Well there are now over 300 of you that have clicked the follow button and thereby validated me in some tiny little way (sometimes it feels like quite a big way), and I can’t help but feel like I’m letting you down with my extended silences between posts.
Unfortunately, this is the price I have had to pay in order to balance all the other things in my life and maintain some semblance of control. In addition to my dissertation (which I’m sure you’re all utterly sick of hearing about by now), I also have another essay for a different module, am running all the NaNoWriMo events for this area (no, I’m not so stupid as to be actually taking part, it’s just that Inklight is in charge of them and erm, I’m in charge of Inklight), singing in a university choir concert thing, and trying to not succumb to madness by doing normal things like hanging out with my friends, and eating, and laundry.
My point is that until I finally hand in my dissertation on the 29th of November, Rosa Reads is officially on hiatus. Real life trumps virtual life once again.
[This wasn’t a funny post, so here’s a joke: Charles Dickens walks into a bar and asks for a martini. The barman says “sure, olive or twist?”]#books #reading #lit #literature #Charles Dickens #book blog #university #student #student life #dissertation #NaNoWriMo
#poetry #Frank O'Hara #lit #Morning #poem #reading #literature
“I’m twenty-two. It’s nearly the end of October. Life is thoroughly pleasant, although unfortunately there are a great number of fools about.”
- I had one chance in my lifetime to identify thoroughly and wholly with this bit of Jacob’s Room, and goddamnit, I took it.
Actually Frank, this is anything but melancholy.
“My childhood is wave upon wave upon wave of misery. For those around me. Manchester unpleasing wheezing incomplete concrete. Naturally, my birth almost kills my mother, for my head is too big, full of words words words birds turds. My lineage stretches back to Ovid who grew up being diffy near the Liffey, before moving near to the Wirral to save the squirrel. From being eaten.”
Book Blog Backlog Logbook #2
As long-suffering readers of this blog will know, I make notes on books at the time I read them, and then six months down the line when it comes to making a review post about them, I look in my notebook and find (thirty pages back) some useful scribbles. Sometimes these take the form of full-on reviews, which I transfer into post format and we all get on with our lives. Other times there’s the title of the book, the author and…a blank fucking page.
Thanks, past Rosa. You useless worm.
Anyway, the point of this is that the following three books would normally have been awarded full reviews, rather than being consigned to Backlog Logbook neglect. They deserve full reviews. Unfortunately past Rosa decided to deprive them of this glory and here we all are. Alright, let’s get on with it.
Bring Up The Bodies - Hilary Mantel
Hilary Mantel absolutely and completely deserves the acclaim she gets from both the literary establishment and mainstream consumers. Her talent in rendering the past at once painstakingly accurate and engagingly tangible is unbeaten, and her Cromwell is just fascinating. I can’t recommend these books more (start with Wolf Hall, then read this one). I’m also currently reading A Place of Greater Safety because I was getting Mantel Withdrawal Syndrome (in which you are utterly convinced you live in the murky depths of the past and never refer to yourself except in the construction [second person singular pronoun], [name]: i.e. “she, Rosa” or “he, Cromwell”).
The Thing Around Your Neck - Chiamanda Ngozi Adichie
After watching her incredible TED talk, there was no way I wasn’t going to read some of Adichie’s work. And this collection of short stories did not let me down at all. I can’t stress enough what a wonderful storyteller Adichie is, how much compact complexity she manages to get into her characters in such little time, how good an eye she has for atmospheric detail. Read this book, guys. Read this book.
White Teeth - Zadie Smith
I wish I liked this book more than I did, because it was my first foray into Zadie Smith and it didn’t leave me wanting more. I am very much aware that I will love many of her other books, I just wish I hadn’t started with this one. Ah well, writers can’t be perfect all the time. And as far as I can tell, Smith spends a lot of her time being perfect.#backlog logbook #Hilary Mantel #Bring Up The Bodies #The Thing Around Your Neck #Chiamanda Ngozi Adichie #Zadie Smith #White Teeth #books #reading #lit #literature #review #book review #Wolf Hall #A Place of Greater Safety #TED talks
In case anyone was wondering
just precisely how invested I am in my dissertation, here’s a story that might set your troubled minds at ease.
I am currently reading Marjorie Perloff’s seminal work on Frank O’Hara, Poet Among Painters, and got to an account of his death (tragic accident on Fire Island in 1966, age 40), which included the following sentence:
Upon reading this, I promptly burst into tears.
