Sunday, 27 January 2013

It's not that I don't like people. It's just that when I'm in the company of others - even my nearest and dearest - there always comes a moment when I'd rather be reading a book - Maureen Corrigan

This was a troubled morning.  Watching the Australian Open Men's Final.  Not the ending I’d have written.  But the fairest on the day, methinks.  Great tennis.  Immense stress.  And I was just sitting at home watching...

Still, at some point, hope goes and the inevitable is, well, inevitable.  Not a pleasant realisation.  I was gutted.  But there you go.  Andy Murray will win another day.  And we’ll enjoy that moment immensely.

My suffering was, however, compounded by the loss of my muffin recipes.  In moments of great stress, I tend to bake.  And as my baking capacities are limited, I stick to what I know.  Muffins.  Blueberry.  Raspberry.  Banana.  They are my joys.  Warm, light.  Comforting.

But today the recipes – noted down carefully on an old envelope – were no longer where I’d left them.  I seem to recall tidying.  I should never tidy…

So if anyone has good muffin recipes, I’d appreciate receiving them.   I anticipate many stressful times to come.  Not least in the tennis season.  I will not survive without my muffins. Gutted some more.
This afternoon, I thus sat down to read Virgil’s Doomed love.  Described by Penguin Books as love (that) can be hopeless.  It seemed appropriate.

And somehow it was. A bloody, gutsy battle. Emotional, heart-rending.  Exhausting.  Just the right tone to lift my mood.  
The love story was pitiful, though.  Two people launching forth full pelt into a love affair that was doomed to fail from the start.  All because of the bitter and twisted games of those in power.  The profound sorrow at being pulled apart. The pain, the agony indeed. The total incomprehension. 
The scene where Dido confronts Aeneas could have been describing a lovers' scene anywhere, at any time. He loves her. But he feels impelled to obey the gods. “So he would try to find the right approach and the least painful moment to speak, and discover a tactful way out of their predicament.” He fails in this bid.
Consequently, Dido is violently overcome in an emotional speech, begging him to reconsider.  But focussed on his mission from the gods, he “strained to master the agony within him.” An agony he never reveals to the woman who is the cause of such deep emotions.  Indeed, he “longed to allay her grief and dispel her sufferings with kind words. Yet he remained obedient to the divine command.” 
And so it is Dido who openly agonises in her great misery and plots her end.  Never knowing that Aeneas is “shaken to the depths by the strength of his love" for her.
Communication between the sexes as good as ever, huh.  Who needs chick lit when you have such passion and intrigue and tragedy?  Although maybe I need less tragedy in my life? Maybe that's where I'm going wrong...

Sunday, 20 January 2013

We read to know we're not alone - C. S. Lewis

I woke up today to a world of ice. I actually couldn’t see outside. The freezing rain from last night sat on the velux window of my bedroom half an inch thick.  Downstairs, I could see the streets, pavements, lamps, cars all shimmering like mirrors.  Ice everywhere. 

Not surprisingly, I didn’t venture outside. All day long. I’ve baked instead. And pootled around quite a bit. 

It’s been snowing here till today. Beautiful. Crisp. Cold. Freezing cold, to be sure.  Wonderful when inside looking out. Snuggled up alongside my cats. But still quite nice to trample through. 

In all, it’s been an odd weekend.  Compounded by the fact that I had to work yesterday.  Only a few hours.  But on a Saturday!!   It was a shock to my poor ole system.  Needless to say, I’m in need of a bit of loving.  Well, a lot actually.  But as the French say, one shouldn’t exaggerate...

I’m thus pursuing my endeavour to read the Penguin Books Great Loves series. Six down.  Fourteen to go.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s contribution to the series didn’t do it for me. Magnetism.  Not that I don’t love his writing. I do. His words wash over and envelope you.  His descriptions are vivid, unobtrusive. But in this context - with my need and expectations for romantic love high - he was so realistic that his short stories on love were just too, well, real. He portrayed only too concretely the ups and downs of life as a couple. The struggles and the jealousies. The fears and the doubts. The pain. That’s really not the kind of loving I’m looking for just now.

