Living in the Pleasure of Anticipation: Reading Plans for Autumn/Winter

One of my favourite bookish Twitter people Alok Ranjan said: ‘Sometimes just the anticipation of books to come is even more pleasing than the actual reading of them’. And in times of uncertainty, with no doubt a tough autumn and winter ahead, you take your small pleasures where you can. So I’ve been spending a few joyful hours luxuriating in planning my reading and joining in with some like-minded online friends.

October

There are two reading challenges in October that I cannot resist. First, Paper Pills is planning a group read of Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Gate of Angels starting on the 1st of October, which got me looking through my shelves for other Fitzgerald books, so I’ll also be attempting her short story collection The Means of Escape and rereading The Bookshop and The Blue Flower.

Secondly, the week of 5-11 October is also the #1956Club organised by Simon Thomas and Karen aka Kaggsy. I have bought books in anticipation of that year and will be reading: Romain Gary’s Les racines du ciel, plus two books I remember fondly from my childhood Little Old Mrs Pepperpot by Alf Pryosen and The Silver Sword by Ian Seraillier. If I have time after all of the above, I may also attempt Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz, but might not make it in time for the 1956 week, lucky if I squeeze it in before the end of October.

November

It’s been quite a few years now that November has been equivalent with German Literature Month for me, so this year will be no different. I’m in the mood for rereading Kafka’s Das Schloss (especially since my son recently read The Trial and I didn’t have my German language edition to read it in parallel with him). I was so enamoured of Marlen Haushofer that I will read another of her novels, a very short one this time Die Tapetentür (which I’ve seen translated as The Jib Door, an English expression I am unfamiliar with). I can’t stay away from Berlin, so I’ll be reading Gabriele Tergit’s Käsebier erobert den Kurfürstendamm (Käsebier takes Berlin). I’m also planning to read a book of essays about Vienna and its very dualistic nature: Joachim Riedl’s Das Geniale. Das Gemeine (Genius and Filth/Rottenness) and another non-fiction book, a sort of memoir of studying in England by Nele Pollatscheck entitled Dear Oxbridge (it’s in German, despite the title).

Since taking the picture above, I’ve also decided to reread the book I borrowed from my university library just before lockdown in March, namely Remarque’s Nothing New on the Western Front.

December

Alok is once again to blame for his persuasive skills, as he’s managed to convince a group of us, including Chekhov obsessive Yelena Furman to read Sakhalin Island in December. Of course, winter seems to lend itself to lengthy Russians, so I’ll also be attempting The Brothers Karamazov (my fifth attempt, despite the fact that I am a huge Dostoevsky fan, so fingers crossed!). If I have any brain or time left over at all after these two massive adventures, I’d also like to read the memoir of living with Dostoevsky written by his wife and the memoir about Marina Tsvetaeva written by her daughter.

I also have a rather nice bilingual edition of Eugene Onegin by Pushkin from Alma Press, so I might put that into the mix as well, let’s see how it goes.

January

Meredith, another Twitter friend, has been organising January in Japan reading events for years now, and I always try to get at least 1-2 books in. This coming January I might focus exclusively on Japanese authors or books about Japan, as I have a lot of newly bought ones that are crying out loud for a read.I have a new translation of Dazai Osamu’s Ningen Shikkaku (A Shameful Life instead of No Longer Human) by Mark Gibeau, I’d also like to read more by Tsushima Yuko (who, coincidentally was Dazai Osamu’s daughter), the short story collection The Shooting Gallery. Inspired by Kawakami Mieko (who mentioned her name as one of the writers who most influenced her), I will be reading In the Shade of the Spring Leaves, a biography of Highuchi Ichiyo which also contains nine of her best short stories. Last but not least, I’m planning to read about Yosano Akiko (one of my favourite Japanese poets) and her lifelong obsession with The Tale of Genji, an academic study written by G. G. Rowley and published by the Center for Japanese Studies at the University of Michigan. (Once upon a time, I dreamt of studying there for my Ph.D.)

Saving the best for last, I have a beautiful volume of The Passenger: Japan edition, which is something like a hybrid between a magazine and a book, focusing on writing and photography from a different country with each issue. While I’d have liked more essays by Japanese writers themselves (there are only 3 Japanese writers among the 11 long-form pieces represented  here), there is nevertheless much to admire here.

Ambitious plans for the next few months, but they feel right after a month or so of aimless meandering in my reading. Let’s just hope the weather, i.e. news, outside isn’t too frightful!

