A lazy Sunday in Winter

Somehow I was in the mood for being a bit lazy today.  The winter is gradually getting colder but I am warm and snug.  The low sun streaming in the windows has been  alternating with bursts of noisy rain..

After a few chores by lunchtime I was ready to finish reading Maggie O’Farrell;s Instructions for a Heatwave.  How inappropriate has it been reading about London in the midst the 1976 drought, the parched and cracked lawns,  the effect it had on people, particularly Irish born Gretta  Riordan, her three adult children and their worry about the  husband and father who inexplicably has gone missing.

It’s an interesting story about the irritations between various family members,  their problems and misunderstandings.  There is a build up of tensions as various snippets of the family’s background and secrets come to light to help solve the mystery.. As in most novels to my mind there is a slight exaggeration or dramatization of the characters compared to what I would expect in real life but it is a very believable story.  I enjoyed it more than the only other Farrell novel that I have read, The Hand that First Held Mine.

Then by chance this afternoon I watched the 1966 movie of Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451, a clunky old movie which I found quite riveting.  I had read this book early in its life and had seen the movie before.  I was very much a Ray Bradbury fan, seeing how ordinary people would cope with a strangely changing society.  But after so long just the overall impression remained,  not much in the way of detail.

It was quite distressing seeing all those familiar books being burnt, cover after cover in the flames, always enough time to appreciate the book which was being burnt. It can happen.  It has happened.  And the censorship of books is a small example of the  book burning. mentality.  I am old enough to have read Lady Chatterley’s Lover from a copy sold from under the counter by an obliging bookseller.  And it is quite embarrassing to look at the list of books which used to be banned in Australia, a list full of well known and respected authors.

But attitudes change.  Mainly it is the political influence which moulds  the censorship ideas. These days printed books on pornography, suicide and  anything which encourages terrorism comes under close scrutiny in Australia.  Less easy to police though is the internet.

As reading is always associated with coffee for me, today’s coffee came from a newly acquired Nespresso machine.  It makes a beautiful coffee but my main complaint is with the bully boys who control the sale of the coffee capsules to make my coffee.  To shop online I am quite happy to supply my name and address and credit card details but this firm is unbelievable, the amount of information they extracted from me before they would send me a single capsule.  What control.. What manipulation.   What the heck does it matter where I had bought the machine .  What if it had been a present and I didn’tknow its source, would they have refused to send me coffee capsules ?  I’m surprised they didn’t ask my bra size and shoe size !

Instructions for a Heatwave

Mainly Me, Me, Me and Liebster

Such a surprise to hear from CricketMuse that she had nominated me for a Liebster Award. How very kind of her. Thank you Cricketmuse

My nominator had asked me the following questions –

1. It’s 2pm on a sunny Saturday–where are you and what are you doing?

Heading for a coffee shop with a book under my arm., somewhere with big windows and a pleasant view.

Looking out through the glass

2. Given the choice of reading a classic novel or the latest bestseller which do you prefer?

The bestseller – so much to read and so little time to read it.

3. Could you work in a job without a window?

Only if I had no alternative.

4. How do you celebrate the first day of vacation?

Doing as little as possible.

5. Who is your favorite poet?

Shakespeare – his Sonnets

6. Do you think technology is affecting they way we converse with one another?

Yes – I enjoy the messaging but I do miss the verbal contacts.

7. Here’s the magic wand–what’s your wish?

To disable the vocal cords of a certain politician for a few days ! But that’s a rather negative answer when I should be saying feeding the starving in all countries or giving other countries a  health systen based on the one in Australia where you are given the best of medical care even when you’re poor.

8. What country would you visit if you won the sweepstakes?

Britain

9. Which pet do you prefer–traditional (dog) or exotic (hedgehog)?

traditional – cat

10. How many blogs do you read during the week?

About a dozen.. Read too many and you don’t do them justice. I like to have time to think about the contents.

11. What do you think of blog awards?

It’s a bit like a chain letter, but in a nice way.. But it makes you a link in the chain. Hello fellow Liebsters.

And she asked for 11 Random Facts about myself.

My first cat was called Henry after Henry V.

I have blue eyes.

I love carbohydrates unfortunately

I usually prefer the winter – it energises me.

A regret -I never learnt to ice-skate

A guilty pleasure would be to learn how to be a hacker, in a nice sort of way, just so I could have a little peek !

Favourite musical – Les Miserables – on stage of course, not on film.

I think that’s enough. You know what they say about giving away too much about yourself on the internet and I think I have already said far too much. !

And now I have to devise 11 questions which hopefully will be answered by those I nominate for A Liebster Award but which can be ignored if they are too personal.

1 Favorite book ?

2. Favorite Movie ?

3. Favorite TV Show ?

4. Do you go to concerts, either classical or other ?

5. What things get under your skin and stir you up ?

6. What time do you go to bed / get out of bed ?

9. Do you watch TV in bed ?

10. Do you like wearing hats – what sort

11.When you sing in the shower, what song do you sing ?

