30 June, 2008

Light reading

Two similarish and very enjoyable books, as a post-coursework, pre-revision treat (I am so behind with updating this blog). PG Wodehouse's Pigs have wings and the Damon Runyon omnibus. Both fun more for the language than the story: the silly literary jokes in Wodehouse and the marvellously unreal dialogue in Runyon. [30] [31]

Then as a post-exams mindless indulgence, four Georgette Heyer novels: The Nonesuch, Cotillion, Arabella and A marriage of convenience. Reading Georgette Heyer is like taking a hot bath, really. But I do like the fact that all her lovely men are so well-dressed. I can't think of any other novels in which such attention is paid to the details of the men's outfits. Maybe Gone with the wind? I think Rhett Butler does dress well, but I can't remember if there's any detail about it. The regency period is interesting, though: it's the point where men's outfits (that is, upper class men's outfits) lose the extravagance of the eighteenth century and start being modelled on riding clothes: women's clothes remain impractical and decorative. I suppose the fascination with the period is to do with the men being beautifully, elegantly dressed but also wearing recognisably 'manly' clothing: clothing which looks good on strong, athletic male bodies with broad shoulders and long legs. [32] [33] [34] [35]


Reading: a very annoying book on feminism and fashion called Fresh lipstick and Riddley Walker. And some random Georgette Heyer novels.

Listening: the Summer Stock and Kiss me Kate soundtracks.

Watching: Mary Queen of shops on BBC1 which is moderately rubbishy but enjoyable.

23 June, 2008


Reading: devoured Nicola Humble's book on The feminine middlebrow novel over the weekend.

Listening: I lasted about ten minutes of Harrison Birtwhistle's Punch and Judy on Radio 3 on Saturday night. So not much at the moment.

Watching: the Sex and the city movie. Have you ever bought a six-pack of crappy chocolate mousses from the supermarket and eaten them one after the other?

21 June, 2008

Revision books

I can't be bothered to do reviews, but these are the books I read as part of my revision:

The Weimar republic - Eberhard Kolb [23]
Weimar and the rise of Hitler - A.J. Nicholls [24]
The Weimar republic - J.W. Hiden [25]
Balzac - Wendy Mercer [26]
Zola: Germinal - Colin Smethurst [27]
La peau de chagrin - Alain Schaffner [28]
Germinal - Colette Becker [29]

Too many books

Someone pointed me towards this Wall Street Journal article about owning books. It's a subject I've been thinking about recently, especially as we are moving house soon: I estimate I've got about five or six hundred books to move in my current flat, and another couple of hundred back at my parents' place. It's a source of mild friction between myself and my cohabitant: he doesn't believe in owning books, but gets them from the library. I also use the library (I am a member of eight libraries, at least five of which I don't owe massive fines to) but I like to own books. I think he feels mildly oppressed by the sheer number of books I own, and they do tend to get everywhere.

I'm actually much less of a book hoarder and compulsive book buyer than I used to be: I almost never buy new books these days, but I still find it difficult to pass a second hand bookshop without acquiring one or two. I had a massive clearout a couple of years ago when I got rid of around three hundred books, discarding the ones that I was never likely to read again, the ones which would be freely available in the library if I did want to read them again and the duplicate copies. Since then I try to limit my library to books I definitely do want to read or reread, and try and keep books that are freely available in the library to a minimum. I like this passage from Luc Sante's article:
It occurred to me that I had little need for most of the shrubbery surrounding the works of major authors: the letters (with one or two significant exceptions), the critical approaches (unless they are worth reading on their own terms), and any biography over 500 pages long (except maybe those by Richard Ellmann and Leon Edel). I also had no need for books with funny titles, books acquired only because everybody else was reading them, books with no value except as objects, and books that inspired a vague sense of dread whenever they caught my eye -- possible cornerstones of culture that nevertheless only solitary confinement would ever compel me to read.

I still have a lot of books. I like having them, I like being around them, I like the fact that I can go to the shelf and look up a half-remembered passage whenever I want to. It sometimes seems to me, though, that owning books is not recognised as the materialist act it actually is. Because having a library is seen as a cultural, educated thing to have, it's as though it's somehow morally superior to owning a lot of clothes, say. In some ways I'd like to be more like my partner, with his half dozen books and his library card.

Things I've noticed

Favourite blog of the week: Shapely Prose, a great blog about fat acceptance.

Wonderful article in the New York Times about shared parenting. OK, the people they talk to are all quite affluent middle-class parents, and therefore have many more options to take fewer hours and less pay, but it's a really positive interesting article.

This made me laugh.

And the Guardian review of Leonard Cohen's concert made me look forward to seeing him even more than I already am. Roll on July 18th...

13 June, 2008

Excuses excuses

Oh well, so much for updating 'tomorrow'. Work has been hellish this week and I've been in a permanent state of stress. I will update... some time.

05 June, 2008

Normal service will shortly be resumed

In fact, I have grand plans to blog more frequently. But I've been doing my final exams and turned myself into a giant neurotic mess so I haven't posted anything for a while. So anyway! Tomorrow I will start catching up posting all the books I have read in the last couple of months.