Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Meme on!

Hurrah! Tagged by Laura with another one of these - I'll do the contents of my fridge another time... (I'll just give you "Loon Fung Chili Oil" as a teaser).

Books I've always meant to read:

"Crime and Punishment" by Dostoevsky - I have difficulty with the hefty 2000-page seriousness of Russian novels and just about managed "War and Peace" once by focussing entirely on Natasha and pretty much ignoring the political sweep and Napoleon etc - which kind of misses the point. In my defence I was 17. This is the one everyone says has to be read. I did read Pushkin's "The Queen of Spades" the other day, though (a mere pamphlet in comparison).

"A Brief History Of Time" by Stephen Hawking - What can I say? I thought I was quite clever, then I tried reading this. By the time I got to the part (probably around page 2) where he said something along the lines of "of course the continuing expansion of an already-infinite universe can be assumed throughout" I had to lie down in a darkened room. I still wince when I think of my unbelievable arrogance in assuming that a book written by Stephen Hawking for the less clever than Stephen Hawking would be anywhere within my grasp. Maybe one day after an intensive diet of ginkgo biloba, oily fish and other brain foods I will get past the introduction.

Books that changed my life:

"Harriet The Spy" by Louise Fitzhugh - the world of childrens' books was a big wide one as far as I was concerned, and I was very much a read-under-the-bedclothes child; I loved Harriet so much though, for being geeky and wordy, for unashamedly spying on people, for writing about them as unflinchingly as possible, even when it got her into trouble. I read it again recently and realised (well, duh) that her entire spy lifestyle was only possible because her parents really weren't interested in her at all and barely cared where she was. There's a sequel called "The Long Secret" about the very rich and mousy Beth Ellen.

"The Deptford Trilogy" by Robertson Davies - the first time I read a novel and realised that some authors address you, the reader, as an adult with a brain and a heart. Robertson Davies was one of the finest, most well-read, most humane and compassionate authors of the 20th century, and I say that with absolutely no reservations. Every book he wrote was a masterpiece, his trilogies were beautifully balanced, and he could make you laugh out loud and cry on the same page.

"Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov - If you think that was a eulogy to Robertson Davies, wait till I get started on Nabokov. Actually, just take it as read. My favourite author pretty much bar none. I love this book, and always have, not just for the sheer beauty of the prose, and the crossword-puzzle nature of the clues he scatters liberally throughout, but because while you're busy tutting and wondering how ethically right it is to make a 12-year-old girl sound so peachily irresistible, he hits you like a great big slap in the face with total, abject pity for her. This was my first encounter with the unreliable narrator, and it changed the way I read for ever.

Books I've been raving about since I read them:

"A Suitable Boy" by Vikram Seth - very like Middlemarch in its intertwining of stories; I began by feeling impatient and wanting to race back to Lata and her mother's quest for a suitable boy, and found myself falling for all the other characters and their storylines in turn - even Nehru. Set around the time of Partition, which I knew shamefully little about, it avoided all the traps of the historical novel by giving me characters who were reccognisable, complex and as immediate as if they lived next door. I ccould not put it down and I re-read it every year in the hopes that I'll have forgotten the plot and rediscover it all over again.

"The Marzipan Pig" by Russell Hoban - A marzipan pig falls behind the sofa and is eaten by a mouse. The mouse falls in love with a clock. An owl falls in love with a taxi. Russell Hoban described this as "a book about various kinds of love which dare not speak their name" - which is a darn good description of a kids' book in which an owl falls in love with a taxi. I love Russell Hoban for writing childrens' books which adults can read, and (more or less) vice versa. It also contains one of my favourite lines ever: "Oh love!" shouted the owl. "The breakfast of your eyes!"

AAAAAAAAAAAND I'm tagging... Bookseller Crow.


Brother Tobias said...

Makes me want to read all of these. Especially 'Harriet the Spy' and 'Lolita'. The former because I haven't, and the latter because I was about 15 and therefore not looking very hard.

Lucy Fishwife said...

I can't recommend Harriet enough - she's so snarky. In fact I have just added her to my list of role models. Have just ordered myself a copy of "The Long Secret", which I haven't read since I was 11, and will report back on whether it stands up to the original..

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Wow! You don't mess about LFW!

Do you get free drugs with each copy of The Marzipan Pig? (not unlike 3D glasses in this context!)

Yes, I've always found Crime and Punishment far toooo punishing too! It was bad enough trying to wade through the TV adaptation shot in semi-darkness, I don't think I'd survive the book!

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Lolita rocks though. One of my faves as well.

Lucy Fishwife said...

I personally feel that free drugs AND marzipan should be provided with all works by Russell Hoban. There's a "tribute" group that goes around London leaving sheets of yellow A4 paper on the tube with quotes from his books on them (yellow A4 paper and the Underground being recurring themes in his books)..

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Written in green ink, right? :-)

The Sagittarian said...

ah, I do love a good book and as luck would have it, one of my daughter's and I have a date with the local library this Saturday. I'm taking back some books that I haven't been able to get into and she's taking back all 7 that she read already!!
A friend has loaned me "Snow" by Orhan Pamuk so will try that...

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I've never even heard of the Harriet the Spy books. How can that have happened? I must remedy that. I love reading to the children - although these days I tend to start the book off and they take it off and finish it before the day is out.

I too loved Lolita and I have always enjoyed Dostoevsky. But I have never even tried to read Hawking - not really my thing despite being a Mathematician.

thanks for visiting my blog. I have added yours to my Reader.

Lucy Fishwife said...

Thanks! Will return the favour. Harriet is definitely still in print. Libraries should have her too. Great for reading aloud as her father (ad man on Mad Ave) goes off on long rants about his bosses ("Fink, fink, ratfink, fink, fink!").

Lucy Fishwife said...

PS A quick addition - the film version sucks in an epic fashion, and there are three "sequels" (Harriet Spies Again, Harriet the Spy - Double Agent, and Harriet Vs The Spy) to the book written after the author died - which also suck phenomenally. "The Long Secret" and "Sport" are the only sequels worth bothering with. Am I sounding unhinged and possessive...?

Rol said...

I'm afraid Sting and Jeremy Irons put me off Nabokov, and I stalled on Dostoyevsky too.

I found Michio Kaku to be much more readable than Hawking, while covering a lot of the same ground.

But I've always meant to read some Robertson Davies, ever since he was featured in a song called 'My Baby Loves A Bunch Of Authors' by a band called Moxy Fruvous.

Being how it's your chosen subject, I don't feel so guilty taking up a chunk of your comments section with some of the lyrics...

"So we split and went to a party, some friends my girl said she knew...

But what a sight 'cause it's authors night and the place looks like a who's who...

Now I'm pounding the ouzo with Mario Puzo

Who's a funny fella?
W.P. Kinsella

Who brought the cat?
Would Margaret Atwood?

Who needs a shave?
He's Robertson Davies!

Ondaatje started a food fight, salmon mousse all over the scene

Spilled some dressing on Doris Lessing, these writer types are a scream!"

(I know, some of those rhymes seem a little dodgy - but they work in the song.)

Hello, by the way.