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Category Archives: Book Memories

Book Memories #2: Ruminations on Train Travels

The second in a (very) occasional series about experiences that comes to mind about my reading past.  I honestly thought I had done more entries than this but a quick look at the 205 drafts saved, reveals a bunch of rotting posts in waiting, that need to be rewritten.

Dashing off these notes in that zone of midday when the intersection – of which we reside on one of the corners – is devoid of people and noise thanks to the heat.  Only the whir of the heroic electric fan and the clicking of Rambo’s claws on tile as he wanders around intrude upon my silence.

As I read (the perfect pastime to aid digestion of the midday meal, and it’s not considered a meal unless it is with rice) my latest fiction book, The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver, one of those random thoughts arrived at the station of consciousness.  It was a memory of a train journey that I didn’t take.  Although the memory is hazy, I am certain it was a train journey taken by Michael Palin in one of his travel books, probably Sahara or Himalaya.

Judging by the two narrowed down titles, I am certain I would have read both in Summer, thanks to my ‘method reading’ and the reasoning that unless it is a book from a so-called cold country then Summer is undoubtedly the season to embark on book travel, as well as real.  It wasn’t the actual journey that was the focus of my thoughts though, rather the accompanying feeling to reading the words.  It’s that sense of the intrepid, a unique kind that is available only to the armchair traveller, accompanying through the words but layering it with one’s own imagination and experiences.  It’s an exhilarating call to the upcoming adventure and the unpredictability that inspires and excites creativity.

Unlike actual travelling which is on the whole less romantic, where the sense of the uncharted is undermined by all the research and planning, it is rather the sense of open-ended wonder of the unfamiliar that is placed in a comfortable framework of certainty.  This reading experience is by no means a common thing, rather it follows the reader around and creeps up from time to time, a welcome companion who greets me every so often, signalling a new part of a expedition, promising new perspectives and rituals to discover.

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Posted by on 13/07/2018 in Book Memories, My Writings

 

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The Value of a Dime

A reblog for Mike, partly because I am still finishing the review of his novel The Singularity Wheel, and partly because his posts are a really good read.

Eye-Dancers

In both The Eye-Dancers and The Singularity Wheel, Mitchell Brant, Joe Marma, Ryan Swinton, and Marc Kuslanski can’t help but notice how inexpensive things are in the variant town of Colbyville.  In The Singularity Wheel, in fact, Ryan manages to secure a room in an inn for just $5 a night.  Prices like that make the boys think of period-piece movies, Beaver Cleaver, black-and-white still lifes from a bygone era, speckled with cobwebs.

Indeed, I once worked with a woman who, every year, upon receiving her annual “cost-of’-living” raise, would grouse, “Well, three percent of nothing is still nothing!”  Many of the other employees would nod their heads in agreement.  We all notice the increase in prices ($4.49 for that box of cereal?  $10 for a standard book of twenty stamps?) and are caught in the current of escalation as it continues along on its…

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Posted by on 30/04/2018 in Blogging, Book Memories, Graphic Novels, Life

 

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Reading out Loud #2

The second entry in a (very) occasional series of words that caught and held my attention, that are well worth sharing.

“Human relationships flourish and decay, quickly and silently, so that those concerned scarcely know how brittle, or how inflexible, the ties that bind them have become.”  – Anthony Powell – A Question of Upbringing

“He reached for his pocket, and found there, only reality” – Victor Hugo – The Hunchback of Notre Dame

“He was one of the numerous and varied legion of dullards, of half-animated abortions, conceited, half-educated coxcombs, who attach themselves to the idea most in fashion only to vulgarize it and who caricature every cause they serve, however sincerely.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky – Crime and Punishment

“Proof is what lies at the heart of maths, and is what marks it out from other sciences. Other sciences have hypotheses that are tested against experimental evidence until they fail, and are overtaken by new hypotheses. In maths, absolute proof is the goal, and once something is proved, it is proved forever, with no room for change.” – Simon Singh – Fermat’s Last Theorem Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 08/03/2018 in Book Memories, Lists/Ephemera

 

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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.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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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

Read the rest of this entry »

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

 

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