I mentioned during the summer that come September I would be moving to Ireland in order to do my M.Phil at Trinity College Dublin. This has in fact happened, which is why it’s all been quiet on the western front recently. I am now, however, settled into the new Rosa Reads HQ in Dublin, and am ready to re-take up the mantle of responsibility for this blog.
In honour of this, here’s what I read this summer (as it is now October, I’m pretty sure summer is officially over):
As you may have noticed, this is the stack of books accompanying Bruce Springsteen’s bottom in the above picture. He’s just there for balance.
From now on you can expect a lot of Instagram #currentlyreading posts featuring various writers from the Americas (my degree is in Literatures of the Americas), and potentially some Dublin-based literary adventures. Also the usual motley collection of reviews, reading lists and quotes. The hard sell, eh?
Currently reading. (at 1937 Reading Room Trinity College)
On my down to Cornwall with a bag full of books and a heart full of the hope that there’ll be enough sunshine for me to arrive in Dublin next week sporting the tan I had earlier in the summer.
(PS, I just finished The Story of English in 100 Words by David Crystal, linguist extraordinaire and all-round cool cat. I very rarely read anything non-fiction that is longer than an online thinkpiece, so it made a nice change - and at times made me say things out loud, which is really what all works of literature should strive for. The things I said were mostly “oh that’s cool” and “oh yeah, that totally makes sense,” which are both good things to say.)#David Crystal #linguistics #english language #words #The Story of English in 100 Words
Book Blog Backlog Logbook #6: Aspects of Modern Fiction
(Also known as EN3206, Honours module at the University of St Andrews.)
The Secret Agent - Joseph Conrad
Detectives in Victorian London crossed with political commentary about anarchists, punctuated by an obsession with clocks/time imagery. Heart of Darkness this is not.
Sons and Lovers - D. H. Lawrence
Lawrence is at his best when he’s writing from an impersonal narrative perspective; the first section of Sons and Lovers, depicting not the experiences of Paul (Lawrence’s fictionalised but generally autobiographical younger self) but those of Gertrude Morel, is much more poignant and vivid than the rest of the novel. Nostalgic, morally didactic, sensual.
Selected Stories - Katherine Mansfield
I think I feel about Katherine Mansfield the way any lover of Virginia Woolf must: “I love this! Oh…fuck.” Read ‘The Garden Party,’ ‘Prelude’ and ‘Miss Brill.’
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - James Joyce
The best introduction to Joyce: difficult, but not impossible (and more engaging than The Dubliners).
A Passage to India - E. M. Forster
JUST THE BEST BOOK. An exposé of Anglo-Indian colonial attitudes, beautifully written, highly cinematic, occasionally very funny - and always so tangible.
To The Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf
A three-part novel about the potential for human connection and the effects of perspective. Despite the (purposeful) gaping void in the middle, a book about hope. Sort of. Oh, Ginny.
After Leaving Mr Mackenzie - Jean Rhys
Okay, so aside from Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys only ever wrote one story: woman is wandering outsider, mistreated by everyone (especially men), is unhappy. And she wrote it about seven different times. But this is a good version - and the ending is especially beautiful.
Nineteen EIghty-Four - George Orwell
Surely I don’t need to go into this? Read it, if you haven’t already.
The French Lieutenant’s Woman - John Fowles
When I first read this at about fourteen I thought it was a Victorian novel BUT I WAS FOOLED. It’s actually a kind of pastiche of the form, with all sorts of meta commentary on the process of writing a novel. It made for a bad and boring Victorian novel, but a much better not-a-Victorian-novel.
Darkness Visible - William Golding
Golding is convinced the world is going to shit and he put it all in this weird book. Atrophy and despair. Sigh.
[For more Backlog Logbook, click here! It’s reviews for people who hate reading long reviews!]#st andrews #books #review #book review #modernism #Backlog Logbook
A Thunderstorm in Town
(A Reminiscence: 1893)
–– Thomas Hardy#Thomas Hardy #poetry #A Thunderstorm in Town
Moving the Rosa Reads operation (as well as the Rosa’s Real Actual Life operation) to Dublin has not been an easy task so far, which is why there’s been a(nother) lull in posting. Plus I disappeared off to Edinburgh last week to get away from my responsibilities, because I am an adult.
Anyway, here are some things I’ve been reading recently:
Also I watched Kill Your Darlings, the semi-biopic about the young Allen Ginsberg and his relationship with Lucien Carr (as well as William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac). Ginsberg is played weirdly convincingly by Daniel Radcliffe, and I enjoyed it very much, although I did wish it focused a little more on the Beat movement itself ‘cause I’m a super-geek. Also, more shots of Columbia, pls.*
Also when I was in Edinburgh I saw some really excellent stuff at the Fringe, including the incredible White Rabbit, Red Rabbit and a truly excellent production of The Addams Family musical by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
What about you guys? I feel like I don’t ask this question very much - and I’m sure it’s obvious why (hint: I’m a massive narcissist and only care about myself). So, here we go: what have you guys been reading (or watching) recently? Should I read it? Is it the worst thing you’ve ever been subjected to? Tell me of your woes.
