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Apple

What are you reading in 2009?...

I thought I'd start a new thread with a familiar theme for the new year, I am planning to read the Chronicles of Narnia (not all at once obviously) I got a lovely box set for christmas - I did have them as a child but I lent them to someone and never ever got them back, so I am looking forward to getting re acquainted with them.
Ann

Slightly off topic, Apple, but I enjoyed watching Narnia over Christmas and thought they'd stuck reasonable well to the story. These things work so much better now we have computer enhanced images. I saw a preview of Prince Caspian in a shop and thought it looked quite fun too. I have very happy memories of reading and rereading the stories as a child and I still have the books.
Caro

I have just started Bill Bryson's Shakespeare and now feel the need to check out the three 'portraits' of SS that the others are derived from.  

Cheers, Caro.
Not_Smart_Just_Lucky

I think that the film producers have pulled the plug on the Narnia series, just before Voyage of the Dawn Treader. It's a shame, because that would have been a good novel to film, great images in it to bring to life.
Caro

I have started Bill Bryson's Shaekspeare and, despite Greywolf's strictures, am enjoying it and learning lots.  Not necessarily about SS himself, but about the times and the history, which suits me fine.  I loved the sentence, for instance, where he says, "It's a surprise that there was so much demand [for dispensations to the Lenten rule of not eating meat] for in fact most varieties of light meat, including veal, chicken and all other poutry, were helpfully categorized as fish."  

And I like the fact that this book won't take me long to read!

Cheers, Caro.
lunababymoonchild

I am now reading Agincourt by Juliet Barker and enjoying it so far.

Luna
Mikeharvey

Am up to page 55 of Garrison Keillor's new Lake Wobegone novel "Liberty". Am enjoying it enormously and often laughing out loud.
Evie

I didn't know he was still writing about Lake Wobegon, Mike - I love those books!  And of course hearing him read them is wonderful too.
Mikeharvey

And if you have heard Keillor reading his own stuff in that idiosyncratic manner, you can imagine his voice in your head while reading.  
Have you seen " A Prairie Home Companion"? Robert Altman's last beautiful film? In it Keillor more or less plays himself as the presenter of a country and western radio show.  A haunting film.
Evie

Thanks for the reminder about the film - I haven't seen it, but did want to when it came out - must add it to my DVD rental list forthwith.  

Yes, it really helps to have heard Keillor reading his books, and then hearing him in your head as you are reading.  Will look out for Liberty.
Apple

I have decided to read a different book.. I was as my initial post on the thread said going to make a start on my Narnia books but I have decided instead to read a book which I had for my birthday (back in July) and has been calling out to me to be read - it was one which was a recommended read on the MSN board it is Defying Hitler a memoir by Sebastian Haffner, and so far it is a riveting read, I have only just started it and at the minute my head feels too swimmy to consider reading anything, but at the moment he is talking about his childhood and the outbreak of the first world war and it is really good.
Freyda

Hi
I'm new here so am just plunging in. Hope that's OK. I have just started reading Jane Gardam's short story anthology The People On Privilege Hill. It was one of my Christmas books. I love her writing, though one or two stories I have read here seem a bit unfinished. I mean that she starts with something you would like to have followed up, and then just stops without going back to it. But I do love her slightly eccentric take on characters.
TheRejectAmidHair

I think I'll make this year the Year of the Bard.

Although I class myself as a Shakespeqare nut, I can't help thinking that I really know very few of his plays properly. Whenever I read Shakespeare, almost invariably, I turn to a handful of personal favourites. So, inspired in part by the excellent book by A.D. Nuttall Shakespeare the Thinker (which I read last year), I was considering going through all the plays in the canon, one by one, and reading each one thoroughly.

I'll keep everyone posted on how I get on with my Bardathon.
Caro

If you can give us a little advance notice, Himadri, I at least might like to join you in one or two of these.  I enjoyed reading Anthony and Cleopatra and Twelfth Night last year especially with the comments from other people to help me recognise some of the themes and ideas.  They also have the advantage for me of being quite quick to read.

Cheers, Caro.
TheRejectAmidHair

I'll try to read them roughly in chronological order - although there is some uncertainty as to the exact order in which they were written. I'll keep to the order in which they are printed in the single volume Oxford Shakespeare, and that means starting with The Two Gentlemen of Verona. From what I remember of that play, it's a preposterous work, and for the completist only - but, as Will himself no doubt said, one has to start somewhere!
Caro

Bill Bryson in his Shakespeare that I am reading now quotes someone saying, "Two Gentlemen of Verona has 'an uncertainty of technique suggestive of inexperience'.  (Bryson translates that as 'unpolished'.)

I shan't join in that one, then.

