It doesn’t really matter don’t you worry it’ll all work out No it doesn’t even matter don’t you worry what it’s all about We hope you enjoyed your stay It’s good to have you with us, even if it’s just for the day
One of my favourites. I present it to you as I say goodbye for a little while. I fly back to the UK tonight.
So I wish you all a very lovely week. Adiós, mis amigos!
“I believe that everything happens for a reason. You believe lies so you eventually learn to trust nobody but yourself. And sometimes, good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”—Marilyn Monroe (via quote-book)
"The poet shouted that freedom was poetry’s duty, and that even a metaphor was worth fighting for." — Milan Kundera, Life is Elsewhere
Almost surprisingly for a Kundera novel, I can actually summarise this one quite neatly. It’s the story of Jaromil, a boy growing up in Czechoslovakia (true fact: I had to check my history dates in order to know whether to say Czechoslovakia or the Czech Republic), his parents, especially his mother and the influence of social change, love, and family on our lives. Jaromil is from the very beginning announced by Kundera as a poet, before he is born, before we have gained an impression of him, before we are allowed to decide for ourselves whether he is fit to hold the title of poet. This means that even while he is going through a painting phase, you are waiting for him to put down his brush and pick up his pen, you want to read his poetry, you want to know what makes how he sees the world so different from everyone else.
The book is split into seven sections that flow into each quite well, and I enjoyed it immensely from the very beginning, although when Xaiver was first introduced I went through the pages in a state of confusion (which was cleared up later). Kundera gives us a first-hand account of how someone could so fully support a doctrine, even when it is clearly creating causalities, and that is both disturbing (when you like the character) and enlightening. That said, though, the political aspect of the book did not drown out the emotional and human aspect of it, which was by far the more dominant. I enjoyed reading through Jaromil’s life, even when I completely disagreed with him, even when I thought he should get his head checked, even when I found myself liking him.
I remain a faithful fan of Milan Kundera, and I can’t wait to pick up another of his books.
sooo I'm really really really in love with both nicole krauss and jonathan safran foer's writing styles. what kind of books/writers would you recommend that are similar to their type of work?
This was actually more difficult that I expected it to be. I’m going to give suggestions I think you’ll enjoy if you enjoyed those, though they may not match up perfectly, writing-style wise.
Jon McGregor (start with If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things), Tom McCarthy (Remainder), Dave Eggers (pretty much anything), Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), Carlos Ruiz Zafon (The Shadow of the Wind). Possibly Jeffrey Eugenides, Milan Kundera and Colum McCann as well, although I may be projecting because they’re some of my favourite authors.
“Distance had an extraordinary power; they had been swallowed up in it, she felt, they were gone for ever, they had become part of the nature of things. It was so calm; it was so quiet.”—Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse (via daysofreading)
“He was very angry at fourteen, fifteen, in summer and winter, at home or in the world. So angry that his face contorted in photos. The camera was a question and his face did not know the answer.”—Dave Eggers, You Still Know That Boy
“He held his wife and felt himself anchored to everything that was safe and sure, and kept for himself the knowledge of how quickly he could let go and drift free.”—Maile Meloy, Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It
“We could never understand why the girls cared so much about being mature, or why they felt compelled to compliment each other, but sometimes, after one of us had read a long portion of the diary out loud, we had to fight back the urge to hug one another or to tell each other how pretty we were. We felt the imprisonment of being a girl, the way it made your mind active and dreamy, and how you ended up knowing which colours went together. We knew that girls were our twins, that we all existed in space like animals with identical skins, and that they knew everything about us though we couldn’t fathom them at all. We knew, finally, that the girls were really women in disguise, that they understood love and even death, and that our job was merely to create the noise that seemed to fascinate them.”—Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides
Would you ever consider buying a Kindle or other e-book reader? Of the novels you have read this year would you consider rereading any of them?
Over the years, I’ve learnt never to say never, but it’s a pretty safe bet that I would not buy an e-book reader. I would consider it if textbooks and encyclopedias were released on it, because it would make life so much easier, but not for anything else.
As to whether I’d reread any of the books I read this year — absolutely! I’ve read some pretty amazing things this year. I’d happily reread Murakami, Eggers, Milton’s incomparable Paradise Lost, Hesse, Nabokov, Kundera, Krauss (which was already a reread), Vonnegut, Orwell, Diaz and Woolf.
Kiss Kiss is a collection of short stories. Roald Dahl actually wrote quite a lot of them, although they tend to be overshadowed by his children’s novels. I am one of the biggest Dahl fans there is, the man was one of the best children’s writers the world has ever seen. The only thing I’ve read by him (apart from his entire catalogue of children’s books) is his autobiography, Boy and Going Solo, both of which I absolutely loved.
