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2018 Reading Thread - Jill's Conversations Re Books Part II

The Green Dragon

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1jillmwo
Sep 15, 11:26am Top

Okay. Starting a new thread for what reading may be managed amidst the busyness of work, etc. I keep inhaling the great smell of the Folio Society mailing. It positively soothes one to inhale the combination of high gloss paper and ink. Of course, it's just too easy to contemplate buying books rather than baby gifts for one's pregnant relatives. I don't think a new baby would properly enjoy Josephine Tey or William Morris. (Both of which are up for grabs...)

I'm currently reading a lovely short book entitled Reading and the Making of Time in the Eighteenth Century by Christina Lupton. I snagged a review copy from the Strand Bookstore in New York. It's a more than a bit academic in scope and tone, but if I read it in the morning when my brain is fresh, I find it quite fun. I will repeat the quote that closed out the previous thread:

Reading was something one might conceivably do instead of going to church -- an activity, like walking, that might be used on Sundays to prevent drinking and debauchery.

Lupton looks at bluestockings Catherine Talbot and Elizabeth Carter, both of whom struggled to find time to read. And both of whom complained about the daily crap that tended to take one away from the more important time spent with books.

Otherwise, I did read a few Ngaio Marsh mysteries. Fun, but not particularly noteworthy.

2jillmwo
Sep 15, 11:25am Top

Okay. Starting a new thread for what reading may be managed amidst the busyness of work, etc. I keep inhaling the great smell of the Folio Society mailing. It positively soothes one to inhale the combination of high gloss paper and ink. Of course, it's just too easy to contemplate buying books rather than baby gifts for one's pregnant relatives. I don't think a new baby would properly enjoy Josephine Tey or William Morris. (Both of which are up for grabs...)

I'm currently reading a lovely short book entitled Reading and the Making of Time in the Eighteenth Century by Christina Lupton. I snagged a review copy from the Strand Bookstore in New York. It's a more than a bit academic in scope and tone, but if I read it in the morning when my brain is fresh, I find it quite fun. I will repeat the quote that closed out the previous thread:

Reading was something one might conceivably do instead of going to church -- an activity, like walking, that might be used on Sundays to prevent drinking and debauchery.

Lupton looks at bluestockings Catherine Talbot and Elizabeth Carter, both of whom struggled to find time to read. And both of whom complained about the daily crap that tended to take one away from the more important time spent with books.

Otherwise, I did read a few Ngaio Marsh mysteries. Fun, but not particularly noteworthy.

3Meredy
Sep 15, 6:12pm Top

>1 jillmwo: Lovely quote. I never even realized that going to church was meant to prevent drinking and debauchery, but I guess it does have that much going for it.

I'm trying to overcome my own distractions and get back here more frequently. It's so nice to know this place remains warm, comfortable, and welcoming even to us delinquents.

4pgmcc
Sep 15, 7:21pm Top

>1 jillmwo: Surely the natural way to read is sitting with a book in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. Surely that does not prevent drinking?

If one is sitting with a book in one hand and a glass of wine in the other then I suppose you could argue it prevents debauchery.

One out of two ain't bad.

5MrsLee
Sep 15, 7:49pm Top

>4 pgmcc: I fall asleep if I try to read after a drink.

I must say that I am a bit disappointed with the lack of drinking and debauchery going on in this pub though. ;)

Joining the crowd of those who have set aside reading to Get Stuff Done. Sigh. I remember a time when I seemed to be able to do stuff and read copious amounts of books. Not any more.

6jillmwo
Edited: Sep 16, 5:48pm Top

What I find most intriguing about this is the concept of deliberately setting aside one particular day of the week to devote to reading -- and in most of the instances under discussion, serious, "methodical" reading. Some of it is due to the idea at the time of there being a duty to improve oneself, but I wonder whether we think about our reading in quite this way. I could be wrong but I don't ever recall hearing a friend talk about reserving a certain time-span on the weekend for reading. (Whether for purposes of edification OR entertainment...)

