Reading Bingo 2016

reading-bingo-small

I tried to resist it, but first I saw Cleo doing it, then Emma at Book Around the Corner, then Lisa Hall at ANZ Litlovers blog. Yes, I am weak-willed and have the mentality of a herd of sheep, but I enjoyed reading theirs so much that, in spite of my guilt at spending far too much time on it, I couldn’t think of a nicer way to spend an afternoon (and escape writing Christmas cards this weekend). I did this last year too, and it’s one of the funnest ways to spend this time of year. Then, Emma made the fatal remark: ‘Bet you could fill in more than one for each category!’ So here is how I spent a whole day…

cabreMore than 500 pages

Knausgård: Some Rain Must Fall – self-absorbed, egotistic and utterly recognisable: the narrator/novelist at the start of his career

Jaume Cabré: Confessions – a mammoth of imagination and introspection, slippery characters and narrations overlapping

Forgotten Classic

Eizabeth Taylor: Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont – perfect poise and wry, self-effacing humour: all that I love about the English style

Jean Rhys: Smile Please – the darker side to English poise and elegance, with the tinge of obsessions, depression and ‘alienness’.

two-faces-of-january-posterBook that Became a Movie

Patricia Highsmith: The Two Faces of January – 2014 movie starring Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac

Maylis Kerangal: Reparer les vivants (just came out this November 2016) – a stylistic breathless tour de force, never thought it could be made into a film, but here is the French trailer

http://www.allocine.fr/video/player_gen_cmedia=19564553&cfilm=238997.html

 

Published This Year

krimiI read a lot of these, usually for Crime Fiction Lover reviews or Shiny New Books or Necessary Fiction. So I picked two more unusual choices:

Katharina Hall (ed.): Crime Fiction in German – an encylopaedic reference book which will answer all of your questions about crime in the German language

Péter Gárdos: Fever at Dawn – charming, quirky, loving, a feel-good book for a messed-up world, and now I want to see the film too

Number in Its Title

Italian edition.
Italian edition.

Initially thought I had no books in this category, but then I found two:

David Peace: 1974 – which could also have fitted into the first book by a favourite author category, despite its unrelenting grimness

Olivier Norek: Code 93 – the most notorious département of France, with the highest crime rates, in an entertaining and realistic debut by a former policeman

Written by Someone Under 30

A bit of a depressing category, this one, making me wonder what on earth I have done with my life! Maybe the free square should be ‘Oldest Debut Author’ category.

Lisa Owens: Not Working – I think Lisa was just about under 30 when the book was published, so certainly younger when she wrote it. The narrator sounds like she is in her early 20s.

Tatiana Salem Levy: The House in Smyrna – published in 2008 in Brazil, when the author was 29, but only translated into English in 2015

monstercallsNon-Human Characters

I will interpret this very widely, as I don’t have anything else to offer: books that contain some human characters and some ‘supernatural’ presence

Patrick Ness: A Monster Calls – incidentally, there’s a film of this coming out too – not sure if I can bear to see it, as the book made me weep buckets!

Elizabeth Knox: Wake – something like a zombie apocalypse for grown-ups, a strange book, difficult to label

Funny Book

haas1You can tell the kind of reader I am when I tell you I had real trouble finding any funny books whatsoever in my 163+ books of the year. In fact, the second one is a crime novel with a humorous style, but a very grim subject matter. So not all that funny, then…

David Sedaris: Me Talk Pretty One Day – the joys and challenges of cultural misunderstandings between the French and the Americans

Wolf Haas: Komm, süßer Tod – a paramedic and ex-cop with a world-weary, typically Viennese view of the world, investigates some odd deaths in the ambulance service

Female Author

I think more than half of my reading has been by women authors this year – I have felt the need to surround  myself with their themes and words. Here are two books which haven’t been talked about as much as I would have liked or expected.

erpenbeck_gehenJenny Erpenbeck: Gehen Ging Gegangen – the ‘refugee problem’ in Germany gets a name and a face in this thoughtful, non-sentimental book

Elizabeth Brundage: All Things Cease to Appear – rural noir meets Gothic horror meets crime fiction, yet transcends all of these in a remarkable yet quiet novel of great depth

Mystery

dardMy preferred reading matter, of course, so I’ve tried to look at two real ‘mysteries’ (puzzles), which force the reader to work things out from the clues.

