Welcome to this week’s blog. Here’s our roundup of your comments and photos from last week.
The festive season is almost out of the way. But not quite. Benner notes:
Currently reading Beyond Black, Hilary Mantel. I chose it as my first book of the year purely because of the opening sentence: ‘Travelling: the dank, oily days after Christmas.’
Lovely. But that’s not to say there isn’t still seasonal fun to be had: the Christmas diary entries of Samuel Pepys have been amusing clivejw.
The 1667 entries couldn’t be more Pepsyian if they tried. After walking about in various parts of London on Christmas Eve, and a visit to the Swan Inn in New Palace Yard, during which he manages to “bezar” the barmaid, he visits midnight mass at the Queen’s Chapel... He complains of the crowd and says he was afraid of his pocket being picked. However, he soon overcomes this nervousness by his usual diversion:
But here I did make myself do la cosa by mere imagination, mirando a la jolie mosa and with my eyes open, which I never did before -- and God forgive me for it, it being in the Chapel.
He enjoys the music of the chapel, but reflects negatively on the ‘frivolous’ service and, simultaneously, the inattention of the ‘papists’ to it, as they count their beads with one hand and “point and play and talk and make signs with the other” (is this less pious than ejaculating after an erotic fantasy?) And then proceeds shortly to note how “prettily” the King’s mistress, Lady Castlemaigne, looks in her nightclothes!
Elsewhere, Vieuxtemps decided to end the year with Faulkner’s The Sound And The Fury:
And it gets better and stranger with each pass. Score a 10 out of 10 on the Southern Weirdo Scale. Recommended for those that like Southern Weirdo Lit.
Talking of weirdness, JamesLibTech has started on Jesse Ball’s upcoming novel Census:
It’s very unconventional and weird. I’m about a third of the way in and I have only the slightest of ideas as to what’s going on and where the story is going, but he’s a spectacular writer so I’m looking forward to getting through it.
William Gibson’s Neuromancer also seems unusual to resextensa:
I won’t lie, I’m finding it quite disorienting. No doubt that’s part of the point, but while I certainly don’t need to be spoonfed there are moments that drift into such obscurity that it borders on outright incoherence. That aside, it’s vivid and intriguing and I have no plans to put it down, but I know for sure I’ll need to read it two or three more times to absorb it properly.
Back with realism, Tom Mooney has found The Power Of The Dog by Thomas Savage admirably “dark”:
Tells the story of two brothers who run a large Montana cattle ranch in the 1920s. They live alone, apart from the help, for years, running things as they always have. Then one brother marries a local widow and brings her onto the ranch with her ‘sissy’ son, throwing the brothers’ relationship into an unspoken disarray. The subtlety of the book took me quite by surprise as it shuns action and plot in favour of realism and introspection, as the end of the old west clashes with the advent of 20th century life.
I didn’t quite love the book, but more admired it as a quiet, meticulous and highly literary work of art that will live long in the memory.
Finally, one last word on Christmas from PortlandRace:
I began last week reading the first section (‘Winter’) of Laurie Lee’s Village Christmas And Other Notes on the English Year. Growing up in a small Dorset village (before leaving for London), I relate so much to Lee’s depiction of rural life (and of Christmas) and his writing moves me in a way I find rare in an author – to me it is quite beautiful. ‘Spring’ will follow in a month or two …
That sounds like a good promise to me.
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