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?”
Here are two things you may care about:
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
(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.
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.#Muriel Spark #The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie #review #books #book review #reading #lit