Most of the time those I know read for entertainment or diversion and if they consciously set aside a particular time for that, it's during their commute. I don't know of anyone who sets aside a particular day of the week for a particular kind of reading. I will read real research reports during the week during a work-day because it's a one-time settling in to consume information and significance. But outside of working hours, I may try to sneak in an early half-hour of a mystery before time demands that I get out of the damn bed and prepare to do battle with the information community at large.

I am taken by this idea that I could set aside one day a week for the purpose of reading. We all have noted that getting to have a DNBR day is harder than we'd like to admit. But why shouldn't we be like our 18th century forebearers and insist upon a weekly 3 hour block on a Sunday to encourage our brains to take in meaning from the printed page.

P.S. I do realize that for the most part the scholarship here is talking about those in the privileged classes. To clarify the point, I will note that Lupton does include two or three from the manual labor pool who pursued reading on their Sundays as being important to their happiness.

NOTE: As an aside to pgmcc up there in #4, I think that holding a book in one hand and a drink in the other prevents debauchery in the sense that it slows down the two-fisted drinking style. Those with any degree of sense have a table near by so that they can put the glass down briefly and flip the page of the book as needed.

7YouKneeK
Sep 16, 8:43pm Top

>6 jillmwo: Interesting. Would they read the entire day, or just for several hours during that day? Even when I’m completely hooked on a book that I’m reading for entertainment, it’s very rare that I spend a full day reading, even if it’s a day when I could get away with it. If nothing else, I get restless sitting still that long. Even when I'm reading a great book, maybe especially when I'm reading a great book, sometimes I feel compelled to put it down and let what I’ve read soak in for a little while and mull things over in the back of my head before I take in more.

I do set aside a small chunk of time each night for reading. I try to have my nightly bedtime routine complete at least an hour before I actually need to go to sleep so that I can spend that last hour reading in bed. That definitely isn’t the only time I read, but it’s the most consistent and deliberate time.

That time is spent reading for entertainment, though. Actually, now that I think about it, when I was taking university classes while working full time, I did set aside Saturday as my main day for doing the week’s assigned reading. However, I didn’t read all day, nor did I read the assignments straight through. Inevitably I would find my attention wandering. Once I started to feel like I wasn’t making any forward progress anymore, I’d get up and do something else for a little bit so I could come back to the reading with better focus. I would set time limits for myself though, to ensure I didn't fritter away too much time and fail to get my reading done.

8jillmwo
Edited: Sep 30, 1:23pm Top

YouKneek, that's a valid question. I gather that it was setting aside a set number of hours rather than the ENTIRE day. But it would be Sunday that they'd give over to their reading. And it would be more along the lines of a serious "project" kind of reading. Someone wants to pursue a love of botany or languages and does so. They are consciously improving their minds, hence the methodical aspect.

I am about to pick up my next book which had significant buzz the year it came out -- The Social Life of Books -- because it is about a different (more entertainment-style) sort of reading during what would have been their leisure hours in the 18th century home.

9jillmwo
Edited: Oct 2, 5:40pm Top

I have just one word for you. Circe. Thoroughly enjoying this novel and eagerly going to hear the author speak at the local library this evening!

Man, I hope she's not a disappointment in person...

Edited the following day to note that she wasn't

10jillmwo
Edited: Oct 8, 3:27pm Top

That moment on a Monday when you discover that it's a three day weekend! (See what happens when you work from home? I completely lose track of holidays, Federal or otherwise.)

But it means I can post my Notes on Recent Reading from September and thus far in October.

The Woman in Cabin 10 - This 2016 best seller owes a good deal to the Alfred Hitchcock move, The Lady Vanishes. A young woman with a history of anxiety and self-medication through drugs and alcohol meets a fellow passenger on a boat; the passenger disappears and suddenly no one on board has any recollection of her presence. I did this one with the township library and the women weren’t particularly impressed with either the “heroine” or the editing of the novel in terms of watching for inconsistencies.

