Sunday, 11 July 2010

Final one for today

Bearing in mind it was about three weeks ago that I sorted out the books for the project, I'm making progress, and certainly haven't broken the no-buying rule (the new Italian grammar that's on the way definitely doesn't count, as it's reference).
So, in fiction I had a pretty enjoyable couple of hours on a Saturday morning with 34 The Alchemist which I think is technically Ruairi's copy, and I've put off reading it for years now because of the hype but it's actually quite simple and enjoyable, and I'm a sucker for a bit of homespun philosophy, really. I mean, it's not life-changing, and it's not as deep as it pretends to be, but it did what I ask of fiction, removed me for a while, and I'm not sorry I read it.
On a pattern of getting no real chance to get stuck into fiction except at weekends, I didn't even manage that last weekend because of hen-jollities, but yesterday afternoon was passed with Margaret Atwood, 35 Bodily Harm. It's some way off her best: I think it was quite an early one and in those young days she hadn't quite mastered plots, but the writing is so clean and convincing that you forgive the plots. Unlike the Blind Assassin, though, it's not one I'll be rushing back to.

In non-fiction, I had mixed feelings about 36 The Time Being. It was more auto-ethnography like the Ellis above, by Quinney this time, and I'd read such a lovely piece by him in the Berger and Quinney anthology also above, that I leapt at the idea of a whole book of it. The good bits were perfect and wonderful and inspiring and thought-provoking and sent me off my bench with a light step and a belief in the boundless possibilities of the universe; the bad bits were self indulgent, like being trapped next to an old drunk who wants to tell you all about how his first wife didn't understand him, his second (much younger) wife does, and he really has a, like, mystical sense of the universe.

So a bit mixed there, but a more resounding hit from the unlikely 37 The Empty Hours, a Pelican by Oswin, about the weekend life of children in institutions. It was written in the mid-sixties, I think (perhaps early seventies, but thereabouts) and again is in case study form, visiting a range of institutions/ residential schools/ hospitals for children with both mental and physical handicaps and looking at where they did and didn't work. I've no idea why I had a copy of this on the shelf but it was fascinating, and sort of appalling, and you hope that a lot of the observations wouldn't hold true so much nowadays, and fear that they might.

On the go, as my morning benchbook I have the prequel to the time bind, as my carryabout Pelican I have RD Laing on schizophrenia, I'm still soldiering through the brothers karamazov as bedtime reading, and I'mdaytime fictionless. I think today could be another good one for a novel in the deckchair - sometimes you have to fortify yourself for a difficult week.

And finally...

After all the pre-publicity, this is it, my summer reading project.

I need a bit of discipline, and I need to stop having my book-buying rate being quicker than my book-reading rate, because I don't have the space to keep increasing my collection indefinitely, and I don't need more books than I can read - it's just greedy.
So, in the afternoon after my exam, I went round all the shelves (and there are many) and collected all the books that I hadn't read into one place - the two complete shelves you can see above. The rule was that reference books and pure textbooks didn't count, nor did things like cookery or knitting books, but in general anthologies or collections were in, and things I'd got quite a long way through but not finished were in, and I wasn't allowed to exclude things because I'd only borrowed them, or because I didn't like the look of them, because in that case I should either be getting rid of them or giving them back.
I then did some preliminary sorting - from top right to bottom left boustrophedonically it's non-fiction (all the pelicans together) - old fiction - modern fiction.
Now, anything I choose to read must be from those shelves (or the library) (or rereads from elsewhere in the house) and I'm not permitted to buy any more books until Booker-time in October. This isn't meant to be imposing a great hardship, more acknowledging that if I bought the books in the first place it's because I thought I'd like them, and that some of them nonetheless look a bit difficult, and that sometimes you enjoy difficult books even when you'd feared them a little bit at the start.
I'm doing well (albeit cheating slightly by starting with some little ones) - post number 3 of today will tell you more...


Several weeks into my Summer Reading Project and I've not written anything about it. One of my other resolutions for the summer is to keep this blog up to date as I'm desperate to be able to look back and see what I was reading/making/ doing but I do forget pretty fast.
The exam was survivable, and I got myself through the last-thing nerves with 32 The Secret Garden, recommended as a reread by my wise mother and perfect if you need something to take you out of mundane concerns and into thinking about how magical gardens are. Hysterics make lumps!
Also pre-exam, I had as my morning benchbook the brilliant, fascinating, soul-destroying 33 The Time Bind: when work becomes home and home becomes work. It's by Hochschild, a US sociologist who specialises in this sort of thing, and was actually a follow up to another book on a similar theme (of which more below) but I think I got its name from one of my sociology textbooks and sensed I'd enjoy it. It's just case studies and analysis of a group of employees in a large midwest (I think) organisation and their attitudes to managing family life and the home. Gorgeously written, perceptive without being judgemental, thought-provoking both personally and in terms of trying to plan an economics judgement, and basically something I want to throw a copy of at all my female friends. You can tell that I loved it because it's basically wrecked, from a couple of days sitting outside reading it in the rain.