity of sorts, for me. ūüôā

It’s always¬†a tough choice to decide which books get to be read first (out of all these lovelies), but this time, the choice has been rather easy and timely.

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Am halfway through this, and have been reminded that I really want to read more Trollope in the year to come.

 

And with that, I wish you all the very best in all regards and a very Happy New Year, to be filled with many joyous hours of reading pleasure, and all things dear.

Oh, one last bit of goodness to leave you with before I go….. enjoy! ūüôā

Blessed Christmas

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So the Word became human and made his home among us.
He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.
And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

John 1:14 (New Living Translation – The Bible)

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We love because he first loved us.

1 John 4:19 (New International Version – The Bible)

Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas, filled with an abundance of love, joy and peace!
(And books, of course!) ūüôā

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.
I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

John 10:10 (New King James Version – The Bible)

Happy New Year!

NY2015cHappy New Year, everyone!

The old has gone, and the new has come.¬† As usual, I didn’t managed to read quite as many books as I had wanted to, but bought a good deal more books than I had planned for, in the past year. And as always, I will still strive to do the reverse this year, with hopefully better results.

Nevertheless, I was thrilled to have made acquaintance with a few writers that were new to me in 2014.¬† It was a pleasure to have discovered the writings of William Maxwell, Primo Levi, Javier Marias and Patrick Modiano. I will definitely be looking out for more of these writers’ works in the days ahead. The anticipation alone is exciting enough in itself. ūüôā

The stack pictured above is the possible reading choices that I am likely to start the year off with. These are the ones that seem to be calling out to me at the moment. Am especially looking forward to the Ishiguro and the Nichols.

The Remains of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Down The Garden Path by Beverley Nichols.
A Little History of British Gardening by Jenny Uglow.
Bleak House by Charles Dickens.

What about the rest of you? Which would be the first book you reach out for to mark this new reading year?

Whichever your choice might be, I wish you all a happy reading year, filled with all the bookish goodness that one can possibly find! ūüôā

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Have been trying to remedy my bout of flu with some good old fashioned murder mystery and mushroom soup. By the way, I just love the cover of this Agatha Christie. I must confess, I bought the book solely on the strength of its cover, really.

 

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas….

chrismas'14 (b1a)Here’s wishing a very merry Christmas, to one and all!

 Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.

3 John 1:2 (NIV)

And I do believe that books are certainly a big help in keeping one’s soul well.

So, here’s to some good ol’ solid ‘soul food’, what do you say? ūüėČ

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The whole loot that was gotten from the ‘Wolf’, and not Santa….

We should read to give our souls a chance to luxuriate.

Henry Miller

Couldn’t agree more.
Happy reading, everyone! God bless….

A Fresh Start

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….. Behold, I make all things new.

Revelations 21:5

So, the old has gone and the new has come. Whatever that has been left unsaid, unread, undone in the year just gone by, will just have to be left at that I guess. Thankfully, we can all start anew and afresh with the dawning of each new year.

2013 has been the year where I got acquainted with the brilliant Russian that is Mikhail Bulgakov, and became a fan of the gentle yet profound wit of Alexander McCall Smith’s writing. I am happy to know that there’s an extensive backlist of both the writers’ works still waiting for me to discover and to savour.

One other standout piece of writing that I encountered last year that calls to be mentioned was Babette’s Feast by Isak Dinesen (author of¬†Out of Africa). This refreshing little gem, while being told in a quiet, unassuming way, left an indelible impression on both the heart and mind. Such brilliant storytelling!

My resolutions with regards to books and reading for this year are simply to be carried away by stories and to read without procrastination the books that are calling out the loudest at each particular moment, so as not to miss the ‘timing’ and the momentum that will help to give me the push to finish the books that I get started.

I also intend to get back into listening to audiobooks, something which I really enjoy doing very much but have fallen out of in recent months. This would also mean that I need to get back to regular workouts at the gym, because that’s where I get to do most of the listening done. So, more workouts = more audiobooks. An ideal way to be killing two birds with one stone. First in line would be picking up where I left off, the Julie Rose translation of Hugo’s Les Miserables read by George Guidall, which is a rather excellent combination, I must say. I’m hoping to finish the book before watching the movie proper.

IMG_0826aMeantime, these are some of the books that I have got going and was thinking to spend time with this month. But even as I write this post, I think I am begining to¬† hear the low rumbling of a different set calling out altogether ……. oh well.

Anyway, happy reading to all of you!
I hope you have all gotten off to a very good start to the new reading year. ūüôā

The Loot (part 2) & A Proper Farewell to 2013

IMG_0778aIt¬†has been¬†fun¬†checking out on what bookish goodness other bloggers¬†have been¬†getting under their Christmas trees this year. And as usual, I got none under mine. Yeah, it’s kinda¬†DIY over here for me, when it comes to books. :p

Hope everyone is spending many happy book-filled hours at their own corner of the world. And as promised, here are the rest of the loot (a.k.a¬†“my Christmas presents to myself”!).

