27 July 2007

this is not a book blog

I have a huge great bookish post floating about in my head but no time to put it down in any articulate sort of form.

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 drool over admire Orlando Bloom’s, um ... acting).

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? I'm cute.

Why don't you put me on your blog more often? I'm cute.


Janet said...

heehee, he is cute! but looks bigger in the flesh, thank you. and now I have a hankering for Margaret Atwood.

tut-tut said...

Animal, Vegetable is so engaging and so non-preachy; I especially like that it is collaborative.

Margaret Atwood is hard, I agree; lately, I've hidden behind the covers of easier stuff--To My Dearest Friends, by Patricia Volk, is quite delightful and well written.

Jenny said...

I've just realised that your words don't over run the sidebar anymore. Now I can read your links. Is it me or was it you?

luv Abby said...

awesome reading review blog.... I am always fascinated by what people are reading.... I have jsu tstarted hp7 but with a 10 month old who gets time...
luv Abby

BabelBabe said...

gosh, i LOVED this post. It was like having a nice long cozy phone chat with you (but without the phone bill at the end much to H's happiness: ))

Have you read The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper? And I just picked up The Sword int he Stone by TH White for Primo, because H loved his Once and Future King so very much...

I eyeball the Penelopiad every time I go to the bookstore. Also the second book by Khaled Hosseini.

your dog IS cute. bet Punto would like him.

shula said...

I'm with Sailor.

Gee, he's a lovely dog. I seriously bonded with him today.

daintee said...

I always love your book recommendations and take them all to heart! I'm just about to read The Time Travellers Wife, but maybe I'll try the Handmaiden's Tale another time. I read the Robber Bride in the winter and loved it!

Emma said...

My book list just grew longer. You're doing the right thing rereading HP6. I had started it when hubby pilfered it for his commute, so I had to launch into HP7 (which we ended up with two copies of, due to Dymocks toying with hubby's mind) unprepared. I kept asking hubby to remind me what they were talking about.

Stomper Girl said...

Have you been playing with your blog template?

I liked the Blind Assassin and got nowhere with Oryx and Crake. Didn't get past chapter 2. But it was a library book and became overdue before I could persevere. I do like the sound of the Penelopiad, I will search it out.

Susan said...

Dicovered Barbara Kingsolver about 2 months ago ("The Poisonwood Bible" had been on the shelf for over a year, though). Yes, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" has given me a serious rethink of my food buying habits, among other things.
I've struggled, unsuccessfully, to read any Margaret Attwood.
I now have a longer "to read" list.
D'you think the extremely handsome Sailor would like a girlfriend? We have an attractive female greyhound at our house. Only good friends -no puppies, she's been speyed.

bec said...

I'm on high rotation with HP7 and the 9yo and the husband at the moment, and I agree, there are many moments in the first part of 7 that I am sure I missed completely in 6!

Margaret Atwood is almost always the Emperor's New Clothes: of this I am sure. How does she get away with never writing a proper ending?


I love your dog. I can actually feel him under my hand as I look at that pic, if that's not too stalkerishly weird...

eclair said...

If you find Margaret Atwood a little heavy going (I do) then you could give Angela Carter a whirl. I prefer her stories and her imagery is beautiful.

I'll give Poisonwood Bible another bash- it has been lingering on my shelf for a year now and I've never picked it up and finished it.

One of the benefits of having children (apart from having someone to visit you when you are wrinkly) is you get to read their books so you can secretly re-visit your literary past. Susan Cooper was a favourite of mine and the Swallows and Amazons books and the Diamond Brothers (okay, more recent but still fun!) mysteries by Anthony Horowitz. Now I can't wait till my girls are old enough for the Malory Towers, Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables books.

I've never pretended Paddington was for anyone else though. Children's book or not, he's mine, all mine!

Elizabeth said...

I can't wait to read Animal Vegetable Mineral, next on my list and the 100 Mile Diet.
My fav Margaret Atwood is till the first I ever read, Lady Oracle, which was hilarious. As a Canadian, I have had to slog through some dreadful ones as part of high school curriculum.
HP 7 has been demolished and thoroughly enjoyed (no spoilers)
I was going to say that summer is for easy reading but you are in the middle of winter and the same sentiment applies - curling up with a good book by the fire. Enjoy.

Caroline said...

igupkI've some of the same reading experiences that you have this summer. I've always loved Barbara Kingsolver but hadn't read much of her non-fiction. I found "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" at the library while we were on vacation and read it in just a couple of sittings. I also have some of the same issues with following her example as you mention.

I loved "The Kite Runner," and my husband just gave me A Thousand Splendid Suns" for my birthday last week.