Anthony Horowitz: Magpie Murders – vivacious remix of Golden Age crime elements, without descending into pastiche, as well as a satire of the publishing world

Frédéric Dard: Bird in a Cage – the ‘impossible situation’ mystery, with lashings of film noir atmosphere, a stylish French stunner

belongingOne Word Title

Eleanor Wasserberg: Foxlowe – disquieting fictional look at growing up in a cult

Isabel Huggan: Belonging – warm and loving like a mother’s hug, but also a thought-provoking meditation on what home means

Short Stories

Sarah Hall & Peter Hobbs (eds): Sex and Death anthology  – the two constant preoccupations of humankind and a rich variety of stories for all tastes

Anthony Anaxagorou: The Blink that Killed the Eye – poetic yet never overwrought, grimly realistic, it’s the darker side of life in London as a millenial

Free Square – Book that didn’t work for me at all

L.S. Hilton: Maestra – 50 Shades of Grey meets online shopping catalogue and serial killer tropes; messy, gratuitous and clearly chasing bandwaggons.

signsforlostchildrenSet on a Different Continent

Sarah Moss: Signs for Lost Children – Truro and Japan and never the twain shall meet – or will they? A new author discovery for me this year, one that I want to read much more of.

Raphael Montes: Perfect Days – set in Brazil, we travel the country but also inside the mind of a delusional young man, which makes for an uncomfortable, yet often also funny and exciting experience

Non-Fiction

Åsne Seierstad: One of Us – close factual examination of Anders Breivik and the staggering massacre of young people in Norway, frightening reconstruction of events

Olivia Laing: Lonely City – a very interesting mix of memoir and research, art and literary criticism, to explore the idea of loneliness in big cities

wife1st Book by Favourite Author

Tiphanie Yanique: Wife – debut poetry collection, but I am completely won over and will read anything that this talented Caribbean poet and fiction writer puts in front of me.

Stav Sherez: The Devil’s Playground – while waiting for his latest novel to come out, I went back to his debut novel (not part of the Carrigan and Miller series), originally published in 20014 and set in Amsterdam

Heard About Online

This is a bit of a false category, as I seem to find out about most books nowadays via personal recommendations on Twitter. However, both of the authors below I got to ‘meet’ via Twitter, before they had even published the books described/

in-her-wake-vis-4-2Amanda Jennings: In Her Wake – a genre-busting, mysterious, ethereally beautiful tale, with strong female characters, set in Cornwall

Isabel Costello: Paris Mon Amour – set in Paris, a book defying age and sex conventions, without being prurient or irrelevant (unlike Maestra)

Bestseller

Ha! I realised I had no idea if any of the books I’d read this year were bestsellers (from what number of copies sold can you consider them to be that?), but I assume Fred Vargas always sells a ton in both French and English, while Andrew McMillan’s debut collection of poetry has won many awards and done so well for poetry standards.

Andrew McMillan: Physical – see Naomi Frisby’s excellent review here

Fred Vargas: A Climate of Fear

aloneberlinBased on a True Story

It’s the style that I loved in both of these, the simplicity, lack of artifice, just letting the words speak for themselves. The fact that they were both rooted in reality was almost the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Hans Fallada: Alone in Berlin

Antoine Leiris: You Will Not Have My Hate

Bottom of the TBR list

I bought both of these books around 3-4 years ago, in an elan of wanting to read more East European literature, but then forgot about them. One sat on the shelf, the other on my e-reader. I wanted to like them so badly, but when I did get around to them, they were each rather disappointing.

Marius Daniel Popescu: La Symphonie du Loup

Grażyna Plebanek: Illegal Liaisons

promesseLoved by a Friend

Romain Gary: La promesse de l’aube – pressed into my hands as a parting gift by Emma herself, I have finally fallen in love with this author and bought more of his books. At some point I want to write a proper in-depth study of his work but I need to read more.

Elena Ferrante: Neapolitan series – so many people recommended this one to me, but I was wary of the hype, although I’d liked other books by this author. I did enjoy it, although it did not quite blow my socks off.

