So if you’re anywhere near as insane as I am, your packing is based around the books you’re doing to take with you. Clothes, essentials, etc just get thrown in about a half hour before I’m heading out of the door. At least a few days before I leave I plan on what books I’m taking along. Considering this time I’m going away for four months, that’s a lot of planning. I could just buy books as I go, but I already own all of these so obviously it makes sense to read them first. Besides, I want to read all of these so badly that if I didn’t take these with me I’d probably end up buying duplicates. The ones I intend to read once I get home (which won’t be till August) I’ll ship home. The rest (for months June and July) are going to take up about 70% of my baggage allowance. I actually don’t think I’m exaggerating, and if you do, take a look at this list:
PS: I am not including any university-set reading. This is recreational reading.
Leading up to/during exams (now till May 22nd):
Lolita by Nabakov
Siddhartha by Hesse
The Year of Magical Thinking by Didion
Books to read after exams (May 23rd-June 5th):
One Day by Nichols
So Many Ways to Begin by McGregor
The Trail by Kafka
Nine Stories by Salinger
Books for Argentina (June 6th-July):
Selected Poems by Borges
To The Lighthouse by Woolf
A Farewell to Arms by Hemingway
Looking for Alaska by Green
Down and Out in Paris and London by Orwell
Songs of the Humpback Whale by Picoult
Books for Europe (rest of July):
You Shall Know Our Velcoity by Eggers
Life is Elsewhere by Kundera
Cat’s Cradle by Vonnegut
Juliet, Naked by Hornby
Collected Poems by Larkin
Books for Bahrain (August-early September):
Crime and Punishment by Dostovesky
Kafka on the Shore by Murakami
Rebecca by du Maurier
Life of Pi by Martel
The Last Lecture by Pausch
Her Fearful Symmetry by Niffenegger
How We Are Hungry by Eggers
On Writing by King
Catch 22 by Heller
Within each ‘part’ (eg exams, Argentina, Europe) they are not in any order. They’re just what will be going with me. As my current mood dictates, anyway. Of course, it is entirely possible that I will: a) deviate from this list, or b) not complete the number of books allocated for each part of my summer. That’s okay. I’d rather be over-prepared.
Okay, so I was kind of cheeky with this. I bought this book for the giveaway because I was sure someone would want it (and boy, was I right) but I hadn’t read it and didn’t own it, so I sneakily decided to read it before I sent it off. I don’t feel too guilty about this because it was already a secondhand book, so it’s not like it made a difference. Anyway.
I really loved it. I’ve said this before but I just love how easy to read Hornby is, especially when I’m stressed and I feel like my head is somewhere else. He also has this knack for writing drily about certain real characteristics we all do that generally don’t make it on paper well. I wish I had a ready example but I didn’t copy anything down. The other thing about Hornby for me is I can always picture everything perfectly in my head, like a running film strip. I love that.
There’s the inevitable comparison to the movie, which I also like. For once, I’m glad I saw the movie first for a simple reason: if I’d read the book first I don’t know if I would’ve liked the movie, and the other way around made no dent on my enjoyment of the book. In fact, the book’s ending is nothing like the movie’s (pretty much everything after the Christmas scene is different) and Will in my head is not the Will in the movie. Neither is Marcus. Fiona and Rachel I think transferred pretty much whole on screen, though.
You can download this for free (legally) from here. It’s only 8 pages long, it’s a 10-minute play. There is a performance of it available to watch on the Guardian’s website here.
It kind of feels like cheating to include this as a book read because it’s only 8 pages long. But it’s a legitimate play and I had it on my own list of books read, so I thought I should add a little review on here. The reason I read this was I was doing some research on Churchill after reading Cloud 9, which I thought was an incredibly interesting play, so for once I was doing my university research without too much cajoling.
