Monday, July 23, 2012


Gardens at Nijo Castle, Kyoto

Clearly I am not very good at blogging while traveling, since I have been back for weeks but have not blogged since before I left. I also didn't read a lot while I was away. I had intended to bring an e-book reader with me but it turned out I couldn't buy any books for it due to being in the wrong country, so I just grabbed A.S. Byatt's Possession from my shelf and hoped for the best. When I got really desperate for reading material, we stopped in a second hand bookshop in York and I bought a copy of Babel Tower by A.S. Byatt. So all I did was reread books by A.S. Byatt while I was away, and I still need to find a 1950s book for my century of books challenge.

I did enjoy rereading Possession though, it's particularly nice to read in England, since it does seem quite English. And it's about a quest and about books- what could be better holiday reading than that? Babel Tower was a bit more of a challenge, I'd forgotten about the book-within-a-book and how off-putting I found it (it is a story about utopias becoming dystopias, and draws on de Sade I think, so it contains some sexual violence and overall gruesomeness). It's also the third book in a series, and while I have read them all before it took a while to get oriented. But having no other reading material, I continued to read it, and ultimately I think it is an interesting and thought provoking book, dealing with judgement and permissiveness and I guess how the socially accepted order can affect individuals.
Reading Possession while waiting for the TT race to start on the Isle of Man

Stones of Stenness, Orkneys
Brief overview of holiday reading aside, I really enjoyed my trip. I'm not sure how to sum it up in blog post form, but one thing that did really blow me away is just how inventive human beings are, and have been for a long time, all over the world. Looking at what people created 5,000 years ago in a tiny set of islands north of Scotland, and how complicated their worldview must have been (though our ability to understand what it was is extremely limited) was incredible. But this sort of thing was happening all over the world, with people building stone circles in Stenness and Stonehenge, and monumental tombs in the Orkneys and Japan. What would we be without thousands of years of inventions and culture and society and economics behind us? I know these thoughts are not exactly new, but I was really struck by it.
The entrance to Maes Howe, a chambered tomb in the Orkneys built around 5,000 years ago.