She Walks into the Train Station

I am reposting a poem that I’ve written a few months back, as it was hidden in a long text about other books and other thoughts. It’s in response to the prompt on dVerse Poets to write about trains. I thought at once of Anna Karenina, but transposed to our present-day world.

She walks into the station as

if nothing could reach out or jostle

her intent; as

if the icy sheen on her forehead

gives her an armour of aloofness, invisible

to mortals.

Her foresight is complete, her pockets emptied of clues.

No noise to pierce her eardrums, she glides through crowds

erect and poised.

Her spine gains inches as if

the stone-weight of family has left her shoulders.

She drifts up the staircase, and crowds part

at the gauntness of her stare.

First up, then down,

directions cease to matter

if the journey’s end is one.

She’ll catch a moment when

they’re wrapped up in their small partings,

their music and emails,

their lives all about tasks, not noticing.

One breath

and she takes flight.

The screech of that train

branding scarlet letters on herds

trapped in search for romance.

No One but Myself to Blame…

This is the start of my two weeks of peace. The children are on holiday with their grandparents, I have finished most of the admin work relating to taxes and property letting, so I finally have the space and time to write.

If I don’t write 2000 words a day or so over the next couple of weeks (that is entirely feasible and realistic), I have no one to blame but myself.

Of course there are minor quibbles that are remarkably good at barging in, demanding attention and turning themselves into distracting obstacles: heatwave, headaches, a never-ending list of urgent admin tasks (because not everyone is on holiday in summer), book reviews to be written… Not to mention those underlying doubts about plot, characters, style, has it all been done before.

I will put those quibbles in their place, though, be ruthless and focus on my writing. Or else I risk proving to myself that I am all mouth, all excuses and no depth at all. I don’t want to start despising myself.

After all, if I wanted to lead a life of ‘dolce far niente’, I would come back as a cat!

Zoeresting

Friday Fun: Plain Old Home Libraries

When I say ‘plain’, I mean for those folks who have the luxury of a whole room in their house dedicated to books, reading, thinking, escaping…

Reading nook, from apartmenttherapy.com
Reading nook, from apartmenttherapy.com
Keep it dark and moody... From Architectural Digest.
Keep it dark and moody… From Architectural Digest.
For the colour-coordinated. From BHG.
For the colour-coordinated. From BHG.
For collectors of exotic memories. From Decoist.
For collectors of exotic memories (and dog lovers). From Decoist.
For those who can never have too many places to lounge upon... From Domaine Home.
For those who can never have too many places to lounge upon… From Domaine Home.

Finally, for those who are thinking of converting their garage, here is a brilliant idea from Dwell. Instead of housing a car, why not house all your books on three storeys, with a sunken bathtub in which to relax?

Haffenden House, from Dwell.com
Haffenden House, from Dwell.com
Interior of Haffenden House, from Dwell.com.
Interior of Haffenden House, from Dwell.com.

OK, that last one might be stretching the definition of ‘plain’ somewhat…

Getting to Know Each Other

It’s the 4th anniversary of dVerse Poets Pub and we’re celebrating all week. For today’s prompt, I’m using some ice-breaking tricks and techniques so all the pub goers can get to know each other a little better. The instructions were as follows:

1) Find three words that describe you well or mean a lot to you – you don’t need to explain why they mean so much to you, but they do have to be oozing with significance. For example, for me, I might choose: Vienna, swoosh and fairness.
2) Now, choose three words to describe things or people that you are grateful for, to build on the gratitude discussion we were having yesterday.
Let me again give an example: children, words, friends.
3) Now write a short poem (no longer than 12 lines please, but it can be shorter if you like) incorporating these six words.
 To my surprise (but perhaps to nobody else’s), my poem came out a tad more melancholy than I had expected…

 

Words between friends

all bridges, camp-fires, the silences still precious…

Words between children

flash-floods, fence-mends…

I’m always too late

but all heart for all that.

My quest for fairness a shade too thorough,

digging deep long after they’ve moved on.

Should I surrender to the swoosh

alone in the snow?

My sky is always cold and gray.

This means nothing to me…  Oh, Vienna!

 

Maybe this song is to blame – one of the first I remember recording from the radio.

 

Reading Plans for the Summer Holidays

Only one week of summer holidays has gone by. A week only. Nothing but a week. ONLY one week with both children at home (2 1/2 weeks with the older son, who started earlier)… and I can see my plans for writing and reading are going to suffer… Add to that admin or professional things such as arranging house rentals, visa applications, travel arrangements for September, course preparation and tax returns, plus some writing-related projects which are more fun, but still require a lot of time. So you will not see me blogging very regularly over the next few weeks.

busybee

Instead, let me me tell you about my tentative reading plans. I’m very happy to have finished my #TBR20, but it’s only made a small dent in my reading pile. I will need to do a rerun at some point in September/October.

But first, I want to read those books I borrowed from the library, which have been waiting patiently in queue for #TBR20 to be over.

  1. Fred Vargas: Temps Glaciares – the latest Adamsberg book, not yet available in English
  2. Caroline Deyns: Perdu, le jour où nous n’avons pas dansé (Wasted, the Day We Did Not Spend Dancing) – a fictional account of Isadora Duncan’s life
  3.  Emannuel Carrère: L’Adversaire

Women in Translation Month (August)

WITMonth15

  1. Valeria Luiselli: Faces in the Crowd (Mexico) – this will count towards my Global Reading Challenge as well
  2. Tove Jansson: The True Deceiver (Finnish)
  3. Therese Bohman: Drowned (Swedish)
  4. Alice Quinn: Queen of the Trailer Park (French) – this will count towards my Netgalley Challenge as well

Netgalley Challenge – trying to get my bookshelf in order, as I’ve been ‘overfeeding’ my already obese e-reader

netgalley

  1. Sarah Ward: In Bitter Chill
  2. Renee Knight: Disclaimer
  3. Karin Fossum: The Drowned Boy (also counts towards WIT challenge)
  4. Sarah Leipciger: The Mountain Can Wait (also counts towards Global Reading Challenge)
  5. Lucy Atkins: The Other Child

You may notice there is a pronounced chiller thriller feel to the list above – just what I like reading on the beach (although there won’t be much beach featuring in my summer this year).