I really liked it. Churchill wrote it as a response to the 2008-09 Israel military strike on Gaza. It’s basically written as seven monologues, with adults speaking the parts, saying “don’t tell her / tell her”, referring to what their children should and should not know. It’s provocative, definitely. She has been plagued with accusations of anti-Semitism, and she replied, “Howard Jacobson (who wrote an article on the matter) writes as if there’s something new about describing critics of Israel as anti-Semitic. But it’s the usual tactic. We are not going to agree about politics … But we should be able to disagree without accusations of anti-Semitism.” I agree with Churchill. What Israel is doing to the people in Gaza is wrong, and if every time someone points this out or speaks out against this they’re labelled anti-Semitic that’s regressive and ridiculous.
Read it and judge for yourselves. I’ve provided the link and as I said, it’s not long. It takes less than ten minutes to read. I realise that people could complain of the stereotypes cast but Churchill was not modeling this on real people, she was trying to impart a point. I don’t even think she really vilifies the characters that much, I think she shows them to be flawed and wrong, but human nonetheless.
Well, really, it’s just a couple of hours but you get the picture.
Now! It was only yesterday that I told you downloading Hipstamatic onto my iPhone would result in me taking it too far with the pseudo-arty shots. I was right! I couldn’t stop taking pictures of absolutely everything today. That in itself wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t feel the need to assault all of you by sharing them. But share them I will! In the form of what will be a semi-regular posting, “A Day in My Life”. Because I take a shitload of everyday pictures constantly. Here was my (late) afternoon:
Do you guys hate that I want to do this? Do you like it? It wouldn’t always been through iPhone pics, but seeing as it’s the thing I always carry, it would be the predominant form.
"But, accurately speaking, no good work whatever can be perfect, and the demand for perfection is always a sign of a misunderstanding of the ends of art." — John Ruskin, The Nature of Gothic
My copy was split into two long essays — one was “The Nature of Gothic” and the other “The Work of Iron”. I really, really enjoyed the former, which was a study into gothic architecture but also talking about art in general, perfection and imperfection in art, human hands in the art, etc. It’s Ruskin, so of course it was well-written and articulate. The latter essay though, was very strange. It made complete sense, but to go on for fifty pages on the importance of iron and specifically of iron oxide (rust) is kind of bizarre.
I was genuinely disappointed that of all the quotes I post and people reblog and ‘like’, only one or two found it fit to like Ruskin. He’s amazing! What were you all thinking? Just look at the above quote.
I love this play. Maybe I’m the right age for it. Maybe it’s just different enough to be interesting, maybe because I don’t read a lot of plays I think it’s clever, maybe Caryl Churchill is just an amazing writer.
It has two acts, one set in Victorian times in a British colony in Africa. Act Two is in London in 1979 — a hundred years have passed, but for the characters it is twenty-five years later. In first act, Betty, who is Clive’s wife, is played by a man to symbolize her trying to be everything men want her to be and not appreciate herself as a woman. Joshua, their black servant is played by a white to represent him not respecting himself as a black man and modeling himself after what Clive wants him to be. Their son, Edward, is played by a woman because he is effeminate and gay, despite his father trying to “straighten” him out. In Act Two, the only character played by someone not of their gender is a child, Cathy, who is played by a man.
It sounds complex, and it is, but it makes for a great reading. I really, really wish I could see this in performance though because there are so many intricacies created by doubling the actors and switching genders with actor-character that could only come out properly in performance. I will definitely go to see this as soon as it’s put on anywhere near me.
Churchill discusses sexual politics in an interesting way, looking at women who are willing to be subordinate vs those who are not, she plays with the sexuality of the characters and almost has homosexuality become a lifestyle rather than something one is born with, as all the main characters experiment with what they want their sexual life to encompass. She ends the play with some resolution but no clear sexual resolution and thus I deduce that she is aware that for some sexuality has no clear frontiers.
Something crossed my mind last night as I began to read Cloud 9. I’ve inflicted on you all reviews of my university-chosen texts (all the plays I’ve been reading), my own recent fascination with essays, poetry and the occasional novel (in sharp contrast to last year, when I only reviewed novels). I think I’ve been reading quite broadly and I’ve covered several wonderful authors this year and I can feel my appreciation for writing increase enornousmly with each book read.
