Monday, 8 November 2010
Monday, 27 September 2010
Saturday, 25 September 2010
From the review, written by Kathryn Hughes:
They loved country churches, tea in china cups wreathed with roses, old manor houses, abandoned fishing smacks, Gypsy caravans and, just as important, the soft English rain that smudged the outlines of all these precious things. Above all, their sensibility was local. While the other modernism saw national boundaries as just one more example of pernicious Ruritanian debris, romantic moderns celebrated the way England's crinkled coast enclosed the rooted and particular. Trees, stones, bodies, walls: these were no longer the flotsam that needed to be excluded from art. They were what art was all about.I love this inter-war period of art and literature in all of its many beautiful and varied forms. I'll definitely be getting my hands on a copy of this.
Thursday, 9 September 2010
Sunday, 5 September 2010
I can never resist a beautifully designed book, and Prose, a collection of short stories by Thomas Bernhard, translated by Martin Chambers, is a really gorgeous, inexpensive hardcover with lovely textured red endpapers. Bernhard is a writer I keep meaning to get around to reading. I have most of his novels on my shelf, and hopefully these stories will kickstart my exploration of his work.
Monday, 30 August 2010
My summer reading has been modest, given that turning on a lightbulb most nights has been unbearable for the extra heat it gives off. But I'm back in the groove now and my most recent reads have all been ambitious fictional looks at the turn of the 20th century. C by Tom McCarthy is an intelligent, multi-layered novel about the science behind early radio and communications networks and contains a wonderful chapter describing the aerial aspects of the First World War. Aurorarama by Jean-Christophe Valtat is my first venture into contemporary steampunk, but I loved this political adventure story set in the utopian city of New Venice, complete with suffragettes, wicked magicians, mysterious dreams, a Polar Kangaroo and even the odd zombie. It was like an adult version of Philip Pullman with lots of clever word play and northern lore. And this weekend I started a wonderful novel about the inevitable changes that occur on the island of Guernsey, through two world wars and their aftermath. The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by G.B. Edwards is a touching and very funny tale narrated by an elderly, lonely and opinionated man, nostalgic for a way of life that has disappeared with the advent of tourists and television on his beloved island. It's the perfect book to end the summer with.
Friday, 21 May 2010
I was born in Hull but left when I was still a baby and almost anything you read about the city has to do with Philip Larkin which is just fine with me as I quite like his poetry. Philip Larkin, The Marvell Press and Me by Jean Hartley promises not only to detail Larkin's early years in Hull and his relationship with a small press (I always love reading publishing memoirs) but also to describe the Hull of the 1950s and 1960s which hopefully will give me a sense of what my birthplace was like just prior to my arrival. Plus I was completely drawn to the cover - it's a photo of Larkin in front of a new library site in 1958. As to the second book, I have a number of titles in The German Library Series, mostly collections by German playwrights, but I was enticed to buy this anthology because it contains an excerpt from After Midnight by Irmgard Keun. I've read and enjoyed The Artificial Silk Girl and Child of All Nations and want more! There are also pieces by other German writers I'm interested in, including Ernst Junger and Gregor Von Rezzori.
With university bookstores carrying fewer books and certainly not offering the range from university presses that they used to - preferring to concentrate on t-shirts and electronics instead - it's really exciting to have this new used bookstore in the city. There's a good interview with the proprietor Jason Rovito in NOW Magazine which you can read here. I really like his philosophy - that a bookshop should be the centre of an academic community. Absolutely! But it takes skilled staff who actually love books, do the research needed to buy and stock intelligently, and who can foster good working relationships with faculty and students. As Rovito says in the NOW article, “Our gamble was that there was something that can’t be translated into electronic space in terms of bookselling. There’s a physical component that’s essential to the act. Part of that is the book itself as an actual object[...]but also talking about books, and the act of writing itself.”
"Just call it 283 College St, " said Rovito as I was leaving with my purchases, after having commented on the long name. I wish him luck and hope he can make a go of it - I'll certainly be returning.
Thursday, 22 April 2010
Sacha Guitry plays four roles in this multilingual whirlwind of pageantry that investigates the fate of three pearls missing from the royal crown of England. Pearls rockets through four centuries of European history with imaginative, winking irreverence.
