Books mentioned in this post:
The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan – finished
Notwithstanding by Louis de Bernieres
The Past by Tessa Hadley
The Marches: A Borderland Journey between England and Scotland by Rory Stewart
Mercury by Margot Livesey
The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano (transl: Mark Polizzotti)
Victorian Bloomsbury by Rosemary Ashton
Every Single Minute by Hugo Hamilton
A Tree or a Person or a Wall by Matt Bell
The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe by DG Compton
The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan – review to come
As autumn rolls in, I imagine reading in front of a roaring fire, while orange and red and yellow leaves drift languidly to the ground outside my picture window framed by heavy velvet drapes, a bottomless cup of coffee at my elbow, a loyal dog at my slipper-clad feet. The unfortunate reality is I live in an 80s vintage apartment building sans fireplace, count myself lucky when I have clean clothes – not daring to dream anything matches – and the closest I get to open flame is candles I own but seldom burn, partly because I have two cats with not enough sense between them to avoid setting themselves – and my apartment – on fire.
And the dream goes *POOF*
No leather armchairs reeking of wealth indenting oriental rugs, no polished mahogany bookshelves crammed with leather bindings, no crackling and popping of exploding sap, no scent of seasoned logs licked by fire… Just a suburban apartment furnished half by The Room Place, half by Target (which sells serviceable books shelves at really great prices, by the way).
One does what one must, which doesn’t stop one from bitching about it the whole time.
Fall is my favorite season. Fleeting though it is, I hope to make some time to enjoy it: shuffling through the leaves, carving pumpkins, feeling the crisp air that reddens the cheeks, the annual pulling out of the sweaters. I’ve always loved the colors most, then the smells of what I know is actually decay in preparation for the hibernation of winter, but still it’s the best and most glorious time of year.
I look forward to it all as October arrives.
At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost. – Rainer Maria Rilke
Before I go any further, I have to admit a most embarrassing truth: I’ve purchased and received several – okay many, many – books over the course of the past two weeks that I’d love to list here for posterity, however, in the process of quick-cleaning my apartment I tossed them onto random shelves and can scarcely tell what’s new and what’s been here for years. I’m sitting here looking at the fruits of my labor, semi-pleased with myself for having made the place look remotely habitable, and though I could perhaps paw through the stacks and stacks and stacks in order to locate every recent book purchase or advance copy, I’ve scattered them to the extent it would be a challenge.
This is when you know – in case it hadn’t already dawned – you own an awful lot of books. And by awful, I mean tremendously wonderful, mind-blowingly awesome numbers of them.
Unsurprisingly, there’s a serious discrepancy between numbers of books arriving and those making the “finished” list. Of late, both my credit card and the review fairy have been rather generous, which I assume to mean I’ve been extraordinarily deserving, as what other explanation could there be?
Today, Bloomsbury means Virginia Woolf and her coevals but, as Ashton shows so vividly, it was the district’s reputation as a centre of intellectual life that in reality drew the “Bloomsberries”: they didn’t create the area, the area created them. – Judith Flanders
Also with the onset of fall comes a certain desire for a bit of more planned, structured reading, possibly because it’s the start of the academic year, which in my formative days meant assigned books and syllabi. Tossing around a few ideas, one I’ve settled upon is a planned reading of a mystery series. An embarrassing number of hours
frittered away spent Amazon researching later, I decided to go with a series suggested by one of my favorite Scots, Chris of Morse, Lewis and Endeavour, who tipped me off about Scottish mystery writer Christopher Brookmyre.
The best source for Brookmyre’s books – price and availability-wise – is a shop in the UK, so I placed an Amazon order for the first three titles to make sure I like them well enough before buying the full series:
Quite Ugly One Morning
Country of the Blind
Not the End of the World
I considered lots of series mysteries before making my decision, including: works of Ngaio Marsh, the Maisie Dobbs series, Lee Childs’ Jack Reacher novels, all the popular Scandinavian noir writers, among loads of others. What lead me to go with Brookmyre was the promise of a rather off-beat and quirky style, different from the sort of grim mysteries I normally gravitate toward – though no promises I won’t turn back to those before winter snows thaw.
It was partly to counter the grim nature of the frozen winter that I chose this series, which sounds quirky in a way that’s not cringe-inducingly precious. Because I despise cloying prose.
Quite Ugly One Morning is the book that made Christopher Brookmyre a star in his native Britain, establishing his distinctive, scabrously humorous style and breakneck, hell-for-leather narrative pacing … Quite Ugly One Morning introduces Brookmyre’s signature protagonist, the hard-partying, wisecracking investigative journalist Jack Parlabane, who is not afraid to bend the laws of the land (or even the laws of gravity) to get to the truth … Laced with acerbic wit and crackling dialogue, Quite Ugly One Morning is a wickedly entertaining and vivacious thriller. – Amazon blurb
I’d like to decide on another course of planned reading, though what I don’t know. It’s a delicate balance as I read and review advance copies, sneaking in a few titles from my own collection in between. And always the postman brings more.
Though he doesn’t ring twice. It’s a myth.
In reading, I’ve just finished Jenni Fagan’s The Sunlight Pilgrims, for review later this week. Current advance copy reading is Matt Bell’s A Tree or a Person or a Wall, a thick book of short stories, and one of several half-started volumes lying on the bed next to me or on the table beside the bed.
I’m between books for the most part, too overwhelmed by the wealth of riches to have settled on anything outside Bell’s book. No wonder, considering the tide coming in, but by the end of this evening I should have a clearer picture of my reading week, and what’s to come through the rest of the month.
In the not too distant future, it will be time to wrap up My Reading Year, 2016. But that gives me a headache. I think I have enough to keep my hands from becoming too idle in the meantime.
Among other things, I can search for my new books to name in my next round up. Yes, I think that’s the goal I’ll set for myself. Big enough without being too overwhelming.
And a very happy October to all.