Cheers, Caro.
Castorboy

Summer’s here, the temp is 20c and rising, so the papers can be ignored and I can read.
That Summer – Andrew Greig :  a romance during the Battle of Britain.
The Death of the King’s Canary – Dylan Thomas & John Davenport : a satire on the 30s literary scene.
Islands of the Gulf -  Shirley Maddock & Don Whyte : a description of the islands in the approaches to Auckland Harbour, a number of which I can see from our house.
Evie

I thought That Summer was wonderful - hope you are enjoying it, Castorboy.  He is such a good writer - and all his books are quite different.  Great stuff.
mike js

I am reading Dragonsdawn, by Anne McCaffrey. A long time ago I read Dragonflight, and really liked it. There was a blend of fantasy (not usually my thing) with a hint of an SF framework which I found really satisfying. There are apparently loads of novels set on the same world, Pern, but I haven't felt like reading those. Now then, Dragonsdawn tells how it all began with spacefarers settling on Pern, so it is the SF framework to the fantasy which intrigues me still I suppose. Enjoying it so far!
Evie

I am now reading Anglo-Saxon Attitudes by Angus Wilson.  I have wanted to read it for ages, and it's been out of print for ages, but I now have a secondhand copy.  Am absolutely loving it so far.
Joe Mac

Sounds ineresting, Evie. Tell us something about it!
Chibiabos83

Do let me know how you get on, E/V. Another book I'm keen to read. I've just embarked on Journey Through a Small Planet by Emanuel Litvinoff, which looks very special. Currently on Patrick Wright's introduction. A writer I've been interested in for years, and a lovely new Penguin Modern Classics edition.
Evie

Hello RN - Anglo-Saxon Attitudes is a novel written in the 1950s, about a group of people held together by their 'relationship' with an archaeological dig earlier in the century which unearthed an Anglo-Saxon artefact.  So it's really a novel about people's lives (my favourite kind of novel!) and their relationships with each other and with themselves.  I think!  I am not very far into it yet, but know it by repute and because I have vague memories of the TV adaptation of it, which must be nearly 20 years ago now.  In fact the secondhand copy I have has a photo of the lovely Douglas Hodge on the front, from that TV dramatisation.  'Anglo-Saxon' clearly has both historical and metaphorical meaning.

Will certainly let you know how I get on, Chibiabos.  It's hard to concentrate on work at the moment when I just want to go and read that!  One of the difficulties of working at home...

I know nothing about Litvinoff, so will be interested to hear more about that too.
Evie

PS - interesting that you read the Introduction first.  I never read that until afterwards, because an Introduction assumes that you know the book that is being introduced, and apart from giving spoilers, it always seems to me to make more sense when read after the novel.  I'd rather read the novel unsullied by someone else's comments on it, and come to those afterwards.
Chibiabos83

Customarily I avoid introductions scrupulously, but Journey Through a Small Planet is non-fiction, and I have an idea of what to expect - no linear narrative, more a series of sketches of the Jewish ghetto in London's East End in the early years of the 20th century - so I don't mind spoilers. As it transpires, the introduction seems to be little more than an extended biographical note on Litvinoff and his work, probably an interesting and useful thing to read before approaching the book itself.
Caro

I am reading a New Zealand novel - How to Stop a Heart from Beating by Jackie Ballantye, possibly a first novel, though I am not sure.  

I am enjoying it very much - just the sort of thing I like.  Although it is written in the third person most of it seen through the eyes of a nine-year-old in 1961 trying to make sense of the world and people.  She is rather a loner in her family which has twin boys older than her and twin girls younger.  She goes to the cemetery and sees the paupers' graves with no details and promised to give them all names and deaths.  For this she has to kill imaginery people and get them to the cemetery; finding out how death works is difficult for her.  There is obviously a family secret in the background but I haven't worked that out yet, though an aunt living with the family has just come out as lesbian.

I picked up this book partly because it is set in South Otago where I live (and where no novels are set); though it does actually mention my little town by name, which gave me a little thrill,  I think the setting could be almost anywhere in NZ in the 50s or 60s.  It definitely has a sense of the childhood of that time, with the freedom children had and the worries that sometimes brought (though not normally the worries parents have on their behalf).  

It is always interesting for me to see how people misunderstand young children and what they are thinking.  I remember this from my own childhood where I frequently felt the adults in my family (and it was a very laissez-faire family) had not understood what I was saying or thinking at all.

Anyway, nicely written, a sense of something mysterious in the background and a lovely feel for the girl at the heart of it.  I am about half way through.  

Cheers, Caro.  

Cheers, Caro.
TristansGhost

Charles Dickens - The Chimes
Plodding through this but that's more to do with my lack of time than the story, I think.
Klara Z

I'm reading 'Dusty Answer' by Rosamund Lehman---superb so far, as I guessed it would be, as I've loved other novels by Rosamund Lehman that I've read in the past. Then I've got the new Shena McKay collection of short stories lined up from the library. After that, I'm off to Australia for a month (so unlikely to be posting here!) and I'm going to take 'For the Term of his Natural Life' by Marcus Clarke with me.
Ann

I love Rosamund Lehmann, Klara, especially The Weather in the Streets.
I'm reading Brethren by Robyn Young. I know it was well reviewed and it seems interesting, though it hasn't grabbed me yet. It is about the Crusades written from both sides of the conflict. I've only read about 4 chapters so far.
Simon The Sponge

Currently working my way through a Tom Sharpe novel - Wilt Alternative - Not overly impressed so far - it seems to have taken a little while for him to get into his stride and I'm only now starting to find it very mildly amusing, but not much - maybe I'm having the same problem that I had with Lucky Jim - I felt with LJ that the appreciation of the humour lay in having a strong empathy with Academic Life
bookfreak

Just started (for Book Club) Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.   I wouldn't have chosen it for myself, but am optimistic as I recall Caro had very good things to say about it.
Chibiabos83

Simon, have you read Wilt? Maybe it's useful to have read the first Wilt book first. I thought it was hilarious, but haven't read any of the sequels.