Now I can really see you, wearing your favorite hat, with a book and a DVD under your arm and some theatre tickets sticking out of your pocket. and on your way to your favorite protest rally ! Looks like you’re having fun.

Trumpet Roll – here is my list of nominees for a Liebster Award , in no particular order –

1. Serendipities of Life

2. Booker Talk

3.The Matilda Project

4.Cookies and Crafts

5. A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff

7.Like the World

8. anspired

.9. EllisNelson

I don’t know about other people but I keep my reading list fairly short – a few regulars then a little time left to dabble with a random reading.f If someone has taken the time to write a blog entry then I need time to read and think about the entry, not just skim and discard.

The rules of the Liebster Award are as follows :

1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog and link back to the blogger who presented this award to you.

2. Answer the 11 questions from the nominator, list 11 random facts about yourself and create 11 questions for your nominees.

3. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 11 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen. (No tag backs)

4. Copy and Paste the blog award on your blog

From Persephone Books to TV

My appetite for books takes  me in many directions and recently that has been in the direction of Persephone Books with its charming collection of reprints – neglected novels mostly from the middle of the twentieth century – beautifully presented paper-backs.

My first read was” Family Roundabout” by Richard Crompton, well known for her Just William stories. Set between the two wars it tells the story of two families and their contrasting matriarchs, one domineering and the other gentle. I thoroughly enjoy drifting back into that era, knowing that the writer has lived it, that the details are accurate and not imagined and researched.

Then came “The Making of a Marchioness” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the author of The Secret Garden. First published in 1901 it has now been chosen by ITV as a suitable TV series.  And herein lies my problem.  They have renamed it The Making of a Lady. Why ? Why ? Why?  It is so disrespectful of the author.

As I understand it to be a Marchioness you have to the wife of a Marquess, one step down from a Duke and Duchess,  whereas a lady can mean many things.  For all you know I am a lady – I know which knife and spoon to use, I can conduct myself decorously and make polite conversation about safe topics like the weather when the mood takes me. So you could call me a lady.

I can be a lady without belonging to the British nobility and using the title Lady, which  even then doesn’t  indicate to which rank I belong.

In this novel, by her conduct,  the heroine is already a lady, poor but skilled in all the social graces.. To be made into a Marchioness she has to meet a Marquess, attract his attention and marry him, which is the basis of the story.  She is becoming a Marchioness, not a lady.

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So I can’t help being cynical and saying oh my, what a big word is Marchioness, much too big for the export market to cope with.  We can’t use a word the non-Brits  won’t  understand .  Let’s just make the title meaningless instead.

There is much about the movie and TV world which puzzles me, such as the remakes of perfectly good shows.  Take the Wallander series with Kenneth Branagh as an example.  If you haven’t read the Henning Mankell books or seen the original TV shows with sub-titles it’s a perfectly nice, pretty little series, but it is not a patch on the original.   Brannagh’s stubble doesn’t make up for the grittiness of the original.  And apart from re-writing story lines they have introduced a new character called Scenery so that we can have lengthy views of beautiful scenery to pad out the series. It’s just another British cop show with a bigger budget. Take out the name Wallander and call him Smith or Jones and you wouldn’t even know it was a Danish story. I really am cheesed off !

And the dramatic Danish Dragon Tattoo trilogy – Daniel Craig might be gorgeous but in my humble opinion  the original sub-titled films were better – and so it goes on.  No doubt “The Bridge” will be the next in line for conversion. They’ve already destroyed “The Killing” by transferring it over to New York.

Please, TV-land, give up the re-hashing and make your shows from original books or stories as the BBC did with its adaptation of P.D.James’ “Death in Holy Orders” and “The Murder Room”.  They were a while ago now but when things are well done you don’t forget them.

The Quiet Girl by Peter Hoeg A Sense of Sound

The other day I started reading   The Quiet Girl by Peter Hoeg.  I had seen it on a library display shelf and while not  recognizing  the author’s name I did remember reading  Smilla’s Sense of Snow, which is also mentioned on the front cover- a subtle prompt to the memory to make us choose this book to read.

What a strange book this is turning out to be.  I’m having trouble grasping  the story-line but  Peter Hoeg’s  fantasy-cum-thriller really does make you think of the place of sound and music  in our more ordinary  lives.   So when it rained I closed my eyes and listened.  Usually it’s just heavy rain or light rain, but this time I found I could focus on the different components of the rain sound.  There was the tiled roof overhead which was a different sound to the noisier rain on the flat roof behind me and a quieter bounce on the flat roof in front of me . The back door was open and there were different sounds from the rain hitting a variety of textures, each to its own musical note,  all blending into something that experience told me was heavy rain sound

Then the next day I sat in a café with a book and a coffee but this time I didn’t open the book straight away.  I just listened, and I was listening to sounds that wouldn’t normally register with me.  I would be so absorbed in my book that I would be oblivious to any noise around me.

