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Category Archives: Classics

Basil – Wilkie Collins

In Basil’s secret and unconsummated marriage to the linen-draper’s sexually precocious daughter, and the shocking betrayal, insanity, and death that follow, Collins reveals the bustling, commercial London of the nineteenth century wreaking its vengeance on a still powerful aristocratic world.

This was a random purchase, based on the name of the author, that and it wasn’t either The Woman in White or The Moonstone – neither of which I have yet read – which always come up whenever the author’s name is mentioned.  It also reminded me of (when the currency was converted) picking up those classics for 99p, last century.

Basil is a tale of class, snobbery, obsession, prejudice, passion, deceit and vengeance.  In its day it was a highly scandalous novel, today, sadly, there is nothing disgraceful about it in the slightest. There is, however,an odd choice made by the titular Basil, fairly early on and feels for that reason, a tad forced as a plot device.

I didn’t really care about any of the characters – I tried my best, honest –  but as there is little to endear most of them anyway, it is, for me, a moot point.  Only Basil’s sister and Mother-in-Law escaped my devastating lack of sympathy.  I did enjoy following the trajectories (mostly miserable) of all the characters though, despite some stereotyping and illogical leaps.

There was on exception to my general apathy or downright dislike to the characters and that was Mannion, his demeanour and mysterious countenance really add something tonally darker into the book and contributed much to my enjoyment of the story and its eventual direction. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on 22/06/2018 in Classics, Fiction

 

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The Top 100 Stories that Shaped the World

There is something strange about watching the news, specifically when they greet viewers just joining from overseas when it is last thing at night in your mind, now I get to watch the same shows on BBC News that I used to drop off to, with my morning coffee.  Had I been up late watching, I would have certainly forgotten to check out The Hundred Stories That Shaped the World by the next morning.

I’m not sure if this flew under the radar back home or not but for those of you not familiar, here is the catch up.  In April the BBC polled authors, academics, journalists, critics, translators in 35 countries to nominate five works of fiction that they felt had changed or shaped history.  The top ten with the most votes were as follows:

1. The Odyssey (Homer, 8th Century BC)
2. Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852)
3. Frankenstein (Mary Shelley, 1818)
4. Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell, 1949)
5. Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe, 1958)
6. One Thousand and One Nights (various authors, 8th-18th Centuries)
7. Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes, 1605-1615)
8. Hamlet (William Shakespeare, 1603)
9. One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel García Márquez, 1967)
10. The Iliad (Homer, 8th Century BC)

The other 80 books of the list, and the author’s reasons for picking the top ten can all be found here and is well worth a look. As I never usually bother to ask pointed questions, as I know you lot are intelligent enough to pick up on my unspoken cues and will always give me good comments, I may as well, for novelty’s sake, indulge in doing just that for once.

What fictional books do you believe have changed or shaped history, and/or the works that have changed or shaped your personal views upon life?  Did the Harry Potter series really deserve to be on the list?  Feel free to add and answer our own questions as well, such is my generosity.

 

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Working with Penguin Random House

A while back, I hinted at some good news that I had to share, and now that it has all been confirmed and no jinxes can put a stop to it, I can finally, and with certainty, reveal said news.

The wonderful folks at the Chinese arm of International publisher, Penguin Random House – you may have heard of them – recently reached out to me, concerning my review for Proust’s Days of Reading. Having first expressed an interest, they have since acquired the non-exclusive rights to the review, which I have been reworking into an introduction for the Chinese language version (translated by somebody else) of this entry into Penguin Great Ideas series.

It feels really good to be getting paid for something I love doing and with possible future jobs being hinted at it, there has been much raising of confidence and spirits (as its rainy season in Ph and we are experiencing our sixth straight day of almost constant rain).  I have been working on this blog for years, and working is the right term as well, although it started out as just a hobby to simply chat with bookish folk around the world, it has become so much more than that.  Partly, it is through my own drive to pick up more challenging books, to attempt to read into obscurer subjects, and widen my reading circle.  More than that though, it is because of the standard of writers whom I come across daily and not only provide thought-provoking interaction but also source of inspiration as well as a standard with which to measure myself and keep me on my toes.  This allows me to constantly add to my writing style with new techniques and perspectives, so thank you!  My next iced Americano will emphatically be raised to you!

 

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Bromley House Library

After finishing The Secret Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey Through Curiosities of History, I idly typed into my search engine of choice, ‘secret library Nottingham’ and was surprised by actually finding one. Bromley House Library is smack bang in the centre of town, its unassuming doorway sandwiched between a charity shop and a newsagent.  It was very much like finding the Book Cemetery in Barcelona á la The Shadow of the Wind.

Arriving for my tour – which can be taken every Wednesday at 2:30pm for the excellent price of £2 – this is the scene that first greets the visitor, from there I knew it was going to be a book lovers dream to wander around in.  I later found out that that staircase is only supported at top and bottom so only one person can ascend or descend at a time.