Funny thing is, though, I haven’t read a “guilty pleasure” book yet. I don’t read many of them and I’m hardly ashamed of anything I read becauase I read so much good literature. Besides, I have bought so many amazing books and not a single “guilty pleasure” one so I doubt you guys will have to sit through a review of a silly book, but I wonder how I would feel about reviewing it. I thought for a minute that if I did read a book I was embarrassed by, I just wouldn’t put it up, but then I thought, I’d never actually do that.
So, yes. No matter how silly a book I read I will admit to you all exactly how silly I am. Besides, it’s not like I hide how lame I am anyway.
(By the way, this is a pointless post and I’m sorry if you read it all the way though.)
To finish or not to finish? It seems to me that, like finishing all the food on one’s plate, it is rude not to finish a book once it’s begun. How can you adequately judge a book by its contents if you flake out sometime in the middle? Perhaps you use the Page 69 Litmus Test advocated by people I overheard at Café Allegro’s last Friday and turn to the 69th page of the book which should apparently – in a nutshell – tell you whether to keep reading or not.
I am sorry to say that I have put aside many books begun this year. I have become a quitter. I did not finish Thomas Malory’s Morte D’Arthur, I did not finish the Story of Britain, orAgaat, and just last week I did not finish John Banville’s new book The Infinities, or Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. All of these books are good. I was attracted to them suddenly and fell away from them in degrees.
I both disapprove and approve of this new habit. On the one hand, it suggests moral laxity, intellectual ineptitude, restlessness and a disinclination towards perseverance to give up on a book. If the reader is bored, perhaps it is because the reader is boring, or doesn’t have enough concentration. On the other hand, the meaningless plodding onwards in a book one has ceased to find engaging seems like a purposeless drudgery in a world where there are so many books in print, there is bound to be another better suited to your time. Is there any point to masticating a tasteless piece of writing?
Often enough – let’s just tell it like it is – it’s because I’ve started another, much better book. I am a literary adulterer. Eventually, I feel shamed by the ball and chain the first book has become and put it back on the shelf, and ride off into the flamboyant, neon sunset of the newer book.
Here’s a solution: perhaps there ought to be a large reading authority who one could appeal to. Like The Book of Answers or even a Magic-Eight Ball. Q: Should I finish this book? A. NOT worth it…
Ideally, I suppose reading should begin with a burst of curiosity and optimism and, if needed, as I believe worthwhile things taken effort, duty can carry it through.
I don’t normally reblog posts like this and I definitely don’t repost when they’re not even on tumblr. But I think she talks very eloquently here about stopping the middle of a book. I don’t do it, I hate doing it, but it’s something I need to get over. There are certain books that I just shouldn’t finish if I’m not enjoying them. Night Train to Lisbon was the first book I’d abandoned in three years and I still feel weird about it.
I was just looking through photographs from my February trip to Scotland to visit my best friend Laala and as I clicked through them I realized how happy everything made me. So this is a positive post to remember things I love, inspired by my trip.
Laala’s father offered to treat us to one meal on his expense to celebrate her birthday and my flying across the continent to visit. This is only the appetizers! It was at a random hole-in-the-wall Thai place when we were starving after walking all day in Edinburgh and when anything would have tasted good. This was better than good though- it was insanely delicious and amazing. From tempura to spring rolls to curry to mango sorbet for dessert, even the dipping sauces were so amazing I wanted to fill travel-size cosmetics containers with them. I won’t tell you how big a bill we wracked up though ;)
Obviously this trip would have been nothing (and actually, would not have even happened, since she was what I was looking forward most to seeing in Scotland) without Laala. Laala is an incredible person, who not only showed me an amazing time once again, but has been there for me even before we met. Basically the world would be proportionally better to the number of Laalas that are in it, but I guess we have to settle with one. Good thing she’s my friend :)
I share this photo even though I look (and was) dead tired in it because we were on our way to Edinburgh for the weekend. It was my first full day in Scotland, a brand-new country, and I was about to experience a city I had never visited before. So basically I was jet-lagged and running on adrenaline- which is pretty much what traveling is all about for me. Plus this was a happier memory for me than the bus rides because the train doesn’t make me motion sick.