You may then think it somewhat incoherent of me to now heap praise on Françoise Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse, which was the next of my Great Loves.  Penguin Books says in its regard:  love can be complicated.  That in itself spoke to me.  And FS's tale is most certainly complicated.  And so tragic!  Makes my experience in love seem jolly smooth sailing, I can tell you. 

But the sheer magnificence of this piece of story-telling is that Bonjour Tristesse was published when FS was only 18 years old.  It was her first novel.  And it was an immediate international success.  How astounding is that!  I'd like to be jealous or disdainful.  And yet I can’t help being agog in admiration.

The writing is truly the voice of a spoilt adolescent.  But FS’s insight into the turbulence and game-playing of relationships is stunning.  It’s a compelling read.  Not the true romance that may have soothed my troubled soul, I grant you.  But compelling all the same.  And good writing will always nourish the soul.  Troubled or otherwise.

FS's other works are now in my Amazon basket. Jealous I may be, but not so foolish as to deny myself quality and pleasure.

In the meantime, I pursue my quest for a bit of loving.  Kierkegaard is next on my list.  The Seducer's Diary. Surely, he'll do the trick? Well, it was that or Virgil's Doomed Love.  Hmmm I'm sensing rocky days ahead...

Friday, 18 January 2013

The Liebster Award

Okay, so this is not one of my run-of-the-mill posts.  Today, I'm blogging because two lovely people - Barbara Brown and Rivie Bleu - have nominated me for the Liebster Award.  How sweet is that?  Thanks so much, guys!

For those of you who don't know, and I didn't, the Liebster Award is given to new blogs, with fewer than 200 followers, just cos you like them!  (See the rules below).

As part of the nomination, I have to give you info about myself.  I'm answering both lots of questions. Please bear with me...

Questions from Barbara Brown:
1. What made you to start blogging?
It's something I'd wanted to do for a long while, but kept putting off.  After an accident at the beginning of last year, I was house-bound for six months and very bored.  It was the perfect moment to get on with it.  Certainly as I couldn't do much else but read and type!
2. What's the *funniest* book you've *ever* read?
Adrian Mole's adventures always make me laugh out loud.
3. Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
4. What E-reader do you have if any?
My beloved Kindle :0)
5. Books that would be *good* to turn into films?
Alan Bennett's "The Uncommon Reader"
6. What Book are you reading now?
Penguin Great Loves: Magnetism, F. Scott Fitzgerald
7. If you could be a *Character* out of any book who would choose and why?
Jane Austen's Emma.  Self-assured, day-dreaming darling of a character with a perfect JA happy ending.
8. Who is your favorite Author?
Marilyn French.  Oh and Edith Wharton.  Ivan Turgenev.  So so many...
9. Do books have to be long to be any good?
Absolutely not!
10. Are you a *writer*, if you answered yes please tell us a lil about yourself?
Would love to be, but would never allow myself to say yes.  Not just yet, anyway.
11. What do you own more of, Print copies or E-Books copies?
Ooooh paper every time.  Although my e-book collection is growing nicely...
Questions from Rivie Bleu:
1. Why did you start book blogging?

See above
2. What is your favorite book genre?

General/literary fiction, short stories, humour
3. How did you come up with the name of your blog?

Don't rightly know.  I was on very strong drugs at the time (after the accident)...
4. Do you read ebooks? Why or why not?

Indeed, I do.  Great for travelling (and only when travelling so far).
5. How many books (not ebooks) have you bought this year?

Oh my!  Couldn't even begin to count.  And wouldn't really want to.  It would be very disturbing...
6. What was the first book you ever read? (Or the first one you remember)

I remember the Ladybird Peter & Jane books from Primary school, but not sure they were the first.  Then there was Enid Blyton - Brer Rabbit, The Enchanted Wood...
7. Do you write books? If not, would you want to write one?

Non.  Mais oui!
8. What is the book you've reread the most?

Not a fan of re-reading books.  But it'd have to be Jane Austen, methinks.
9. Which author would you want to meet? (Dead or alive)

Marilyn French. Ivan Turgenev, Edith Wharton. JA.  George Eliot.  (can I give more than one??!)
10. How many books have you read so far this year?

Lots.  But never enough.
11. Have you ever joined a book club? If so, did you like it?


