My mother is Chair of Governors at a local primary school, and also runs their library. She asked me to come and help out a couple of days ago, processing donated books.
I, er, may have made a few calculated defacements.

My mother is Chair of Governors at a local primary school, and also runs their library. She asked me to come and help out a couple of days ago, processing donated books.

I, er, may have made a few calculated defacements.

“I have not read most of the big 19th—century novels that people consider “essential,” nor most of the 20th-century ones for that matter. But this does not embarrass me. There are many films to see, many friends to visit, many walks to take, many playlists to assemble and many favorite books to reread. Life’s too short for anxious score-keeping. Also, my grandmother is illiterate, and she’s one of the best people I know. Reading is a deep personal consolation for me, but other things console, too.”

- Teju Cole in response to the question, “What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?”

(via agnesfieldforest-deactivated201)

Here are two things you may care about:
  1. The Man Booker longlist has been announced. The Guardian did a nice little ‘In Pictures’ guide to it. I haven’t read any of them, but am interested in We Are All Completely Beside OurselvesThe Lives of Others and Orfeo. I don’t know what the hell a David Nicholls book is doing on there.
  2. To celebrate the relaunch of their website, The New Yorker has made parts of their archive available online for free, all summer. They’re releasing weekly ‘Collections’ of pieces, so that’s fun. They’ve already released a Collection of love stories, which is obviously wank, but hopefully less rubbish themes will be up next.
Ways to guarantee I’ll read a book: name a character Rosa.

(Two of the last three books I’ve read have featured Rosas - Halldór Laxness’ Independent People and Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. Arthur Conan Doyle failed to take my advice.)

Ways to guarantee I’ll read a book: name a character Rosa.

(Two of the last three books I’ve read have featured Rosas - Halldór Laxness’ Independent People and Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. Arthur Conan Doyle failed to take my advice.)

“The bed we loved in was a spinning world
of forests, castles, torchlight, clifftops, seas
where we would dive for pearls. My lover’s words
were shooting stars which fell to earth as kisses
on these lips; my body now a softer rhyme
to his, now echo, assonance; his touch
a verb dancing in the centre of a noun.
Some nights, I dreamed he’d written me, the bed
a page beneath his writer’s hands. Romance
and drama played by touch, by scent, by taste.
In the other bed, the best, our guests dozed on,
dribbling their prose. My living laughing love -
I hold him in the casket of my widow’s head
as he held me upon that next best bed.”

Anne Hathaway
by Carol Ann Duffy from The World’s Wife (via blackandwhitecomplications)

(Mini) Review: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

This is perhaps a little review, but then again it’s a very little book. In some ways.

I’ve always been sceptical about reading this book because I have a (perhaps irrational) prejudice against writers with the name Muriel (which I took out on Muriel Barbery, too). It just comes across as a silly, flimsy name belonging to Mills & Boon authors - and frankly ‘Spark’ did little to elevate her. Nor, for that matter, did the title of the novel. In other words, I’m a ridiculous snob. However, there is a young man whom I trust in matters of literary endeavour, and he recommended this book, so I overcame my (clearly deep-seated, quite possibly neurotic) issues about Muriels, and gave it a go.

image

Naturally, I was pleasantly surprised. Despite setting itself up in the vein of a 1940s boarding school novel (and lord knows I’ve read enough of those to last a lifetime) (just kidding, never enough), Prime slowly unravels this image, revealing a deftly constructed set of character portraits. Spark balances levity with a pinch of darkness, and saves poignancy from sentimentality with a dash of cold authorial detachment.

Final Word: Don’t be fooled, this book is not as slight as it seems.

T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats was my favourite poetry collection before I knew what poetry was or what kind of person having a favourite poetry collection made me (a dickhead).

Anyway, I enjoyed this reading of ’Macavity the Mystery Cat’ by some mad old man. You potentially will too.

Excuses, Updates

So, as the eagle-eyed among you will have noticed, I have been entirely absent from the blogosphere for just under a month. Oops. But I have excuses! Excuses that I will force upon you whether you are interested or not.

Firstly, I went to Norway, as detailed here. This is the time at which Rosa Reads went silent, so you would be forgiven for thinking some sort of terrible fjord-based accident had befallen me. Thankfully not the case; I had an excellent time and then returned to St Andrews, where I promptly proceeded to do nothing of note for about two weeks (a continuation of the Golden Days).

And then I graduated. Yep, the Rosa Reads era of St Andrews-based blogging is over. I got my degree (“Master of Arts with Honours of the First Class in English” for those of you with a desire for details), took a lot of photos, went to grad ball, took a lot more photos, and then had to say goodbye not only to the town I’ve called home for four years, but also to the people who made it a home.

