To be continued…….
To be continued…….
I had started the year without any specific reading plans or lists because I knew I was not a good one for keeping to pre-planned plans when it comes to reading. I prefer to do my reading at whim.
So, I thought it was probably futile to have one and was not quite inspired to make any.
But then something changed.
And now, I think I do have one, and it’s one that I am quite excited about and feeling rather determined (or hopeful!) to see it through.
What happened was this.
I started an Instagram account sometime in December, after discovering the delights in being able to feast my eyes on a regular dose of book porn, through the various bookstagrammers’ feed out there. I was actually amazed to find that there are so many talented book lovers (cum photographers) out there who can effortlessly make books look so desirable as objects.
Creating the account was intended to mainly facilitate my ease of accessing to these feeds on a regular basis.
But when the new year started out on an unexpectedly rough note for me, I soon found myself in desperate need for a diversion of sorts.
As it happens, there was a book challenge hosted by some bookstagrammers that was taking place for the month, called the #AtoZbookchallenge, whereby one is to post a photo a day for each of the alphabets, relating to either book titles or themes or authors that goes with the particular alphabet each day.
Preferably, it should be books that are already on one’s existing physical TBR shelves.
I thought that sounded diverting enough.
And that’s how my unplanned reading plans came to be.
Here’s the A to Z of it.
Not sure how long it will take for me to complete this A to Z reading list, being the slow reader that I am. What I do know is that right now, I’m feeling pretty enthusiastic about it, and that’s a good start!
Let’s just hope that I won’t be stuck at ‘D’ for a long, long time…….
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
– Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
Elizabeth Bishop, ‘One Art’
I am not a good poetry reader and usually am only able to appreciate it better when it rhymes. But recently, I came across two particular pieces from two different books that I was reading at the same time (Ali Smith’s Artful & Jeanette Winterson’s memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal), that really spoke volumes to me and made me a much more appreciative reader of the art.
In Winterson’s memoir, poetry is described as the language that is powerful enough to say how it is, when life gets tough. For her, it was T.S Eliot who first gave a voice to her painful teenage years.
“When I read him that day, gales battering me within and without, I didn’t want consolation; I wanted expression. I wanted to find the place where I was hurt, to locate it exactly, and to give it a mouth. Pain is very often a maimed creature without a mouth. Through the agency of the poem that is powerful enough to clarifying feelings into facts, I am no longer dumb, not speechless, not lost. Language is a finding place, not a hiding place.”
Later on though, during another major low point in her life, it was Thomas Hardy’s poetry that came to the rescue.
Why did you give no hint that night
That quickly after the morrows dawn,
And calmly, as if indifferent quite,
You would close your term here, up and be gone
Where I could not follow
With wing of swallow
To gain one glimpse of you ever anon.
Never to bid goodbye,
Or lip me the softest call,
Or utter a wish for a word, while I
Saw morning harden upon the wall,
That your great going
Had place that moment, and altered all.
(excerpt from Thomas Hardy’s, The Going)
After reading that piece of brilliance from Hardy, I have definitely found renewed interest and determination in reading more Hardy, both prose and poetry. I may well be a latecomer to the beautiful art of poetry, but I guess it’s better late than never.
And oh, just to share a bit of bookish serendipity, as I was reading the Winterson memoir, Ali Smith did pop by for lunch (in the book, of course!) and offered some helpful advice regarding the affairs of the heart to Winterson. Yeah, that was a nice surprise. 🙂
I have been interested in Elizabeth Bishop’s writings for quite some time now, but strangely it’s her prose and correspondences that I am interested in, rather than her poetry. And I seem to have collected quite a few hefty volumes of her correspondences too, including those between herself and the New Yorker, as well as the ones with fellow poet Robert Lowell which had lasted over a span of 30 years. Much as I was excited when I got hold of my copy of Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence of Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell a couple of years ago, somehow I never got any further than the first ten letters or so. As usual, I have been distracted (and greedy) and the book has been quietly sitting on the TBR shelves till now.
Last evening, I happened to stumble upon this youtube recording by chance, and what a wonderful treat it was to be able to listen to the letters being brought to life through this excellent dramatic presentation by Tony-nominated actors Kate Burton and Michael Cumpsty at one of the readings held at the 92nd Street Y, some time back in May 2010. It was as good as getting front row seats at the actual reading!
And now, I am feeling inspired all over again to quickly blow off the dust from my copy of the book and start enjoying this (long overdue) lovely gem, for all its worth. 🙂
April 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!
Looking at how my TBR pile is getting way out of control, I think it’s time I come up with a plan of some sort. I have never really had the habit of making lists of books that I plan to read, but I feel that it might be a good idea to do so now. It will probably help me to have some kind of a structure whereby manageable “reading goals” can be better met, I think. So this year, here’s to giving it a try!
First In First Out or Last In First Out?
If it’s gonna be FIFO, then I should be well reading these few oldest occupants on the shelf :
But if it’s LIFO (and you know how it is with current fascinations, you just can’t wait to dive into them), then this would be the stack to tackle :
And while I am deciding between the two, here’s also the ‘already-planned-to-read’ stack :
Then there’s also the ‘already-started-and-stopped-but-need -to-get-back-to’ pile :
There are also a few tomes which I plan (& hope) to be dipping into regularly :
And last but not least, the stack of gems I am most looking forward to reading :
Just realised there’s two of them (The Odd Women & In Tearing Haste) which had appeared in one of the earlier stacks too. Guess this makes them definite must-reads, no? 😉
So there you have it, that’s the plan ……for now.