11 random facts about me:
1. I'm learning Russian.
2. I love my electric blanket.
3. I play Phantom of the Opera loudly whilst doing housework.  Every single time.
4. I have two cats. 
5. I've always wanted a dog.
6. I'm a telly addict.
7. I'm a bag addict.
8. I love putting up Ikea furniture.
9. I've just starting knitting again.  And love it.
10. I can't keep chocolate in the house.  I have to eat it.  All of it.
11. I'm suspicious of people who don't like books and cats.

My 11 nominees for the Liebster Award:
Know your books
Publishing...and other forms of insanity
the page-turner junkie
words with Leti Del Mar
Just as the cock crows
Bookworm Babblings
Falling through pages
Dear, restless reader
Murder Lab

Questions for my nominees:
1. What do you get from your blogging?
2. What makes good reading for you?
3. What makes you want to share good reading with others?
4. Which books do you think everyone should read, at least once in their lives?
5. Which author would you like to meet/would you like to have met, and why?
6. What's the most challenging book you've ever read, and why?
7. What's the funniest book you've ever read, and why?
8. What's the best book-to-film adaptation you've ever seen?
9. Has any book ever inspired you, and why?
10. Do you stop reading books you don't like?  Or keep going regardless to the end?
11. Do you get rid of books you've read?  Pass them on to others?  Or fill up your home with them till there's no more room for you?

The rules of the Liebster Award are as follows:
1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog and link back to the blogger who presented this award to you.

2. Answer the 11 questions from the nominator, list 11 random facts about yourself and create 11 questions for your nominees.
3. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 11 blogs of 200 followers or less who feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen. (No tag backs)
4. Copy and Paste the blog award on your blog.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it - P. J. O'Rourke

I seem to be on a major nostalgia run.  Maybe it’s my age.  A phase I’m going through?  Or maybe it’s the romance of winter.  Basking in memories past.  Well, the good ones at least.

It all started with a visit from K, one of my best friends from childhood. We spent a few indulgent days talking.  Non stop.  About nothing and about everything.  Past and present.  And we laughed a great deal.  The joyful security of long and deep friendship.

After her return home, my reminiscing manifest itself in Hong Kong Phooey.  I know.   Didn't you just love that series as a child?  I kept seeing it during my book-buying on Amazon. Finally, I gave in and bought the series.  For visiting kids, of course.  But just how cool is HKP?  Number one super guy.  That’s how.  He’s been helping me get through my painting.

My second nostalgia trip has been Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince.  Le Petit Prince.  I blame - and equally thank - K entirely for this.  During her visit, she was inspired to buy a copy in French for her nephew.  Essential for his education and personal development.  Vital for pure bookshelf cool.  I have to point out at this stage that her nephew is 10 months old.  But you’ve got to love her enthusiasm.

Anyway, just seeing the delightfully illustrated cover, we got to remembering our A’level French class.  An experience in itself that I really couldn't do justice to here.  We read LPP for our A’level oral.  I still vividly remember one of the questions I was asked during my exam:  what did the rose signify?  I don't remember what I answered.  Indeed, standing in the bookshop admiring the delightfully illustrated cover, neither of us actually remembered the rose.  At all.

So of course I had to re-read the book.  Turns out, I didn’t actually remember very much about the book as a whole.  Apart from the elephant in the boa’s belly.  And certainly not the ending.  If I had remembered it, I wouldn’t have read it on the bus.  And thus cried in public.  Make that sobbed in public.  Again.

I’m so glad I did re-read it, though.  What a beautiful tale.  Which can only get better with age.  Its and mine.  Beautiful, simple ideas reminding us of our humanity.  Our love, our friendships.  The innocent beauty and open-mindedness of youth.  The secret person of the heart.  Valuing what is truly valuable.

How youth is wasted on the young!  Or at least it seems to have been wasted on me.  I don't remember any of these things from my A'level days.  I don't remember any of these feelings from then either. 

I used to hate re-reading anything.  For study or for pleasure.  It always seemed like such a waste of time.  A waste of life.  But I just loved re-reading Le Petit Prince.  Nothing wasteful there.  All for my benefit.  And I loved being seen reading it.  People on the bus and tram smiled at me, nodded my way.  Approved verbally my efforts.  Either that or this new perfume is working a treat!  But that's the superficial adult in me coming out.  My apologies, little prince.  I may just need to read you one more time...