Upon returning to my parents’ house in Leeds, I immediately flew to Iceland for ten days. Which leaves us here, with my long-awaited return to blogging.

In book terms, the past month has boiled down to the following:

  1. A Harry Potter reread (partly to get me through exams, partly as psychological preparation for leaving St A)
  2. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath (ostensibly a strange choice, but still about someone trying to work out what to do with their life)
  3. A Death in the Family - Karl Ove Knausgård (in Norway, naturally)
  4. The Graduate - Charles Webb (my second time reading it, but an obvious choice for “first book to read after graduating”)
  5. Independent People - Halldór Laxness (Icelandic author, in Iceland)

And a final update: although for the summer I’ll be blogging from Leeds, come September the Rosa Reads operation will be moving our HQ to Dublin, where I’ll be starting my M.Phil in Literatures of the Americas. Postgraduate life beckons, as does extortionate Guiness. Fun!

Fitzgerald and Joyce’s first meeting

literarylust:

An interesting post over at Daybook: ‘On this day in 1928 Sylvia Beach hosted a dinner party so that F. Scott Fitzgerald, who “worshipped James Joyce, but was afraid to approach him,” might do so. In her Shakespeare and Company memoir Beach delicately avoids describing what happened, although she perhaps suggests an explanation: “Poor Scott was earning so much from his books that he and Zelda had to drink a great deal of champagne in Montmartre in an effort to get rid of it.” According to Herbert Gorman, another guest and Joyce’s first biographer, Fitzgerald sank down on one knee before Joyce, kissed his hand, and declared: “How does it feel to be a great genius, Sir? I am so excited at seeing you, Sir, that I could weep.”’

Incredible.

(Source: apieceofmonologue.com, via literarylust-deactivated2013093)

Tomorrow evening my all-time favourite buddies and I pack up our bags and head to Norway for a pre-graduation jolly. For six days we plan to do nothing but eat and drink and soak up each other’s company for what may well be one of the last times - or at least with us all together.
We’re going back to Tjøme, where I spent time both in the summer of 2012 and the summer of 2011, and where there is little to do other than the occasional dip in the fjørd and lots and lots of reading. Mine is, naturally, themed: all Norwegian writers!
First off is the first part of Karl Ove Knausgård’s autobiographical epic My Struggle, recommended to me by my friend’s mother, who I think was very concerned that I hadn’t read anything by a Norwegian. Then we have Erlend Loe’s Doppler, which seems little and lighthearted enough to offset Knausgård. And finally Beatles by Lars Saabye Christensen, which I am led to believe is less about the Beatles and more of a coming-of-age sorta deal.
As you might have noticed, all these books are relatively recent. this is partly because I’m choosing to ignore Norway’s long literary heritage (i.e. Ibsen), and partly because the only earlier book I ordered (Knut Hamsun’s Hunger) arrived with a cover and format so ugly and unwieldy that I can’t bring myself to read it. Womp.

Tomorrow evening my all-time favourite buddies and I pack up our bags and head to Norway for a pre-graduation jolly. For six days we plan to do nothing but eat and drink and soak up each other’s company for what may well be one of the last times - or at least with us all together.

We’re going back to Tjøme, where I spent time both in the summer of 2012 and the summer of 2011, and where there is little to do other than the occasional dip in the fjørd and lots and lots of reading. Mine is, naturally, themed: all Norwegian writers!

First off is the first part of Karl Ove Knausgård’s autobiographical epic My Struggle, recommended to me by my friend’s mother, who I think was very concerned that I hadn’t read anything by a Norwegian. Then we have Erlend Loe’s Doppler, which seems little and lighthearted enough to offset Knausgård. And finally Beatles by Lars Saabye Christensen, which I am led to believe is less about the Beatles and more of a coming-of-age sorta deal.

As you might have noticed, all these books are relatively recent. this is partly because I’m choosing to ignore Norway’s long literary heritage (i.e. Ibsen), and partly because the only earlier book I ordered (Knut Hamsun’s Hunger) arrived with a cover and format so ugly and unwieldy that I can’t bring myself to read it. Womp.

“Don’t we all write about love? When men do it, it’s a political comment. When women do it, it’s just a love story”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

(Source: tonystarks, via muwashahaat-deactivated20140614)

A small tribute to Maya Angelou

Whenever someone important and influential dies, it’s difficult to pay tribute without sounding trite and obvious. These people have generally meant so much to so many that any kind of personal connection becomes diluted or, worse, strengthened to the point of sentimentality.