I'm reading Cakes and Ale by Somerset Maugham, which is a cracking read. The flashbacks are a bit Go-Betweeny, the bits in the present faintly scandalous. I'll report back.
Freyda

Evie wrote:
Anglo-Saxon Attitudes is a novel written in the 1950s, about a group of people held together by their 'relationship' with an archaeological dig earlier in the century which unearthed an Anglo-Saxon artefact.  So it's really a novel about people's lives (my favourite kind of novel!) and their relationships with each other and with themselves.  I think!  I am not very far into it yet, but know it by repute and because I have vague memories of the TV adaptation of it, which must be nearly 20 years ago now.  In fact the secondhand copy I have has a photo of the lovely Douglas Hodge on the front, from that TV dramatisation.  'Anglo-Saxon' clearly has both historical and metaphorical meaning.



I remember this TV adaptation but I'm hoping it wasn't 20 years ago! Am I so old? I think Elizabeth Spriggs played the ghastly/wonderful Swedish mother, with big plaits on her head. In the book she made me laugh in a love-to-hate-her sort of way. She forces her grown up sons to wear hand-knitted Christmas sweaters. I think that was in the TV programme too. There is a great account of a dreadful Christmas gathering.
Freyda

'Anglo Saxon Attitudes' is a quote I recognised from Alice Through The Looking Glass but when I looked in my 'Annotated Alice' it refers to the quote being used at the start of the novel. So long since I read it, a library copy, that I'd forgotten this. And that Lewis Carroll was himself lampooning the Victorian fashion for Anglo-saxon archaeology. Haigha (the transformed Hare from the Tea Party) is an "Anglo Saxon messenger" and when he waves his arms about foolishly "those are Anglo-saxon attitudes" so attitudes itself has two meanings. But it always reminds me of the Anglo Saxons in Carry On Cleo, too - what were their names?? Kenneth Connor etc
Evie

I have just read the account of the Christmas gathering in the book - *fantastic*!  Absolutely hilarious.  I can imagine the much-lamented Elizabeth Spriggs being wonderful as Inge, the Danish matriarch.  I only have vague recollections of the TV series - I don't think I can have seen much of it.  (I think the date of the TV series I found was 1992, so 20 years was being unduly pessimistic!  Though not by much...)

The quote from Alice is at the front of the novel.  It is a much more complex novel than it at first appears, and structurally very clever - I am tremendously impressed, but still (at about the half-way point) wondering what it is really all about.  It needs the reader to piece things together - which is great.  I haven't yet spent enough time doing that.

It is a satirical novel, so no doubt Carroll is an inspiration in more ways than one.  'Attitudes' certainly has the two meanings in Wilson's novel as well, and that sort of playfulness is at the heart of the novel.  I am loving it.
TheRejectAmidHair

Freyda wrote:
But it always reminds me of the Anglo Saxons in Carry On Cleo, too - what were their names?? Kenneth Connor etc


Well, Jim Dale was Horsa, Kenneth Connor was Hengist Pod, and Shiela Hancock was Senna.

- Senna! What a lovely name!
- Well, it was until I married someone called Pod!

(Sorry about that, I couldn't resist ... back to books now...)
Freyda

You know, I thought it was Hengist and Horsa but then I thought maybe they were names of real people in history... and I didn't want to show my ignorance. Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me! (sorry)
Freyda

Sorry, Danish, not Swedish. Apologies to any Scandinavians. I said it was a long time ago. But I think I did read it twice, which is a real compliment from me.

I'm glad you are loving it , Evie.
MikeAlx

Freyda wrote:
You know, I thought it was Hengist and Horsa but then I thought maybe they were names of real people in history...

They are - sort of. More myth than history, probably. They are supposedly the founders of Anglo-Saxon England (though in fact they were probably Jutes - or possibly Frisians). Oh dear, I'm coming over a bit 1066 and all that. Here's a wiki link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hengest
Simon The Sponge

I've not read Wilt at all Gareth, I got the Wilt Alternative as a secret santa pressie over a year ago (it tends to take me at least a year to get round to reading a Christmas present.

I can see what he's writing is potentially amusing, but it just doesn't seem to appeal to my sense of humour.  It seems like he's trying to be funny too often, but I have chortelled a couple of times recently.

On the subject of Hengest and Horsa, they were Jutes of Kent, I think Horsa is the inspiration for the Kent Invicta Horse motif, but I could well be wrong
Chibiabos83

Well, my experience of Tom Sharpe has been mixed - I didn't really warm to Porterhouse Blue. Maybe this just isn't one of his best.
Caro

I agree with Gareth, Simon.  Wilt was better than the sequel (or was it sequels?) that I read.  It wasn't only very funny, but it had a lot of pathos too - some resemblance to Catch-22 in that way.  The sort of books that makes you laugh while feeling very angry.  However I didn't get the same sense to that degree in the others, where I felt the humour was more strained and the pathos not there so much at all.

Cheers, Caro.
Simon The Sponge

Quote:
I felt the humour was more strained


I think that has hit the nail on the head Caro, nevertheless I'll carry on and maybe have look around for Wilt when I'm next having a Browse through the library
Green Jay

MikeAlx wrote:
Freyda wrote:
You know, I thought it was Hengist and Horsa but then I thought maybe they were names of real people in history...