My motorcycle boots
(Yes, they’re boots, so this is the best picture I have of them. I don’t usually photography my feet). I’m by no means a fashion guru, and I have no idea if these are trendy or ridiculous but I wore them every day of that trip and I love the guts out of them. They are comfortable, stylish (I think), waterproof and make every outfit look instantly better, which is important when you live in a country where there is snow on the ground 6 months of the year. Sadly they currently need to be resoled, probably as a result of me wearing them for three months straight.
I visited my first castle two years ago on my trip to see Laala in London, but while in Scotland I made it to my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th castle, including the one located walking distance from where she lives! Walking distance to a castle; I’m still in shock. Anyway it was beautiful and awesome, as they all were, and we got in for free by wearing these gowns which makes for a lot of colourful photographs as well. The castle, like the whole town, is right by the ocean so it was incredibly windy. Notice I’m also wearing my Scottish scarf, I went for an untraditional tartan picked purely because I like purple.
In my case it’s not actually a fisheye lens since they cost about a thousand dollars, but a $40 fisheye lens attachment I bought on Ebay which was wonderful enough to arrive the day before I left. Although it does have its place in the photography arsenal, I was really glad to have it along with me on the trip and we both had a lot of fun playing with it.
I am kinda in denial of the fact that I moving to a place where you won’t be able to see the ocean anymore… It is beautiful.
Because letters both go in and come out of them.
Also pretty self-explanatory I think. Her town has an insane number of secondhand book stores/ charity shops filled with books, and I came home with my suitcase significantly heavier with the amount I picked up. Even just being surrounded by books, borrowing them from libraries or friends, makes me happy. However there is nothing quite like book shopping with a fellow bookworm; placing books into each other’s hands and saying that you don’t know how that person existed without this book in their life, but they must must remedy the situation.
I challenge you to name one thing greater than this cow. Except puppies. Puppies always win. Anyway, I am a huge animal lover and, as Laala will attest to, getting to pet a Highlander Cow (which I sent everyone I know postcards of) was likely the highlight of my trip. He was very slobbery.
I live in a pretty flat place so mountains in general awe me, but the Highlands of Northern Scotland (of which I only saw a glimpse) are so incredibly beautiful I think it would take anyone’s breath away. Also this is one of my favourite pictures from the trip so I just wanted to share.
“Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attach the first is not to assail the last … These things and deeds are diametrically opposed; they are as distinct as is vice from virtue. Men too often confound them; they should not be confounded: appearance should not be mistaken for truth.”—Charlotte Brontë in a preface to the second edition of Jane Eyre
“A cold lucid indifference reigned in his soul. At his first violent sin he had felt a wave of vitality pass out of him and had feared to find his body or his soul maimed by the excess. Instead the vital wave had carried him on its bosom out of himself and back again when it receded: and no part of body or soul had maimed, but a dark peace had been established between them. The chaos in which his ardour extinguished itself was a cold indifferent knowledge of himself.”—James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (via bodywithoutorgans)
"Whoever you are, I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers," — Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire
I had never read Tennessee Williams before, which I clearly now realise was a huge error on my part. I seem to shock people when I tell them that I haven’t seen the 1951 movie, I haven’t even seen a snippet. I know it’s Brando’s signature role, but I wish people would stop saying it’s such a big deal.
Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed Streetcar. I always find it fascinating to read texts where one is not immediately predisposed to idolize a character, and that’s definitely the case here. I thought Blanche was fascinating and I wanted to use my black-belt skills on Stanley and make him bleed. He got me so angry. I wanted to shake Stella out of her stupor. Williams’ writing conveys such emotion, though. Reading up a little on his life makes me understand how he could write with such depth, though unlike some critics I’m loathe to make a direct link between Blanche and his sister.
