Posts Tagged ‘reading the world’

Back on the Books

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

I didn’t sleep much over the summer. As anyone who follows me on Twitter knows, I spent lots of the night tweeting, and ended up getting in a state every time I tried to go to bed. I also stopped reading. For the first time, ever, I didn’t have a couple of books on the go and an imaginary cast hanging around in my head.

I need books like I need air. Like I need water, and food, and human contact.

Tasting Life

Friday, June 4th, 2010

“Friday I tasted life. It was a vast morsel. A circus passed the house – still I feel the red in my mind though the drums are out. The lawn is full of south and the odors tangle, and I hear to-day for the first time the river in the tree”.

Emily Dickinson, from a letter to Mrs J.G. Holland, May 1866.

I wanted to find a snappy quote for Friday, but I fell over this.

Make of it, what you will: Emily Dickinson defies intepretation, and I have resisted the temptation to google her words into meaning.

She might be referring to food – which opens up the whole idea of exploring the tastes and is a lesson, for me, in itself…

Or she might be talking about life, in which case, I concur.

It is, indeed, a “vast morsel”.

We Are All Made Of Glue

Monday, May 17th, 2010

After my three missing Murakami months, my latest literary voyage has been a little lighter and far more full of froth.

Figuring that I deserved a break – after such a marathon – I was delighted to find (!) the latest Marina Lewycka on my shelf, and decided that a touch of humour and a very attractive front cover exactly met my need.

Quotes, Coincidences, and Wonderful Words…

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

I love quotes. There is something immensely satisfying in the encapsulation of a thought in a few cleverly chosen words; in the sudden click of recognising an emotion – or snatching an insight – which helps me to work out where I am.

Like an unexpected reflection, quotes seem to be a way of knowing ourselves – through hearing another – and reaffirming what we do (or don’t) believe. They are a reminder – when I instinctively presume that “no one else feels like me” – that, actually, we quite often feel the same.

And have for years.

The Wind Up Bird Chronicle

Monday, April 12th, 2010

I have just finished reading Murakami’s ‘The Wind Up Bird Chronicle’.

It has taken me over three months to reach the final page, smashing any contenders for the ‘longest read ever’ title.

In most cases, I would have given up weeks ago; however, bought on the back of a respected recommendation, and prompted by a timely post asking at what point a book should be abandoned, I realised that this wasn’t the kind of novel I could shrug my shoulders and walk away from – and refocused my efforts in a dash for the end.

I am not sure what to make of it.

I have an English literature degree. One of the few things that I should feel on safe grounds with is analysing texts –

But with this novel, I’m surprisingly stumped; and resisting all urges to google its meaning and squish it into a nice, neat storyline and generic box.

Waiting for Godot

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Waiting for Godot screws with your mind. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The situation’s mad and the meaning’s elusive, but the resonances are crystal clear and razor sharp.

This afternoon’s performance at the Haymarket made me cry, which is not something I thought Matthew Kelly (of all people) would ever achieve. It reached somewhere I don’t think I accessed when I was studying the text; and touched a nerve that has only tingled in all the interim readings, of which there’ve been quite a few –

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Now that I’ve finally discovered Maggie O’Farrell, I’ve been scouring the bookshops for more of her stuff, and ‘The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox’ was my latest purchase.

It didn’t disappoint.

Whilst the story (the piecing together of why Iris Lockhart’s previously unknown great aunt has been locked away in a psychiatric unit for 60 years) got me curious, Maggie O’Farrell’s style has me hooked –

after you’d gone

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

‘after you’d gone’ made me cry.


This is a rare feat for an author. It might well be a first and, it’s definitely a sign of Maggie O’Farrell’s word wizardry: she hasn’t just created characters, she’s managed to create emotions as well.

Reading the World

Monday, December 21st, 2009

I won’t be surprised if you miss the link between book reviews and finding your identity; it’s not that obvious. I’ll admit that I’m being a tad indulgent here – but then books and literature are a big bit of me.

And they’ve helped me work out who I am.

A good book is a gateway to another way of being, it’s a way of exploring and travelling and seeing. It gets you in to different ways of thinking.

A good character can tell you heaps about yourself, can test your emotions and responses, challenge your perceptions and assumptions. It helps work out who you are.

A good author can say the things that you can’t put in to words, can articulate the things you’ve thought and felt. It helps to see that you’re not unique.

A good read makes it all better.

These are shamelessly off topic, but here are some of my book reviews!

This Book Will Save Your Life

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

There’s nothing more satisfying when you’re reading then the sudden clarity of a ‘that’s exactly what I think’ or ‘that’s exactly how I feel’ moment.

Seeing yourself in someone – or something – else is like a big breath of relief: suddenly, it all makes sense or answers the question that you hadn’t quite realised you were asking.

Some books do it through the characters and the events; others, Aesop-fable-like, through the story; and, some, just give it to you on a plate.

‘This book will save your life’ fits into the latter.

The Pesthouse

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

A regressive future is far more ominous than a progressive one. There is something distinctly unnatural about evolution undoing itself; something horribly unsettling in the inference that we’re going in a direction that needs to be undone –

The Pesthouse heightens the discomfort.

Even though it’s wonderfully written.

And even though it’s full of love.

Talking to the Dead

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

It has been years since I last read a book in a day.

I thought that the voracious page after page consumption of a novel was a pleasure that you reluctantly said goodbye to when life got serious and camomile tea became the nightcap of choice.

‘Talking to the Dead’ proved me wrong. I had forgotten what an outstanding author Helen Dunmore is. The elastic band taut tension and the palpable desire shoots right off the page and into the reader; it pulses through the language and the actions and the characters, so that you can’t resist the suspense and you can’t stop turning the pages and you tumble, word over word over word –

The White Tiger

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

I said goodbye to The White Tiger last night. He’s been talking to me when I’ve been drifting to sleep over the past few weeks.

I had become the audience that Balram’s (aka The White Tiger) addressing. It’s the sign of a clever narrative. In the absence of the intended listener, His Excellency Wen Jiabao, I’ve been taken into his confidence and held in the relished suspense. I’ve become accustomed to his voice – because it jumps
straight out of the page.

Aravind Adiga’s novel is possibly not the best night time reading because it revs you right up again. It takes you into the hustle and bustle of Bangalore – and the words are audible: you can hear Balram in your head.

The Book Thief

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

The Book Thief. Satisfying on so many levels. I tend to read things quickly but I luxuriated in every delicately picked and carefully placed word. The text sings. It’s a delight to read.

Even though the subject is horrific and the narrator is death.



Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Middlesex. Not the place. The book. It’s got inside me – like the best books can. A little late possibly, given that publication / Richard and Judy recognition occurred a few years ago – but I got there in the end. And it was well worth the wait.