Scary

uninvited-liz-jensenLiz Jensen: The Uninvited – chilling, filling your heart with gradual dread, magnificent handling of suspense and atmosphere, a book that will make you look at your children in a different way

Michelle Paver: Thin Air – another atmospheric ride – everything is hinted at, nothing is quite seen

10+ Years Old

Wilkie Collins: The Moonstone – it doesn’t get older than this, one of the world’s first proper detective novels

Mircea Eliade: Diary of a Short-Sighted Adolescent – it may reflect growing up in Romania in the 1920s, but teenagers have always been a world to themselves

b-very-flat-coverSecond Book in a Series

Dolores Redondo: The Legacy of the Bones – 2nd in the unusual, slightly supernaturally tinged series set in the damp, foggy, superstitious region of Baztan in Spain

Margot Kinberg: B-Very Flat – 2nd in the Joel Williams series, set in a small-town university campus in the US, cosy yet not twee, civilised crime fiction

Blue Cover

blackmilkI love my blue covers, even if there does seem to be a super-abundance of them lately, so here are two non-fiction books with gorgeous covers.

Elif Shafak: Black Milk – the most imaginative way of speaking about post-partum depression and the challenge of being an intellectual, a woman and a mother in this century

Melissa Harrison: Rain (Four Walks in English Weather) – a bit of a ramble through landscapes, nature observations, literature and what not else – a book to dip in and out, very enjoyable. If Inuits can have so many words for snow, you can imagine there are more than four kinds of English rain…

So, dear friends, far be it from me to lead you into temptation, but what would your reading bingo list of the year be?

 

 

 

 

November Reading Round-Up

My reading speed seems to have gone down over the last few months, despite my endless sleepless nights. I seem to start many books and then spending simply ages not quite getting round to finishing them. I have continued reading and writing poetry, but my unofficial NaNoWriMo did not work out. Still, lack of success on the writing front usually means I find refuge in lots of reading, so it’s puzzling that this has not been the case. I have read just ten books (it may seem a lot, but quite a few of them were rather short), but I’ve been even worse when it comes to reviewing. So, with apologies, here are some very succinct reviews in some cases.

Crime fiction and psychological thrillers:

suitablelieMichael J. Malone: A Suitable Lie

Not really a conventional domestic thriller, although it does turn the tables on domestic violence. It is more of a character study and very effective in describing the cycle of hope, obligation, guilt, fear, love, a whole rollercoaster of emotions.

Rob Sinclair: Dark Fragments

 

pasttenseMargot Kinberg: Past Tense

Although the theme of sexual harassment in college is very topical and disturbing, this is a welcome change of pace to the darker, grittier type of crime fiction. A civilised campus novel, with most people able to converse elegantly with each other (although they still lie, or exaggerate or omit things).

Emma Kavanagh: The Missing Hours

Jo Nesbo: Police (transl. Don Bartlett)

I’ve loved some Harry Hole novels (The Redbreast, The Snowman) and been less enthusiastic about others, but he is undeniably a page-turner. I took him spontaneously out of the library to see just how he manages to build that sense of dread, foreboding, suspense. This story was perhaps a little too convoluted for my taste, but every time there was someone alone in a venue, searching for something, and they would then hear a noise, I jumped out of my skin.

Literary fiction:

Sarah Perry: The Essex Serpent

Laura Kasischke: Suspicious River

mrspalfreyElizabeth Taylor: Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont

I expect nothing less from Elizabeth Taylor than this beautifully observed study of the foibles of human nature, our innate selfishness, the stories we tell ourselves and others to justify our behaviour. It is a humorous and very poignant look at ageing and loneliness. What struck me most was the dissolution of family ties, how little we really come to mean to those whom we have been conditioned to think of as the nearest and dearest. There are many characters, each one instantly recognisable, yet carefully avoiding stereotypes.

Non-fiction:

Antoine Leiris: You Will Not Have My Hate

Between non-fiction and short stories:

Ali Smith: Public Library

My book of the month is You Will Not Have My Hate, for the emotional devastation it wreaked on me. My second choice, which also managed to squeeze a tear or two out of me, is Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont.

