The joy of new books!

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Behold, my latest batch of beauties to join in the stacks!

And they couldn’t have come at a better price, only RM5 each (equivalent to USD1.60 or £1) save the Orhan Pamuk, and they’re all new as well! These were all picked up from the recent Aftermath Sales of the same fantastic book sales I went to at the end of last year.

I was thrilled to find a copy of Raymond Carver’s collection of short stories Will You Please Be Quiet, Please as I have been really curious to try out his writing, ever since havong read a particularly convincing piece of review on one of his collections on a blog some time ago. And so having gotten my hands on it, I wasted no time in diving straight in, but only to find myself feeling somewhat disappointed with what I found. Maybe this being his first collection of stories, one could say that I should still give him another try, and maybe I will. But as it is, I am already struggling to finish the remaining stories in here. I don’t doubt that Carver is a good writer, it’s just that I didn’t quite like the taste I’m left with at the end of each story.

Doris Lessing is another writer whose short stories I have been wanting to sample. And from what I’ve managed to glean to so far, I think there’s a possibility that we just might get along much better. Anyway, here’s hoping for a more rewarding journey To Room Nineteen.

Next up, two biographies of two formidable & accomplished women, both of whom I am unfamiliar with but am highly interested to learn more about now. Charlotte Mew and Her Friends by Penelope Fitzgerald is said to be an “…. unexpectedly gripping portrait of Bloomsbury’s saddest poet”. The poet whom Thomas Hardy had once declared being ‘far and away the best living woman poet’ of the twentieth century, has a tragic tale to tell. “To all appearances, she was a dutiful daughter living at home with a monster of an old mother. The proprieties had to be observed and no one must know that the Mews had no money, that two siblings were insane and that Charlotte was a secret lesbian, living a life of self-inflicted frustration. Despite literary success and a passionate, enchanting personality, eventually the conflicts within her drove her to despair, and she killed herself by swallowing household disinfectant.” 
Would anyone here be familiar with her poetry, by any chance?

Norah Lindsay: The Life And Art of a Garden Designer by Allyson Hayward, is the other formidable personality I am curious to be acquainted with. This lovely coffee table book tells the story of famous English garden designer, Norah Lindsay’s life and work, who interestingly just began her career at the age of 51 after finding herself with “no husband, no money, no home…..” as she wrote a friend. Her commissions ranged from the gardens of quiet English manor houses to the grand estates of the country house set, to royal gardens in Italy, France and Yugoslavia. She gardened in different soils and varied climates across all of England and throughout Europe. All this time she managed to give the impression that she remained ‘a social butterfly, a gadfly’.  The truth is that although she dined at the tables of the rich, the next day she would be up at dawn to work with their gardeners.”  I am really interested to read about this esteemed gardener whose circle of upper-class friends included the likes of Winston Churchill, the Prince of Wales and Edith Wharton. The book also comes with a fair amount of photographs of the prized gardens. This had to be the bargain of the day (or year!) considering the price I paid for it!

I was also very pleased at finding a good few books on travel writing (one of my favourite genres) at the sale. Two Patrick Leigh Fermor  ‘A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods & the Water’, a Paul Theroux ‘The Tao of Travel’,  W.G Sebald’s ‘The Rings of Saturn’, Robert Byron’s classic The Road to Oxiana and an anthology of travel stories in Escape: Stories of Getting Away The anthology is made up of contributions from a rather impressive list of writers such as Winston Churchill, Elizabeth Parsons, Vladimir Nabokov, Issac Bashevis Singer, John Updike, Michael Chabon, Jamaica Kincaid, D.H. Lawrence, Sylvia Townsend Warner and a few others. ‘Who doesn’t dream of escape, whether to defy the strictures of a conventional or restricted life, to outrun the fates, to pursue an extraordinary goal, or, most inevitably, to distance oneself from the suffering, loss, and pain that unavoidably bear down on our lives. Now Escape is the first collection to bring together a wide array of the very finest stories about this universal impulse.’
I think there’s gonna be some really good stuff in there.

