So I’ve done that thing that people sometimes do and gone and started a new blog.
I’ve had a personal Tumblr for nearly two years and devoted ridiculous amounts of time and energy to it, considering the fact it has all of 350 followers and a rather higher reblog to original content ratio than is completely desirable. Plus it’s really not a blog, it’s a Tumblr, with all pejorative connotations that go with the word; slightly wanky, rather self-involved, more style than substance.
BUT this new blog is going to change all that. I can’t promise it’s going to be any less wanky or self-involved, but let’s work on the substance issue, yeah? This blog has a subject (it’s books by the way, if you had somehow missed all the cues), it has a nice simple theme that separates reblogs (right-hand side) from original content (left-hand side), and it’s going to be super super popular. Right? Right?!
Okay, so the premise is:
That’s the plan, anyway. I won’t lie to you guys, I’m starting this little project because I’m back in Leeds, my hometown, for the summer and I have a good two to three months before I go back to St Andrews and university. Also I am currently unemployed, and it looks quite a lot like it will stay that way for the foreseeable future. Plus I have a reading list to get through before September.
Oh and also? I really bloody love reading.#books #reading #lit
Far from the Madding Crowd
Right, so let’s start exactly where you might expect; the book in my hand right now.
It’s Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd and it is, of course, not actually in my hand right now because I am typing.
The copy I have is published by Collins Classics, 2010, and I bought it for €3.50 in the Uffizi gallery in Florence, Italy in about April. Why? I hear you ask. Well, because it was €3.50 (just over £3 and about $5) and I’m a sucker for cheap books. With nice covers.
I’m on page 74 (of 429), so not very far in, but already enjoying it a whole lot. So much so that I’ve already written down a quote I liked from it. Because I’m wanky and pretentious like that. Its protagonist thus far has been Gabriel Oak, but as far as I can tell from the blurb, it’s mostly about Bathsheba Everdene who, in the eight chapters I’ve read, has basically been a total bitch and as ridiculous as her name.
Actually I was a bit worried when I saw the names of the main characters; Bathsheba Everdene, Gabriel Oak, Troy and Boldwood. They sounded somewhat Dickensian to me, and whilst I can appreciate Dickens as a great writer, his characters have always struck me as grotesque and cartoonish - I have a lot of trouble empathising with them. Fortunately this is not a problem Hardy seems to have; his characters are well-rounded and although slightly exaggerated, mostly realistic.
I’ve read Hardy’s poetry (mainly the war stuff) before, and tried Tess of the D’Urbervilles when I was about fourteen (didn’t get far), and frankly I’m not his biggest fan. But Far from the Madding Crowd is completely different in tone and style - certainly from his poetry, at least. It seems to have come from a happier man; it’s jovial, smart and relatively light-hearted, and although he tends to slip into aphorisms at the beginning of most chapters, I think I rather like it.
[On an only-very-slightly-related note, does the whole lower-case-for-‘little’-words-when-everything-else-is-capitalised thing annoy anyone else? I’m fully aware, as a grammar enthusiast (jesuschristihatemyself) that it should be Far from the Madding Crowd, but it doesn’t stop me from desperately wanting it to be Far From The Madding Crowd.]#books #reading #Far from the Madding Crowd #Thomas Hardy #lit
Gabriel Oak gets it.
So it turns out that despite all the overly-detailed and lengthy descriptions of idyllic countryside life that Hardy favours, I’m really rather enjoying Far from the Madding Crowd. I’m currently on page 273 (of 429), because my reading time keeps getting interrupted by this irritating thing called “life”, in which I am supposed to “talk to people” and “be productive”.
Anyway, in the interim before my final review, I thought I’d share with you guys one of my favourite quotations so far (the whole book is eminently quotable, by the way, so you’ll see more of these):
“And at home by the fire, whenever you look up, there I shall be - and whenever I look up, there will be you.”
I just think it’s one of the simplest, yet truest, depictions of what one person can ever want from another.
Ugh, the truth will out - Rosa’s a romantic. Don’t tell anyone.#Far from the Madding Crowd #Thomas Hardy #books #reading #lit
Books I spent my student loan on every time I walked past the St Andrews Waterstones or took a glance at Amazon (January-May 2011):
And thus far I’ve only read The Old Man and the Sea, Rich in Russia and Wunderkind. And have nearly finished Far from the Madding Crowd. Too many books I actually had to read for uni, plus stuff people lent me, plus stuff I already had. In other words, I didn’t need to buy any of these books, but who can possibly resist?
Ugh fuck I love buying new books. I bought about four or five of these in one trip (some idiot let me walk past Waterstones alone - terrible idea), and when I got home I announced to my flatmates I had been shopping. All four of them got very excited and demanded to see my purchases. All four of them failed to hide their disappointment when I showed them books rather than clothes. Ho hum.
So, any suggestions on what I should read first from this list? Or just generally what books you guys think I should be spending my non-existent money on. Let me know here, and I’ll add them to my list.