So, cheery Christmas reads next? I don’t really like ‘seasonal books’ but I’d better find something less gloomy or else my insomnia will never improve! And that Netgalley list needs to go down as well!

 

 

The Bookish Time Travel Tag: Lazy Sunday Reading

Sandra from the lovely blog A Corner of Cornwall tagged me for this at a time when I was extremely busy and technology-less, but it’s an intriguing idea. Like Sandra, I initially thought I didn’t read much historical fiction, so it wouldn’t apply to me, but the more you think about it… The original idea, by the way, comes from The Library Lizard, and you can answer as many or as few of the questions as you like, which makes it sound easy enough, right?

foucaults-001WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE HISTORICAL SETTING FOR A BOOK?

Medieval European courts – the Borgias, the Knights Templar, monks misbehaving in monasteries – you get the gist. As a child, I just couldn’t get enough of Jean Plaidy’s historical novels, or The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco. I suppose the latter two were the Dan Brown of their day, only much better written.

WHAT WRITER/S WOULD YOU LIKE TO TRAVEL BACK IN TIME TO MEET?

So many. I think Christopher Marlowe would have been quite fun (with or without Shakespeare in tow) and Chaucer sounds like the kind of guy you would love to go to the pub with, who could tell you plenty of gossipy stories.

I would also love to meet some of my great literary heroines, like Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath, but I would probably be completely tongue-tied and fangirling like mad. (And I dread to think what their sharp observational skills and merciless tongues would make of their encounter with me.)

WHAT BOOK/S WOULD YOU TRAVEL BACK IN TIME AND GIVE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF?

I used to read a lot more widely when I was younger, and books which were by no means appropriate for my age, so I’m tempted to say not much.  But there are some wonderful children’s books which were published after the end of my childhood, which I think I would have enjoyed more back then: most of Diana Wynn Jones, Cornelia Funke, Eva Ibbotson, Neil Gaiman.

WHAT BOOK/S WOULD YOU TRAVEL FORWARD IN TIME AND GIVE TO YOUR OLDER SELF?

ephronWell, I certainly have plenty on my TBR pile to keep me going until I am 120 at the very least, so it would have to be one of those!

At the same time, I can see myself reverting back to the classics and rereading old favourites when I grow old. I will also find comfort no doubt in the essays on ageing, loss, finding some kind of contentment and surviving of more or less feminist writers such as Susan Sontag, Joan Didion, Nora Ephron. And of course, lots of poetry.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK THAT IS SET IN A DIFFERENT TIME PERIOD (CAN BE HISTORICAL OR FUTURISTIC)?

I’ve never been very good at selecting just one or two books when it comes to such questions. Besides, I always think of at least half a dozen even better choices after I’ve given my final answers. So here is a small sample:

Orwell’s 1984 seems futuristic, and probably was at the time it was published, but I’ve lived through a period and in a country which was very, very similar to it, so it is simultaneously historical to me.

And of course it has nothing whatsoever to do with the recent adaptation starring Jim Caviezel...
And of course it has nothing whatsoever to do with the recent adaptation starring Jim Caviezel…

I also loved all of the Alexandre Dumas books when I was a child and played at being the Three/Four Musketeers with my cousins during our endless summer holidays (I was always a fan of Aramis, by the way, and am pleased to see that the recent TV adaptation has him every bit as seductive as I imagined him/myself to be at the time). Nowadays, however, I probably prefer The Count of Monte Cristo.

There are also a small number of books about war which really marked me: Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front and Liviu Rebreanu’s Forest of the Hanged, for non-English perspectives on the First World War; Michio Takeyama’s Harp of Burma and Masuji Ibuse’s Black Rain for the humble ordinary Japanese person’s perspective on World War Two.

Bucharest, Palace Square, from the 1940s. From orasulluibucur.blogspot.ro
Bucharest, Palace Square, from the 1940s. From orasulluibucur.blogspot.ro

Olivia Manning’s The Balkan Trilogy is also about WW2, but from the civilian perspective, showing the whole political, diplomatic and social lead-up to the war. Frightening, because it still feels so relevant today.