One curious effect the play had on me was it made me hungry to direct it. I’m not really inclined toward drama any more than watching movies and attending the theatre as much as I am able. I have a deep appreciation for it but rarely would actually want to insert myself into the equation. Now, though, I’m seriously considering putting on a production. Considering we’ve got a student acting society, with several good actors, I may actually do this next year. We’ll see.
This edition also includes Sweet Bird of Youth and The Glass Menagerie, which I haven’t read because they weren’t included in the module. You get bet that I will, though, the moment I have a minute to spare.
Edit: The giveaway is now over and the winners have been chosen.
So I just hit a personal milestone of the number of followers. It is unbelievable. I know everyone says as soon as they have any followers this but, really. I’m flabbergasted that this many of you want me on your dashboard. It’s insane. Simply insane.
To celebrate, I will be conducting a GIVEAWAY! I knew immediately I wanted to give away books. So I went into a secondhand bookstore (that’s when this happened, so blame yourselves for that one). Here are the items:
About A Boy by Nick Hornby I’ve read four books by Hornby this year, but not a single novel. Either way, I thought it fitting to give away one of his.
The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce It’s one of the classic Penguins! I thought someone on here would appreciate it. If I didn’t already have a copy of this I would definitely want to keep this.
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje I’ve never read this, but I love the movie and like Ondaatje’s grand stories and style.
Each book will come with a kind of lame, kind of awesome bookmark made by me. These are them:
And that’s not all! There will also be five postcards (I’ll upgrade that to 10 if enough people enter) [EDIT: It is now officially ten postcards!] from the amazing selection “Postcards from Penguin”:
I don’t know which five postcards yet, but you won’t be able to chose what postcard you get, so it doesn’t matter. They’ll be wonderful though.
You must be a follower (you can be a new follower). I will check this. The reason is simple: this is a thank-you to my followers.
You can be anywhere in the world [within reason. If you were one of the survivors of Oceanic 815, I will not come looking for you].
You can chose to enter either the book giveaway, or the postcard giveaway.
You have to chose what book it is you want. You can only chose one, and that’s the only one you could win.
To chose a book, reblog and add what book it is you want, or use the “reply” feature if you’ve been following me for more than two weeks.
For each book, and for the postcards, I will chose the winner by lottery.
"Liking" or reblogging this post automatically enters you in for one of the postcards.
You cannot have won a giveaway I’ve done in the past. I’ve only done one before so you guys should know who you are.
This is going to sound obvious, but just so I’ve said it: if you win, you’ll have to supply me with an address you want the book/postcard to be sent to. If you’re not comfortable with that, I understand, but please don’t enter so that I don’t have to do everything twice.
You’re welcome to enter for a week. Next Saturday (1st of May) I will chose the winners.
Now I kind of feel nervous that no one will enter. Please enter even if you think there’s no chance you can win, because there is a chance. And it’s more fun with lots of people joining in.
Oh! I should also mention I bought brown parcel paper to wrap the books in when I send them. If I find string, they’ll have a bit of string around them too. Because that’s just the kind of person I am.
I was in the library this afternoon. I finished reading A Streetcar Named Desire, read another case study in Sacks’ The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat and chased that with a little more Ruskin. Those were the three books I had with me. I was suddenly struck by the fact that I didn’t have a novel in my bag. It was a passing thought, but when I got home I looked at the list of books I read this year. And was promptly very, very surprised.
Out of 25 books read this year:
Number of plays: 5 (I’m reading three right now, so this will soon be 8).
Number of poetry books: 4
Number of essay books: 5
Number of novels: 5 (excluding one left unfinished)
(I’m aware that this doesn’t add up to 25, the others don’t matter for the purposes of this post).