I also got myself a copy of Favourite Sherlock Holmes Stories handpicked by the author himself (Conan Doyle) and Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales which somehow appealed very much to me in that particular edition I found it in. Skimming through the pages, I realised just how little I had managed to retain of all those fairy tales I vaguely remember reading. It’s time for a refresher, I think.

I had been on the lookout for D.E Stevenson’s Mrs Tim of the Regiment for quite a long time now, and was naturally delighted to find a solitary copy among the stacks on that day. Jane Gleeson-White is new to me, but her Classics: Books for Life, both look and sound good to me and so it found its way home with me as well. And lastly, Orhan Pamuk’s Other Colours. Pamuk has been on my ‘intend to read’ list for some time now, and this collection of essays (and a story) sounds as good as any place to start with.

 
Oh, the joy of new books!

🙂

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More New Acquisitions for February

Just three more, that’s all. But what a delightful trio it was! Again, these were gotten at unbeatable prices and in pristine condition. All three were such unexpected gems lying there among the sea of bargain books that I happened to chance upon. Finding them brought great delight and I am so excited to share this bounty with all of you! 🙂

Flight to Arras by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
I fell in love with Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince when I first listened to the theatrical reading of the book about four or five years ago. It has since then become one of my all time favourite listening experiences ever. I never really went on to reading the book, nor searching out Saint-Exupery’s other works. Only recently after reading a blogger’s review on one of his other book Wind, Sand and Stars (a book recording his miraculous survival after crashing into the Libyan desert in 1935), was I more aware of the existence of his other works. And they sound like something I would really like to seek out for from here on. So you can just imagine my delight when I found this unexpected lovely sleek Penguin copy of Flight to Arras.
At the outbreak of the Second World War during the summer of 1940, Saint-Exupery had flew in a reconnaissance squadron from Orly over Nazi-occupied France to Arras. Though the mission was a pointless one, as the French surrender was only weeks away, it was still so dangerous that he was not expected to survive it. This book records that journey and his eventual safe return. It is also a profound and passionate meditation on mortality and war. I found it rather saddening though, to learn that in just over four years after the miraculous journey recorded here, Saint-Exupery’ plane was found to be shot down over the Mediterranean sea by German fighters, and his body never found.

The Violins of Saint-Jacques by Patrick Leigh Fermor
I have actually been on the lookout for PLF’s A Time of Gifts ever since reading about it on Danielle’s blog about a year ago. My interest in him grew when I found out about his long time friendship and correspondence with the Duchess Deborah Devonshire and have since gotten a copy of their collected letters In Tearing Haste, which I am much looking forward to read. Finding this little book (only 140 pages) is the perfect opportunity for me to sample a taste of his writing style, as I continue to hunt down his other more significant works.
This one tells of an English traveller’s meeting with an enigmatic elderly Frenchwoman on an Aegean island during one summer. He is captivated by a painting she owns of a busy Caribbean port overlooked by a volcano, and in time she shares the story of her youth there in the early twentieth century. It is said to be a tale of romantic intrigue and decadence amongst the descendants of slaves and a fading French aristocracy. Sounds interesting enough. Let’s see how it reads on. 😉

The Heptameron by Marguerite de Navarre
Of all my three lovely finds yesterday, THIS was to be the most surprising and thrilling catch of the day for me! Not only is the writer completely foreign to me (and I don’t just say this because she is French), it was also a book which I had never even heard of before. But what an exciting and fun premise the book is set upon!  Check this out.

They had all prepared their stories , and could hardly wait to tell them.

In the early 1500s five men and five women find themselves trapped by floods and compelled to take refuge in an abbey high in the Pyrenees. When told they must wait days for a bridge to be repaired, they are inspired – by recalling Boccaccio’s Decameron – to pass the time in a cultured manner by each telling a story every day. The stories, however, soon degenerate into a verbal battle between the sexes, as the characters weave tales of corrupt friars, adulterous noblemen and deceitful wives. From the cynical Saffredent to the young idealist Dagoucin or the spirited Parlamente – believed to express De Navarre’s own views – The Heptameron provides a fascinating insight into the minds and passions of the nobility of sixteenth century France.