This magnificent old building, built in 1752 has held the library since 1822, the library was in fact established earlier, in 1816 and has now amassed around 40,000 books, including local author (with a truly awesome last name) Alan Sillitoe’s own personal library (not pictured to due to my shaky hands phone camera work that rendered most of my photos a shocking mess) and the oldest book is Dante’s Opera held, dating from 1578.

Due to Bromley House being a grade II listed building, a lot of original features are still to be seen dotted around the place which makes the feeling of history and the real library reading experience feel more real.  I fell in love with this place as soon as I entered and wandering around the building I saw so much, more of which in an upcoming post.

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Posted by on 15/08/2017 in Architecture, Classics, History, Travel

 

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What to Read Next? The Eternal Question

BOOKS!!!

Poorly taken photo of a couple of my bookshelves.

I knew that eventually this day would come but it was always over the horizon and never a real worry, yet now that the day has finally arrived and I’ve reached total paralysis on choosing a book.  Now to delegate the hard work to you thoughtful and knowledgable people, your suggestions from this fine mass of literature for my next read will be much appreciated.  To make it more interesting, I will select an entry at random and the writer of said comment will get the grand old prize of a pleased nod from moi AND a sense of enormous well-being for your efforts.

  • Homage to Catalonia – George Orwell
  • Darkness at Noon – Arthur Koestler
  • The Bridge over the Drina – Ivo Andrić
  • 11.22.63 – Stephen King
  • The Sirens of Titan – Kurt Vonnegut
  • Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
  • Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages – R.W. Southern
  • Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens
  • Poor Folk – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • The Fortunes of the Rougons – Émile Zola
  • The Crystal World – J. G. Ballard
  • The Luzhin Defence – Vladimir Nabakov
  •  How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the F.A. Cup – J. L. Carr
  • The Gravedigger – Peter Grandbois
  • The Jewel in the Crown – Paul Scott
  • The Coup – John Updike
  • Maps for Lost Lovers – Nadeem Aslam
  • Literature and Evil – George Bataille

 

 

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Penguin Great Ideas

Throughout history, some books have changed the world. They have transformed the way we see ourselves – and each other. They have inspired debate, dissent, war and revolution. They have enlightened, outraged, provoked and comforted. They have enriched lives – and destroyed them. Now Penguin brings you the works of the great thinkers, pioneers, radicals and visionaries whose ideas shook civilization and helped make us who we are.

WP_20160612_001It turns out I have managed to acquire seven of the one hundred great ideas that Penguin is selling at the cheap price of £4.99 without once realising their connection.  Two things strike me as faintly absurd, firstly that I would own seven books in a set but owing to the vast distance between the corners of my amassed collection and a poor memory, that I wouldn’t have made the connection earlier.

Secondly the price which is a steal, it enables people to pick up a bite sized portion of a new author to see what all the fuss is about and it also brings the reader loads of fascinating essays at a ridiculously decent price as well.  Who would not wish to dabble in such studies that have changed the way we view the world and in a good few instances how we actually live.

From tumultuous periods of history to thoughtful essays, the books empower the mind and allow us to read the key thoughts that defined past generations.  These are of course extracts from other books so why pick these up when you can pick these plus more in a book?  Well partly it is the need to know what texts these authors are famous for and also to gauge whose style I get on with so I can chart my reading to take the path of least resistance. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 12/06/2016 in Classics, Essays, Philosophy, Politics, Science

 

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Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

Dickens, yo!In what may be Dickens’s best novel, humble, orphaned Pip is apprenticed to the dirty work of the forge but dares to dream of becoming a gentleman — and one day, under sudden and enigmatic circumstances, he finds himself in possession of “great expectations.” In this gripping tale of crime and guilt, revenge and reward, the compelling characters include Magwitch, the fearful and fearsome convict; Estella, whose beauty is excelled only by her haughtiness; and the embittered Miss Havisham, an eccentric jilted bride.

Glancing about for my next read, I came across Great Expectations and I had to read it owing to the fact that there was a French teacher called Miss Havisham at school and that is as good a reason as any when the choice before me is so great.

The start is a brilliant set piece, a graveyard scene, an escaped convict and a boy alone on the foggy marshes.  It’s one of those openings that doesn’t just grab you in and keep you hooked from the off but is one of those memorable set pieces that will stay fixed in your memory for years.

It’s not far into the book when the word farinaceous (consisting of or containing starch) pops up thus reinforcing how good this book is.  Add in some trademark Dickens character names like Mr Wopsle and Pumblechook and a story that progresses smoothly to make this one of the higher echelon of  British classics in my opinion.

Pip’s voice is wonderfully written, it feels accurate and full of regret.  Most importantly it feels human and his thoughts, humbleness and understanding of key life events show a maturity of writing that comes through his natural growth of character throughout the book.  As far as narrators go Pip is one of my favourites.

Dickens has a great eye for human affectations, traits and emotional states, he really is a master and brings his characters to life, their often tragic ways and flaws, their hopes and beliefs.  What intrigued me is whilst plenty of characters have depths hidden which the reader is not aware of to begin with, others keep their singular attitudes and ways as anchors around the story, to perhaps ground the characters on their journeys towards redemption or otherwise. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 26/03/2016 in Classics, Fiction

 

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