Writers are, for me, the hardest to pay tribute to. How do you write about someone better than they write about themselves? How do you condense a life into 140 characters? How do you decide, all of a sudden, to acknowledge the impact a writer has had on you when, up until this point, you may not have even considered it - let alone paid dedicated tribute to it? Death is perhaps a strange and arbitrary time for this to happen, but no worse for it. Why not now?

The grand personage in question is, of course, Dr Maya Angelou, who passed away today. As I said, writers are hard to pay tribute to - and I think this is partly because death doesn’t alter them much. The copy of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings that has been on the to-read pile next to my bed for months is still there. Its words won’t have changed by the time I pick it up, and I don’t necessarily feel rushed to do so in light of its author’s passing. And her poetry, which has lived in my consciousness ever since I first came across it, is still there. I can still look up ‘Still I Rise’ or ‘Phenomenal Woman’ or ‘Awaking in New York’ whenever I want. Her quotes will still scatter through my Tumblr dash. Selfishly, then, my relationship with her work hasn’t changed, and it will continue to resonate as much as it ever did. And if it resonates more? Perhaps that’s sentimentality, and I’ll nip it in the bud (after all, I actually find the refrain of ‘Phenomenal Woman’ awkward and cumbersome).

I don’t know what my point is, but if I had one it might be that the lack of Dr Angelou in this world as an activist and as a literary light will be a great loss, but that her words are still there to draw strength from. To that end, here’s my favourite stanza from ‘Still I Rise’:

Does my sexiness upset you? / Does it come as a surprise / That I dance like I’ve got diamonds / At the meeting of my thighs?

There’s more strength in those four lines than in most people’s entire collected works.

Yesterday began the glorious month dubbed by my friends and I the Golden Days. On Thursday I sat my final ever exam at St Andrews and promptly received my Soaking upon exiting (a St A tradition whereby your friends greet you with buckets of water, supersoakers and - in my case - glitter snowflakes leftover from Christmas, which took hours to individually remove from my hair). And then - nothing. A complete lack of responsibilities and nothing but time to spend with the people I love in this ridiculous little town I love. Golden Days.
Obviously the first of these Golden Days was spent nursing a hangover in the park accompanied by Harry Potter and iced coffee, which in my opinion is a solid way to kick things off.

Yesterday began the glorious month dubbed by my friends and I the Golden Days. On Thursday I sat my final ever exam at St Andrews and promptly received my Soaking upon exiting (a St A tradition whereby your friends greet you with buckets of water, supersoakers and - in my case - glitter snowflakes leftover from Christmas, which took hours to individually remove from my hair). And then - nothing. A complete lack of responsibilities and nothing but time to spend with the people I love in this ridiculous little town I love. Golden Days.

Obviously the first of these Golden Days was spent nursing a hangover in the park accompanied by Harry Potter and iced coffee, which in my opinion is a solid way to kick things off.

Book Blog Backlog Logbook #4: The Novels of Jane Austen in Context

Also known as EN4361, Honours module at the University of St Andrews.

A Sicilian Romance - Ann Radcliffe

Possibly the funniest thing I’ve ever read for a class, this novella by the mother of gothic fiction is not in any way supposed to be amusing. It’s supposed to be packed full of suspense and horror and sublime landscapes, but the amount of imprisonment/escape/recapture cycles and astoundingly convenient coincidences just make it unintentionally hilarious. If you fancy a giggle at the expense of a great pioneer of the gothic romance novel, it’s available free on Project Gutenberg.

Maria, or The Wrongs of Woman - Mary Wollstonecraft / Letters for Literary Ladies - Maria Edgeworth

Can you tell I had to study a fair amount of gothic fiction for this module? Because yes, I very much did. And now these are things that I’ve read. Moving on.

The works of Jane Austen (excluding Sanditon)

The reason I took this module was twofold: one, I needed to fulfill my Group C (Victorian and Romantic) requirement; and two, I had already read most of the reading list. Honestly, I don’t have a lot to say about Austen. The module was interesting enough, but rereading her six novels back-to-back really did nothing to make me enjoy her more as an author, and by the end I was pretty glad to have them all out of the way. You should read her, of course. She’s incredibly witty and was pretty groundbreaking for her time. Northanger Abbey and Emma are my recommendations, and stay away from Mansfield Park (Fanny’s a complete wet blanket).

More Jane Austen feelings can be found in this post, and you can read my review of Emma (pre-this module) here.

[I also took Renaissance Sexualities: Rhetoric and the Body 1580-1660 (EN4341) in third year, and although I really loved it…it’s perhaps a little niche even for the ol’ logbook.]

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