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The Luzhin Defense – Vladimir Nabokov

Nabokov’s third novel, The Defense, is a chilling story of obsession and madness. As a young boy, Luzhin was unattractive, distracted, withdrawn, sullen–an enigma to his parents and an object of ridicule to his classmates. He takes up chess as a refuge from the anxiety of his everyday life. His talent is prodigious and he rises to the rank of grandmaster–but at a cost: in Luzhin’s obsessive mind, the game of chess gradually supplants the world of reality. His own world falls apart during a crucial championship match, when the intricate defense he has devised withers under his opponent’s unexpected and unpredictable lines of assault.

You would have thought he’d opt for a winnin’ defence!  Now that bad, not to mention obvious and cringeworthy joke is out of the way, I’ll leave the comedy and your tolerance in peace.

This being one of Nabakov’s earlier works, there are hints of the writer he would later become; with some wonderful prose in places, that demands the reader savour such lines appreciatively.

Like Stefan Zweig’s Chess, The Luzhin Defense is a fascinating leap into the mind (and abstract genius) of a grandmaster, with its sad but gripping descent into madness.  In this case we see the beginnings in his formative years, a lonely, tortured child unable to integrate with his peers and family who comes across the game and becomes seduced by the simplicity and more importantly the complexity of the it.

Luzhin is a closed, provocative character and very hard to like to begin with, although I softened up to him quickly, he is exhausting, uncommunicative, both annoying and likeable, and absurd.  Without this earlier connect to his childhood I probably would have become frustrated with the direction of the man over time and certainly a lot less sympathetic to him. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on 14/12/2017 in Fiction

 

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Monumental Reading

Many thanks to Crissy for taking this and the pther Philippines photos

by dint of studying, of analysing myself, of reaching out for higher things, and of a thousand corrections, I was transformed little by little, thanks to the influence of a beneficent professor….cultivating poetry and rhetoric had elevated my feelings, and Virgil, Cicero, and other authors showed me a new path which I could take. – Jose Rizal, spoken shortly before his execution on 30th December 1896

*photo taken near the Rizal monument in Rizal park…I was reading Rizal.

 
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Posted by on 08/12/2017 in History, The Philippines, Travel

 

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Life Choices

A metaphor with paths and autumn and trees and roots and such.

~

It’s been a while since I have posted; or visited but I have finally returned.  For those of you curious to know where I have been, I am – in truly enigmatic fashion – not yet ready to reveal that to the wider world but it is fair to say it is a seismic change in my life that is occurring and will sadly, mean I have to dismantle most of the book collection.

It will be sad to part with books that have been with me for almost two decades and been a big part in my life but I see no other option and I will salvage what I can, move on and hopefully bounce back in new and interesting ways.

What this means for the long-term of the blog with regards to book reviews, I don’t really know.  Naturally I am hoping to continue and keep that going, along with all the other things the blog has to offer.  In the short-term, I will be posting intermittently and hopefully visiting you all, as promised long ago before events truly ramped up.

As ever, thank you for your continued support, more shall be revealed soon about this new journey when things cease to be less busy but in the meantime, stay awesome and keep writing so I have even more to catch up on.

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Posted by on 07/11/2017 in Blogging

 

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A Dance to the Music of Time: Winter – Anthony Powell

Anthony Powell’s brilliant twelve novel sequence chronicles the lives of over three hundred characters, and is a unique evocation of life in twentieth-century England. It is unrivalled for its scope, its humour and the enormous pleasure it has given to generations.

Volume 4 contains the last three novels in the sequence: Books do Furnish a Room; Temporary Kings; Hearing Secret Harmonies.

As ever no spoilers will be contained in this review so as not to mar the experience for readers yet to embark on, or are already in amongst the wonderful prose.

Having read each season in a different one, Spring in Autumn, Summer in winter and so forth, I finally finished Winter in the heat of August and feel that melancholy of emptiness when eventually concluding a mammoth series and wondering what could top that.