I can’t say I loved them, it’s more that they shattered me. I think they should be required reading for all those who decide to go to war with such gung-ho spirit (and I simply cannot believe that Donald Trump selected the Remarque book as one of his favourites).

SPOILER TIME: DO YOU EVER SKIP AHEAD TO THE END OF A BOOK JUST TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS?

I may have done this on occasion… (mumble, mumble, hangs head in shame). But I am quite scrupulous about only reading the last 2-3 paragraphs, so usually I don’t really understand what is going on. That is why I appreciate books which don’t have a major twist or denouement on the very last page.

IF YOU HAD A TIME TURNER, WHERE WOULD YOU GO AND WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

chateauvoltaireI may enjoy reading about the cruelty and backstabbing of medieval European courts, but I wouldn’t want to go live there. I think I might have enjoyed working in the laboratory Madame du Chatelet and Voltaire created together at her chateau in Cirey-sur-Blaise, or else join Voltaire a few years later at his chateau in Ferney and be a much more witty and well-read companion in his old age than his rather frivolous niece Mme Denis.

FAVOURITE BOOK (IF YOU HAVE ONE) THAT INCLUDES TIME TRAVEL OR TAKES PLACE IN MULTIPLE TIME PERIODS?

yankeeFor a while I couldn’t think of any, as I’ve avoided books such as The Time Traveller’s Wife (call me prejudiced, but it feels more like Dr Who episode than a novel I could lose myself in). But then I realised that I do have an old favourite: Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is very funny and clever, and also a scathing satire of American and British society and politics of the late 19th century. Another book which remains hugely relevant still today (sadly) and which deserves to be far better known. I can feel an urge to reread it coming on…

WHAT BOOK/SERIES DO YOU WISH YOU COULD GO BACK AND READ AGAIN FOR THE FIRST TIME?

Probably most of the crime fiction series I like, since once you’ve read them, you can never ‘unknow’ the perpetrator and the plot twists (although in my pre-reviewing days, I have on occasion borrowed a book from the library and wondered why it seemed vaguely familiar, only to discover right at the end that I had in fact read it before). A moment of silence please for the awe-inspiring Martin Beck series.

 

 

5 Days in Provence: A Working Holiday

Karen and Jack’s house in Provence may be a little corner of paradise, but I wasn’t just going to laze around in a night-gown and listen to harp music all day. I had tremendous plans going there: I was going to finish my novel and send it to my mentor for structural edits. But that was based on the flawed assumption I made back in early June that I would have spent a total of 5 weeks on the novel by now. Needless to say, that did not happen between July and October. I wrote precisely zero words since mid-June.

View from the window of my room
View from the window of my room

Having all the time in the world and inspiring landscape galore was not immediately productive, however. I wrote about 1500 words and rewrote a full outline of the novel, filling up any plot holes, but no more than that. Now, I could choose to focus on what I did not achieve, but for once I will focus on the positive.

Lulled to sleep in the evening and woken up in the morning by poetry (Karen has a whole room full of poetry books – 4 bookcases full!), it’s to be expected that I succumbed to my old passion. I read 13 books of poetry during those five days, so it was like bathing in sunlight. Of course, you know what it’s like with poetry collections,  you don’t read them cover to cover,  you find the poems that really resonate with you.

wp_20161027_12_09_30_pro

Here are some which I would love to share with you, all by women poets (although I also read William Stafford and Peter Meinke, I spontaneously picked up women this time):

Let’s start a conversation. Ask me where I’m from.

Where is home, really home. Where my parents were born.

What to do if I sound more like you than you do.

Every word an exhalation, a driving out. (Vahni Capildeo)

I keep finding you in ways I didn’t know I noticed, or knew.
Every road, every sea,
every beach by every sea,
keeps lining up with what you loved.
Here’s a line of silent palm trees.
It’s as if you answered the phone.
(Naomi Shihab Nye)

wp_20161027_12_04_48_pro

I caution you as I was never cautioned:

you will never let go, you will never be satiated.

You will be damaged and scarred, you will continue to hunger.

Your body will age, you will continue to need.

You will want the earth, then more of the earth –

Sublime, indifferent, it is present, it will not respond.

It is encompassing, it will not minister.