Katya said...

Margaret Atwood is often hard for me to read as well. Many of her books, I've had to start several times before I finished and usually enjoyed them.

And I also would have bought The Kite Runner for my husband for his birthday if I'd been put in your position. I'm sure he'll love it after you finish it. :)

Love your dog -- he's cute.

Jamila said...

ah reading, I have a vague memory of what that was! Must go searching for those garden books, I guess you have a tank, our garden died this summer and I've wondered if it's worth trying again.
I love it how most bloggers do their random shots on a backdrop of a beautiful rug...or is it just coincidence?!

Penni said...

Great post!

Penelopiad is definitely on my must read list (what with being a Penelope, and also ex-Classics student, probably as a direct result of being a Penelope). I love MArgaret Atwood's poetry and short stories, and as you know have an ambivalent relationship with her novels.

I am a reading fiend at the moment - I always come back from holidays inspired to read more. But the walls are closing in, I can feel work & study beckoning. Which of course is all mostly reading, just not the fun kind.

samantha said...

ok I popped over here because I was reading Di's post about knitting some washclothe's inspired by your gift from the blogmeet, and I just had to say I too love my washcloth, and have been thinking of knitting some for christmas gifts this year. But then I get here and all these books I love. Currently reading the Kingsolver animal, vegetable and really enjoying being reminded about real food, and prompted to do more about eating local. Have finished HP 7 and enjoyed it - now waiting for the movie. The Thirteenth Tale is currently on my to read pile. I am also a big Atwood fan - loved Alias Grace, but also struggled a bit with Blind Assasin - loved the Penolpiad. Have passed The Kite Runner on to my sister because I could not put it down - now trying to get A Thousand Splendid Suns for my birthday. and have noted The Historian down for my next library visit. phew! talk about timing my visit - thanks - I'll be back for the knitting!

sueeeus said...

A copy of Blind Assassin has been sitting on my shelf for years now. I haven't mustered the energy to even open it. I started The Corrections by Jonathan something or other and have just about given up on it, as I don't like the main character and I'm not sure that he will redeem himself for me any time soon. So much for all the rave reviews on the back cover. Marketing hype, I suppose. Grrrrrr.

Hilary said...

I hope this doesn't sound too weird....I often read your blog. I'm a knitter, reader, uni worker, live out your way etc. I am about to move and am giving away a heap of books. I have emailed my friends photos of the books sitting on the shelves waiting for their new homes. Heaps have gone, but still have more to go. Before I do a drop-off to the op shop, you are most welcome to have a look and choose what you want. We could perhaps wear red carnations and hand them over in the Eltham library foyer...Anyway, if that doesn't sound too much like some "stalker", feel free to email me at h dot cantwell at latrobe dot edu dot au and I will send the photos on...PS I just want them to go to a good home! regards H

nutmeg said...

I am sure we must be eating the same butter. Harmonie Organic Spreadable? I was also very chastened to read where it was made and I only noticed a week ago myself. What to do?

I've raved long and hard about AVM. I am nearly about ready to re-read it!

I concur with your appraisal of The Thirteenth Tale and while I loved The Blind Assassin and Alias Grace I just had to give up on The Robber Bride. I just checked my librarything.com catalogue and find that I also must have ditched my copy of The Robber Bride too!

And I still have to get to The Historian....

maymomvt said...

I have to de-lurk for 2 reasons--I originally found your blog when looking for Waldorf blogs.

I had to comment today because I've been desperately trying to find some books before we leave on vacation. I'm going to load up with Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, The Historian, and the Thirteenth Tale (if I can get them at the library). Thanks so much!

On another note--I think I found Simmy's blog from your blog a long time ago--she's coming to my house on Thursday. I'm so excited. So, thanks for the connection.

Di said...

Yes Sailor you are cute, and she SHOULD put you on the blog more often.
(ps, sorry I didn't read all of the rest of the post. I got distracted by the cute dog.)

danielle said...

Suse, I'd be happy to send you my copy of *The Historian.* Here's my review: http://blog.lib.umn.edu/mahlu002/oneday/2007/02/reading_log_the_historian_by_elizabeth_kostova.html

email me at dtisinger [at] gmail [dot] com.

woof nanny said...

I think we have similar tastes in books. I love Barbara Kingsolver. Do you like mysteries? Dennis LeHane is really good (he's the one that wrote Mystic River, though Shutter Island is just as good). My favorite book ever (part cookbook actually) is Aphrodite by Isabel Allende. Can't really go wrong with that author regardless.

I'll be posting to my book blog later today. I just read Eat, Pray, Love, so I'll be posting excerpts from that. Please have a look, the poor thing is so lonely :)