The season for apparitions and fantasies…..


But this is the season for apparitions and fantasies, and I indulge myself in the possibility of a merlin. I remember childhood bird-watching always seeming to be just like this – full of romantic hopefulness and astonishment at the crossing of paths with wanderers from another country.

Richard Mabey, ‘A Nature Journal’.

October seemed to have left me in a dry and weary state, with a major bulk of the month being taken up with meeting deadlines at work, while having to deal with recurring water supply disruptions to the home, and finishing off unexpectedly with some rather unwelcomed dental woes.

Reading has been sporadic, with whatever leftover energy that remained. Having said that though, I must make mention of how much I have been enjoying Margaret Drabble’s delightfully charming book, ‘The Seven Sisters’. I am endlessly entertained by the witty and insightful writing that Drabble displays in bringing her characters to life, in this tale of seven unlikely (but not rather unlikeable, except for one) ladies who are well past their prime, embarking together on a Virgil inspired Mediterranean journey.

Am hoping that November would be a much more conducive month for doing some serious catching up on my reading, before the year ends….

By the way, am I the only one here who has just been made aware of the existence of these gorgeous, book-lust inducing, Anita Brookner reprints?


I happened to stumble upon this thrilling discovery while taking a brief stroll at a local bookstore over the weekend.  How brilliant it is of Penguin to decide on the use of these evocative black and white covers for their new Brookner reprints. The tone is just so aptly suited to the kind of moods and themes that often run through Brookner’s works. What a perfect match!

Can you tell that I’m seriously smitten?



What April left behind …….

IMG_7417aApril came and went, but not without first leaving behind a stack of newly acquired books in its wake. As usual, my efficiency in buying books far exceeds my efficiency in reading books. And as a result, more books have been added to the already towering TBRs in this past month. If you are interested to take a peek at them, here’s a bit more on what has managed to sneak its way onto the stacks.

Let’s start with the latest batch bought just over the weekend at a books clearance sales. I managed to bring home the above stack for only around RM15 (that’s about 5 USD). Except for the Isak Dinesen, the rest were new and unfamiliar writers to me. But what a lovely surprise to realize what potential gems these might be!

Toru Dutt – The Diary of Mademoiselle D’Arvers (translated by N. Kamala)
This is the work of the first Indian writer to have ever written a novel in French (the original version of this book). Dutt was also acknowledged to be the first Indian woman writer to have written a novel in English (Bianca or The Young Spanish Maiden). And all this accomplished in just the span of the 21 years of her short life! As much I am interested in the book, which is set in the second half of the nineteenth century France and described as ‘a novel of possibilities and limitations; of love, marriage and domesticity, and the heartaches and joys of growing up‘, I am just as interested to learn more about this talented young woman (she was a translator and poet as well) whom E.J. Thompson wrote about as “…. one of the most astonishing women that ever lived, a woman whose place is with Sappho and Emily Bronte.”

Ugo Foscolo – Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis
‘For most passengers who travel on the London Underground from Heathrow to Victoria Station, Turnham Green is only one of a number of stops on the way. But for the classically educated Italian that name immediately evokes the powerful memory and prophetic verse of one of our greatest poets. This was Ugo Foscolo, who died there, alone and completely forgotten, after harrowing torments, on the 10th September 1827, at the age of forty-nine.’
This introduction was enough to ensure that the book was coming home with me. Of course it didn’t hurt to have it come in the form of a lovely Hesperus edition, as well.

Isak Dinesen – Anecdotes on Destiny
‘These five rich, witty and magical stories from the author of Out of Africa include one of her most well-known tales, ‘Babette’s Feast’, which was made into the classic film. It tells the story of a French cook working in a puritanical Norwegian community, who treats her employers to the decadent feast of a lifetime.’
Sounds delicious, no? 😉

Lindy Woodhead – War Paint: Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein – Their Lives, their Times, their Rivalry.
The title of this one got my attention as I had initially thought this was the book of the same name that has been getting good reviews around the blogs recently (the one about women artists during the war). Anyway, clearly this is not the one, but this ‘war of the cosmetic industry’ between these two women who ‘wrote their names in lipstick across the world’ sounds pretty good too!