So yes, I’m pretty invested. Jesus, Frank, you’re killin’ me.#Frank O'Hara #Marjorie Perloff #currently reading #books #poetry #reading #lit #literature #dissertation #university #poet #Poet Among Painters
I went to London in July, and spent a long time in my favourite part of the capital, Southbank. A good chunk of it was spent trawling through the catalogue at the Saison Poetry Library, noting down books for a dissertation topic that ended up being way too ambitious, but I also went to the Tate Modern, which is probably the gallery I love most. This is less for its content and more for the Turbine Hall, which is just a space I mysteriously adore being in, whether there’s a piece in it or not.
And as part of the Meschac Gaba exhibition there were these incredible burnt book chandeliers that I thought y’all might be interested in. That’s really all. This has been a post.
The Feet Man
#Philip Dacey #poetry #The Feet Man #lit
Rosa reads (out loud and in public and everything)
Back in Leeds for a couple of days to hang out with my dog and my friend Bella, and - on a subsidiary level - to do a reading at the Leeds Waterstones to promote that anthology I was included in.
Really I should be using this bit of downtime (during which I don’t have to feed myself, or do laundry, or wash dishes, or all the other things that take over my everyday life by being things that you have to do simply in order to continue living) to get stuck in to a solid chunk of dissertaton research, or at least prepare for tonight’s reading. But naturally I am spending it watching Homeland and eating free food and hanging out with aforementioned dog and friend.
Right, I should probably at least go and pick some goddamn poems to read. Come on, Rosa, get it together.#LS13 #Leeds #Waterstones #poetry #poetry reading #Valley Press #Dead Ink #Inpress #Wes Brown #Homeland #Yorkshire
13 “Top 100 Books” lists combined and condensed into one master list. Awwww yeeeeah.
This was what the end of summer looked like for me. Sitting on my front step in St Andrews, mid-September, with a mild case of Freshers Flu and a hefty book, desperately trying to soak up the last of the sunshine. And also desperately trying to finish A Place of Greater Safety before I had to give it up in favour of dissertation books and required reading (I did not succeed).
I’ve now recovered from the brief bout of change-in-the-season yuckiness, the heating has been put on in the house, I’ve taken out every book on Frank O’Hara stocked in the St A library, and on Sunday I read Jacob’s Room in the windy, windy park, automatically angled to the patch of sky where the sun was pathetically attempting to come out from behind the clouds.
Review: A Summer of Drowning
Given to me by my dear friend Holly, who this blog may as well just be about according to the number of times I’ve mentioned her recently, A Summer of Drowning is a novel by John Burnside, who just so happens to teach in the English department here in St Andrews. (Oh dear, apparently sucking up to my lecturers is the other thing this blog should just give up and be about.)
I think one of the other reasons Hol thought this book would be a good gift for me is that it’s set in Norway, a place that has become so representative of beauty and adventure for me that every now and again I find myself getting homesick for it. Homesick. For a place I’ve never lived. And only visited twice. Nostalgia’s a weird thing, you guys.
Set on a remote island in the Arctic Circle, A Summer of Drowning doesn’t really represent my experience of Scandinavia - but then again, I’ve never been that far North. Maybe up there teenagers do go mysteriously missing. Maybe mothers do have warped relationships with their daughters. Maybe huldra really do hang out, seducing people to their dooms like demonic Nordic mermaids. Probably.
Despite the pervading air of strangeness, however, the novel feels very much embedded in reality. The characters feel tangible and true-to-life, and even the magical, supernatural happenings seem part of the natural order of things - only as alien as cultural practices we’ve heard of but never witnessed, or animals we know exist without ever having seen. In other words, a sense that anything could happen that close to the tip of the earth.
Burnside’s writing is evocative and lovely (the result of being an award-winning poet, no doubt), but he does tend to overuse certain phrases and constructions*. This is perhaps deliberate, a device intended to produce an effect similar to the “gloaming” atmosphere that permeates the novel, but I found them tedious after a while. And yes, yes it feels wonderful to be able to criticise someone who would usually be grading me.
Final Word: A peculiar, but engaging read. I’d probably give him a 2:1 and a nice bit of feedback.
*You may notice that I have not provided any examples. This is because I read this book last December and in my notes have not actually written down anything more precise. Sozzles.#A Summer of Drownng #John Burnside #books #review #reading #lit #literature #book review #Norway #st andrews