I bought this a couple of years ago, and I’m not sure why, but it remained on my shelf for a while. I’ve recently been on a huge short story kick. I’d never really read many, apart from in magazines (The New Yorker etc) and online zines, and this year woken me up to the amazing talent there is. Credit where credit is due: this was largely thanks to Eugenides’ astounding collection, My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead, followed very shortly after by Dave Eggers. Since, I have read various masters of the craft and when I saw this on my shelf, I knew I had to read it.
The stories are disturbing. There’s a short about a man who, after he died, got his brain taken out and hooked onto a machine to continue pumping blood through it, so that he would remain ‘alive’. All that was left was a brain and two eyeballs that would float in a basin. Please visualise that, and then continue. There’s a short about Hitler’s parents. There’s a couple I didn’t prefer, that bored me slightly, but for the most part, I really liked the collection. They’re all well written, of course, but the combination of a very British sensibility combined with utterly bizarre, disturbing stories does make you pause.
But when you resume, you realise: Roald Dahl was not only a master of children’s literature. He was a master.
“Let me note in passing that when a poet calls someone a poet, it is not the same thing as an engineer calling someone an engineer or a farmer calling someone a farmer, because a farmer is someone who cultivates the earth while a poet is not merely someone who writes verse but someone — let’s recall the world — who is elected to write verse, and only a poet can with certainty recognize in another poet the touch of grace, for — let’s recall Rimbaud’s letter — all “poets are brothers,” and only a brother can recognize the secret family sign.”—Milan Kundera, Life is Elsewhere
“It didn’t happen overnight. Yes, the wildness was in me, yes it kept my heart beating fast all the long day, yes it danced around me while I walked down the street, yes it let me look boys straight in the eyes when they stared at me, yes it turned my laugh from a cough into a long wild fever, but I was still scared. How could I not be?”—Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
This week I’m recommending the very lovely Philippa. She doesn’t post half as much as you wish she would, but she reads good books and reviews them, and is a wonderful person to boot. So go forth and follow her!
And, as always, if you like what I do at all, you can recommend me. I’ll appreciate it and I will say things like you are the apple of my eye.
Do you keep your books neat and in good condition, or are you the type to make annotations and underline favorite quotes?
Both! I’m a neat freak, so even when I indulge in marginalia I’m neat about it. I didn’t used to like writing in my books — in fact, I used to freak when the spine would crease. But now I want to be able to reread my books in the future and know what I thought the first time I read it, I want to be able to find favourite quotes easily, I want to engage in the writing more.
So I’m very neat about it. I underline with a ruler, I write neatly in the margins and only when I have something I actually want to write down. But all of my books are kept in perfect condition.
“And, resting, looking from one to the other vaguely, the old question which traversed the sky of the soul perpetually, the vast, the general question which was apt to particularise itself at such moments as these, when she released faculties that had been on the strain, stood over her, paused over her, darkened over her. What is the meaning of life? That was all — a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years. The great revelation had never come.”—Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse (via daysofreading)
"It’s never the changes we want that change everything," — Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
This is one of the books where I feel like leaving you all with a two-word review: Read it. I won’t, I’ll elaborate, but just know — those two words are sufficient.
For a book that is so widely acclaimed, I actually managed to remain totally unspoiled, to the point where I didn’t even know what the book was about. I knew it was about an overweight nerd who wanted to be the next Tolkien, but if you’ve read the book, you know that’s not really an accurate summary of it at all.
I also wasn’t aware of Diaz’s style. He unapologetically mixes Spanish with English, to the point where got my Spanish dictionary out for a couple of words. For the most part, though, a dictionary is unnecessary, as the story line and sentence structure inform you of the meaning pretty quickly. I did wish, repeatedly, that my Spanish was better, though. I think it would’ve heightened my enjoyment of the book, although I can scarcely imagine loving it more than I did.
Finally, I thought the story would focus on Oscar the entire way through, but it went back and forth through different generations and characters, although it retained the same narrator (this helped retain a sense of consistency). I love every single part.
My ignorance of the terrible situation the Dominican Republic went through came to light. Obviously I knew they went through a tremulous time, but I had no idea of the actual events and I was a little ashamed of my ignorance. I looked it up afterwards and read up on it, but it actually made the book even more obscure — I didn’t know where fact stopped and fiction began, and that made it kind of poetic.