They are - sort of. More myth than history, probably. They are supposedly the founders of Anglo-Saxon England (though in fact they were probably Jutes - or possibly Frisians). Oh dear, I'm coming over a bit 1066 and all that. Here's a wiki link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hengest


So Kenneth Connor and Jim Dale founded Anglo Saxon England. That must have been A Good Thing.

(It's such fun to be back!)

LGJ

I dropped the Little this time round, as I'm not, but old habits die hard.
Catherine_Ernshaw

I am reading The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas - so far have read 134 pages, but still not sure if will enjoy this book.  

Despite the long winded sections on metaphysics and philosophy, I think that when the female protagonist enters the alternative world called the ‘Troposphere’ the story will grab my attention again.

The Book cover is beautiful and gothic looking, with an interesting blurb -

When Ariel Manto uncovers a copy of The End of Mr. Y in a second-hand   bookshop, she can't believe her eyes. She knows enough about its author, the outlandish Victorian scientist Thomas Lumas, to know that copies are exceedingly rare. And, some say, cursed. With Mr. Y under her arm, Ariel finds herself thrust into a thrilling adventure of love, sex, death and time-travel.
Sandraseahorse

Re:  Tom Sharpe.  I loved "Wilt", "Porterhouse Blue" and "Blott on the Landscape" but "The Midden"  - oh dear!  It shows a dramatic decline in writing ability.  Whereas the other books had black humour, this was just sick in places and where the other books were bawdy, this was just digusting.  sad3 When my book group voted at our Christmas lunch a couple of years ago on the books we had read throughout the year, several wanted to give it a minus score.

I am so glad that other people here love "Anglo Saxon Attitudes."  I read it when I was in my twenties ( I daren't tell you how long ago it was but it was before the TV adaptation) and I loved it.  I then started recommending it to my friends but not only did they not like it, a couple were indignant with me for recommending a book they considered tedious.  In fact, until now the only person I've ever encountered who enjoyed the book was the politican Roy Hattersley, who chose it as his book in the Great Books of the Twentieth Century Series.
chris-l

My experience in both cases is very similar to yours, Sandra. I have only ever read one Tom Sharpe, and I can't now even remember the title. What I do remember is feeling very grubby when I had finished it, and I never cared to repeat the experience.

I, too, was in my twenties when I read 'Anglo-Saxon Attitudes', which was long before the TV adaptation, which I have never seen. Apart from on here, I know no one else who has ever read it, but I did very much enjoy it. I think I may have a very yellowed Penguin copy somewhere in the bookcase: I must look it out and go for a re-read.
Evie

I am reading The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, and it's excellent.  Haven't read an American novel for a while, and it's good to be back in the States!  Reminds me a bit of Paul Auster - stories within stories and slightly eccentric characters, all in a New York setting.  Will say more when I've read more, but going very well so far.
Evie

I have also started Richard Mabey's Beechcombings.  Will post more about it on the Richard Mabey thread in due course - but I do *love* the way he writes.  Thought-provoking stuff, inspired by the great tree-felling during the storm of 1987, and the human reaction to it - his concern is with the way we think we can control nature, remedy the damage done by such storms, etc, when in fact trees are very good at surviving all by themselves, and regenerating - but in ways that humans find untidy!  It's wonderful stuff.  I *love* trees.
chris-l

I don't know why I didn't think of this before: in the months when I was too preoccuped to post much, I read 'No Laughing Matter', by Angus Wilson. This was a novel that I had not come across until I found it on a secondhand book stall at the local U3A open day, but I think it might interest those of you who have enjoyed 'Anglo-Saxon Attitudes'.

It covers a longish time-span, from pre-1914, up until post-1945, and follows the fortunes of the rather eccentric Matthews family. Initially, I found it quite hard to follow, as most characters have either alternative names or alter egos of one sort or another, and stylistically, the book swaps from staightforward narrative, to filmic story board, to play script, but once I was in to the flow, everything began to make sense.

Superficially, this is a family saga, but to dismiss it as simply that would be to reckon without the skill of Angus Wilson. The characters are complex and the plot is intriguing.

If you enjoyed 'Anglo-Saxon Attitudes' and happen to come across a copy of 'No Laughing Matter', my advice would be, read it.
Evie

Thanks, Chris!  I certainly intend to read more of Angus Wilson, so will look out for that one.  Someone else today told me about another of his that is apparently about the private life of Hitler, but that appeals a bit less!
Caro

I am reading The House of Doctor Dee by Peter Ackroyd.  It is taking me some time to get into it and I was wondering about giving it up.  It is very small writing which is difficult for me in the evening with the poor reading light we seem to have in our living room.  And it is about a man who inherits a house which he feels uncomfortable in.  This modern man's story is balanced with the story of John Dee, an astrology and sorceror of the 16th century.  I wonder if he is a real person - haven't checked that yet.  

The last few pages where John Dee explains his life to a person in a bar I am finding more enjoyable so may perservere.  This does show a difficulty with books set in the past. Peter Ackroyd's erudition shows through with his knowledge of London in the past and I quite like this, but I am noticing that his characters use words from Shakespeare that are less usual now and I'm altogether comfortable with this.  In one page we have 'hugger-mugger' and 'flibber-jibber'.  However, I think in a book so concerned with the details of food, attitudes and the general life of the 16th century, (which I do like) perhaps modern language would grate amongst that.