Meaning, it will feed you, it will ravish you,

it will not keep you alive. (Louise Gluck)

wp_20161027_12_15_00_pro
I, like a river,
Have been turned aside by this harsh age.
I am a substitute. My life has flowed
Into another channel
And I do not recognise my shores.
O, how many fine sights I have missed,
How many curtains have risen without me
And fallen too…
And how many poems I have not written
Whose secret chorus swirls around my head
And possibly one day
Will stifle me… (Anna Akhmatova)

wp_20161028_13_30_26_pro

This poem is dangerous; it should not be left

Within the reach of children, or even of adults

Who might swallow it whole, with possibly

Undesirable side-effects. If you come across

An unattended, unidentified poem

In a public place, do not attempt to tackle it

Yourself. Send it (preferably in a sealed container)

To the nearest centre of learning, where it will be rendered

Harmless by experts. Even the simplest poem

May destroy your immunity to human emotions.

All poems must carry a Government warning. Words

Can seriously affect your heart. (Elma Mitchell)

The result of this electrolyte bath of poetry? I wrote 25 new poems of my own. All requiring a lot of work still, but more than I’ve written in the 6 months January-June 2016. I will make sure I always have at least one book of poetry on the go at any moment in time.

More Shelving Dilemmas

Having somewhat haphazardly flung my books out of boxes and onto shelves, I discovered I couldn’t find anything anymore. So I’ve tried to rearrange my shelves according to countries and subject matter. Here is what I’ve been able to do so far.

The French Corner. This is a narrow bookcase at the very edge of the room, which has books (some in French, some in translation) by and about French authors or about France (but not the dictionaries or French culture guides, which are housed with the reference books). Unsurprisingly, this section of my library has grown exponentially during my 5 years in that part of the world.

wp_20160909_11_57_15_pro

Non-fiction is relatively modest and housed just below the French section. (But there is an additional overly large academic and business books section, see below.)

wp_20160909_11_57_28_pro

A whole shelf is dedicated to books on the writing craft and literary criticism – and includes the complete diaries of Virginia Woolf (my favourite writing book), while another shelf is all about poetry. Alas, I’ll soon be running out of space on this latter one.

wp_20160909_11_57_44_pro

I’m pretty sure I’ve got more German books stashed away in the loft, but for the time being there is sufficient space on these two shelves to house Scandinavian fiction and Peirene Press as well. [Update: just went up to the loft this morning and can tell you there is no more space to house anything. See the picture below this one.]

wp_20160909_11_57_57_pro

wp_20160911_11_07_53_pro

Japanese literature is housed next to books on Japanese society, culture and religions (which might help you guess what the subject of my Ph.D. was). Once again, I am convinced I have far, far more Japanese books up in the loft (or at my parents’ house in Romania).

wp_20160909_11_58_37_pro

As for Romanian books – I had to set up an additional bit of foldable shelving to do it justice, although I also added some authors loosely categorised as ‘East European’ – Milan Kundera, Ivan Klima, Kieslowski (the film director) and Andrzej Stasiuk. The Russians are on the bottom shelf as well, although I am confident there are more of them lurking up in the attic. Apologies for the darkness of the shot, but light conditions were against me.

wp_20160911_11_07_37_pro

Then we have the mish-mash shelf: Spanish, South American and some non-Japanese Asians.

wp_20160911_11_08_35_pro

 

After setting up all of these shelves beautifully, I then realised that I don’t  have much space left for the English language fiction, which represents by far the greatest proportion of my books. Sigh! I think I may have too many ‘professional’ books. I love my anthropology books, but I may need another office for the more business-like stuff, so that I can leave this one free for creative pursuits.

wp_20160909_11_59_19_pro

There is one more segment of wall against which I could put up additional shelves, but the study will also have to accommodate an armchair-bed for visitors, so I doubt there will be any room left over. If the alternative is no more shelves, then I may have to give visitors my bed and sleep on a mattress in my beloved library.

Or maybe I should copy this brilliant idea of ‘book-hunting’ from Belgium?

In the Spirit of Reunification (of Books)

Yesterday I finally braved the loft again and got down a new set of book boxes. Sadly, quite a few boxes ended up with heavier boxes on top of them during 5 years of storage, so the books are not always in pristine condition. (Fellow booklovers who are equally obsessive about book spines remaining uncreased, corners unturned and therefore hardly ever lending books for fear of damage will understand my dismay!)

