Monday, November 26, 2012

liebster award

Helen over at A Gallimaufry has given me a Liebster award! Which is basically a meme for small blogs (with under 200 followers) where you answer 7 questions and then ask a new set of 7 questions to 7 people. I enjoy both memes and A Gallimaufry (she has a series on the Grimm Fairy Tales which I particularly enjoy) so I am excited about this. The questions:

1. Describe your ideal home library/study. 
I'm going to base this on my ideal home library as described to a friend 10 years ago, while doing my final exams at school. Because obviously I have spent a lot of time thinking about it. For starters, this library is situated somewhere near the sea. I'm thinking of a remote Hebridean island, but a cliff-top anywhere would probably do. One wall of the room is double-glazed glass, looking out at the ocean and the storms that roll in from the distance. The opposite wall is covered in bookshelves which are full of books. The floor has rugs and beanbags scattered round, and there is a big armchair. In one corner, there is a large desk. In the other, some sort of music playing device and a snack fridge/cupboard (because what is better than reading while eating chocolate and listening to music?). The view of the sea would make the room feel all the cosier, while also being a reminder of the wider world.

2. With which literary character would you spend a week’s holiday in the location of your choice? 
I've just finished reading The Garden of Evening Mists, so I'm going to say that I would like to visit the garden. But I think I would prefer to stay with Magnus and Emily than with Aritomo the gardener, they seem a lot friendlier. Some books are like that, they revolve so heavily around a location that you wish you could see it yourself, but when they are fictional you know there is no chance. And fictional locations are always the most impressive. A Japanese garden surrounded by Malaysian jungle would be a lovely place to visit I think.

Alternatively I would like to visit the UK with Lord Peter Wimsey, because who wouldn't like to spend a week on holiday with him?

3. Name two new authors whose work you think will last the test of time, and explain your choices. 
Ooh, this is a tough one. Picking classics is hard, and every time I try to choose one, I realise they have been writing for decades and aren't exactly new. For instance, I love David Mitchell and I think his range and distinctive style will make him stand the test of time, but his first book was published in 1999 so I'm not sure if he qualifies as new.

But there are a couple of relatively new novelists whose books I read recently, one a first time writer and one with only two novels, so I'm going to say they qualify- Erin Morgenstern and Sarah Moss. I really enjoyed The Night Circus and Night Waking (moral- put the word 'night' in the title and I will read your book) and I hope they write more books for me to read. Whether they stand the test of time I can't say for sure, but I'm interested to see what else they write.

4. If you could live in a novel, which one would it be and why? 
Maybe a Phryne Fisher novel- she's wealthy and socially conscious and has a wonderful outfit and a lot of really nice food. Plus it's set in the 1920s, which is a period of time I like. But then again, maybe I'd prefer to take a holiday there than live there. Alternatively, Possession, for my alternative dream life as an academic solving academic mysteries.

5. Is there a literature from a particular time and place (medieval Chinese, nineteenth-century Russian for instance) which is a favourite of yours?
I love Anglo-Saxon poetry- I did study it after all- but it's not a thing that I tend to sit down and read out of the classroom. I am a bit of an Anglophile all round though, some of my favourite specific English settings/periods are Golden Age detective novels and urban fantasy set in contemporary London. I keep trying to expand my literary horizons, and I keep coming back to England. *sigh*

6.What book have you read in the last year or so which you feel so evangelical about you would press it on everyone you meet? Explain further... 
David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas has, sort of accidentally, seems to have been passed around to most people I know. I really really like David Mitchell, although my favourite of his books is probably number9dream, but after I lent Cloud Atlas to one friend it got passed on to another, and then another, and I'm not sure if I have it back yet.

I do get enthusiastic about books, but I will usually only press them on people I think will like them- I've bought Gilead and Home as a gift, I've recommended Wolf Hall, I've raved about Cold Magic and I don't know what else. I guess that's part of the joy of reading, sharing it with other people. But David Mitchell and Marilynne Robinson probably have gotten the most recommendations from me.

7. If you had to memorise a novel or book of poetry to preserve it à la Fahrenheit 451, which would it be and why? 
If I was preserving it for myself, like a desert island book, I suppose it would be Possession, because that is a book I can read over and over again, and it has a lot of the things I want in a book: romance, mystery, adventure and a lot of literary allusions. If I had to be realistic in this question, that would be way beyond my abilities- it's a large book, and I haven't even managed to successfully memorise Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 'Kubla Khan', though I did try.

If I had to memorise something to preserve it for posterity, for the survival of culture, I wouldn't mind passing down 'Kubla Khan', but I would probably try to memorise 'Beowulf'- because I wouldn't want Anglo-Saxon culture to be forgotten, and I think it's important to understand where we came from. Also I really like it, and I think the elegiac tone and the themes of the poem would be well suited to a society that was losing its culture (like in Fahrenheit 451).


Now I have to tag seven people and ask them seven questions. One of the problems about being a small blog with less than 200 followers is that I'm not sure I have seven followers with small blogs to tag. So I'll just tag Ronni and Sam and throw this open to whoever would like to answer it, even in the comments if you like.
  1. Have you ever read a book that changed your life, or your reading habits?
  2. If you could recommend one book to the world, what would it be?
  3. Do you read when you're out and about or just at home?
  4. Is there any genre that you don't read, and why? Or do you only read one particular type of book?
  5. What is the first book that you remember reading?
  6. What is the last book that you read that was outside your comfort zone?
  7. and I'm stealing this last question because I'm interested in what other people have to say:
  8. If you had to memorise a novel or book of poetry to preserve it à la Fahrenheit 451, which would it be and why?  
Over to you!

Monday, November 05, 2012

extracts from my notebook 6

"Did you move to Scotland for a woman?"
"No, for money"
"Oh, I understand. It's hard in Turkey. Everyone's wearing burqas!"
- American tourists to owner of Turkish restaurant in Inverness

Rowley died in 1806, leaving the estate in trust for his 5 natural children 'begotten on the body of Elizabeth Selwyn' and one sixth for his wife 'so long as she does not live in a state of co-habitation or marriage with any man and continues to take care of my said children'.
-From an article on early Stanmore history- a little cold

"He's at a funeral"
"Who died now?"
"Oh no, he's been dead two years"

In many cases, fiction over the last 35 years has eschewed the novel's traditional attempt to render depth, preferring to tell a story, which, instead of seeking to offer truth, deep meaning or philosophical belief, depicts particular aspects of the modern world refracted through the life experience of individuals.
-Peter Childs, Contemporary Novelists: British fiction, 1970-2003

"It's her brother? Hot.
So you're not really related?"
- Phone conversation overheard in Berkelouw Books cafe