Apologies for not posting anything on Monday. This week will be a bit tricky; in fact, the next few weeks might be a bit off-schedule too, as I frantically try to cope with a sick cat, some additional work obligations, holiday preparations, and quite a bit of change in holiday plans. However, I could not resist joining in with Kate’s game of bookish links Six Degrees of Separation. This month it starts with Katherine May’s Wintering, a combination of memoir and nature writing which sounds utterly compelling. It is definitely on my TBR list, but no, I haven’t read it yet.
A book in a similar vein is Josie George‘s beautifully written memoir about living as a single mother with a disability A Still Life. The author has the eye of a photographer (you can follow her on Instagram) and the sensibility of a poet, and her loving observations of life in general, as well as the natural and urban world around her, are so inspiring that it’s a book I definitely want on my shelves, to dip into every now and then for encouragement and zest for life.
I did get the title of Josie’s book confused with another recent book, namely Still Life by Sarah Winman (I thought publishers tried to avoid titles that were too similar, or had been used many times before?). I haven’t read it, but I understand that it is set in Tuscany (wonderful, one of my favourite places) and depicts a wartime friendship between an English soldier and an alleged spy.
Books about wartime romances abound (although I understand no romance is involved in Still Life), but one that made me thrill and weep was The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (I also liked the film adaptation, enamoured as I was with Ralph Fiennes, Kristen Scott Thomas and Juliette Binoche simultaneously).
A book about a very different kind of patient, namely one who suffers TB of lungs and bones, is … no, not The Magic Mountain, but Romanian writer Max Blecher’s Scarred Hearts (Inimi cicratizate). Set in a French seaside resort, with often gruelling descriptions of medical treatments, it is nevertheless a moving description of the will to live, love, encounter and drink one’s fill of beauty. There is also a 2016 film adaptation by director Radu Jude (which I am really keen to see).
A very simple link to my next book: by another author called Max, namely Max Weber and his seminal work The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. A must-read for any anthropology or sociology student in the second half of the 20th century, I liked the fact that he added the cultural dimension to Marx’s purely dialectic-materialistic examination of the origins of capitalism. I think it still has much to say about the difference between Northern and Southern Europe, for example.
By way of contrast, a very complicated link to the final book in the chain. Max Weber contracted the Spanish Flu in 1920 and died of related pneumonia complications. My last choice is one of the few books that directly addresses the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-20, namely Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter, apparently based on the author’s own experience of falling ill with the flu and then recovering from it. The scenes of feverish hallucination are said to be among the best in all of literature.
Quite a lot of illness haunting today’s choices, not just because the starting point was about depression and family illnesses, but perhaps subconsciously also because of my worries about my sweet Zoe. Let’s hope next month will be considerably more cheery.