Small sample in a dusty bundle...
Small sample in a dusty bundle…
Spread out on the floor...
Spread out on the floor… with a nudge from my bright green slipper

From the English collection: one of the funniest books about anthropologists and one of my favourite Barbara Pym novels; Sylvia Plath’s rite of passage, the Metaphysical poets (which we were not allowed to study at university during Communist times).

From the Austrian collection: the stories of Arthur Schnitzler and Elias Canetti’s first volume of memoirs (given to me as a present by a friend who said it was his favourite book).

From the French collection, a charming coming-of-age story by Colette (perfect summer reading) and a grim childhood memoir by Herve Bazin (required reading in French class, but nevertheless memorable rather than sheer torture).

One of my favourite Romanian poets: Ion Pillat (I don’t think he’s ever been translated) – a lyrical nature-loving poet.

And finally a book that I haven’t read (there aren’t many of those in my loft): Fernando Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet, because I was translating a Romanian writer at the time who kept referring to Pessoa and was writing in his style.

Here are some excerpts from the Japanese collection against a background of bins:

WP_20160905_14_09_12_Pro

Ugetsu Monogatari is one of the lesser-known classical works of 18th century Japanese literature. A collection of spooky stories, it is perhaps better known as a masterpiece of Japanese cinema. The flowery cover is actually the paper wrapping that you automatically get at the time of purchase in Japanese bookshops for all your paperbacks. It covers Banana Yoshimoto’s Tugumi, which I haven’t looked at since I was a student (and probably won’t be able to read anymore). Finally, we were very excited to read Norwegian Wood with our Japanese professor during our student days, but this is the English language translation. And what a beautiful edition it is too, with its two small volumes encased in a golden box.

WP_20160905_14_07_58_Pro

WP_20160905_14_08_04_Pro

Alas, alas, only a small part of the books have descended from the loft and we are already running out of space!

WP_20160905_14_07_01_Pro

 

Why I Am Such a Sloth…

It’s not the move (or, to use corporate terminology, the international relocation). It’s not the scrabbling around trying to find the financial paperwork for discussion at mediation services (and realising you are about 4 years out of date with everything and your pension is worth nothing). It’s not even the lack of internet or frenetic preparation for school, while trying not to show your older son that you are anxious about his lack of confirmed school place.

It’s not even when all of your devices conspire to let you down all at once. Unrepairable. Making you buy new ones or inherit other people’s used ones and resetting everything all at once, on a new system, on a new service provider, in a new language and keyboard. Verification after verification. Forgotten passwords. I could have handled a single phone or a laptop or a tablet, but all three at once! Then discovering you have invested in the wrong new tablet, which does not support Netgalley documents, so more than half of all your ebooks have disappeared.

From Colonels Retreat website.
From Colonels Retreat website.

Let’s add a little bit of extra seasoning to that, shall we?

It’s discovering that your younger son has been a little too eager to construct his Ikea furniture and has done it the wrong way (and now those screws can’t be taken out without causing damage). It’s finding that your walls are not receptive to ordinary nails, but require power tools so you can’t hang anything up. It’s having your parents (mercifully at a distance) blaming you for other people’s unhappiness (past, present and future) but pshawing and downplaying your own. It’s waking up every morning with backache and worrying if you will be strong enough to guide the children through the heart-breaking months to follow. It’s searching for jobs online and realising that the ones you like don’t pay enough for you to live on, while the ones you don’t like require you to travel excessively and/or make people redundant. (Think George Clooney in ‘Up in the Air’) It’s having your soon-to-be ex-husband coming to visit for a long weekend and being laid up in bed with a bad back for the entire time (when I was hoping he could help me bring some things down from the loft).

In short, it’s waking up to cumulative and repetitive reality.

From Huffington Post.
From Huffington Post.

Luckily, I’ve now found another old tablet (long may it last!) and have solved my Netgalley problem, so at least I can have my daily dose of reading escapism.

On Monday, school starts. And hopefully, so will my writing. Now we’re cooking!