Starting book ten I was feeling a little sad for this, the twilight of the final trilogy and it seemed my thoughts were echoed by Narrator Nick as well. It has been an absolute pleasure to watch characters come and go and age but sadly these last three books didn’t quite live up the magnificent first nine books.

As journey’s go, this one has been immensely gratifying. Even this late into the series, there are still new characters to be met as well as much welcomed appearances from the series stalwarts. Although after the previous war books, the original cast does feel sparse and it does leave a gap, knowing that those characters won’t be popping up unexpectedly in the Dance.

What makes it a little less immersive is the modernity of its time, whilst the inevitability of things moving on is one thing, the choice of actions and, in particular words chosen in their speech felt jarring against previous books.  In other chronicles, this would, perhaps, be a minor point but having the grounding books one to seven (and arguably eight as well), the change has been subtle but is easy to trace on reflection.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 30/09/2017 in Fiction, Modern Classics

 

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Lagom: The Swedish Secret of Living Well – Lola A. Åkerström

As the Swedish proverb goes, ‘Lagom är bäst’ (The right amount is best). Lagom sums up the Swedish psyche and is the reason why Sweden is one of the happiest countries in the world with a healthy work-life balance and high standards of living.

Lagom is a way of living that promotes harmony. It celebrates fairness, moderation and being satisfied with and taking proper care of what you’ve got, including your well-being, relationships, and possessions. It’s not about having too little or too much but about fully inviting contentment into our lives through making optimal decisions.

Full of insights and beautiful photographs, taken by Lola herself, this authentic book will help you make small, simple changes to your every day life – whether that’s your diet, lifestyle, money, work or your home – so you can have a more balanced way of living filled with contentment.

Lagom is a deep-set part of Swedish culture, it cultivates a clean, intelligent way of living inside and out.  This sense of balance and sustainability is concisely explained in this book as well as its context in Swedish society and beyond into the wider world.

The presentation of this succinct work is sharp, clear, and colourful throughout sprinkled with plenty of illustrations and some great photos of both scenery, food and everything in between.  It truly makes the reader yearn for a visit to Sweden to soak it all in and go hiking.

There is a comprehensive look at the different ways in which Lagom is invested in many lifestyle choices including; food, health, fashion, work, money and nature, to name a few.  It shows that unlike for other countries – my own included – this is not just a trend but an ingrained way of living. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 02/09/2017 in Life

 

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More Bromley House Library

Whilst touring the library’s several floors, it was wonderful to see plenty of cosy reading nooks and comfy chairs (as well as the day’s papers) which had me in mind of one of the old Gentlemen’s clubs frequented by Sherlock Holmes or Bertie Wooster.

Pottering around we were told that Bromley House has one of only four meridian lines in England and for some reason I straddled it as if I was in two different time zones.  Serious amounts of books will make me do odd things, although in the olden days Nottingham would have been 4 minutes and 33 seconds behind Greenwich.

The history section is one of the most fascinating as the books are classified in the order received, so wandering around the piles I found some amusing shelf mates such as Stalin next to Gandhi and Florence Nightingale sat next to…Lucretia Borgia!  It was also great to see the British Sundial Society Library housed here too, which is certainly something I would love to go back to and discover. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 19/08/2017 in Architecture, History, Travel

 

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Lagom Reprise

A while back I did a short post on the new ‘lifestyle trend’ Lagom and how it seems to be a bit of a money grab like all those other fads that come and go.

A day after that post, I got an email from Lola A.Åkerström asking me to read her book on the subject.

Åkerström lives in Sweden and tells me her book helps counter the craze and bring much needed perspective to the subject so naturally I accepted the offer so as to be better informed about the subject in general, as I love to learn.

The book has moved up my pile as I once again find myself reading several books simultaneously to catch up on all my commitments.

The most important thing to report so far is that the book smells absolutely fantastic, a proper new book smell which I wish I could bottle and sell on and thus make my fortune.  I shall keep you informed with my Lagom findings once the book is finished.

 

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Posted by on 17/08/2017 in Life

 

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