Monday, October 15, 2012

The right deep swimming in a book

Here the lane grew so narrow that they were obliged to walk in file, Jack, Stephen, Lalla and the goat, and conversation languished. When at length they reached plough on the right hand and open pasture on the left Stephen said, 'One of the advantages of life at sea, for men of our condition, is freedom of speech. In the cabin or on the balcony behind, we can say what we wish, when we wish. And if you come to reflect, this is a very rare state of affairs in ordinary circumstances, by land. There are almost always reasons for discretion -- servants, loved ones, visitors, innocent but receptive ears or the possibility of their presence. In much the same way good sullen reading is rare in a house, unless one is blessed with an impregnable and soundproof room of one's own: interruptions, restless unnecessary movements, doors opening and closing, apologies, even whisperings, god forbid, and meal-times. For the right deep swimming in a book, give me the sea: I read Josephus through between Freetown and the Fastnet rock last voyage: the howling of the mariners, the motion of the sea and the elements (except perhaps in their utmost extremity) are nothing, compared with domestic incursions. Since then, mere newspapers, gazettes, periodical publications, all light frothy fare apart from the Proceedings, have imperceptibly drunk the whole of my time and energy. Now, Jack, pray tell me about this Admiral Lord Stranraer, whom you have mentioned so often.'

--Patrick O'Brian, The Yellow Admiral

I was unaware of that second definition of sullen used by Stephen; I like it. I need more good sullen reading in my own life.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Two months' worth of reading

I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up the reading pace I had going in June and July. But still, even if my tempo slows a wee bit more, I'm on track to finish 100 books this year if I manage but five books a month. Although it doesn't matter, I really like it when I manage to break into three digits in my reading. I also know my low three digits are put to shame by many of you, so I like it even more than reading isn't a competitive sport.



Sarah Canary. Karen Joy Fowler. I pulled this one from the shelf when Teresa and Jenny decided to focus on science fiction and fantasy for the month. It's a novel that can be read as a first encounter novel or literary historical fiction. I need to read more Fowler.

The Winds of Heaven. Monica Dickens. My entry into the world of Monica Dickens. It won't be my last; I've downloaded samples from several to help me decide which I want to read next. A widow without a financial cushion is forced to divide her time among daughters who don't want her.

To the North. Elizabeth Bowen. I came to this via Frisbee's delightful post. I didn't read it as carefully as I should have (Wendy was coming to visit and I had to clean) and I can definitely see myself rereading it.

Treasure Island!!! Sara Levine. All the cool kids at Book Balloon were reading this. I attempted to buy it at B&N, but I couldn't remember the author, and I got the distinct impression from the woman who attempted to locate it in the system for me that all my talk of exclamation points and the book not being by Robert Louis Stevenson simply led her to believe I was insane. There's a section that was terribly hard for me, as a former owner of parrots, to endure, but otherwise I enjoyed reading about this awful, awful character who becomes fixated on Treasure Island.

Cloud Atlas. David Mitchell. A reread; my suggestion for real life book club. Only three of us read it; the rest bailed quickly, although one did manage to read the Luisa Rey sections when I suggested she just focus on any storyline that caught her interest. Of the other two who read it, one loved it and the other I'm in awe of, because she read it on sleepless nights after undergoing chemo. It took me a bit longer to get into the story this time than it did back in 2004, but once I engaged, I loved it as much as the first time. So now that Cloud Atlas has held up to a second reading, it's secured a spot on my Lifetime Favorites List.

More Baths Less Talking. Nick Hornby. Oh, how I wish more bloggers would model themselves on Hornby's columns instead of serving as publicists' willing accomplices!


The Gooseboy. A.L. Barker. After learning that Rebecca West held her in high regard, I started collecting A.L. Barkers. I've been slow to read them, though, and I've been saving the ones West expressively praised-- A Heavy Feather, The Middling -- for last. The Gooseboy won the 1988 Macmillan Silver Pen Award and was republished as a Virago Modern Classic in 1999. I think anyone who's enjoyed Ivy Compton-Burnett would get along well with Barker.

Too Many Magpies. Elizabeth Baines. I've had this on hand for a couple years and decided it would provide me with the quick breather from Red Mars (see next item). The main character drove me nuts for the first half of the book, although of course I liked the writing or I'd never have finished it.

Red Mars. Kim Stanley Robinson. I'd downloaded a free copy of this a few years back and was inspired to begin reading it by all the news regarding Curiosity. Can't remember if I started it before or after the Bowen, but obviously, I needed to read other books while making my way through it. Wonderful world building, interesting characters, but it just went on and on.

April Witch. Majgull Axelsson. Loved it. It deserves its own post. One of my favorites for the year.

2312. Kim Stanley Robinson. It felt like cheating to read this before continuing on with the Mars series, but I have been craving up-to-the-minute hard science fiction this year, so cheat I did. It took a couple weeks to get through, much less time than Red Mars, but I wasn't reading anything else on the side, so I hated myself every time I put it down after just a few pages. Again, wonderful world building, much more fantastical this time around, but I was less invested in the characters, except for wanting to periodically slap the main one.

A Touch of Mistletoe. Barbara Comyns. My third Comyns. Provided an unexpected look at the treatment of schizophrenia in the late 1920s-early 1930s and attitudes toward and method of obtaining an abortion. More Comyns, please!

A bang, not a whimper

  Two months into L.'s retirement, and I'm finished with the stockpiling of books. No more book purchases! Or at least, no purcha...