Friday Fun: Winter Is Coming – Cosy Chalet Time!

Nothing beats a cosy chalet at the foot of the ski pistes, with an open fireplace, good food, old friends and excellent books to surround you! The snow is not quite enough for skiing yet, the chalet remains to be booked (or paid for) but I do feel I have friends and books, so thank you all so much.

A photo shoot by photographer Andrew Borthwick of Chalet Solaise in Villars, Switzerland. Suisse Art of Bespoke website.
A photo shoot by photographer Andrew Borthwick of Chalet Solaise in Villars, Switzerland. Suisse Art of Bespoke website.
It's always about the views! From chaletstyle.com
It’s always about the views! From chaletstyle.com
For lovers of traditional, wood-heavy decor. From digsdigschalet.com
For lovers of traditional, wood-heavy decor. From digsdigschalet.com
A more modern take on wooden interiors. From Decoist.com
A more modern take on wooden interiors. From Decoist.com
Chalet in Courchevel. Can be yours for a week for an exorbitant price, from ultimateluxurychalets.com
Chalet in Courchevel. Can be yours for a week for an exorbitant price, from ultimateluxurychalets.com
Or you could rent this one facing Mont Blanc, from homedit.com
Or you could rent this one facing Mont Blanc, from homedit.com
I am captivated by the central stove in this one, also for rent. From ultimateluxurychalets.com
I am captivated by the central stove in this one, also for rent. From ultimateluxurychalets.com
Or what about this chalet in Aspen? Featured in Architectural Digest.
Or what about this chalet in Aspen? Featured in Architectural Digest.

 

 

Snowed Under

PoeticsSnowedInMantle’s too obvious

and blanket reeks of cheap vodka and sweat stains.

Sheet refers to black ice, the treachery of slipping.

So what word should I use

for wintry timing of our springs?

Each fresh puff of indignation

frays the quilt that dampens ardour.

This cloak and dagger business

has quenched my refrain far too long.

Are there shoots beneath the freezing?

Stones left unsplit from jaw-biting cold?

One thing I do know:

it’s not a comforter.

 

Join us for some wintry poetry – as literal or as metaphorical as you like – at dVerse Poets Pub tonight!

 

 

A Few of My Favourite Things

Now for something completely different at the weekend. Here are a few of my Favourite Things (in the John Coltrane version):

snowboarding-skiing-moutain-snowThe mountains in winter…

www.freshome.com
http://www.freshome.com

New ways to store books, while having them close to hand…

Chiffonier Labarere
Chiffonier Labarere, westwing.fr

Quirky furniture…

Flowering BushThe eternal promise of summer (with a glimpse of my favourite little car behind it)…

Ice Caves Spooky ice caves…

Stretching Cat

Sleeping cat

And a certain very agile cat, whose beauty I haven’t quite learnt how to capture yet…

Holiday Haikus

Snowy landscapeSilver mother-tongue:

winter nights are still too short

to share you with friends.

 

If you must pass too:

let the murmur of the snow

be your only guide.

 

Our Falcon-hut

hugs its icy green mantle

closer to its heart.

 

Shrill squawks of delight

our boys, your boys: who can tell?

Bundled-up snowmen.

 

If laughter ceases,

what is left? Bring more mulled wine!

Games room rings with us.

 

Inside the prison,

outside of the storm,

I am laughing.

 

Fun at Ski School: 5 Sentence Fiction Challenge

Not fictional enough, but a story that haunts me still…

‘Not more snow!’ moaned the littlest bear.
We moved to this snow-filled country for Daddy’s work: Mummy loves the winter sports, your brother the food. But you, the smallest and most curious of bears, the one who makes friends as easily as others make mistakes, you the smiley human bouncing-ball, you hate the cold and the white stuff.

Drunk and dizzied by the gleam of the sun on the slopes, I strap on your boots and nudge you into ski school. You nurse your frozen paws, slide miserably through puerile hoops, and ask yourself: ‘Why?’

Winter Haikus

Winter Pass

Soft swish then silence

No traffic out my window-

Snow has come at last.

 

Steady trickled drip.

Drainpipe thick with icy coat.

Downward flash of mouse.

 

Frozen carrot nose,

Twigs in perfect puffy spheres.

Ours is best of all.

 

Lego bricks scatter.

Damp circle in flattened grass,

Where proud snowman stood.

 

Spit out weak coffee,

Collar up, I venture out

in the toothache cold.

 

With enormous thanks to Quirina, who reawakened me to the possibilities of the haiku.