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Category Archives: Book Memories

Night Delight

Recently it has been a pleasure to retire to bed at about half nine in the evening for some quality reading time.  Stopping to make a hot chocolate which always gets the reading off right, then leaving it to cool off next to my funky touch lamp before picking up whichever book is currently occupying my imagination.

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Stars and the to be reviewed pile.

The beauty of the lamp accompanying the chosen literature is the intimate setting it creates, beyond the book everything is either obscured by the dark or its impact on the peripheral vision lessened so that the small zone of light contains the reader’s only focus on the many adventures to be undertaken.

The accompanying silence as the night wears on – if you are lucky enough to live away from main roads and such – adds a lot of atmosphere, as it did when I picked up Stephen King’s Desperation, and The Stand where 99% of the word’s population has died (not that this appalling tally seems to be noticed as this is all set in America) and the survivors are left to their almost totally silent world.

The night though is versatile, after extensive reading research throughout the years particularly vivid memories of 2001: A Space Odyssey and its three sequels, The Rama series, and Solaris which being Sci-Fi come to mind.  It feels right to read the genre at night as it does horror, like the stories of M.R. James, and Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black, which is the only horror book that I have been genuinely creeped out by. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on 15/01/2017 in Book Memories, Fiction

 

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Game, Sets and Match

In a week or two I will be moving house and this has led to the ordering and  packing up of my many books, which is strange due to my penchant for appreciating the quirky and often fascinating juxtaposition of books when randomly placed, like the Bible tightly packed next to Christopher Hitchens or Alice in Wonderland next to de Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater.

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I have been busy putting my series of books together to be boxed up and it made me think about the times when I used to travel to Nottingham once a fortnight to collect all 21 Famous Five books.  Even years ago I was paranoid that the publishers would change the covers so they wouldn’t look as sexy on my shelves.

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It all started with Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time Series which was actually a bit of a blessing, the black covers look a lot better than the less than impressive (to my eye, at least) illustrations of character set pieces.  Since then I have always strived to collect the full series in the same cover. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 20/11/2016 in Book Memories, Lists/Ephemera

 

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Howards End is on the Landing – Susan Hill

LandingLightsEarly one autumn afternoon in pursuit of an elusive book on her shelves, Susan Hill encountered dozens of others that she had never read, or forgotten she owned, or wanted to read for a second time. The discovery inspired her to embark on a year-long voyage through her books, forsaking new purchases in order to get to know her own collection again.

A book which is left on a shelf for a decade is a dead thing, but it is also a chrysalis, packed with the potential to burst into new life. Wandering through her house that day, Hill’s eyes were opened to how much of that life was stored in her home, neglected for years. Howard’s End is on the Landing charts the journey of one of the nation’s most accomplished authors as she revisits the conversations, libraries and bookshelves of the past that have informed a lifetime of reading and writing.

After the disappointment of Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, I needed something which would encourage me more in my bookish ways (as well as reinforce my reasons to unashamedly buy more) and this one does just that.  It views the personal landscape of a famous author’s reading life, in which she doesn’t buy any books for a year – something I tried once and it made me feel miserable – and focuses on the ones she has.

As well as her detailed bibliophilic thoughts, there is also talk of fonts, titles and years of accumulating books and the associated memories of where they were brought and the circumstance of the time, it’s an autobiographical insight into Hill and her influences.  There are chapters about authors, genres and attitudes all with plenty of anecdotes which allows the reader to get to know her somewhat.

A litany of authors and aspects of the fine art of reading are discussed and it’s good to be reminded that spending time with one’s own carefully built collection can be as rewarding as reading from it.  It seems easy sometimes to take for granted what we have and see everyday and we probably forget just how rich our lives for having them so close at hand.

There are diversity of genres (albeit, mostly fiction) and authors discussed, it’s all agreeable and amiable in its way, especially in the chapter ‘It Ain’t Broke’ which argues against the charmless e-reader.  Howards End is Not on the Landing gives an excuse to hoard more books but also it’s a lament to the ones sadly abandoned or worse not read; as well as an encouragement to explore the obscurantism of books, to delve into the lesser known and pass on the gems to other lucky and voracious readers.

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Posted by on 21/08/2016 in Autobiography, Book Memories, Essays

 

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Reading Out Loud

Every so often the reader comes across a quotation that makes him or her stop and reread it several times with that pleasurable feeling of having stumbled across a beautifully phrased sentence or a profound piece of punditry.  Sadly it doesn’t happen nearly as often as one would wish but when that bolt bursts from the blue, it makes the act – and the art – of reading even more rewarding than usual.  Here’s some of the ones I enjoy returning to every so often:

  • It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love – Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel García Márquez
  • And aren’t the most beautiful follies the ones linked to love?Fire in the Blood, Irene Nemirovsky
  • The whole modern world has been shaped by lopsided outcomes. – Guns. Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond
  • We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
  • She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket. – Farewell, my Lovely, Raymond Chandler
  • Give a man a fire and he’s warm for a day, but set fire to him and he’s warm for the rest of his life. – Jingo, Terry Pratchett
  • Books are not made to be believed, but to be subjected to inquiry. When we consider a book, we mustn’t ask ourselves what it says but what it means… – The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco
  • And we danced, on the brink of an unknown future, to an echo from a vanished past – The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham

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Posted by on 05/06/2016 in Book Memories, Lists/Ephemera

 

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Book Memories #1: Harry Potter

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A cheery snapshot of the shops near where I used to live (minus the tape, unless it was a really bad day).

I thought I would write an occasional series about me remembering stuff, probably incorrectly, and hopefully bring you into my world of book buying and looking and on the odd occasion leafing through without buying.

It was a hot Saturday morn in 2003, nothing had happened, on account of it being six o’clock and I was in a quandary, when really I should have been in bed.

Due to excessive news hype, which I used to be gullible enough to fall for, the promise of a new Harry Potter book (The Order of the Phoenix) had enticed me into going and getting it on the first day of release but with the spectre of stores selling out of copies would it be worth the risk to bother getting up?

Due to the shops not being open yet I chose to start one of the later Famous Five books, I forget which one but it had a curious bit where Julian who must be now 16 refers to his mum as ‘mummy’ which was out of character and ruined the book for me, hey I can be sensitive despite my macho exterior.

Being a quick win I knew it would only take a few hours to read and so could finish it quickly if I managed to secure myself a copy of the only item being sold that day in the entire world.  Well the media did make it such, I remember the hype for days before, the threatened spoilers, it was mental and hot.

At 10 o’clock, I set off at a decent pace before regretting wearing the shirt that I had on (it was a dark red), it had looked like a breezy day from inside but no it was a nightmare of heat, the sort usually seen in a straight to DVD volcano disaster movie.  A mile of walking later and making my way into the local shopping centre, the blast of cold air from the air con made me slow down and actually smile!

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Posted by on 31/07/2013 in Book Memories

 

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