Reading, Borrowing and Buying Update

You might think that after my splurge last week at Hay on Wye, I would be more careful about buying books. Well, you would think wrong, although that’s only because I received an Amazon voucher which made Homer’s Odyssey in the translation of Emily Wilson affordable (I’d been waiting for it to come out in paperback but was really, really keen to read it.) And, once that purchase was made, the dam was broken and a lot more books starting gushing out.

You may have seen Salt Publishing’s appeal on Twitter #JustOneBook, asking their fans to buy just one book from them as they were on the brink of bankruptcy. Now, however you feel about their sudden closure of their poetry section (I have a few poet friends who were upset about the way they did it), I still want independent publishers to survive, as they are the ones who give us that much-needed variety and more experimental works. So I bought The Black Country by Kerry Hadley-Pryce – anything but cheery. Then that pesky Anthony from Times Flow Stemmed mentioned Jane Bowles, so I had to track down a second-hand copy of Two Serious Ladies. I also happened to pop into the vintage Penguin section of Waterstones Gower Street and found one of my favourite Ngaio Marshes Artists in Crime, plus The Unspeakable Skipton by Pamela Hansford Johnson. This latter author had been mentioned and reviewed recently by Ali, and you know what a weakling I am when it comes to your recommendations.

Other books arrived by prior appointment. Asymptote Book Club’s May offer was Yan Ge’s The Chilli Bean Paste Clan from China – I’m a great fan of both Chinese literature and families (and bean paste, although I prefer it in my desserts usually), so this is a must-read-next. For review, I received a Greek book (perfect description of the surreal post-crisis Athens and homeless lifestyle) Baby Blue by Pol Koutsakis from Bitter Lemon Press. By way of contrast, I also received a noir novel set in rural Lancashire, Mere by Carol Fenlon, from Thunderpoint Publishing. In electronic format I received two jet-setter books (crime with an international setting) Return to Hiroshima by Belgian author Bob van Laerhoven and Dead in the Water by Simon Bower. Last but by no means least, I couldn’t resist getting Roxanne Bouchard’s We were the Salt of the Sea, because: Quebec, Orenda Books, special offer on Kindle!

In terms of borrowing, I’ve reserved Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire and Elif Batuman’s The Idiot at my local library, but will only get to read them after the Women’s Prize for Fiction winner has been announced.

And for my #20booksofsummer update, I’ve taken just 2 days to read the delightfully sunny Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by German author (of Italian origin) Mario Giordano. It’s like an expat version of Camilleri’s Montalbano, but with a feisty middle-aged woman as the main protagonist. 1 down, 19 to go! Next one I am already halfway through is The Single Mums’ Mansion, which I thought would also be lovely comedic escapism. But alas, it’s a little too much about divorce and bad behaviours, so may not be the best escapism in my current situation!

17 thoughts on “Reading, Borrowing and Buying Update”

  1. Well of course I shall be very interested in hearing about that Pamela Hansford Johnson title. It’s a great title. I am very much looking forward to reading The Chilli Bean Paste Clan from Asymptote. Enjoy your books.

  2. Are you a “decadent?” Just thought, if you think so, to recommend an author from Oscar Wilde’s time, a guy named Walter Pater. He is blameworthy for _The Renaissance_ and _Marius the Epicurean_. Oh, I know, you’ll probably find a female writer from 1880 — someone marginalized at the time and now brought to light — infinitely more flammable than any man.

    Pater claims, probably without substantiation in _The Renaissance_, that music is the art form all the others aspire to be; that music is the most perfect. This is because music happens in the medium of time… Of course, motion pictures didn’t exist in his day and age. IMO, the most perfect art form would be the one most resembling a dream.

    Walter Pater also retells, from _The Golden Ass_, the Roman myth of “Cupid and Psyche,” the culmination of which is the birth of a baby daughter they name Voluptas, or Pleasure. And this, for Pater, is the birth in culture of a decadent tradition. This retelling is in _Marius the Epicurean_.

    Would you consider a flap?

    1. I think I may have read Walter Pater in an earlier life – I was very much into Wilde and his contemporaries and then the Bloomsbury Group etc. A fascinating period in British cultural history (although fin de siècle in France and Vienna) – in short, that whole period between roughly 1880 and until the Great Crash fascinates me. Probably the biggest period of disillusionment, although so many others followed.

      1. The Victorian era was really double. There was the appearance of human purity in everyday life with a simultaneous underground of smut. You said Vienna, of course meaning Freud and the likes of him. Henry James is still one of my favorite authors, for he covers the stilted manners of the drawing room and implies the Freudian psychology before there was Freud.

        What do historians consider to be the Great Crash? For me, the end of moral certitude was the end of WWII, viz the Jewish Holocaust and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

        1. Yes, that’s why I said that quite a bit came after the Great Crash in 1929 and then the early 30s. I think the First World War destroys idealism and illusions quite a bit already, but then there was a feeling that things were going to improve – the hopefulness that nothing as bad as the Great War would ever be allowed to happen again, the League of Nations, economic prosperity etc. And then the Depression hit. Which led to the rise of totalitarianism, xenophobia and nationalism which led to WW2. Sadly, I don’t see us learning much from the lessons of the past…

        2. Wheels can take you around
          Wheels can cut you down
          We can go from moon to bust
          From dreams to a bowl of dust
          We can go from rockets’ red glare
          Down to “brother can you spare…”
          Another war, another wasteland
          And another lost generation

          I think this Rush song, “Between the Wheels,” sums it up well. Lyricist: Neil Peart.

  3. There is no possible way to avoid those splurges, especially when you get a voucher, Marina Sofia. And you got some good ones, too. I always like the variety in what you get, and I hope you’ll enjoy them!

  4. Book splurges are inevitable, I think. And you’re about to set me off on one, as I track down Baby Blue by Pol Koutsakis only to discover it’s book two in a series and I can’t buy that without also getting the first one. I lived in Athens for a year and these sound interesting.

    1. Ooopsie, sorry… I haven’t read the first one either, but it looks interesting. I have family in Athens, so I can never resist reading about it.

      1. Oh, that’s interesting and a good excuse to visit! I had an amazing year there and love reading about Athens too, so you’re totally excused from encouraging this book spree.

  5. Oh, I love the idea of “comedic escapism.” (And the title Single Mums’ Mansion. Guess it was misleading.) You seem to have something vaguely specific in mind. Bet it exists! Ask a reference librarian. But I’ll bet you could write your own.
    Love your posts!

  6. I can’t keep up with this reading here. Have to look up all of the aforementioned books. Mario Giordano’s books are new to me, sound like fun.
    I read Home Fires, very interesting. A lot of politics. I guess I’m not surprised this won the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Can’t wait to read what you write about it.

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