I will continue with it, I think.

Cheers, Caro.
Evie

We need Melanie D and Spidernick Knight to come back and enthuse about Ackroyd, Caro!  I have never got on with him, but their enthusiasm was always infectious.

Hugger-mugger is still in modern usage, though I haven't heard flibber-jibber.  Flibbertyjibbet yes, but not flibber-jibber!
Evie

I am now reading Life Class by Pat Barker for my book group (the one I wasn't sure about rejoining but feel I really should!).  I heard it on the radio soon after it was published, though not the last couple of episodes.

The only Barker I have read before is Regeneration, which I thought was *fantastic*, and have no idea why I have yet to read the other two in that trilogy.  This is nowhere near as good, so far at least.  The writing is creaky, and she has fallen into the Bad Sex trap - I love reading about sex, but never understand why writers who can write fairly elegantly most of the time feel sex has to be described in the crudest terms - it's OK if the writer is good at using crude terms, but this one isn't!  Embarrassing, almost as bad as the scene in Faulks's Birdsong.  (Wait, what am I saying, it's actually not nearly as bad as that!  Ugh.)

Anyway, it's about artists at the Slade on the eve of WW1, studying under the formdable (and real-life) surgeon-turned-drawing-master Henry Tonks.  Intriguing from that point of view, an interesting place at an interesting time, and the characters are drawing me in, but the writing is not as smooth as it might be.
lunababymoonchild

Caro,

John Dee is indeed a real person.  More here John Dee

Luna
Caro

Thanks, Luna.  I had felt he must have been a real person, but hadn't got round to checking.  May possibly even have read his name before, I suppose.

Cheers, Caro.
MikeAlx

Caro wrote:
John Dee, an astrology and sorceror of the 16th century.

He was also a mathematician, geographer, scientist and political wheeler-dealer. He was close to Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth I's chief spymaster. It is suspected he may have been involved in either the creation or sale of the famous Voynich Manuscript - a strange work, written in a code that has yet to be deciphered, which some suspect may have been a forgery created purely to raise funds. He also knew Tycho Brahe, the astronomer whose observations led to Kepler's theoretical breakthroughs on the motion of the planets.
Evie

Can anyone tell me how to pronounce Brahe's surname?  I have often wondered!  I find it hard to read a word I don't know how to pronounce, and feel ashamed of not knowing how to say the name of a great man like Brahe!
MikeAlx

Evie wrote:
The only Barker I have read before is Regeneration, which I thought was *fantastic*, and have no idea why I have yet to read the other two in that trilogy.

The second book isn't so great, but 'The Ghost Road' is, I think, the finest of the three. It won the Booker Prize in 1995 (but don't let that put you off!).

I read 'Life Class' when it came out; I found it interesting, but ultimately less convincing than the Regeneration books. It's an era I'm very interested in; Tonks taught most of the major British artists of that generation - CRW Nevinson (whom he told would never succeed as an artist!), Spencer Gore, Augustus John, Gwen John, Wyndham Lewis, Stanley Spencer, Rex Whistler, Mark Gertler, David Bomberg, Edward Wadsworth, William Roberts, Dora Carrington, Paul Nash and Isaac Rosenberg, amongst others. The characters in 'Life Class' are very much based on Nevinson, Nash and Carrington; I'm not sure why Barker decided to change their names (legal reasons perhaps!).
MikeAlx

Evie wrote:
Can anyone tell me how to pronounce Brahe's surname?  I have often wondered!  I find it hard to read a word I don't know how to pronounce, and feel ashamed of not knowing how to say the name of a great man like Brahe!

I've always pronounced it 'Bra-hay', assuming it must be vaguely similar to German (Brahe was actually Danish, though his birthplace of Scania is now in Sweden). Wikipedia suggests 'Bra-hee' is more common.
Evie

I too have said Brahe in my head, for the same reasons, but didn't know if Danish had a completely different method of pronunciation.

As for Life Class - the reason I was attracted to the book originally was because it's such an interesting time in the history of British art, and my friend studying Kit Wood has enhanced my interest in the period.  The reviews - published ones and among people I knew - were a bit halfhearted, which is why I haven't got round to reading it sooner.  I'm quite glad she changed the names - though interestingly not the name of Tonks - as it removes it a bit from direct historical facts, etc.  Maybe she did it so that she could take some liberties with the characters - if she had kept the artists' names, she might have felt more restricted by what we know about them and by the response of their families.  I am enjoying it, for all its faults - and will certainly read the rest of the Regeneration trilogy at some point too.
Chibiabos83

Having spent the past few years scrupulously reading one book at a time for the reason that keeping track of multiple narratives would confuse me, I am now reading three, though admittedly only one is a novel.

I've reached about the halfway point of Pale Fire by Nabokov, which is fascinating and thrilling; I've just started F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tales of the Jazz Age, which is shaping up nicely; and I'm nearing the end of The Complete Polyphonic Spree by Nick Hornby, which is very companionable. A good bunch of books.
Caro

Years ago I read one of those science books I attempt every now and again and in the course of it the author talked of Tycho Brahe. Unfortunately the only thing that stuck and which still bothers me off and on at times, was the story of his death.  Apparently he was at some high-flying function and didn't want to leave it to go the toilet, and his bladder burst.  

(I did think people in those days were more open about toileting but maybe not.)  Anyway this always makes me shudder when I think about it.  