So what did I hear ?  Nearby four ladies talked in voices which had a strong contralto emphasis while from further away came a man’s voice, one with less variation and in a tenor tone. It was providing a fairly steady line, an X-axis  with the female voices forming  curves dashing up and down through it.  You could have written music to it.  Question.  Answer. Laugh. Anecdote.  Cup hitting saucer. Chair moving on floor. Little cough. Waitress voice. The beat came from the softened, amplified, background music ; the tympani from the soft  kitchen clatter and underneath it all the muffled rise and fall of traffic noises from behind the glass windows. These sounds weren’t intrusive, But  they WERE there. Perhaps we need some café music to fit them, a Cafe Coffee Suite, with different movements as the customers change,  Disney handled rain music beautifully with Drip, Drip, Drop Little April Shower in his film Bambi.

So apart from the music how much can I learn about Peter Hoeg the person from this book?  What sort of person is Peter Hoeg?  I would say completely different to my last read, David Mitchell,  who tells his tales with an imaginative use of language and sense of  fun. But I read David Mitchell in his native English whereas I rely on a translator to read a Peter Hoeg story. I wonder if this makes a difference.

Nevertheless I  thank you Peter Hoeg.  I’ll do my best to understand your story.

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell

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My attitude to life frequently depends on what I am reading. And this week it has been David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green.  I feel good.

As usual  I am way behind everyone else –  I should have read this book years ago. But now that I have finished I find it hard to write about it.   It was so…. good.

The book is full of potential quotes such as “the screws of grammar that hold the sentence together”.   And I was delighted to see Vyvyan Ayrs from Cloud Atlas and his now mature daughter Eva crop up again as Mrs Crommelynck.

I was also intrigued by the final two lines.

”It doesn’t feel  very all right”

“That’s because it’s not the end “

A book published in 2004 expressing the same sentiment as in a 2012 movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  That was a great film which I saw before reading Black Swan Green.    I was most impressed in the movie when an Indian came out with “Everything will be alright.  So if i’ts  not alright it’s not yet the end.“  Here was I thinking that this was an Indian proverb, and what a good attitude to have to life.

Now I’m wondering if there is a prior history to the idea ”not finished so not the end” compared to the idea which is more familiar to me,” it will be alright in the end”..  Not OK therefore not the end, compared to. Is the end therefore is OK

And yes, I did finish Casual Vacancy.  Enough said !Image

My Two Person Book Club, courtesy of Will Schwalbe

 

‘So the premise is a simple one: an informal book club emerges between the narrator, Will, and his mother, Mary,”

Quoted from   “The Art of Writing about Reading” by Lauren Rosewarne.  when she is talking about Will Schwalbe’s  book “The End of Your Life Book Club”.

I had never thought of it like that. Today I had coffee with a friend and we were a book club, just the two of us, talking books. “Seize  the Day. “ says Will Schwalbe.   Sieze the opportunity to talk books. And so we did. Our own private book club and library.  My friend went home with Cloud Atlas and I came home with Kate Grenville’s “The Idea of Perfection”, which I look forward to reading.

I am also looking forward to reading  Will Schwalbe’s book.

Will’s mother is dying of cancer but they shared their love of reading and

“Books provided Will and his mother a way to talk about things that would have been too confronting, too frightening, too close-to-the-bone to discuss frankly.”

“The End of Your Life Book Club is a beautiful combination of memoir, tribute to a parent, but even more so, it’s a lovely homage to that transformative exercise of reading.”

Those are Lauren Rosewarne’s views on the book but her article  is also very readworthy for her views on  reading patterns.

 

And so I post my thoughts in our Virtual WordPress Book Club, where I know nobody but where I know everybody as we share the love of reading.

f have been reading  “The Art of Writing about Reading” by Lauren Rosewarne.

Casual Vacancy by J.K.Rowling

Rowling among the tree tops

Usually I don’t hesitate to discard a book if I’m not enjoying it so why haven’t I discarded Casual Vacancy by J.K.Rowling.  Perhaps it’s because I don’t trust my own judgement.  After all, think of  the number of books she has sold and think of my lack of training in writing and the appreciation of  literature .

So why has it got to the point where I still HAVE to read fifty pages a day if I’m to get it back to the library in time, apart from the fact that I find her writing very dull. What instinct prevented me from buying it for myself in the first place? There’s nothing wrong with the storyline.  There is a vacancy.  That’s a common happening in the real world and leaves plenty of room for the imagination to work.  But it’s an adult vacancy.  So why all this pre-occupation with the children of the village? To me they are mostly irrelevant to the filling of the vacancy which I thought was the purpose of the story.

I’m half way through the book and I am still having trouble distinguishing the characters.  They are still shapeless, faceless people.  Probably the children are the easiest.   Krystal, Fats and Andrew, well I think I’d know them if I met them in the street !  But so far the adults blend together.  I would probably have to start again to try and sort them out but I shouldn’t have to do that to enjoy the book. Perhaps I’ll read this book again some time in the future and thoroughly enjoy it, but I have doubts about that.

At least I can pick nice places to sit and read it, this time in the tree-tops with their roots down on the river bank.

Looking out through the glass