Doesn’t this book sound like an absolutely fun ride to go on? I can’t wait to be transported back to sixteenth century France with this group of noble Frenchmen & women, and be among the audience to their stories. 😉
The books consists of a collection of some seventy stories spread over a span of eight days, each day with a different theme. Do take a look at the summary of the interesting daily themes :

First Day – A Collection of Low Tricks Played by Women on Men, and by Men on Women.

Second Day – On Which is Discussed All Manner of Thoughts, at the Pleasure of the Storytellers.

Third Day – Of Ladies Who Have Goodness and Purity in Love and of the Hypocrisy and Wickedness of Monks.

Fourth Day – Principally of the Virtue and Long-Suffering of Ladies in the Winning Over of Their Husbands, and of the Prudence of Men with Respect To Their Wives for the Preservation of the Honour of Their House and Lineage.

Fifth Day – Of Women and Girls Who Have Held Honour Dearer Than Pleasure, Of Some Who Have Done the Opposite, and Of The Simplicity of Others.

Sixth Day – On The Deceptions Perpetrated By Men on Women, By Women on Men, and by Women on Women, Through Greed, Malice and A Desire for Vengeance.

Seventh Day – Of Those Who Have Acted Contrary To Their Duty or To Their Desires.

Eighth Day – Truthful Accounts of Deeds of Folly, Which May Serve As Lessons To One and All.

Well, that was fun for me, even just to share those few bits with those of you who are reading this.  Hope it was just as fun for you too! 🙂
By the way, just wondering if anyone here has actually read this before? If so, I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

The Plan (or something like that….)

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 :

  • The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer
  • The Accidental by Ali Smith
  • Stiff by Mary Roach
  • The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain De Botton
  • Fresh-Air Fiend by Paul Theroux
  • My Sergei : A Love Story by Ekaterina Gordeeva

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 :

  • Violet to Vita : The Letters of Violet  Trefussis to Vita Sackville West
  • The Secret Self : Short Stories by Women
  • In Tearing Haste : Letters Between Deborah Devonshire & Patrick Leigh Fermor
  • The Odd Women by George Gissing
  • All Passion Spent by V. Sackville West
  • Wish Her Safe At Home by Stephan Benatar
  • The Reader by Ali Smith
  • On Borrowed Wings by Chandra Prasad (bought on account of Danielle’s high praises)

And while I am deciding between the two, here’s also the ‘already-planned-to-read’ stack :

  • Life Mask by Emma Donoghue
  • The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
  • The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
  • a couple from the Bronte sisters’ collection
  • The Hound of The Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Then there’s also the ‘already-started-and-stopped-but-need -to-get-back-to’ pile :

  • The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton
  • Three Weeks With My Brother by Nicholas Sparks & Micah Sparks
  • Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  • In Europe by Geert Mak
  • Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides by James Boswell

 

There are also a few tomes which I plan (& hope) to be dipping into regularly :

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  • Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker
  • Words In Air : The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop & Robert Lowell
  • Classics For Pleasure by Michael Dirda
  • Bound to Please by Michael Dirda
  • Seeing Further : The Story of Science & The Royal Society edited by Bill Bryson
  • The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen

And last but not least, the stack of gems I am most looking forward to reading :

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  • The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue
  • Prague Tales by Jan Neruda (already started)
  • Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker (highly recommended by Stuck in A Book’s Simon)
  • The Odd Women by George Gissing
  • The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (already started)
  • I’ll Stand By You : Letters by Sylvia Townsend Warner & Valentine Ackland
  • In Tearing Haste : Letters Between Deborah Devonshire & Patrick Leigh Fermor
  • Wait For Me by Deborah Devonshire

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.