Cheers, Caro.
Green Jay

Caro wrote:
Unfortunately the only thing that stuck and which still bothers me off and on at times, was the story of his death.  Apparently he was at some high-flying function and didn't want to leave it to go the toilet, and his bladder burst.  




Shocked God, I'm always doing that when I'm busy but never thought I was in any danger!
Makes me think of Leslie Neilson in one of the Naked Gun films where he goes to take a very long and noisy pee during a banquet for the Queen and he's still got his security microphone on.
Green Jay

Evie wrote:
I am now reading Life Class by Pat Barker ...
 The writing is creaky, and she has fallen into the Bad Sex trap - ...  Embarrassing, almost as bad as the scene in Faulks's Birdsong.  (Wait, what am I saying, it's actually not nearly as bad as that!  Ugh.)



I'm with you there, Evie. The sex scenes in Birdsong were as bad as the war bits were well-written. Yuk.

I've a feeling Faulks has been up for the Bad Sex Prize several times, hasn't he?

LGJ
MikeAlx

Caro wrote:
the only thing that stuck and which still bothers me off and on at times, was the story of his death.

The thing I always remember is that he had a brass nose, because he'd had part of his real nose cut off in a duel. He was apparently an obnoxious git who picked a fight with all and sundry, but a brilliant astronomical observer and recorder.

Astonishingly, he is not the only great genius to have had a missing nose. Gaston Julia, the French mathematician whose pioneering work paved the way for fractal theory, lost his nose in WWI and wore a leather patch over it for the rest of his life. If you haven't seen Julia Sets before, take a look - they're pretty.
Ann

I'd never heard of Gaston Julia but I did like his sets! I used to like theorums and did  A level pure maths but I couldn't be bothered to try and understand the maths - and I want you to know I'm ashamed of myself because that is lazy and pathetic Sad
Caro

Yes, well, Mike, the pictures were pretty but the language was beyond me from the third word.  "In complex dynamics, the Julia set [1] of a holomorphic function"

I understand 'in' 'the' almost 'set' and 'of a'.  Sometimes I understand 'function'.  The rest of it might as well have been in Greek (is  in Greek?)  

Cheers, Caro.

How do I use that quote function?  I am sure I managed it once, biut I can't today.
Castorboy

Caro wrote:

How do I use that quote function?  I am sure I managed it once, biut I can't today.

Just click on the Quote panel top right on the message window Caro.
If you don't need the whole text, use the Delete command to take out the text when in the Reply window.
Caro

Castorboy wrote:
Just click on the Quote panel top right on the message window Caro.
If you don't need the whole text, use the Delete command to take out the text when in the Reply window.


The first time I must have done something wrong so will try again now.
Thanks, Caro.
Caro

So what is the quote for that I can see as I type beside the Bold, italics and underline and Code (not that I have any idea what Code means)?

Caro.
Evie

That's just an alternative way of quoting - you can just copy and paste a phrase from the post you are replying to, highlight it, and click  on Quote.

It's great that quoting is easy on this board!  Much more straightforward than the current BBC boards.
Ann

I'm reading The Act of Roger Murgatroyd by Gilbert Adair, which is a sort of spoof whodunit. It is a  send up of Agatha Christie being very much a house party in the 1930s with a set of stock characters. Christie fans will enjoy the title  Smile
Caro

I am rather struggling my way through The House of Doctor Dee by Peter Ackroyd.  Every now and again I wonder about giving up, but then think there is nothing wrong with this book, quite the opposite really.  it's just that's rather difficult and with such tiny writing physically difficult too.  

I find the parts in modern London where the narrator has found himself living in a house which John Dee lived in more to my taste than the passages narrated by John Dee which are strong in 16th C philosophising and ideas and language, and where I don't get a true sense of John Dee as a person.  Perhaps portraying someone so clever in so many fields is quite hard to do, and Ackroyd himself is obviously on the academic side of writing.  So there are many passages of names of the period and alchemist ideas and historical details, such as the visit to a brothel or to the play.  There is no doubt that he paints a vivid picture of the places, with smells and sounds described but I am not all that fond of description.  Here is one passage to give the flavour:

"It was a short ride now into New Fish Street, which led me over against the bridge.  There are those who cry up this bridge as a great glory of London, standing upon its twenty arches of squared free-stone, but it is a narrow thoroughfare across the river and one so hemmed in with shops and houses that there is scarcely room to pass; I led my horse slowly through the busy press of people and there was so great a crowd of porters, street-sellers, merchants and travellers that many times I came to a halt, surrounded by cries of  'Make way there!' and 'By your leave!', until I found my path to the south end and came out by the bankside.  I rode on a little to Winchester Stairs and left my horse with the keeper of the stables there, and then advanced on foot to the patch of waaste ground by Dead Man's Place where the beats are baited.  It was no more than a penny to ascend the wooden scaffold to watch the spectacle but I cam in as one of the last and had to peep over heads and shoulders as the bear was brought forth into the court and the dog set to him."

Anyway I shall continue.  But I wouldn't recommend this book if you aren't keen on historical and geographical detail.

Cheers, Caro.
Marita

My current read is Wild Swans by Jung Chang, a book I have wanted to read ever since it first appeared. It is a hard book, not because of the language or structure but because of the subject matter. Sometimes after I have read a couple of chapters I feel like reading something lighter in between but whenever I have time I always go back to Wild Swans.

