Suggested Readings*

*(said every hopeful professor ever. In vain.)

  • The inimitable christinefriar did her yearly book round-up and, as usual, it’s gold.
  • Someone at The Millions wrote an article about my favourite phenomena in reading: books that make you hungry.
  • This anthology of new Scottish poetry is on my to-buy list purely on the merit of its title alone.
  • Speaking of new Scottish poetry, my favourite Shetlander (ahem, the only Shetlander I’ve ever met, shh) wrote a thing that’s in the third issue of The Grind. You can download it for free here and you should because syntxx is like, talented as fuck.
  • And finally, this Simon Armitage interview is not only wonderful in and of itself, but he also mentions Frank in it (can’t stop won’t stop every list has to feature Frank O’Hara).
Listening to Maxine Hong Kingston ‘talk-story’ whilst the light does pleasant things.

Listening to Maxine Hong Kingston ‘talk-story’ whilst the light does pleasant things.

“Despite what you’ve read, your sadness is not beautiful. No one will see you in the bookstore, curled up with your Bukowski, and want to save you.
Stop waiting
for a salvation that will not come from the grey-eyed boy looking for an annotated copy of Shakespeare,
for an end to your sadness in Keats.
He coughed up his lungs at 25, and flowery words cannot conceal a life barely lived.
Your life is fragile, just beginning, teetering on the violent edge of the world.
Your sadness will bury you alive, and you are the only one who can shovel your way out with hardened hands and ragged fingernails, bleeding your despair into the unforgiving earth.
Darling, you see, no heroes are coming for you. Grab your sword, and don your own armor.”

- (via starredsoul)

(via stafeminists)

Book Blog Backlog Logbook #7

Washington Square - Henry James

I loved Turn of the Screw, and found The Aspern Papers generally alright, but this book is singularly frustrating. Beginning as an Austen-esque depiction of a heroine with a tyrannical father and a possible suitor, it then becomes a novel in which James tells - rather than shows - the reader all of Catherine’s increasing misfortunes at the hands of absolutely everyone in her life. Plus, the protagonist herself is dull, her suitor ambiguous, her father sadistic, and her aunt the most irritating character I have been forced to endure. All in all, I’d give it a miss.

This Side of Paradise - F. Scott Fitzgerald

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You know that section of Gatsby where Fitzy G outlines Jay’s young life - the schedules of self-improvement that he sets himself, his ‘becoming’? Well Paradise is like an extended version of that; a true bildungsroman in which the protagonist is (unlike Gatsby) not a cipher, but a tangible character. Amory is narcissistic, obsessed with his own path to fame and glory, and yet also somehow lovable. I found that his similarity to myself both truly attracted and utterly repelled. His similarity to his creator is also obvious: Paradise was Fitzgerald’s debut novel, written almost entirely in order to achieve the recognition that would convince Zelda to marry him (it worked, by the way - they got married a week after publication). Much of the novel is set at Princeton, which was also a plus point for me, desperate as I am to do doctoral study in the States. What I’m saying is that this book is very very enjoyable. Read it.

Diving Belles - Lucy Wood

This is a collection of short stories I bought and read in Cornwall last year. Picture a kind of watered-down Angela Carter crossed with local Cornish legends. Not bad, nice cover.

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[For more Backlog Logbook mini-reviews, click here!]

It’s nasty weather and I’m ill, so me and Jhumpa Lahiri are hanging out in bed today.

It’s nasty weather and I’m ill, so me and Jhumpa Lahiri are hanging out in bed today.

“leaving is not enough; you must
stay gone. train your heart
like a dog. change the locks
even on the house he’s never
visited. you lucky, lucky girl.
you have an apartment
just your size. a bathtub
full of tea. a heart the size
of Arizona, but not nearly
so arid. don’t wish away
your cracked past, your
crooked toes, your problems
are papier mache puppets
you made or bought because the vendor
at the market was so compelling you just
had to have them. you had to have him.
and you did. and now you pull down
the bridge between your houses,
you make him call before
he visits, you take a lover
for granted, you take
a lover who looks at you
like maybe you are magic. make
the first bottle you consume
in this place a relic. place it
on whatever altar you fashion
with a knife and five cranberries.
don’t lose too much weight.
stupid girls are always trying
to disappear as revenge. and you
are not stupid. you loved a man
with more hands than a parade
of beggars, and here you stand. heart
like a four-poster bed. heart like a canvas.
heart leaking something so strong
they can smell it in the street.”

“Frida Kahlo to Marty McConnell,” Marty McConnell (via czarinna)

(via seaturner)

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):
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
A Death in the Family - Karl Ove Knausgaard
The Cuckoo’s Calling - Robert Galbraith
The Graduate - Robert Webb
Independent People - Halldór Laxness
The Hound of the Baskervilles - Arthur Conan Doyle
The Satanic Verses - Salman Rushdie
A Single Man - Christopher Isherwood
The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke
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?

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):

  • The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
  • A Death in the Family - Karl Ove Knausgaard
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling - Robert Galbraith
  • The Graduate - Robert Webb
  • Independent People - Halldór Laxness
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles - Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Satanic Verses - Salman Rushdie
  • A Single Man - Christopher Isherwood
  • The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke

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)

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.)

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

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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!]

A Thunderstorm in Town

(A Reminiscence: 1893)

She wore a new ‘terra-cotta’ dress,
And we stayed, because of the pelting storm,
Within the hansom’s dry recess,
Though the horse had stopped; yea, motionless
     We sat on, snug and warm.

Then the downpour ceased, to my sharp sad pain,
And the glass that had screened our forms before
Flew up, and out she sprang to her door:
I should have kissed her if the rain
     Had lasted a minute more.

          –– Thomas Hardy

historicaltimes:

James Dean at the breakfast table

historicaltimes:

James Dean at the breakfast table

(via englishmajorinrepair)

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:

  • A Single Man - Christopher Isherwood
  • The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
  • I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou

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.

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.

“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.

(via marxisforbros)

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