Final Curtain - Ngaio Marsh A theatrical (in every sense) family is celebrating Grandfather’s birthday. It goes badly and Inspector Rory Alleyn and his wife are forced to deal with all sorts of histrionics in identifying the perpetrator. With the exception of the detecting couple, there’s not a particularly likeable character in the bunch so one reads on rather hoping that some of the more unpleasant ones will be found as dead bodies in subsequent chapters. (Rather less luck on that than I’d hoped.) OTOH, I did keep reading and had no notion of the killer’s identity.

Circe - My great treat in recent weeks. Far more than a coming of age story, the novel re-presents stories told by Ovid and Homer from the perspective of a minor deity, Circe, the goddess of transformation and the first witch in Western literature. The author provides Circe with a powerful voice and life experiences that speak to the perspectives of women outside of the conventional role of helpmeet. Miller’s style is reminiscent of Ursula K. LeGuin. Sparse in its use of vocabulary and sentence structure. This was the sort of re-telling that leads one back to the original source material. I’m toying w/ the purchase of Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey. Many excellent quotes so I will have to revisit this one again before really wrapping it up.

Other reading (or at least referencing) included four or five books on the history of newspapers while writing a white paper on the development of newspapers in the United States. This kind of research project always turns up new and curious things. For example, I’d never heard of the Swill Milk scandal in New York that was uncovered by journalists associated with Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. (Google it. It’s a fascinating (and also repugnant) story about the adulteration of food products.) Nor was I all that aware of the first African-American newspaper in the U.S. (Freedom’s Journal, 1827) or the story of Elijah Lovejoy, the first journalist to die in the U.S. in defense of the freedom of the press.

11Jim53
Oct 8, 9:10pm Top

I agree with your group on Cabin 10. I was underwhelmed.

12jillmwo
Oct 9, 8:39pm Top

Great phrase I encountered in Reading and The Making of Time -- "the contemplative life of the re-reader." There I am.

13clamairy
Oct 11, 7:11pm Top

>9 jillmwo: I think I took a bullet there. But I really feel like I need to read the one of hers that I actually own (The Song of Achilles) first! *sigh*

14jillmwo
Oct 13, 12:17pm Top

>13 clamairy: I promise that you will love Circe. It's definitely a great read -- the kind where you finish it and your first impulse is start all over again. I also think it would be your taste in terms of literary style.

15Meredy
Oct 13, 12:27pm Top

I liked it too, Circe. Not unreservedly, but I did really like it.

16jillmwo
Oct 17, 6:05pm Top

Sharing this spreadsheet found at that very fun blog, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. It's for tracking your reading. Many sheets are included--well, okay 3 sheets, but pretty graphs and potential insights for those who use the formulas. See the entry at: https://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/2018/04/tracking-reading-habits-download-terrific-spreadsheet/

17jillmwo
Oct 30, 5:55pm Top

Okay, this arrived today: http://www.muddycolors.com/2017/10/earthsea-cover-process/ and it's just as gorgeous as one might hope.

18Sakerfalcon
Oct 31, 6:00am Top

>17 jillmwo: I've ordered my copy and am eagerly awaiting its arrival! It's lovely to see Vess's sketches and how the illustrations developed in that post - thanks for sharing.

19jillmwo
Nov 4, 2:41pm Top

I did read one ordinary book in October, The Amber Shadows by Lucy Ribchester. You've got a sweet young thing (think early Joan Fontaine) working in Bletchly during World War II. She's decidedly young and naive, uncertain how to navigate her way in the emotionally charged, highly confidential environment. The key themes (as one might anticipate) have to do with trust and identity. The latter theme is specifically tied to Honey Deschamps' relationship to her brother, mother and father. The theme of trust has to do with her relationship to just about everyone with whom she has encounters every day.

