Incoming Books and Their Sources (6)

I thought I had the perfect excuse for justifying the vast amount of books that recently joined my household: it’s two months’ worth of incomings. But actually, it’s more like 6 weeks. Time to hit the pause button, I think, especially with the cost of everything going up so much and me contemplating a more part-time role (i.e. lower pay) so that I have more time to write, translate and promote Corylus. In the meantime, however, it’s been inspiration (or greed) galore. And, if I’m honest, book addiction is my way of escaping from all the anxiety that the current news cycle provokes in me.

From blogs and podcasts

I’m naming the culprits here (my daily walks while listening to podcasts are proving terribly injurious to my bank balance):

  • Backlisted Pod: for O Caledonia (mentioned in passing) and Stephen Sondheim (a full episode)
  • Slightly Foxed for Red Comet (full episode with biographer), although I vowed I had enough books about and by Sylvia Plath
  • Late to It for Hilma Wolitzer (although not this particular book) and Kirsty Gunn’s Infidelities
  • Book reviews by favourite bloggers such as Jacqui and Susana (who read it in the original Portuguese of course) and in Asymptote Journal for Empty Wardrobes
  • Dorian Stuber and his guest Niccie Panetta for the 2021 books of the year round-up which included Blue Remembered Hills and Olga Zilbergourg for mentioning The Man Between about legendary translator Michael Henry Heim.
Sent by the publisher

Someone at Penguin Classics heard my boisterous declarations of love for Mishima’s work, for which I am profoundly grateful. Meanwhile, Clare O’Dea is a Switzerland-based expat writer whom I briefly encountered at Geneva Writers Group and she asked her publisher to send me this fictional account of the very recent (1959) Swiss referendum about women’s suffrage. Finally, I’d been a keen reader of Daniel Hahn’s diary of translating Damiela Elit’s Never Did the Fire for Charco Press, and commented on some of his blog posts, so was kindly sent a copy of the final diary published in book form.

Book clubs and discussions with friends

I have several books of poetry and prose by my friend and fellow Romanian writer who writes in English, Carmen Bugan, but realised that I did not have this collected version of her poems. I had been covetously eyeing Hannah Lowe’s The Kids and finally got the nudge to buy it after it won the Costa Award. I can’t remember exactly whom I had a conversation with on Twitter about the Bloomsbury Group, but I thought it was high time I read Angelica Garnett’s memoir, which puts them all in a less golden light. Meander Spiral Explode has been recommended to me for its exploration of the writing craft for those who are no longer content with the Three Act or linear structure. Finally, for our London Reads the World Book Club in March, we will be reading a Romanian book at last and it’s one of my favourite writers, Mihail Sebastian. I thought it might be helpful to have the English translation to hand, rather than rely solely on the Romanian version I have, and I might end up having OPINIONS about the translation.

From the library

I’ve heard so many good things about this memoir of living with disability A Still Life, shortlisted for the Barbellion Prize, and I’ve been on the waiting list for it at the library for ages. When I finally went to pick up my reservation, I came across this collection of short stories by Dostoevsky and I’ve never been able to ignore anything by him, even when he infuriates me.

Spontaneous purchases

I happened to be in the lovely Marlow Bookshop in real life, and was intrigued about Gail Simmons’ journey across the Chiltern Hills, which recreates Robert Louis Stevenson’s three-day journey across the same landscape nearly 150 years earlier. With HS2 speed railway threatening to destroy this landscape forever, it’s an attempt to capture a place and time before it disappears. I also picked up a British Library anthology there, because crime fiction and books are an irresistible combination. The quest to diversity my bookcase continues with the academic study of London as a migrant city, a science-fiction take on office life by Chinese American author Ling Ma, and two crime novels by Adam Macqueen introducing Tommy Wildeblood, rent boy turned sleuth, against a backdrop of London’s recent history (1970s-80s).

Catnip topics

Communist dictatorships in the former East Bloc countries and the United Nations (or other international organisations) are very triggering for me: in other words, as soon as I see or hear something about these topics, my online buying finger gets activated. The Stasi Poetry Circle is the true story of an attempt to set up a ‘propaganda poetry writing group’ in the German Democratic Republic. As for Romain Gary’s book: as I mentioned in the blog post about Frank Moorhouse’s book, it is a satire about the United Nations (thank you, Emma, for first drawing my attention to it), which Gary initially published under a pseudonym. I managed to find it second-hand on a French website and it got here relatively quickly.

An afterthought

Last, but not least, an online conversation with the same Emma as above, following her brilliant review of the Marseille Trilogy reminded me how much I love Jean-Claude Izzo and how difficult his books are to find over here. But lo and behold, a quick online search produced these two at reasonable prices. They’re both set mainly in Marseille too.

15 thoughts on “Incoming Books and Their Sources (6)”

  1. I think you got some fabulous books, Marina Sofia. And you’re not the only one whose book addiction gets them through difficult times… I like it that you have all sorts of sources for your books, too. I’ve found that the more varied your sources, the more interesting the treasure trove gets!

  2. What a book haul resulting from a very healthy addiction. (Reading is the only activity with which you can associate addiction and healthy)

    Thanks for the mention and I think I’m going to track down these Izzo books too.
    My own book haul for February was a high pile too and with Quais du Polar on the first weekend of April..
    Well. As I always say, convert the price of a nice mountain bike or golf clubs into a book number and you already feel better about the price of books! 😀

    1. That’s what I always tell myself – although perhaps a bike or golf clubs might be less of an ongoing purchase! (But hey, I don’t smoke either, and I haven’t been on an expensive holiday in years!)

  3. Wow – some super additions there. I must admit I’m most intrigued by the MacQueen thrillers, and I really must read Izzo one day – I have parts 2 & 3 of his Marseille trilogy in english – need to find part 1.

  4. Some marvellous incomings there, Marina, and I feel much better about the books which have arrived here recently!! Glad you have the Mishima too – very much looking forward to it! And the Stasi Poetry book sounds fascinating. I read the Angelica Garnett decades ago so can of course remember nothing about it, apart from I think it was a bit shocking…

  5. Delighted to see that you succumbed to Empty Wardrobes (and h/t to Gary at Foyles whose tweet alerted me to it in the first place). I’m curious to hear what you think! Ditto A Still Life, which has been popping up a lot recently – like you, I’ve heard nothing but good things. I’m also nodding along to your comments about the dangers of listening to bookish podcasts on your daily walks – totally relatable in every respect.

  6. I very much enjoyed Voting day and also Angelica Garnett’s memoir, I hope you do too! I must say I’m shocked how many books came your way in 6 weeks… you’ll need new shelves soon!!

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