Whilst laboriously checking through all the WordPress notifications that had accumulated in my absence, I came across one informing me that I have now clocked up a decade on this platform, most of which is due to this blog, est. 2011. Although it shouldn’t have, that milestone still came as a bit of a shock.
Plenty of things have changed in the preceding decade. My writing and my taste in books in a personal level, but also the blogger generation that I first started with, sadly few are still writing after all these years. I often wonder what the ones who left are up to, in my more melancholy moments.
My life has changed immensely thanks to this humble platform. Travels abroad, new friends met from all over the world – some face to face – introductions to many new books and different ways of experiencing life, forays into the book publishing scene, and those rectangular packages that sometimes arrive in the post. And of course, most recently meeting my wife Crissy and subsequent move abroad. Continue reading “WP 10th Anniversary”
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.
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…
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 Continue reading “Reading out Loud #2”
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.
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. Continue reading “Night Delight”
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.
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.
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. Continue reading “Game, Sets and Match”