Lewis Grassic Gibbon – Sunset Song
Never heard of this one before, but this first in a trilogy (A Scots Quair) is said to be loved all over the world by readers since its first publication in 1932, and regularly voted as the favourite Scottish book of all time in its home nation. Now if that doesn’t seal the deal for you, maybe the story of ‘young Chris Guthrie who comes of age in the harsh landscape of northern Scotland, torn between her passion for the land, her duty to her family and her love of books, until the First World War begins and the landscape around her changes dramatically’, will. An introduction by my favourite Ali Smith was an added bonus. 🙂


And this was the stack that arrived sometime earlier in the month. I think I will have to put the ‘blame’ for this stack on Vicki at bibliolathas for suggesting that I might like Shari Benstock’s Women of the Left Bank and Liane de Pougy’s My Blue Notebooks at the end of her glowing review of Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood. So, in order to make good of the flat rate shipping fee, of course I had to bulk up the order and grab a few others as well, don’t I? (I think this is an excellent excuse for justifying some ‘guilt-free’ book buying activities!) :p

I have been keeping an eye out for Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art for some time now, ever since reading Michael Dirda’s excellent review and most convincing recommendation of the book in his volume of essays in Bound to Please, which in itself gives much pleasure. I recommend it highly, but would have to leave a note of warning as well, that reading the book would highly likely push your TBR stacks to dangerous levels, if they are not already so (where mine are!).

Although I have only read one of Sylvia Townsend Warner’s short stories so far, I liked it more than enough to make me want to read more, if not all of her other stories. Am more than thrilled to find this collection arriving in a lovely hardcover edition and in great condition. Can’t wait to dip into it.

Lucinda Holdforth’s True Pleasures: A Memoir of Women in Paris looks very promising as well, as the title suggests. I first got to know of this book from a review on Alex in Leeds, and have been looking forward to getting hold of it ever since. And guess what? This particular used copy came with the added surprise that it’s actually a signed copy with a short message from the writer to the original owner of the book. Now if only I was called Brenda, that would have been perfect…..

After reading so many wonderful reviews of Ann Bridge’s Illyrian Spring in the past one year, I finally caved in and plonked down the money for a brand new copy of the book while making good of a 10% discount voucher from The Book Depository. I can’t seem to resist these small temptations that booksellers use as baits. They seem to know that all we need is just a little nudge in the right direction and off we go tumbling down…..


If the above stack was mainly Vicki’s ‘fault’, then this stack here would have to be credited to Eva of A Striped Armchair. It was after reading her review of Emily Carr’s Hundreds and Thousands: The Journals of an Artist that piqued my interest in her works. I had never heard of her up till then. And upon further ‘googling’ on the internet, I felt convinced that I needed to start reading and collecting her works. Maybe learning the fact that she has an old caravan named The Elephant and that she goes camping in the woods every year with just her dogs, rat and monkey for company, has something to do with it. Anyway, I’ll just get myself acquainted first with Ms. Carr through this journal of hers as well as her Growing Pains: An Autobiography and Opposite Contraries: The Unknown Journals of Emily Carr and Other Writings.

As explained earlier with regards to maximizing the benefits on collective shipping (although in this case, it’s more for the bookseller’s savings rather than for me since it’s free worldwide shipping), to make up the bulk for this order I decided to also drop into the basket M.F.K Fisher’s The Measure of her Powers and a three-in-one volume of her collected journals, correspondence and short stories, From the Journals of M.F.K. Fisher. I really love journals and correspondences, can you tell? 🙂

Another writer whose journals and correspondences I have been (and still am) in the process of collecting, is Janet Flanner. I first came across Flanner’s Paris Journals when I found a copy of it while browsing at the Borders bookstore one day, when it first opened here in Malaysia back in 2005. I didn’t bring the book home with me that day, but her name stayed with me all these years (although in the more dormant regions of my brain) and was suddenly revived back during my trip to Paris last September. I found her books in a few of the bookshops over there and would have loved to bring them home with me, but I wasn’t ready to pay the 20 Euros per book then (or now). And so, ever since coming home from the trip I have been hunting down the more affordable copies of her books over the internet. I am hoping that Genet: A Biography of Janet Flanner by Brenda Wineapple would make a great companion reading to her journals and correspondences.

The Anita Brookner was bought from a local book sales event and was just thrown into stack for presentation purposes (for this post). I have only read one Brookner (The Bay of Angels, which I had liked) so far, but have been slowly snapping up whichever available copies of her books whenever I come across them at the various sales. Her rendering of “…. the stoic, muted lives of lonely people” appeals to me much. Maybe this is because I have always considered myself to be something of a loner. But that is not to say that I do not enjoy being alone (more time for reading!). And looking at the rather pathetic amount of reading I seem to be able to get done lately, I am clearly not getting enough time alone! :p

Anyway, I do think there is a difference between being alone and being lonely.

