So I will have to content myself with a brainspill, rather than the erudite, thoughtful prose that whirls about my brain but comes out as half formed gobbledygook when I hit the keyboard.
Herewith, my readings lately:
The generous and darling Babelbabe sent me a beautiful hardcover copy of Barbara Kingsolver’s wonderful work Animal Vegetable Miracle which I see has been affecting people all over the blogosphere in much the same way Jackie French’s book Backyard Self Sufficiency did to me several years ago when I became obsessed with filling my tiny innercity garden with productive plants, heritage apples, unusual fruits and heirloom vegetables. That real This Book Changed My Life kind of feeling. I’ve always been a label reader in the supermarket and generally shopped in the free-range, organic, crunchy aisles, but Kingsolver’s book has made me take things a step further, and vow to actually ditch the zucchini and green beans in winter, not just sigh and say But I need tomatoes on my winter pizza. As a result our intake of The Ugly Vegetables (turnips, swedes, parsnips and the deliciously hideous celeriac) has gone up alarmingly. The buy local thing is a tad harder. I like to buy organic butter for instance, but when I read the label, I discovered it’s from Denmark. And all those natural organic goodies don’t make up for the fossil fuel miles. Ah, the evangelism of the newly converted.
Moving right along.
I am re-reading the 6th Harry Potter in an attempt to refresh my poor ailing mind as to all the important plot bits that I’ll need in order to be right up with the twists and turns of HP7 which was smuggled into the Soup Residence on Monday. [Trans. The 13 year old and the 11 year old found it immediately and are taking it in turns to read and I’m not getting a look in].
Um, what else?
I recently read The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. A good read that kept me turning the pages and a twist at the end which I brilliantly foresaw and so felt extremely clever indeed. Not a brilliant raveworthy book, but a decent timewaster and with old crumbly gothic mansions and overpainted elderly crones with dark secrets and lots of Jane Eyre references, what’s not to like?
I listened (on story tape from the library) to The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and just loved it. A ripping yarn all about historians, librarians, archivists and Dracula. Yum. Must keep an eye out for it in the op shops so I can have a hard copy on my bookshelf. Currently every time I go into my local oppie they seem to have acquired yet another copy of Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant and The Bridges of Madison County. Why is that?
When I finished listening to the above in the car, the library only had a couple of books-on-tape of books which I had already read (on paper the old fashioned way, which reminds me, there’s a fabulous Youtube video out there called something like Middle Ages Tech Support, which I can’t link to because I’m at home and this old machine doesn’t do youtube but I watched it yesterday at work courtesy of my boss [she’s a great boss] …so go google it all you medievalists and historians, yes, you’re welcome) um … oh yes I picked up Miss Garnet’s Angel by Salley Vickers and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, as I said, both books I’d already read, but it was wonderful revisiting them by ear, so to speak. (World’s longest most terrible sentence in one paragraph? Why, yes).
After they had finished I found The Song of Troy which I grabbed somewhat greedily, owing to my mild Homeric obsession, and then glancing at the cover noticed it was by Colleen McCullough. Yep, that one. Oh well, I thought, might be something in there to feed the obsession. Somewhere, in those 28 cassettes in the enormous box. Well, slap me happy, but it was fun! Each chapter is narrated by a different character, both Trojans and Greeks, and some get more than one turn. Okay, much of it is heavy handed, and some of the characterisations were awful (I didn’t like Hector being turned into a boor, and Helen was ghastly but hey that’s a perfectly valid character interpretation I guess …) and the scene from Iliad Book 24 in which Priam pleads Achilles for Hector’s body was woeful and oh I could go on. But there was a lot of inventive stuff too about the argument between Agamemnon and Achilles being a ruse thought up by Odysseus to lure the Trojans out from behind their walls, and a failed rescue attempt of Iphigenia by Achilles and Patrocles that formed a central psychological reason for Achilles’ anger, that made me ponder. Some bits worked and others didn’t but it was all interesting. Well you know except for the boring bits. And the gory bloody bits. Hey, it’s a fairly long commute to work and back twice a week and one can only listen to 774 for so long. I finished the tapes yesterday and now it’s back to Red, Jon and Lindy until I can get to the library. Another thing I wanted to say (collective groan?) was that the way McCullough dealt with the divine elements in the Trojan story reminded me of Mary Stewart’s treatment of Merlin’s wizardry in her Arthurian trilogy (the Arthurian legend being another mild obsession of mine, ahem). The magical or divine elements are shown to be ruses or simple tricks of deception, yet the gods are a central part of daily life. And it’s this move away from fantasy into the realms of more plausible historical narrative that attracts me, not being much of a fantasy fan really. (I’ve tried to read Lord of the Rings, I’ve really tried. The movies are better because I get to
Bored yet? Half of you gone off to Youtube?
I have by my bed Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. For bookgroup. I do find Margaret Atwood hard going sometimes though. I loved Alias Grace, was mesmerised by The Handmaid’s Tale (shudder) but struggled with The Blind Assassin a couple of weeks ago and gave it up. A friend told me to try again, but I’m not in the mood currently. Am going ok with Oryx and Crake and it’s holding my interest, but HP6 is fighting for top of the pile status.
To continue the themes of the above two paragraphs – Atwood and Homer - (still with me? Come back tomorrow for knitting, do), I gobbled down in one night (!) (a triumph rarely achieved by me since the heady days of Enid Blyton’s boarding school books) The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood. This is one of Karen Armstrong’s commissioned series of myths retold by modern authors including A.S. Byatt, Jeanette Winterson and Chinua Achebe among others, none of which I have read although I do have the introductory volume A Short History of Myth by Armstrong herself. The Penelopiad is told by Penelope from her home in modern day Hades, and is full of humour and wit mixed with grief at the fate of the twelve hanged serving maids. There’s some interesting stuff at the end about the relevance of the maids’ death to the old matriarchal religion, but the strength of the book is in the worldweary voice of Penelope. I’ll definitely be looking out for the other myths in the series. To feed the obsession, you know.
Oh, I also got halfway through The Kite Runner before the library demanded it back to give to the next person in the queue. I immediately put it on hold again and the computer informed me that I am number 37 in line. So I bought it for Mr Soup for his birthday. Nothing like a thoughtful, sincere birthday present eh? I am such a classy woife.
And now, a gratuitous picture of the dog. For Janet.
Why don't you put me on your blog more often? I'm cute.