I just love this cover for Ali Smith’s Artful. Isn’t it so very ‘artfully’ done?
Artful is a book about the things art can do, the things art is full of, and the quicksilver nature of all artfulness. It glances off artists and writers from Michelangelo through Dickens, then all the way past postmodernity, exploring every form, from ancient cave painting to 1960s cinema musicals…..¬† it also reminds readers of how great literature‚ÄĒof Shakespeare, Lawrence, Hopkins, Ovid, Plath, Rilke, and Flaubert‚ÄĒrequires them to reorient their line of vision. Nothing‚ÄĒSmith shows her reader‚ÄĒforces such reorientation more than violating conventional boundaries, often in dangerous ways. These most unlecture-like of lectures deliver the thrill of perilous border crossings.¬†

I was happy to come across a copy of Dodie Smith’s The New Moon with The Old, and although I have yet to read my copy of I Capture The Castle, I am anticipating good things from this one.

Mark Twain once said of Jane Austen, “Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.” And then there’s George Bernard Shaw on the Bard: “With the single exception of Homer, there is no eminent writer, not even Sir Walter Scott, whom I can despise so entirely as I despise Shakespeare.”¬† This is just a taste of some of the ‘literary invective’ found compiled in Gary Dexter’s Poison Pens. Here’s one by Samuel Butler on Thomas Carlyle which I find particularly amusing,¬†“Yes it was very good of God to let Carlyle and Mrs. Carlyle marry one another and so make only two people miserable instead of four.” :p

On The Origin of Tepees: Why Some Ideas Spread While Others Go Extinct by Jonnie Hughes, sounded really interesting and fun, so into the bag it went.

Italo Calvino’s Why Read The Classics?¬†is a ‘posthumous collection of thirty-six literary essays that will make any fortunate reader view the old classics in a dazzling new light.’
I love to read essays, and if it happens to be on the subject of books and reading, then all the better!

The Language Wars: A History of Proper English by Henry Hitchings.
“The English language is a battlefield. Since the age of Shakespeare, arguments over correct usage have been bitter; often they‚Äôve had more to do with morality, politics, and the values of the age than with language itself. Peopled with intriguing characters such as Jonathan Swift, Lewis Carroll, and Lenny Bruce, The Language Wars is essential reading for anyone interested in the contemporary state of the English language, its contested history, and its future.” Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?

A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor.
I have been aware of this book, and had in fact listened to part of it in¬†audiobook, some time back. The premise of the book, which¬†‘aimed to tell the history of humanity through the stories of one hundred objects made, used, venerated, or discarded by man’, sounded very intriguing, and since I couldn’t make it to the exhibit at the British Museum where these 100 objects were shown, getting the book would be the next best thing, I guess.

I have been collecting Claire Tomalin’s books over the past few years, being convinced that I would love them (even though I have yet to read one in proper!). So naturally, this copy of her take on Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life¬†had to come home with me.

The British Abroad: The Grand Tour in the Eighteenth Century by Jeremy Black “….. considers not only the standard destinations of France and Italy but also the Low Countries, Germany, Switzerland and the Balkans. The modes of transport are described in detail, along with the range of accommodation, the food and drink, the pleasures and hazards of travel, ranging from sex and sensibility to debt and dysentery, as well as the effects of the French Revolution on the British tourist. Included are extensive quotes from 18th-century tourist correspondence, particularly hitherto uncited manuscript collections, to build up a vivid and frequently amusing picture of travel experience of British aristocrats on the Continent.” Another good one for doing some armchair travelling¬† √† la 18th Century style.

David St John Thomas’s Remote Britain: Landscape, People and Books¬†“…. relishes the ever-changing landscapes of Britain and the people who grow out of them.” It is described as a¬†thinking traveller’s tour of some of Britain’s most out-of-the-way places. I have his earlier volume of Journey Through Britain: Landscape, People and Books, which sounded just as promising as this one, sitting on the shelves waiting to be dipped into. I do¬†intend to get to it, sooner than later.

IMG_0782cThe Maker of Heavenly Trousers by Daniele Vare.
Isn’t that the most heavenly title, ever? I had no idea such a lovely book existed. I have never heard of the writer before, and to find such an exquisite title in the form of a Penguin Modern Classics edition (one of my all time favourite editions), was truly icing on the cake.¬† So what’s the story about? ‘A foreign bachelor living in Peking’s Chinese quarter finds himself guardian to the young daughter of an Italian railway worker……. Set against the mysterious and turbulent backdrop of Peking with its disparate inhabitants in the early twentieth century, “The Maker of Heavenly Trousers” is a charming, and at times tragic, story of love and family.’

Elaine Showalter’s¬†A Jury of Her Peers: Celebrating American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx is ‘an unprecedented literary landmark: the first comprehensive history of American women writers from 1650 to the present.’ Among the 250 women writers included here are Harriet Beecher Stowe, Dorothy Parker, Flannery O‚ÄôConnor, Toni Morrison and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Susan Glaspell.