It is so beautifully written. My only qualm with Diaz is that he doesn’t have a bigger catalogue for me to work through while I wait for his next novel. Drown is already in my Amazon wishlist and will purchased very soon, I’m sure.
“But what after all is one night? A short space, especially when the darkness dims so soon, and so soon a bird sings, a cock crows, or a faint green quickens, like a turning leaf, in the hollow of the wave. Night, however, succeeds to night. The winter holds a pack of them in store and deals them equally, evenly, with indefatigable fingers. They lengthen; they darken.”—Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse (via daysofreading)
“He has exchanged his pen, which is the key to his soul, for the pistol, which is the key to the world’s doors. For when we send a bullet into a man’s chest it is as if we are entering that chest ourselves; and another man’s chest — that is the world.”—Milan Kundera, Life is Elsewhere
“Very few cultivated people have less than (say) four hundred pounds a year, and naturally they side with the rich, because they imagine that any liberty conceded to the poor is a threat to their own liberty. Foreseeing some dismal Marxian Utopia as the alternative, the educated man prefers to keep things as they are. Possibly he does not like his fellow rich very much, but he supposes that even the vulgarest of them are less inimical to his pleasures, more his kind of people, than the poor, and that he had better stand by them. It is this fear of a supposedly dangerous mob that makes nearly all intelligent people conservative in their opinions.”—George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London
Why do you prefer Penguin Classics? I've recently noticed the difference in format of Barnes and Noble Classics versus the Penguin Classics. They use different words. I'm not sure which I find more complex.
The reason I buy Penguin Classics is simple: they’re the ones most readily available to someone living in the UK. Barnes & Noble Classics are more available in the US, I believe. That said, I’d chose Penguin Classics over almost any other version. I love the covers, I like the introductions, I like how they are generally very faithful to original texts.
I don’t know what you mean by “they use different words”, though. If it’s the same book, they would have to publish the same words.
Edit: If, as happyfrappy suggests, Anon is referring to translations, then it all depends. Penguin regularly publishes some of the best translations, but occasionally a great translator will work with another publishing company. It’s subjective. For the most part, though, even if they don’t have the ‘best’ translator for a specific book (though they often do), they’re pretty great anyway.
Since I won’t have a book review up for awhile, I’ll just suggest some other book/writing related Tumblrs:
Laala - She’s 20 years old and lives in Scotland. She reviews books and takes photographs. She has her own personality and embraces it. Laala reads more than anyone I know and willing to answer most of your questions and recommend books. I greatly admire how driven and intelligent she is.
Oh, Elphie, this is really sweet. Thank you. Thanks also to: quicksoup, plumfield and ricktimus, all of whom have personally recommended me/talked about me on their blogs. You are all very very lovely.
[PS- quicksoup, I would happily peruse a bookstore with you.]
“Most recent research has explored the idea that constant seeking of resassurance is particularly onerous to others (Joiner, 1995; Joiner & Metalsky, 1995). Perhaps as a result of being reared in a cold and rejecting environment (Carnelly, Pietromonaco & Jaffe), depressed people seek reassurance that others truly care, but even when reassured, they are only temporarily satisfied.”—
Do you buy all of your books, or do you rent from the library as well? What is the ratio? What do you think the future for libraries is going to be like? Ever thought of becoming a librarian?
I buy almost all of my books. I love love libraries, but unfortunately in Bahrain (where I am from), libraries with extensive collections (with books in English) simply don’t exist. Books here are sold at inflated prices, because they have to be shipped over, so reading is an expensive pass-time.
When I moved to the UK for university (two years ago), I continued buying books because that’s what I know. The books are cheaper, even when bought at full cover price, and I use Amazon often. I do borrow books from the library, but my town is a small one that is filled withe secondhand bookshops, and people generally use secondhand bookshops like most people use libraries.
I sincerely hope the future for libraries is sound, but I’m not so sure. With governments cutting everyone’s budgets, libraries are one of the first to suffer, which is absolutely ridiculous. I think for libraries to successfully survive they will have to diversify, although I have no idea in what ways. That said, though, people will always want to read (hopefully!) and some people will always be unable to afford books/have the space to store an endless amount.
I thought of becoming a librarian once, but to be honest, never very seriously. It’s definitely a job that I respect, but I have always been completely enamored with writing, and with psychology, and I want to become a psychologist in order to help people.
“So she said nothing, but looked doggedly and sadly at the shore, wrapped in its mantle of peace; as if the people there had fallen asleep, she thought; were free like smoke, were free to come and go like ghosts. They have no suffering there, she thought.”—Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse (via daysofreading)