Self’s reading, guided by some subconscious current, has focused so much on Africa lately.
Or perhaps it just feels that way because she’s taken so long finishing Henry M. Stanley’s How I Found Livingstone in Central Africa.
As self got to around p. 300, she found herself just plunging straight ahead, staying indoors for hours and hours, forgetting the garden, the errands, the phone. It seemed that Stanley was blissfully happy — difficult as it was to search for the missing explorer Livingstone, nothing in his life afterwards matched the sheer intensity of the experience. People, he was 53 years old! He endured bout after bout of malaria, many sleepless nights, much hardship. But every night, without fail, he digested that day’s experiences in his journal. Self was very moved.
Alas, as soon as Stanley got to the part where he was actually face to face with Livingstone, self felt less interest. Stanley was no longer the main protagonist. The other man, who was much more famous, began to dominate the narrative. And self decided she really didn’t want to know much more. So, she decided to move on.
The next book on her reading list is In the Shadow of Man, by Jane Goodall van Lawyck. It’s a memoir about how she got started on her groundbreaking studies of chimpanzees.
Self never knew that Goodall used her married name, early in her professional life. Now, she is known as just Jane Goodall.
Hers is a much less dense narrative style than Stanley’s (but that’s because she’s a modern woman, and Stanley was writing in the nineteenth century). But she is also a vivid writer. Makes self just want to ship out, right now, for East Africa.
For example, here’s how she describes a market in the town of Kigoma:
One of the most fascinating aspects of any small town in Africa is the colorful fruit and vegetable market, where the merchandise is offered for sale in small piles, each of which has been accurately counted and priced. In Kigoma market we found that the more prosperous traders operated from under a lofty stone awning; the others sat on the red earth of the main market square, their wares neatly set out on sacking or on the ground itself. Bananas, green and yellow oranges, and dark purple, wrinkled passion fruits were displayed in profusion, and there were bottles and jars of glowing red cooking oil made from the fruit of oil nut palms.
— In the Shadow of Man, p. 11
For the next several months, self will be confining herself to nonfiction.
After this cycle ends, she’ll take up reading novels again.
Self reads in cyclical binges: one summer, she read only mysteries (Six books by Henning Mankell at one go!). Then there was a year she read only women writers. And there was another year when she read only travel books: that was the summer she discovered Patrick Leigh Fermor. Another year, she read only memoirs.
In 2013, she read a lot of classics, books like Anna Karenina, Don Quijote, Sister Carrie, The Leopard. She also read two novels by Graham Greene (She found both shattering).
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.