Having just finished Scarlett Thomas’ “PopCo”, I find myself longing for non-contemporary novels. I have been reading many books recently but all have all been written within the last thirty years. I long for a different sort of prose, a different perspective. And so I have been looking at my book shelves, thought about the books I have had to abandoned earlier in my life, and then I finally uncovered James Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”. The choice was between “Portrait”, “Ulysses” and Sterne’s “Tristram Shandy”. Clearly I’m going for the easy option because, well, I’m like that.
But I have a credit card and access to amazon.co.uk. I also have ideas (some borrowed from Harold Bloom, others from Clifton Fadiman and finally a few picked up along the way) about what to buy. But I want to ask you for a recommendation.
written in English
nothing I will have read before (which excludes all of Austen, actually)
Feel free to add as many slightly left-field recommendations as you’d like and, if you want, your reason for recommending the novel.
In other news, I foolishly thought I would take tea with some good friends today (it is my birthday tomorrow). This led to a collapse in public and a subsequent three-hour nap. Sometimes I forget how little energy I actually do have and that I cannot just dismiss the lack of energy. Unfortunately every little action has a consequence.
Since I last had an MRI scan (mid-90s, if I recall correctly), technology has allowed the patient to listen to the radio during the scan. Unfortunately this meant I was forced to listen to a talk show debating killing stray dogs and then people suffering from claustrophobia. Not ideal listening material for someone who likes dogs and is trapped inside a snug plastic tube for 40 minutes.
Seeing as today is Super Tuesday, the Slate article, Can I Get My 5-Month-Old Daughter Photographed With Every Presidential Candidate? is a very apt link. The photos are great – I particularly like the first Barack Obama photo and the hilariously panicky Rudy Giuliani photo.
Today is also Shrove Tuesday – Pancake Tuesday – here in the UK. I made pancakes earlier today and served them Danish style with butter, a touch of ground cardamom and granulated sugar. Multi-culturalism r us, yo.
Let’s be positive! My downstairs neighbour is not a hypersensitive man who complains that I ‘type too loudly’. He is not a schizophrenic albino who loves Celine Dion and talks to his absent father whilst hiding from the people in the walls. He is not a Norwegian couple who argue until 4am, then shag and who will eventually leave me with two desert rats called Legolas and Gimli. Let’s face it, I survived all those people, so why should I be so grumpy about him being a hippie stoner who puts the same prog rock song on repeat until 2.30am.
I must be getting old. Well, I did take up crocheting the other week..
Now, to paraphrase the amazing Flight of the Conchords: it’s Hospital Time.
We went to the hospital today. I am going to have my brain-waves measured next week which is terribly exciting. I hope I do emit brain-waves and that they’ll be interesting enough to result in a diagnosis.
Right, let’s move on to something a bit more interesting:
+ Fun Facts about the QWERTY Keyboard
+ The QWERTY keyboard and how it was adapted in Russia/The Soviet Union
+ Why the QWERTY keyboard got its layout
+ The QWERTY Myth
I’m seeing a neurologist on Wednesday which is great news. I’ve been waiting almost a month for this appointment. Stupid me for falling ill during the holiday season.
One of my biggest regrets about falling ill right now is that I have missed out on an exhibition of Joan Eardley’s work. She is probably my favourite Scottish painter and I had been looking forward to the National Gallery of Scotland’s first major Eardley exhibition. Before Christmas I was too busy to find time to make the trek to Edinburgh (and to be honest, the prospect of travelling anywhere near the middle of Edinburgh at the height of the shopping season scared me profoundly), but I had promised myself that post-Christmas I’d have a few weeks to catch up. As it turned out, I did not. Grrr.
But Eardley is wonderful. The painting I posted above (“Two Children”) can be seen at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove museum. The piece is big, powerful and almost overwhelming. It feels out of time – very modern, very traditional and very much of its time .. all at once. The Eardley paintings I have been fortunate to see all share this strange quality; they also share a quiet anger, an air of resigned melancholy. Her famous depictions of children have an odd, almost urban art feel to them coupled with a traditional motif (- and I cannot resist her almost nonchalant use of lettering). Eardley’s later landscapes are almost abstract by comparison.
In unrelated news, I’m halfway through Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. I tried reading it a few years ago but gave up after 45 pages or so. This time I’m mostly confined to my bed and am enjoying taking my time with the book. Sometimes you have to be in the right frame of mind for a book to find you.
I am still home from work waiting for the Scottish NHS to discover what’s up with me. Ms 4thEd (formerly known as Ms Bookish) is getting sick and tired of being, well, tired and sick, I tell you.
In the meantime I am reading editorials on the US not-quite-but-almost election. I am reading books. I am occasionally cooking (when I’m not exhausted). I am getting twitchy.
I can’t even write a proper, entertaining blog post anymore. Boo.
Ah, 2008. How wonderful to start off a new year with being unwell (hence the ‘no update’ bit). I spent most of New Year’s Eve in hospital and have spent all of 2008 (so far) being unwell. This ranks as possibly the least promising start to a year.
But I am at home in my pyjamas, alas. I drink (decaf!) coffee, sleep a lot and read when I am awake. I’m currently making my way through the latter stages of Sarah Waters’s The Night Watch which has proven substantial enough to keep me interested and lightweight enough to allow me to sleep when I need it.
Here’s to 2008 improving.
Merry Christmas everybody