Literary Ramblings


I thought about calling this post The Search for Mindfulness but realised it would be false advertising. I read an article about mindfulness in the Age at the weekend & realised I have a long way to go, especially when it comes to concentrating on one thing at a time! These are the books currently sitting on the table next to my reading chair. From the top – A Writing Life : Helen Garner and her work by Bernadette Brennan (I especially want to read the chapters on Garner’s non-fiction writing. I know there are holds on this at work so I have to read it soon); Desperate Remedies by Thomas Hardy (beautiful Folio Society edition with lovely woodcut illustrations. I’m trying to come up with a novel that I can lead discussion on for my 19th century bookgroup. The group has been going for over 10 years so we’ve read all the usual suspects. I thought Sybil might be the one, but no. This is Hardy’s first published novel & apparently has elements of the sensation novel in the plot so I hope I’m enthusiastic about it); Come In Spinner by Dymphna Cusack & Florence James. I considered this for the 1951 Club but didn’t read it. Then, I read a great review on a blog I’ve just discovered – Words and Leaves – & I’ve already made a start. It’s ANZAC Day today & the novel is set in a posh Sydney hotel during WWII so it’s appropriate reading. Words and Leaves has also pointed me in the direction of a great local tea company, McIver’s. I love tea & have already bought two varieties to try, Miner’s & Tramtracker. The Miner’s tea is already a firm favourite, I will be buying more. I realise I shouldn’t have explored the website further but I do covet the Dancing Wombat mug

The House of the Dead by Daniel Beer is a study of Siberian exile under the Tsarist regime. I’ve been fascinated by the Decembrist rebels ever since I first read Mara Kay’s novel The Youngest Lady-in-Waiting when I was a teenager. This is a fascinating look at Siberia, the system of exile, the punishments & the way that the exiles & prisoners influenced radical thought in 19th century Russia; Clarissa, you already know about; Venetia by Georgette Heyer is there because I want to read it before listening to this podcast; The Necklace and other stories by Guy de Maupassant is a new translation by Sandra Smith & I was tempted by the gorgeous cover. I’ve read two of the stories so far, which is a start…


Then, if that wasn’t enough, on the other side of the table are these journals & magazines that I was going to read the minute they entered the house (please don’t look at the publication dates on some of the spines & I haven’t taken a photo of the coffee table where the rest of the magazines are lurking). That’s not Pride and Prejudice on the top, that’s my Kindle cover. I’m reading Clarissa on the Kindle when the book is too heavy. Of course, the only magazine I want to read right now is the latest edition of History Today on my iPad (I’m not telling you how many unread magazines are on the iPad) with articles on the Oracle at Delphi & Ethelred the Unready.


I probably shouldn’t be thinking about pre-ordering books but here are two which I just have to mention. I may have ordered them already but I couldn’t possibly comment. In 2009, Susan Hill wrote Howards End is on the Landing, a book about a year spent reading the books already in her house. Even though I obviously didn’t take any lessons from it, I’m very pleased that Jacob’s Room has Too Many Books will be published in October. From what I can gather, JRHTMB will be a kind of companion volume to HEIOTL, a meditation on books & life.

Martin Edwards, crime writer, critic, anthologist & consultant to the wonderful British Library Crime Classics series, has announced his next book, The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, published in August. There are also another half-dozen new titles in the series due out by the end of the year including Continental Crimes, an anthology of mystery stories set in Europe & farther afield, Foreign Bodies (great title!), an anthology of translated crime stories & another Christmas mystery, Portrait of a Murderer by Anne Meredith.


The new Persephone books for the (UK) Spring have just been published. Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane & Earth and High Heaven by Gwethalyn Graham. I’m looking forward to reading both of them & also to the new Biannually which will hopefully arrive within the next week or so & be read immediately.


Finally, I may have mentioned the word tsundoku before. It’s a Japanese word that describes someone who collects books without reading them (me, in other words, & probably quite a few of you reading this post). Anne Boyd Rioux mentioned the word on Facebook the other day & it reminded me of my friend Erika who writes a blog called Tsundoku Reader. I love Erika’s blog for many reasons, not least because most of the books she so enticingly reviews are in Japanese & not available in English translation. I have enough temptations as it is & no time to learn Japanese. Reading Erika’s reviews gives me such a flavour of Japanese life & the photos she uses to illustrate the blog are lovely. This post about comfort reads is typical. I would love to read Satoshi Yagisawa’s  novels about Morisaki Books. After reading The Tale of Genji last year, I plan to read more about Japan. Maybe when I’ve polished off everything on my reading table.

16 thoughts on “Literary Ramblings

  1. I read Desperate Remedies years ago and don’t recall anything about it now, except that I enjoyed it and it was a fun read. I’d sure read it again.

    Effi Briest is a good one! Not for 19th since that’s where I read it years ago; just thought I’d mention that I enjoyed it. Don’t recall the translator.


  2. tsundoku is i. i have two choices: tearing out what is left of my hair and wailing into the night, or calmly and mindlessly stretching the arm out and reading what serendipity selects for my pleasure… probably an unsolvable dilemma… a wonderful selection of tomes you listed; i find my mouth watering in anticipation(lower mind)and simultaneously exercising restraint(higher mind)… very interesting books… and post….


    • I’ve stopped worrying about the number of books in the house although I have slowed down the number I buy. Putting the books I want into a wishlist is a good strategy, I find. I don’t forget them but I don’t need to buy them straight away.


  3. I read Howard’s End is on the Landing a few years ago and tried reading some of my own books. That lasted a few months and then I started buying again.


    • I could easily read just my own books for several years but I know I don’t have the discipline to do it. Too many new bright shiny books to tempt me away! I like reading about other people doing it though.


  4. Desperate Remedies is definitely not typical Hardy, and a reader might be surprised by it if the reader has read only Jude or Tess. There are definite thriller aspects to the work.


  5. I have the opposite problem – can’t find enough books I really want to read! Looking forward to Lucy Worsley’s biog of Jane Austen in May, though! (I’m going through an E M Delafield phase by the way and I was just reading your review of Prov Lady in Russia on your old blog – I want to read it now!)


    • I’m looking forward to the Lucy Worsley book too. PLIR is a bit of an optional extra to the PL books really. I think it was just called that to tie it in with the PL books as it’s really not written in the same spirit. I feel a PL reread coming on too as I just read a review somewhere of PL in America. I hope EMD gets you over the reading slump.


  6. You’ve made me feel so much better about my stash of magazines and journals. You have to buy them when they’re full of excellent subject matter, and it’s not our fault there’s only so much time in a day….right? Have a lovely day, Lyn!


    • Thanks Darlene. I’m about to have two weeks holiday so will definitely aim to make a slight dint in the reading table piles. I’m glad I’m not the only one with an overflowing reading table.


  7. Tsundoku – that’s it, finally a word for my obsession. I agree with Mudpuddle above. There is nothing sweeter than (with tea mug in hand) roaming my own bookshelves and finding the perfect read for the day, the weather and my whim. Howard’s End is on the Landing was wonderful inspiration but with book blogs & recommendations such yours — I keep adding more books to my shelves.


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