I might be a party of one in liking this book. The library book group found it to be interesting but "muddled". They felt the author crammed tried to cram too much into the tale. (I disagreed. I thought themes were well woven, the specific cultural references meaningful in underscoring the theme and the point of view well handled.) I actually find things to look up in this one, things that I might have encountered before like the Amber Room in Moscow, but which I needed to revisit and like the Flemish artist Van Dael. Brush up on references to the Russian story of the Firebird while you're at it. Should you find cryptology to be of interest, there's a good bit of material here..

There were a couple of good quotes as well:
"She was candid, she was intelligent, and she was vulgar, but she alone decided what secrets she told."

"No matter what secrets you have to carry, keep your head."

I will admit that there's a slow build to this one but I thought the pay-off was adequate. Not great literature but I'm certainly tempted to go out and find her other book, The Hourglass Factory.

20jillmwo
Edited: Dec 8, 11:55am Top

Melmoth by Sarah Perry

This is not so much a gothic novel as it is a novel of horror. And the horror does not lie necessarily with your conventional monster, neglected Victorian manse or dark night. Instead novelist Perry is writing about the tension that arises when we are caught between an internal awareness of what is right (from a moral standpoint) and a survival instinct driving us to do what is expedient. The resulting emotions of guilt and loneliness from failing to do what is right and the protective secrecy that cautions us to keep our failings hidden are the substance of Melmoth.

Perry writes tales within tales. We learn about Helena who learns about Karel who learns about Josef. Consequently the action is rather slow moving and there is no absolute resolution to the unfolding narrative. How can there be? It takes decades -- perhaps even centuries -- to grapple with an understanding of how inhumane behaviors can be tolerated, even encouraged. Perry touches on military invasions, genocide, even the dearth of medical care. This is a modern tale of horror. The figure, Melmoth, is simply a manifestation of internal torment.

It’s not a happy book, but I recognize that it is a worthy one. I can’t decide if I recommend it, either, whether I’m keeping this one or passing it along to Goodwill. How much room is there on my shelf and really what’s the likelihood that I will ever WANT to revisit the themes that are part of this book. The writing is sound; the thinking is clear. I just don’t want to think about the point of the work itself.

I’d gotten this because I usually like a good ghost story, but this isn’t that. Maybe it is a Gothic novel after all -- there is the restless spirit, the awareness of something or someone abandoned to their fate, and the requisite sense of darkness. But you’ll have to be in the right mood for something like this. It’s not going to be a good choice if you’re seeking something that reassures you of the sentiment of the holiday -- peace on earth, goodwill towards all.

21clamairy
Dec 8, 6:00pm Top

>20 jillmwo: I'm glad you enjoyed this one. Is it a modern retelling of the book Peter just finished?

22jillmwo
Edited: Dec 9, 12:16pm Top

>21 clamairy: I gather that the two start from a similar point in terms of the folklore, but Perry's is very much a 21st century re-telling. (So, the answer to your question is yes.) What I can't quite get away from is the idea that this isn't (for me, at least) a Gothic novel in the traditional sense. Or at least I waffle over it a lot. I certainly pick up on the sense of horror. But whereas Gothic is something you might read when you're alone in the house on a moonless night in order to feel that sense of delicious thrill, the horror of Perry's work is such that you don't get any "delicious thrill" but rather just the horror. I'm not explaining very well, I'm afraid, but this one will give you the willies AND make you give everyone around you a suspicious eye to see if they're as evil as you might not otherwise have suspected.

23clamairy
Dec 9, 2:47pm Top

>22 jillmwo: Ack. I think I'll take a pass for now. This time of year is rough enough already.

24Jim53
Dec 9, 3:27pm Top

>22 jillmwo: I'm not sure what the opposite of a book bullet is, but I think I just took one.

25pgmcc
Dec 9, 4:26pm Top

Sarah Perry wrote the introduction to a new edition of Melmoth the Wanderer. I think she did that to give her some legitimacy for writing the 21st century re-telling. I am tempted to read her novel purely out of curiousity to see how she treated the original.

26clamairy
Dec 9, 9:39pm Top

>24 Jim53: Yes. That!

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