Okay, back to the books. Anyone here familiar with any of the above loot in particular? If so, I would love to hear what your thoughts are.
And if some of them are as new to you as they are to me, I hope your interest would have been somewhat piqued after reading this. 😉

Happy reading, everyone!

New acquisitions in February

Just when I thought I could give myself a pat on the back for not having bought any more books to burden the shelves since the start of this new year, look what happens when the slightest temptation comes along! This time, it came in the form of an irresistibly good books clearance sale. Then again, how often does a books clearance sale not seem irresistible to a book lover? 🙂

Found these almost pristine copies of Penguin Classics going for the amount equivalent to less than a pound each, in my local currency (RM). I love these editions of the Penguin Classics. The whole package – from the lovely covers to the colour and texture of the paper used, and right down to the choice of fonts, all of it just appeals to me. I am especially thrilled with the Charlotte Bronte’s Tales of Angria find, not just because I think the cover is absolutely beautiful but also because it is completely new to me. I have never heard of this one before, and by the looks of it, it seems quite a promising read. “Written from the viewpoint of the cynical, gossipy Charles Townshend, they offer an ironic portrait of the intrigues, scandals and passions of an aristocratic beau monde. With their varied cast of characters, they provide a fascinating glimpse into the mind and creative processes of the young writer who was to become one of the world’s great novelists.”  Sounds good, no?

The rest of the penguins are :
Charles Dickens – The Mystery Of Edwin Drood
Jane Austen – Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sandition
Michel De Montaigne – Essays
Virginia Woolf – Orlando
Anita Brookner – Leaving Home

Claire Tomalin – Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self
Have been collecting Tomalin’s biographies of Hardy, Austen and Wollstonecraft, so here’s one more to add to the collection.

Charles Glass – Americans in Paris (Life & Death under Nazi Occupation 1940 – 1944)
This is also new to me. At first I got confused and thought this was the same as the one by David McCullough (The Greater Journey : Americans in Paris) which I have the audiobook waiting to be heard. Then I realised it wasn’t the same and when I read the following blurb on the back cover, I knew I wanted the book.

” When the German Army occupied Paris in June 1940, a large American community awaited them. They had chosen to stay in the city, against the American Embassy’s advice, and those who remained were an eccentric, original and disparate group. Among them were millionaire Charles Bedaux, who had hosted the Duke of Windsor’s wedding in 1937; Countess Longworth de Chambrun, desperate to keep the American Library open; Dr Summer Jackson, the American Hospital’s chief surgeon; and Sylvia Beach, owner of the famous bookshop Shakespeare & Co. As citizens of a neutral nation, the Americans believed they had little to fear. They were wrong.”

Anything that has Paris and bookshops (especially THE famous Shakespeare and Co.) in it, has got my attention. Much looking forward to reading this. 

Are there any among you who is familiar with the Könemann classics editions? I only came to discover these lovely hardcover blue cloth binding complete with beautiful dust jacket editions sometime last year. And I just fell in love with them. The whole presentation of these little editions just adds much to the authenticity of the ‘classics feel’ to the books, I feel. And it feels so good to hold a copy of these in your hands. The size is just right. For me, anyway.

I have never read any Henry James before, but ever since acquiring a biography of his towards the end of last year, A Ring of Conspirators : Henry James and his Literary Circle by Miranda Seymour, my interest has been piqued. And so, a little Henry James colllection is slowly taking shape, starting with these :

The Wings of The Dove
The Ambassadors
The Aspern Papers & Other Stories
and one fun looking Thackeray – The Book of Snobs.

These were the ones which I first came across last year, under their Travel Classics series. Lovely, don’t you agree? Much as I love the new and contemporary editions of classic reprints, I have to say that these are just quite something else entirely.

And I guess this year being the 200th Anniversary, is as good a time as it gets to dip into abit more Dickens. This edition of David Copperfield in two volumes complete with a slip case, was also bought together with the Travel Classics series last year. Such a beauty. 🙂 

But first, I need to finish plodding through A Tale of Two Cities (as per the ‘sort of’ Plan).

Well now, that’s quite a haul for a start in just barely two months into the year, as compared to my rate of reading, which is shamefully slow to say the least. My only excuse for this batch of new acquisitions in February would be that I consider them to be a little (or not so little, maybe) birthday treat for myself while I turn a year older (and probably no wiser, though). :p