I knew I’d been a bit varied in my reading this year, but I hadn’t realised by how much! I normally read just novels with the odd poetry collection thrown in. As much as I love my novels, and as many novels I want to consume still, this makes me happy. I’m proud.
I want so badly to read Plutarch, but my own ignorance denies me any pleasure I could derive from it. I have next to no knowledge about the things he would cover and thus would feel like I’m in over my head. I feel like I should become at least marginally versed in the those topics to fully understand his intellect and absorb as much knowledge as possible from it, rather than having read him merely to be able to to quote him and sound impressive. It’s upsetting, the more I read the stupider I think I am. How could there be so much knowledge that I can never acquire?
So often I’m reminded of a quote from Sylvia Plath, “I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited.” Sometimes it’s in reference to restlessness within me, a need to travel and experience the world, but sometimes it also just comes from the intense dissatisfaction with what I know. I feel almost like I may have been done a disservice when so many people shared the belief that I was intelligent and knowledgeable in school. Even now, I suppose based on the amount I read and how genuinely interested I am in pretty much every conversation topic breached, people speak to me about topics matter-of-factly, like they expect me to know it all already. Occasionally, people expect me to pile on my knowledge to theirs to creat a burning pyre of a conversation, but I am stuck with nothing to say apart from offer my opinion on the instances they had previously discussed.
I have been trying lately (and succeeding, thankfully) to surround myself with people who are interesting and intelligent, who will talk about the frivol things on television but are more likely to get hot under the collar about politics, or language, or literature or philosophy. This, of course, had made for some very interesting nights spent deep in conversation, but it makes me more and more aware of my own shortcomings. But you know what? In a way, I’m glad. I’m glad that the conversations we have are complex and interesting enough to throw light on all the things I am not clued up on, I am especially glad when holes are found in my knowledge of events or topics I thought I knew a lot about and had thus neglected to keep pursuing. I can continue my effort to gain greater introspection.
I speak of the ignorance exposed by some of my friends and peers, but this is nothing compared to the intense inadequacy I feel within myself when I read essays (which I have been doing very frequently recently) and academia. I wonder how those authors arrived at that state of acumen that they were in. It makes me wonder, sometimes. Should I give up some of my more trivial pastimes and read more? Then I wonder if I should stop reading so many novels and try to find comfort in fact. And then I try to think of what I have learnt or recall a book I read a few years earlier and am unable to recall any sort of detail. My frustration and anger at my inadequacies mount higher still.
Knowledge is the biggest drug there is. I try constantly to gorge myself on it; I fall back into its fake sense of security time and again. But one must realise: knowledge is the one thing it is impossible to overdose in, and the one thing I would give myself to.
"I get others to say what I cannot put so well myself, sometimes because of the weakness of my language and sometimes because of the weakness of my intellect." — Michel de Montaigne, On Books
I’ve never read de Montaigne before this. Wow, what a loss! The man is incredibly intelligent, astute and modern. If you hadn’t told me when he had lived, I would’ve guessed he had lived end of the 19th century. I can’t believe he actually lived at the end of the 16th century.
My copy is a selection of thirteen essays. My personal favourites were On Solitude, On Books, On Fear and On Sadness. I thoroughly enjoyed all the other ones as well, though On Virtue was kind of strange and I didn’t feel like it properly discussed virtue, exactly. But most of the essays were very illuminating and interesting, his style elegant but straightforward. I can’t wait to read more by him.
“In order to the enjoyment of the change in either case, a certain degree of patience is required from the observer … He must bear patiently the infliction of the monotony for some moments, in order to feel the full refreshment of the change”—John Ruskin, “On Art and Life”
Men look better in suits. I’m sorry to anyone who disagrees but your opinion is wrong. I love guys to be in jeans and t-shirts for the most part, I think a good looking bloke in that kind of simple combo is all I could want.
That said, I have never, ever seen a guy I know put on a suit and not look more attraction. Never! Not even with guys I never would glance twice at usually.