What Caesar Did for My Salad: Not To Mention The Earl’s Sandwich, Pavlova’s Meringue and Other Curious Stories Behind Our Favourite Food by Albert Jack.
… Albert Jack tells the strange tales behind our favourite dishes and drinks and where they come from (not to mention their unusual creators). This book is bursting with fascinating insights, characters and enough stories to entertain a hundred dinner parties.”¬†This should be a fun one!

Nancy Mitford’s Voltaire in Love is an account of the passionate love affair between two brilliant intellects, Voltaire and the physicist Emilie du Chatelet. Their affair is said to be a meeting of both hearts and minds, bringing scandal to the French aristocracy and provoking revolutions both political and scientific with their groundbreaking work in literature, philosophy and physics.

I had been coveting John Baxter’s The Most Beautiful Walk In The World: A Pedestrian In Paris ever since its publication a couple of years ago. Finding the one and only copy of this at the sale was therefore, pure bliss.

IMG_0794bI just love the cover of this Abacus 40th Anniversary Edition of Jane Gardam’s Old Filth. I have also read many good things about Jane Gardam and have been wanting to get to this one for some time. Am really looking forward to reading ‘the book that made the stiff upper lip tremble‘.

Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times by Lucy Lethbridge is a “…. compassionate and discerning exploration of the complex relationship between the server, the served, and the world they lived in, Servants opens a window onto British society from the Edwardian period to the present.”¬†Might be a good one to dip into when Downton Abbey withdrawal symptom sets in.

I was able to also pick up two lovely Penguin English Library Editions of Trollope’s Barsetshire series (Doctor Thorne & The Last Chronicle of Barset) and one copy of¬† George Gissing’s New Grub Street. I have only read The Warden so far, and would like to continue reading the rest in the series in the right order, eventually, so picking the two Trollopes was the natural thing to do. As for Gissing, I still want to read his¬†The Odd Women first before getting to this one.

Next are the two Penguin Classics I found, Isabelle de Charri√®re’s The Nobleman and Other Romances and Dickens’ Great Expectations (yes, I am ashamed to admit that I have yet to read this great classic till now). The de Charri√®re is considered to be “the only available English translation of writings by an Enlightenment-era Dutch aristocrat, writer, composer-and woman.” And her writing is described as ‘not unlike Jane Austen’. That should be quite something to look forward to. Has anyone read her?¬†

One of my last and most unexpected find from the sale turned out to be Lara Feigel’s The Love Charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in The Second World War. To see why this was such an exciting find, do take a look at Jane’s excellent review of it.

IMG_0783aI also couldn’t resist to splurge, that is if paying RM40 or the¬†equivalent of USD12 for both¬†the¬†lovely coffee table books above – Culinaria Italy and Small Towns and Villages of The World, can even be considered a splurge and not a rather wise investment, *cough*!¬†¬†The Culinaria Italy is actually much much¬†more than a coffee table book,¬†being generously and profusely illustrated with¬†spectacular photography and abundantly peppered with authentic recipes. This is¬†definitely a treat for both the mind and the palate. And the eyes too,¬†I must say.

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The cover photo on this one had me at ‘hello’. Not just because it is a lovely piece of photography in itself, but more so because it is a scene that I could recognise and relate to. I knew this place.

Alberobello. It was the last stop from my recent trip to Italy this summer just past.

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In case you were wondering how the inside of one of these ‘houses’ (known as ‘trulo’) looks like…..
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It’s really quite cosy, actually.

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Looks like this post is turning into quite a visual feast, after all the bookish talk. Well, since we are at it (and hopefully no one is complaining), I might as well share with you some of my favourite book covers from the entire loot too.

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Did I mention that I really love this cover of Ali Smith’s Artful? I have actually started reading it, and am glad to say that I’m loving what’s between the covers just as much, if not more.

 

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Aren’t these lovely, too?

And with that, I think I had better wrap up this post. But not without first wishing all you a very Happy New Year!

I know I have been quite rubbish at keeping up with this blog for most parts of this year, and my reading has also been plagued with a somewhat stuck-in-a-rut kind of feeling. It has been a very trying year for me in many personal aspects, and I have exhausted much energy in the process of learning to let go of something that has been an important part of my life for the past seven years or so, but has now taken on a different form.

And so, it has been a year of learning, of persevering, of adapting to, and of growing up. I do want to look forward to the new year with renewed hope and refreshed aspirations, though.  

Here’s to¬†2014 …… may it be¬†our best year yet! ūüôā

Merry Christmas

IMG_0795aA very Merry Christmas to one and all! Wishing all of you who are stopping by here at A reader’s footprints, good tidings of joy and peace with you and yours, wherever you are.

God bless…..

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The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…..

John 1:14

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