I bloody love lists.#books #reading #lit
Character Judgements [SPOILERS]
Geting near to the end of Far from the Madding Crowd (reading it with Wimbledon in the background so making relatively slow progress - although not as slow as when the Women’s Singles were on…what can I say?) and I would just like to pass some preliminary judgement on some of the characters. These opinions may change over the course of the next 72 pages, but here goes.
Also all the villagers and farmhands are pretty great - special mention to Joseph Poorgrass for being especially memorable, albeit in an irritating sort of way.
Right, back to the tennis and the book, then.#Far from the Madding Crowd #Thomas Hardy #reading #books #lit
So my parents are throwing this party thing.
And it just reminds me of all the times when they had parties when I was younger, or when we went to their friends’ ones, and I would grab a plate of food and settle myself in some relatively undisturbed nook and just read. And whenever someone came over and tried to make conversation with me (“Haven’t you grown? How’s school? What are you reading?”) I would answer in monosyllables until they left me alone again.
I am now twenty years old and I somehow don’t think I can get away with it any more.
…So instead of that, I’ve spent three hours doing the rounds and mingling and being polite, and have now retreated to my room to read. I guess some things never change.#books #reading #lit
Review: Far from the Madding Crowd
When I was about sixteen and doing my GCSEs, my friend Alice was reading Far from the Madding Crowd. I fell in love with the title, and vowed to read it once exams were over.
I then promptly forgot about it for four years.
No matter, I’ve read it now. Upon finishing it last night, I issued a little noise that I don’t think I can spell. But if you imagine to yourself a sigh of satisfaction, mingled with a slight giggle and a dash of relief, you might get pretty close. Basically, it resolved itself rather nicely, and without any bigamy or (much) murder.
[I am going to be giving up on photos of me for this blog from now on; not only are they horribly narcissistic and staged, but also this one looks like the book is floating in front of me. Nobody reads like that. Except wizards.]
I would highly recommend Far from the Madding Crowd if you’re into relatively lengthy descriptions of rather romanticised country living, unexpected comedic moments, and characters that really do develop as the story moves along. And even if you’re not into any of these, you might enjoy it anyway (I freely admit that nothing nature-heavy has ever appealed to me in the slightest, so I skimmed those sections pretty fast). It’s very well-written, especially when Hardy seems to let his poetry shine through, and showcases an astute grasp of true human emotions at times.
The book does seem to go on for longer than is really necessary - almost as if Hardy was enjoying himself a bit too much and didn’t have a particularly forceful editor - but it remains pleasantly free from the kind of moralising it could easily have fallen into. Instead it is light-hearted throughout, even in the more dramatic scenes. I would really like to call it “smart” or “clever”, but I feel like it’s too rambling for words like that. It does, however, have some great moments of social comedy, especially in the dialogue. For example, I love this:
[Yeah, yeah, I abuse books, whatever. They were meant to be read, not treated as relics. Calm your tits.]
Final Word: Pleasant and satisfying, if a little long.#Far from the Madding Crowd #Thomas Hardy #books #reading #lit #review
So I feel bad. I’ve nearly finished this already. In fact, I was so impatient to start reading it that the pictures I took of it aren’t of it looking all neat and brand-new, because I’d already read at least a couple of chapters and cracked the spine.
Okay, so as a massive Beatles fan, what drew me to this book at first was that the title is the same as that of a particularly brilliant Beatles song. This song does actually form part of the narrative - being the trigger for the protagonist’s flashback in which the rest of the story takes place. Set in Tokyo, it focuses around his (Toru Watanabe’s) time as a student and his relationships in that period of his life.
I probably shouldn’t go into too much depth at this point, but I will say that I’m really enjoying this book - as evidenced by the speed at which I’m racing through it. The style is very much my cup of tea; not overly complex but very clever, not too descriptive but quite poetic. It’s an easy read in that the language is modern and not dense, but at the same time the imagery and allusions are beautiful and very well-written.
[You’re damn right that’s the song playing on my iPod. I’m that wanky, kids.]
I’m off daaahn saaahf (that’s ‘down south’ to anyone that didn’t catch my slightly regionist faux accent) in a couple of hours, and I really hope that I have enough restraint to leave some of this to read on the train.#Norwegian Wood #Haruki Murakami #books #reading #lit
Apologies for being so remiss with my posting for the past week – I’ve been visiting my grandparents and then some of my university friends in the South of England. This silence does not mean I haven’t been reading, though (perish the thought!), so here’s my books update before I get back to proper posting:
‘Kay, that’s all.#books #reading #Morrissey #lit
Review: Norwegian Wood
I finished this on the train the other day (heading to the South) and did that rather embarrassing thing where, after reading the final page, I close the book and hug it for a few minutes. I’m now going to embarrass myself further by gushing praise for said novel. I’d like to come off as discerning, sophisticated and slightly cynical, but the fact is that I just loved this book far too much to do that.
