Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace

(Another vanilla post, I’m afraid, but I have been meaning to write about my recent reads for a while... sorry!)

I love books. They’re magical things, like dragons, but real. I’m lucky that I was introduced to them as a tot and encouraged to read. I still have a bashed-up copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar tucked away in a box somewhere. Great book!

Most of the time I read ‘real’ (as in paper and ink) books. I do own a Kindle (BH got me one for my birthday) but I have to admit that I don’t actually use it that much. It’s certainly very clever, and I can see how applying the magic of the digital age to books is a great idea (as it means you can carry hundreds of books around in one small, light object), but there’s just something that paper books have, some kind of unique quality, that can’t be replicated. I guess it’s like candles and lightbulbs.

So what candles have I been reading lately? (Er..!) Most recently, one called watching words move by Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar. This isn’t a fictional book, but a kind of typographical/design manifesto, and it’s just one of those lovely pieces of art that is always fresh and fun and uplifting. And I think it does qualify as art, because the purpose of the book is to explore and blur the boundaries between text as object and text as meaning, a field I find fascinating. And, rather than doing that exploring and blurring by means of an academic treatise, the authors do it by making the text of words take on qualities of those words in a series of visual puns. Like this:
A nipped nipped! Cool, huh? The book’s actually fifty years old this year, which is hard to believe as it’s so (post)modern.

The next book is also non-fiction, but not such an easy read: Intertextuality by Graham Allen. I won’t try to summarise the concept of intertextuality here, because a) I’m not smart enough and b) postmodern lit theory is a bit of an acquired taste. I’ll just treat you to an example sentence: “We have seen in our analysis of Plath’s poem that a semiotic interpretation of that poem need not locate a specific inter-text or group of inter-texts in order to describe the sociolectic codes upon which it builds its significance.”

I’ve been wading through this thing for ages, lol!

As for fiction, I recently read Daphne du Maurier’s first novel, The Loving Spirit. Very Gothic! It’s very atmospherically written, of course, but to be honest I found it quite a depressing read. Whereas most novels focus on one person’s life, or a period in their life, The Loving Spirit covers four generations of a family. The (initial) principal characters are young, they grow up, they marry and have children, they grow old, they die. Then the story switches focus onto one of their children, and he grows up, has children, grows old, (goes mad) and dies. Then the story focuses on one of his children... I’m sure you can guess the rest. Not a cheery read, all in all!

Much cheerier is Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss. Such an uplifting little book! (Highly recommended if you’re in need of un-slumping). I love everything that wonderful man did, and hope one day to own all his books. Silly secret: sometimes I get BH to read children’s stories to me in bed. We have all the fun, I know...

Let’s see, what else? The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde, America by Jean Baudrillard, Ghost Hunter (a choose your own adventure book) by Edward Packard, The World’s Shortest Stories of Love and Death, and a book on home baking because I thought I’d attempt a cake. (It didn’t work out too well).

Those are the things I’ve read of late... I’d love to hear about the things you’ve been reading!


  1. Thank you. I will check out your recommendations.

    I liked Brooklyn: A Novel by Colm Toibin. It describes the struggle of a young immigrant girl who tries to create a life for herself in the USA.

  2. I'll be sure to check that one out. Thanks for the recommendation - I know you're a big reader yourself.

    A couple of my favourite books, not read recently, are White Noise by Don DeLillo and, if you've got a bit more time to spare, Aurora Floyd by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. (That one's probably available for free on the Kindle as it's from the 19th century).

    "To drink spirituous liquors and play all-fours in the sanded tap-room of a sporting public is no doubt a very delicious occupation, and would be altogether Elysian and unobjectionable if one could always be drinking spirits and playing all-fours."


  3. Humiliated Geek8 August 2012 at 00:12

    I've been reading a shit ton of the writings of HP Lovecraft, a 1920s-1930s horror writer, recently. Modern horror owes a great deal to his initial work. All his stuff is public domain so you can find it all online if people are interested.

  4. One of my very favorite picture books is _Ladybug Girl_. It is a fairly new one, and there are lots of spin-offs. I love the imagination and world of make-believe in the midst of an everyday life. :)

  5. I've heard that name, HG (not really one you can forget, is it?) but I've never read any of his(?) stuff. I'm not that big on horror. But I'll find one of his stories and give it a try.

    Ana: I don't know that one but will keep an eye out for it. The last picture book I bought was Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers. It's about a boy and a boat and a penguin :) and I think it has something of the magic you describe. Make-believe is very special.

  6. You like Jasper Fforde, Penny? He's one of my favourite authors, too. I just love what he can do with literary concepts. If you'd like a fairy tale that can be enjoyed by adults and children alike I'd recommend Catherynne M. Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making.

  7. WOW! That sounds like the BEST story ever! :D I will certainly seek it out. Thanks, Aunty!

  8. Oops, sorry HP Lovecraft and HG: you clearly stated that he is a he. (Pennys don't work very well in the mornings).

  9. Interview with Francis Bacon. By David Sylvester, called the Brutality of Fact. Accounts of modern art masters by people really close to them are best, My Farther Renoir by Jean Renior,Life with Picasso by Francois Gillot, so many others, I don't do high brow too much thought Dick Francis , f. Forsyth, Chris Ryan . Macnab I love at charity shops.

  10. Those all sound very interesting, Harry! Thanks for the suggestions. And a book doesn't have to be highbrow to be good.

    Charity shops can be good for books, I agree! (Though 90% of the time it's all chick lit).

    This is neat, like a little book club :D

  11. I recently found a box of old books in the garage. I'm rereading some gothic short stories, Poe, Hawthorne, etc., and non-fiction -- drawing and music. There's some Vonnegut that's calling to me. I haven't read any contemporary fiction in awhile, except some online offerings about... guess what? I have an urge to read some of the classics I read for school years ago, or missed altogether.

    1. When I saw the name Poe, the first thought that came into my head along with the classics mentioned; sounds good thought, was a T.E.Lawrence(of Arabia fame) translation of The Oddesey by Homer thus for me was a total master piece. "the Rosie fingers of dawn," and how sand castles made by children wash away, and when Odesseus meets his Farther in the apple blossom of their orchard I was in tears.
      Thank you TDF for reminding me. Thank you Penny for your Chair.
      Ps perhaps I do do a line in high brow after all!

  12. Humiliated Geek8 August 2012 at 23:34

    HP Lovecraft is indeed a man. TFD if you like Gothic stuff you simply must read Lovecraft.

    You can find all of his work at www.HPlovecraft.com. He's got a pretty long list of stories, poetry. letters, etc on that site, so here's what I would recommend people start with if they want to dive in:

    "From Beyond"
    "The Picture In The House"
    "The Temple"
    "Pickman's Model"
    "The Music of Erich Zahn"

    All of these are short stories and can be read in a fairly short amount of time.