Marita
Green Jay

Green Jay wrote:
Evie wrote:
I am now reading Life Class by Pat Barker ...
 The writing is creaky, and she has fallen into the Bad Sex trap - ...  Embarrassing, almost as bad as the scene in Faulks's Birdsong.  (Wait, what am I saying, it's actually not nearly as bad as that!  Ugh.)



I'm with you there, Evie. The sex scenes in Birdsong were as bad as the war bits were well-written. Yuk.

I've a feeling Faulks has been up for the Bad Sex Prize several times, hasn't he?

LGJ


On Woman's Hour today Rowan Pelling was of the opinion that Birdsong sold so well partly because of the sex scenes, and that women readers were going for that rather than the battles and the tunnelling of the Sappers. God save us!

I'd rather revisit the stuck-in-the-tunnel scenes than the hot provincial French adultery, thanks.
Caro

I loved Birdsong and I enjoyed the romance as well as finding the war scenes heart-rending.  I did have a little trouble with the tunnelling as I don't cope with places I can't get out of and that was gruelling even to read for me.  (Actually it was the part of the book I did quibble about, much more than the sex, which certainly didn't bother me at the time - must re-read it sometime.  I didn't think he would have been able to survive the time he spent underground with the injuries he had.  It didn't seem quite realistic to me.

Cheers, Caro.
Jen M

I loved Birdsong and, like Caro, found the tunnelling scenes harrowing; I could only read on because I knew he survived in the end.  I didn't have a problem with the sex scenes either; I felt that if they were clumsy it reflected the relative inexperience of the participants, and this is only a small part of the book, anyway.
Evie

I am now reading The Ballad of Peckham Rye and *loving* it so far - though am only two chapters/25 pages in.  So fab to be reacquainted with Muriel Spark's wonderful writing - no one else writes quite like her - brilliant.  Superb use of reported speech - that might sound an odd thing to say, but it's just delightful!
Chibiabos83

Oh, thank the lord. I've got lots of Sparks scattered around the place, but think I may go for The Mandelbaum Gate next, not just because it's so highly thought of but also because the fact that it's so long compared to most of her other books interests me.
MikeAlx

About time I read some more Spark, too. I have a few of her novels sitting around; 'A Far Cry from Kensington' is one of them, but I'm sure I have a few others besides.

Her short stories are also very good. I have a collection called 'The Go-Away Bird and Other Stories', which has some really great stuff in it.
Evie

Ah, that's a corker, Chibiabos.  Hope you enjoy it.  Someone gave it to me a few years back, and it was that book that - er - sparked my interest in Dame Muriel.

Spark by name, sparky by nature.  Fab.
Ann

I'm reading The Story of Blanche and Marie by Per Olov Enquist. It is the winner of the Independant Foreign Fiction Prize ( where is Havisham now!) and is an odd book. It is written in a sort of dreamlike way by a girl who helped Marie Curie with her experiments on radium and therefore lost three of her limbs to radioactive poisoning. Mostly it is about love - love of science, love of men, love of life and such things. A quote on the back by James Urquhart of the Mail on Sunday says 'the glimpsed idea of a wider, more poetic sensibility linking art, death, reading and love'. That gives an idea of the flavour of the writing. I can't say I'm really enjoying it,  I keep putting it down, but it does have a kind of fascination to it and I'm sure I shall finish it.
Melony

Greetings all - I am reading Ghostwalk by Rebecca Scott and thoroughly enjoying it.  Since it's out in paperback, I would imagine everyone has heard of it...Cambridge historian found drowned...alchemical history of Isaac Newton...seventeenth century intertwined with ours.  It's good stuff!  Scott's writing builds a quiet, foggy ambience perfect for a ghost walk into the mind of Newton, quantum physics, murder, plague, history, and a creepy old lady with a milky eye who tells the protagonist "several people have been waiting for you" and "I'll seek you out."  There is even a book (with pictures) within the book.  Great fun!

Hope everyone is well!
county_lady

Hi Melony I thought of you when reading Dracula.  Surprised
Ghostwalk is duly noted as it sounds very interesting.

Edited to add:
Just been to Amazon and ordered Ghostwalk as the reviews were so good.

PS.  To avoid cofusion the author is Rebecca Stott.
lunababymoonchild

Melony, so very good to see you.

You've been on my mind too, especially since The Suspicions of Mr Whicher is now one of Richard & Judy's book club choices and I've been smugly walking around thinking "I've read that!"

Dunno what my next read will be.  Probably Valkyrie.

Luna
Chibiabos83

Ghostwalk has been mentioned on the board before, though not discussed in depth. Living in Cambridge, I've probably come across it more often than most, and I may read it at some point, though it's not high on my tbr list. Interestingly, I recently found out that The Suspicions of Mr Whicher also has personal geographical connections for me, as I grew up only a few miles from Rode, where the crime that it chronicles took place. Another book I may read one day...
lunababymoonchild

Well worth it Chibiabos, imho.

I have started Valkyrie: The Plot To Kill Hitler by Philipp von Boeselager.  Didn't know anything about this until I saw trailers for the film and am only a few pages in but it's fascinating already.  