Haruki Murakami’s style is fantastic; sharp, clean and smooth, it stops just short of being too much like poetry-in-prose. Despite this, the imagery is beautiful and his descriptive powers are impressive. Watanabe’s world is laid out before the reader without being either cryptically encoded or forced down their throat. I appreciate that.
On top of that, the characters are highly engaging – their emotions shine through perfectly to appeal to the reader. Watanabe’s, especially, ring true and you just can’t help liking him. For me, he has what people always seem to find in Holden Caulfield; a guiding light, representative of a coming-of-age hero finding himself. Except that Holden Caulfield is a little prick, and Watanabe’s a (vaguely deluded) sweetheart.
Norwegian Wood’s only flaw is its heroine. Naoko is one of those stock characters that authors love to place in the role of lead female; the mysterious beauty. Preferably with “issues”. I find it very hard to relate to these women – ironically I don’t find them very deep. Naoko is an especially irritating version, perhaps because Watanabe is such a nice guy and yet so blindly and obsessively in love with her – to the detriment of the rest of his life, as well as the plot.
And yet this is nowhere near enough to put me off Norwegian Wood. A friend of mine recently made the (discerning, sophisticated, slightly cynical) comment that “only dickheads like Murakami”. This may well be fair, in which case I confess: I am a certified dickhead.
Final Word: The beginning of a beautiful new friendship with Murakami. One with benefits.#Norwegian Wood #Haruki Murakami #books #reading #lit #review
Review: Nil Nil
I am not one of those people who is content with reading one book at a time. For me, reading is a bit like listening to music; you adjust your material according to your mood. When I was younger it was pretty bad - I’d have about eight books on the go at once and be constantly losing track of characters and plotlines. (“Wait, the Famous Five aren’t wizards? Damn, that changes things.”)
These days I’ve managed to limit myself a bit more, and I tend to keep it to a maximum of two or three at a time. So although I’ve been reading Huckleberry Finn (more on that at a later date), I’ve also been reading the poetry of Don Paterson.
Described as “one of the most ferociously talented of all British poets” according to Catherine Lockerbie, he also happens to be one of my English lecturers at St Andrews. Yep, I’m one of those students, kids. I read my professors’ books.
I decided to start with Nil Nil because it was his first book of poetry, and also because it’s published by Faber and Faber, and I love their poetry publications beyond all reasonable affection (I could easily go off on one here, but I will restrain myself).
I really enjoyed Nil Nil (and not just because it name-drops places in Scotland, I swear!). It’s written mostly in free verse and is somewhat surreal at times (The Alexandrian Library is a dream sequence and totally bizarre), although deeply rooted in the experiences of the author. I’ve read bits and pieces of his more recent stuff, and it seems that he refined his style in later work. Nil Nil is pretty raw; intensely emotional, although not at all sentimental.
If anyone’s interested, my favourite poems in this collection were Heliographer, The Trans-Siberian Express and Sunset, Visingsö (after Jørn-Erik Berglund). The latter includes the following beautiful image:
“The lake has simplified
Uggggh how great is that? Why didn’t I write that? Excuse me whilst I go and contemplate the poor life choices I made that led to me not writing that.#Nil Nil #Don Paterson #books #reading #poetry #lit #review
Y’know what I absolutely cannot stand?
People asking for book recommendations.
Hold your horses, don’t flip your shit, and let me clarify:
I hate when people ask for completely general book recommendations - something along the lines of “I don’t know what to read, Rosa, what should I read?”
HOW ON EARTH WOULD I KNOW?
Tell me your favourite author, the book you’ve just read, where you’re going on holiday next. Tell me you hate sci-fi, tell me you want to read something funny, tell me you’re a sucker for romance. Tell me you want to try out Sebastian Faulks, or that you want to get as far away from Jane Austen as possible. Tell me you’ve always wanted to read about Israel or motorbikes or men who wake up one morning to find that they’ve turned into giant beetles. I have recommendations for all of those.
…Having said that, if anyone does want a decent recommendation, my Askbox is always open.#books #reading #lit
Not Really a Review: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Not quite finished Huck yet, so here’s a preliminary update.
The version I’m reading is one of those entirely wonderful £2 Penguin Popular Classics. I am unable to resist their bargain charms, which is probably a good thing or I would be even more broke than I currently am. And I’m currently considerably broke.
[I started reading this whilst visiting my grandparents, hence all the old-people stuff.]
I like the book a lot more than I expected to. I’m always a little dubious about certain Classics - stemming partially from a cynical fear that they won’t live up to expectations, and partially from a more personal fear that I won’t like the stuff I’m supposed to like and oh my god what if I never like anything that you’re supposed to like as an English Lit student and if I’m not an English Lit student that what the hell am I?
But it’s okay. My existential crisis has been delayed once again because I do like Huckleberry Finn. It’s clever and funny and insightful and surprising and all sorts of other good words.
Don’t worry, a proper review will follow shortly. One in which I actually tell you something useful about the book and why you should read it, and in which I am clever and funny and insightful and surprising and all sorts of other good words.
I promise.#Huckleberry Finn #Mark Twain #books #reading #lit #review