Tuesday, 23 March 2010
Monday, 22 March 2010
Friday, 19 March 2010
Bookseller extraordinaire, founder of Shakespeare & Company - how can I resist? Plus, if you can't get to Paris. . .
Virginia Woolf's Bloomsbury Volume 1: Aesthetic Theory and Literary Practice
Tuesday, 9 March 2010
I would love to see a proliferation of literary salons springing up in bookstores everywhere - as much as I love to read blogs, nothing beats face to face literary chat with passionate readers.
Saturday, 27 February 2010
Tuesday, 2 February 2010
Thursday, 28 January 2010
Monday, 25 January 2010
But I was also feeling a bit scholarly so I started dipping into a recent anthology that I've acquired - The Oxford Handbook of British and Irish War Poetry edited by Tim Kendall. I read the essays dealing with women's war poetry, containing some of the usual blather about how women's poetry has been ignored in the canon because most of it wasn't very good and the genre is masculinely predicated on having actually fought at the front etc. etc. Simon Featherstone's essay on Gertrude Stein and Mina Loy was interesting in its argument for expanding the definition of war poetry to include "an exploratory aesthetics and politics that develop through unexpected, often understated experiences of wartime change." And a footnote in Stacy Gillis's overview essay led me scrambling to my WWI bookcase to dig out The Literature of the Great War Reconsidered: Beyond Modern Memory, edited by Patrick J. Quinn and Steven Trout. This is another anthology of interesting essays and Deborah Tyler-Bennett's look at women poets who used myths or folktales to critique the impact of war had me foraging for my Collected Poems 1912-1944 of H.D. (I really need to organize my bookcases) and making a note to find and read Edith Sitwell's poem "Clown's Houses" and the poetry of Iris Tree (who I know primarily as a subject in paintings by Bloomsberries) and Phyliss M'egroz (never previously heard of her). Hours worth of other interesting essays in both anthologies to read, so I'm keeping them at the ready on the bedside table.
Monday, 11 January 2010
The last decade saw the rise of blogging and a great way of quickly reading international book news and connecting with like-minded readers. Only now there are so many millions of blogs out there with each one leading to another and another. It's so overwhelming and time-consuming, not only to read them, but to blog oneself, as rewarding as the process can be. I've certainly cut down - I still have my favourites, but I don't check them daily anymore, preferring to have catch-up days and limit my online reading time.
I'm embracing SLOW this decade. Slow reading. Slow blogging (no pressure, just when I have the time and inclination). Slow cooking - trying to eat more organic, cut down on the red meat and use my slow cooker more often. Slow weekending - it's okay to take afternoon naps and leave some of the chores until later. I need to get out and walk more - without necessarily any destination.
I was a bit too ambitious last year with reading challenges and while I really enjoyed most of what I read, I kept compiling unreasonable lists and making crazy promises, and then not following up on them, and feeling bad about it and the whole thing just became an unending cycle . . .
So nothing too specific this year. In general terms, I'd like to read more poetry (and try to memorize some of it) and art books (I have a pile of artist biographies and books on various art movements - I need to do more than just look at the pretty pictures). I always like to tackle one of the really huge, monumental classics and this year it will be Robert Musil's The Man Without Qualities (I've already finished Part One and am really enjoying it so far, so this at least seems entirely possible).
I'm also inspired by Susan Hill's latest book, Howard's End Is On the Landing which I picked up after a flurry of blog recommendations. She decided to take a year away from the Internet, blogging, and from buying new books, to concentrate on re-reading the many books already on her shelves. An excellent idea and I'm going to extend it to my DVD watching as well - goodness knows I own enough films, both those I haven't even watched along with many that I would like to see again.
And I desperately need to declutter this year. Clothes, books, DVDs, endless piles of paper that need to be filed or shredded. So these are my mantras: Slow down. Breathe. Turn the computer off. Walk. Bicycle. Live in the moment. Have face to face conversations with real friends, not electronic ones. Keep going to the theatre. Read slowly and think. Re-read. And repeat.