I reserve the right to chop and change within each category (except for the library books, which are due back end of August). I also hope at some point this summer to reread ‘Tender is the Night’ – quintessential summer read, to my mind (OK, depressing as hell, but still…).

Still, those are but shadowy plans and, as the Romanians say (as the Greeks are finding out): ‘your calculations at home never match the calculations in the marketplace’.

 

 

Six in Six Book Meme

I found this delightful book meme with Margaret over at Books Please. It was something started by Jo at The Book Jotter. You summarise six months of reading, sorting the books into six categories. Jo suggests plenty of categories, but you can also create your own. The same book can obviously feature in more than one category.

Here is my version for 2015, with links to my reviews where those exist.  I had a hard time not using the same book more than once for each of the category – that was the one rule I set for myself, so that I could present as many books and authors as possible. It is fair to assume that books I loved and authors I want to read more of are interchangeable.

6 Books I Loved

Murasaki Shikibu: The Tale of Genji – the best three months of reading, total immersion in a very strange world, yet still fully relatable

Ansel Elkins: Blue Yodel

Tom Rob Smith: Child 44 – particularly effective when read just before watching the film, and comparing the two

Jean-Patrick Manchette: Fatale

Eva Dolan: The Long Way Home (although I could just as well have put her second novel Tell No Tales)

Jonas Karlsson: The Room

6 New Authors to Me

Sara Novic: Girl at War

Sherman Alexie: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Karim Miske: Arab Jazz

Kanae Minato: Confessions

Metin Arditi: Loin des bras

Yasmina Khadra: L’attentat

Some of them were more exciting than others, but I think I want to read more from each of these authors I’ve just discovered.

6 Books that Didn’t Live up to Expectations

Paula Hawkins: The Girl on the Train – entertaining enough, but quite average for my taste, despite its resounding success

Jenny Offill: Dept. of Speculation – poetic and thought-provoking, but ultimately too fragmented and cold for me. Perhaps suffering also in comparison to Elena Ferrante’s ‘The Days of Abandonment’, which I had read just before.

Matthew Thomas: We Are Not Ourselves – moving, well-written in parts, but just too long and trying to squeeze too much in

John Enright: Blood Jungle Ballet – I loved the first book in the series so my hopes were perhaps too high for this one

Vesna Goldsworthy: Gorsky – The Great Gatsby is one of my favourite books, so I thought I’d love to see it transposed into present-day London with all of its foreign money. But alas, it didn’t add anything new…

Stefanie de Velasco: Tigermilk – not the Christiane F. of the new generation of Berliners…

6 Authors I Want to Read More of

Elena Ferrante

Emily St. John Mandel

Laura Kasischke

Virginie Despentes

Kishwar Desai

Tana French

Would you look at that? They are all women!

6 Books I’d Like to See Translated into English

Hubert Mingarelli: La Route de Beit Zera

Jeanne Desaubry: Poubelle’s Girls

Jeremie Gue: Paris la nuit

Liad Shoham: Tel Aviv Suspects

Fouad Laroui: L’etrange affaire du pantalon du Dassoukine – or several other books by this author, he hasn’t been translated at all into English

Friederike Schmoe: Fliehganzleis

Sorry, they are nearly all in French. That’s because I can only talk about those books written in languages I can read other than English – and I’ve read far fewer German books this year and next to no Romanian books. This may be about to change…

6 That Don’t Fit into Any Category But I Have to Mention

Megan Beech: When I Grow Up I Want to Be Mary Beard – spoken poetry by a very young, talented and opinionated woman poet

Tuula Karjalainen: Tove Jansson: Work and Love

Daniel Pennac: Comme un roman – how schools or adults can kill the love of reading; and how to reignite it

Ever Yours: Van Gogh’s  Essential Letters

Etienne Davodeau: Les Ignorants – learnt so much about comic books and vineyards, all in a humorous way

Sarah Ruhl: 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write – something any mother/creator/professional can relate to

 

Friday Fun: Cooling Down in Basements and Water Gardens

We’re having such a heat wave that the thunderstorms typical of the Lake Geneva area have been rendered toothless. They hardly dare to make an appearance and never seem to cool down the sky even at night. So I had to turn to basements and water features in gardens for any hope of coolness… Thank you to Emma from BookAroundtheCorner for the suggestion!

Winecellar, from Domaine Home.
Winecellar, from Domaine Home.
Entertainment room, from ghoofie.com
Entertainment room, from ghoofie.com
This would be my son's dream basement: for Lego builders, from houzz.com
This would be my son’s dream basement: for Lego builders, from houzz.com.. The bar is for a weary mother at the end of a day of holiday fun!

And if the lack of natural light gets to you after a while, here are some refreshing exteriors.

Japanese garden, from Your-garden-design.com
Japanese garden, from Your-garden-design.com
Waterfalls always sound cooling and relaxing, from soundshoregarden.com
Waterfalls always sound cooling and relaxing, from soundshoregarden.com

Or perhaps a combination of the two?

Modern basement-cum-pool, from thefhd.com
Modern basement-cum-pool, from thefhd.com