*Columbia, in case I hadn’t mentioned it previously, is my dream school for my PhD. I took my GRE test this week, which was the first step in beginning my application. Eek, eek and triple eek.#Fringe #White Rabbit Red Rabbit #The Addams Family #Edinburgh #Columbia #currently reading #books
Review: The Player of Games
My friend Jay has been recommending Iain M. Banks to me since I can remember - even going so far as to lend me this very book…about three years ago. But better late than never, right? Right?!
Anyway, I’d been putting off reading it mainly because it’s sci-fi, and I have to be in a very specific mood for sci-fi (although this does not, I have come to realise, extend to sci-fi films, which I am invariably in the mood for). Apparently that particular mood found me last summer, and I have to admit that I needn’t have worried.
The Player of Games is the first of Banks’ ‘Culture’ novels - works set in a world in which the concept of possession does not exist, people can change their personal characteristics (including their appearance and biological sex) at will, and machines are sentient. And in such an idyllic world, with no responsiblities or capitalist economy to uphold, people devote themselves to pastimes such as game-playing. Cue: curtain up.
These world-building facts, although described with meticulous detail, are however not dwelled upon - instead the story accelerates very quickly into something much more complicated, and much less cosy. The book ended up being quite dark, and certainly more grown-up than I’d anticipated.
In many ways The Player of Games reminded me of Herman Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game; not only for the obvious, game-related reason, but also in the attention paid to the specific mechanics and hierarchies of their respective worlds - something I find is often passed over too quickly in novels set in futuristic utopias (and even dystopias). These two books transcend that.
I haven’t yet rushed back to Banks’ other ‘Culture’ novels, but somewhere in the back of my mind I’m quite excited for when I do.
Final Word: Dark underbelly of Huxleyan utopia - with a sense of humour.#Iain M. Banks #The Player of Games #book review #sci-fi #books #reading #review
“This book gives me more information about penguins than I care to have.”
In 1944 a children’s book club sent a volume about penguins to a 10-year-old girl, enclosing a card seeking her opinion.
American diplomat Hugh Gibson called it the finest piece of literary criticism he had ever read.
I read other stuff, too. You might want to read the same stuff.
A little while ago (when I still lived in Scotland - sob), I was in Edinburgh and decided it was high time I visited the self-proclaimed “birthplace of Harry Potter”: The Elephant Café. Wizarding legend has it that Queen Rowling sat at a table in this unassuming little café and penned at least some of Philosopher’s Stone.
Naturally, then, this is what the bathrooms look like - covered in messages from the HP generation. I couldn’t leave without a) a selfie, and b) some additions. One an emotional one, and one a #SlytherinPride moment. We’re so misunderstood.
They also do great breakfast and you can get 50p coffee refills. So there’s that too.
For Lenya on Her Way
(Source: gammasandgerunds)#Carrie Murphy #poetry #For Lenya On Her Way #Pretty Tilt #reading #lit
Book Blog Backlog Logbook #5
Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
Ugh, fuck this book. No, really. I’ll rarely be this dismissive about a book, especially one that has been lauded through the ages, but properly fuck this stupid, bloated, pseudo-philosophical, machismo-laden nonsense book.
Howard’s End - E. M. Forster
The only note I have next to the title of this book in my reviews notebook is a little heart. Last summer was clearly not a particularly good time for my reviewing skills, but this book comes highly recommended. Here’s the edition I have:
The Color Purple - Alice Walker
This epistolary novel set in 1930s rural Georgia is a true masterpiece, addressing the position of women of colour in the American South in a way that is overwhelmingly moving, rather than polemical. Celie, the protagonist, writes letters to God that chart her hardships and the desires she feels she can’t reveal to anyone else - including her feelings for the glamorous and (from the perspective of the reader) frustrating Shug Avery. The novel’s interrogation of what it means to be a woman, a woman of colour, and a (potentially) queer woman, was truly brilliant.
There is No Dog - Meg Rosoff
I read this because I needed something silly and simple to shut down my brain for a little while - and it really was a little while: I finished this in two hour-long sittings. It’s a kids’ book, really, much as it seems to view itself as more than that. The premise is that god is a teenage boy: idle, useless, sex-mad, irrational (ta for the assumptions about emergent masculinity there, Rosoff). There’s little more to it than that. And there’s a character called Skype, for crying out loud - which is surely copyright infringement, but whatever. The novel’s only redeeming feature is an adorable creature called Eck, the descriptions of whose mental and emotional state give one the same squishy, heartbreaky feeling as a basket of sad homeless puppies. But Eck is not a real reason to read this book. Also, the worst thing? There is literally no reason for the title. None. None at all. WHY.
For more Backlog Logbook, click here!#Joseph Heller #E. M. Forster #Alice Walker #Meg Rosoff #books #review #book review #Catch-22 #Howard's End #The Color Purple #There is No Dog #Backlog Logbook
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?”