Luna
Evie

I am now reading Jasper Fforde's First Among Sequels.  I know it hasn't had great reviews, even from hardened Fforde fans, but I am thoroughly enjoying being reacquainted with Thursday Next and with Fforde's amazing wit and cleverness.  Haven't got far, but have laughed a lot, and it's a great antidote to the stresses and strains of academic life.
Ann

When was it published, Evie? I remember reading one about two years ago and I'm not sure if this was it or I'm only remembering the title from reviews. I do remember liking the latest Nursery Crimes one better than the last Thursday Next book I read, which I found a bit disjointed.
Evie

I think it was published a couple of years ago, Ann - maybe the paperback came out last year, can't quite remember!  County lady or Thursday may know...  It doesn't get great reviews anywhere, so I am expecting the initial charm to wear off, but he's good fun, I enjoy the way his brain works!
Ann

Yes, and I love picking up on the literary clues
Melony

Ann, thanks so much for that correction!!!  Rebecca STOTT is right!  I think you will enjoy it tremendously.  It is written in first person, which is making me wonder if I am getting an accurate assessment of what is going on...first person always gives a somewhat preternatural feeling to a novel, because one is never sure if what is seen, heard, felt, interrepted is right or not.  The back of the book has Newton's recipes for various cures - I love novels that have bibliographies and footnotes in the back! lol

Chibiabos, can those conversations about the book be resurrected or are they lost in cyberspace?  Thanks -

Luna, I have been thinking about you, too - well, everyone in fact.  I miss conversing with you all.  Valkyrie - I never knew that plot existed, either, but I am so glad it is being discussed.  I have seen a few History Channel documentaries interviewing older Germans about the plot to kill Hitler.
Chibiabos83

I think they're probably somewhere on the MSN board, but unless someone knows exactly where we can consider them lost. I suspect it was only mentioned a couple of times in passing and just stuck in my mind because of the Cambridge theme.
Ann

Thanks, Melony, but I'm getting praise for something I didn't earn as it was county lady who noticed the spelling! It is very nice to hear from you again, though. My father lived near to where Newton was born and did quite a lot of research on the gentleman: he had an article published and corresponded with others about controversies in Newton's early life.
joeturner

I just finished The Road and The Piano Tuner.  Both books kept me up on the nights that I finished them. I should learn by now  to read only light comic novels just before sleep...but how did I know?  I saved Bryson's Neither Here Nor There for bedtime and I kept my wife up cause I shook the bed laughing so much. I'm now in the middle of a book that I bought for my ten year old granddaughter, but gran thinks it's too mature.  I want to steer her away from H Potter, P Pullman, etc, and  Magna cartoons.
county_lady

Hi Ann and Evie First Among Sequels was out in paperback last July. I bought the hardback a year earlier at a paperback price  Very Happy
Fiveowls

Having finished Anna Karenina, I am now underway with Sebastian Faulks' Engleby as a complete contrast.  So far I am enjoying Mike Engleby's voice in this novel written in the first person singular.  It evokes two periods of my life quite powerfully: my time at Cambridge in the 1950s (oh, what a dull decade!) and my job from 1969 and through the 1970s as a medical officer at the Students Health Service, the University of Bristol.  The early 70s is the period of the book and Faulks captures perfectly the mindset, attitudes and language of students of that time.  I can almost hear Soft Machine and Procul Harem and smell the hash as I read!
Hector

Thanks to all the snow I was able to leave work a little earlier today(!)which meant that I managed to finish Philip Roth's "The Human Stain" this afternoon.  

Thought it was an improvement on "I Married a Communist" which I read in December although I did not enjoy it as much as "American Pastoral". I have of late been reading Roth alternately with other authors but I think that I will have an extended break and try and get through a few books that have been gathering dust on my shelves.

I think my next read will be Harry Mullisch's "The Assalt" which garnered good reviews and is relatively short at under 200 pages. I read his sprawling "The Discover of Heaven" about 5 years ago which I enjoyed and so have always wanted to tackle another of his. Has anyone else read much Mullisch?

Regards

Hector
Joe Mac

I'm reading 'The Heat of the Day' by Elizabeth Bowen, a 1948 edition the library dredged up for me, which suggests it hasn't been in print for quite some years.
As I've mentioned elsewhere, my interest in sampling Bowen was sparked by an encounter with 'Love's Civil War' a recent book of her letters and diary entries of Charles Ritche, chronicling their 30-year love affair. In another book of Ritchie wartime diaries, 'The Siren Years', he advises readers desiring an ingenious depiction of wartime London to read 'The Heat of the Day.' So I took his advice.

The principal characters seem to represent Bowen and Ritchie themselves. But there is so far little in the way of story and very much in the way of metaphorical description of the place and the people and their moods, thoughts and motivations. It may be genius at work, but I can't help wishing she'd can the micro-analysis and get on with the story.
What story there is seems to hinge largely upon a mysterious and annoying fellow named Harrison, who insinuates himself into the female character's life. So there is a bit of tension, which in the circumstances is mildly interesting.

As for what the story reveals about the wartime experience in London, this comes out mainly where she departs from the narrative for one fairly long passage on the effect of the Blitz on human relations - interesting stuff from an obviously keen observer, not to mention participant. But for my money, the purpose could have just as well or better been served just by straightforward reporting, rather than relying so heavily on metaphor.

I'm not sure if I've put that very well. I suspect my reaction to any claim of 'genius' is inevitably a negative one. It ain't bad, I guess, but it ain't great either. So far.

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