Books for 2019 (After the 2018 Cambridge Literary Festival)

During the 2018 Cambridge Literary Festival, writers spoke and gave readings and fired up self’s imagination. Though the list below is heavy on British authors, their books are no doubt available here (in the U.S.)

  • Flights and Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokarczuk
  • Holding and A Keeper, by Graham Norton
  • Building and Dwelling, by Richard Sennett
  • In Extremis: The Life of War Correspondent Marie Colvin, by Lindsey Hilsum
  • The Stopping Places, by Damian LeBas
  • What a Carve Up! and The Rotters Club, by Jonathan Coe
  • Hello World: How To Be Human in the Age of the Machine, by Hannah Fry
  • The Merchant of Syria, by Diana Darke
  • Seven Types of Atheism, by John Gray
  • The Bastard of Istanbul, by Elif Shafak
  • We That Are Young, by Preti Taneja
  • Let Us Sing Anyway, by Leone Ross
  • Take Nothing With You, by Patrick Gale
  • On This Day in History, by Dan Snow
  • All Along the Barley, by Melissa Harrison
  • The Light in the Dark, by Horatio Clare
  • The Essex Serpent and Melmoth, by Sarah Perry
  • Ghost Wall, by Sarah Moss

Sentence of the Day: Matthew Dessem for SLATE

The piece was about Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, who chose to dis-engage from the world by doing 10 days of vipassana meditation in Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar.

  • Over an 18-tweet thread, Dorsey wrote about his experiences during the 10 days of silence, covering everything from a Silicon Valley-fied description of Buddhism (“hack the deepest layer of the mind and re-program it”) to the 117 mosquito bites he got while silently meditating in a cave, which he apparently silently counted, silently photographed, and silently compared to the heartrate data silently recorded by his Apple Watch, which he wore in meditation-friendly airplane mode.

Eeew! Mosquito bites can be so distracting! Couldn’t the meditation center install bug zappers?

Stay tuned.

STOKED: The Sentencing Memo, Language

This is thrilling. Courtesy of Vox (and it’s only the FIRST of, self hopes, many):

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

vs.

MICHAEL T. FLYNN, Defendant

Sentencing: Dec. 18, 2018

The United States of America, by and through Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, III, respectfully submits this memorandum in aid of sentencing defendant Michael T. Flynn. On December 1, 2017, the defendant pleaded guilty to one count of making materially false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in violation of . . .

Demolish. Destroy. Stay tuned.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Close-Up or Macro

Self loves posting for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge. It gives her a chance to post photographs from her archives that might otherwise be overlooked. Such as the close-up of her bedside lamp at The Penn Club, where she stays whenever she is in London:

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Room # 1, The Penn Club: Bedford Place, London

Or this tea-set:

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London Review Cakeshop: Bury St., London

Or this amusing pair of socks:

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Gift Shop, Ashmolean: Oxford, England

Thank you, Cee Neuner, for the prompt!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

2019: Projected Reading List

2019 will be a great year. Self can feel it in her bones.

First, she’ll start the year trying to read Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle series. If she makes it through just three or four of the series, she’ll be happy.

It will be the year she gets back to reading Jeanette Winterson: Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal.

She’s going to try re-reading If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, by Italo Calvino.

Then she’s going to work her way through The Guardian’s Best Books of 2018 list. Which includes:

Almost everything Sarah Waters recommends: National Service, by Richard Vinen; In Our Mad and Furious City, by Guy Gunaratne; The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter; The Vet’s Daughter, a 1959 novel by Barbara Comyn; Swann’s Way by Proust; and (a re-read of) Anna Karenina, by Tolstoy.

Self’s reading list in 2019 will still lean heavy towards fiction. Here’s a partial list from The Guardian’s Best Books of 2018. All the authors are new to self, except for Liz Nugent and Pat Barker.

FICTION:

Ghost Wall, by Sarah Moss; Milkman, by Anna Burns; The Silence of the Girls, by Pat Barker; Melmoth, by Sarah Perry; Red Birds, by Mohammed Hanif; Friday Black, by Kwame Adjei-Brenyah; West, by Carys Davies; Sight, by Jessie Greengrass; Everything Under, by Daisy Johnson; There There by Tommy Orange; Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday; Brother, by Canadian David Chariandy; All the Lives We Never Lived, by Anuradha Roy; Convenience Store Woman, by Sayaka Murata; Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokarczuk; Normal People, by Sally Rooney; The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, by Hermes Gowar; Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan; The Western Wind, by Samantha Harvey; Now We Shall Be Entirely Free, by Andrew Miller; Painter to the King, by Amy Sackville; Murmur, by Will Eaves.

CRIME:

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, by Stuart Turton; The Stranger Diaries, by Elly Griffiths; November Road, by Lou Berney; Brothers in Blood, by Amer Anwar; Lullaby by Leila Slimani; Skin Deep, by Liz Nugent (who I’ve actually met); Fear, by Dirk Kurbjuweit; London Rules, by Mick Herron; Thirteen, by Steve Cavanagh; Tombland by CJ Sansom; The House on Vesper Sands, by Paraic O’Donnell, and The Vogue, by Eoin McNamee.

Many, many more.

Stay tuned.

2nd Post On Self’s Last Sunday in London

Self is madly reading all the issues of The Guardian she bought in the last week. She thinks she’s making great progress: she’s now on Friday’s Guardian (30 November).

Her attention was caught by a list of The 20 Most Influential Films.

Rather than simply copy out the entire list, self will tell you that the # 1 Most Influential Film of All Time is The Wizard of Oz (1939).

The Second Most Influential Film of All Time is Star Wars (1977).

Third is Psycho (1960).

Fourth is King Kong (1933).

Fifth is 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Citizen Kane (1941) is just # 7.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) is # 10.

Casablanca (1942) is # 11.

The Godfather (1972) is # 13.

Jaws (1975) — what a surprise! — is #14.

Dr. Strangelove (1964) is # 18.

Gone With the Wind (1939) which self was never into, is # 19.

Stay tuned.

Last Sunday in London

Self is in her room, reading a copy of The Guardian.

The trial of the “man who drove his car into a crowd of activists who  had been protesting against a white nationalist rally, leaving one woman dead and several injured,” has begun in Charlottesville, Virginia.

This morning, self returned to the Royal Academy of Art for a repeat viewing of the Oceania Exhibit.

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Royal Academy of Art: Sunday, 2 December 2018

She liked it even more, the second time around. She stayed watching the video for nearly an hour.

The little handout that accompanies the exhibit starts with:

Two-hundred and fifty years ago, in August 1768, four months before George III founded the Royal Academy of Arts, Lieutenant (later Captain) James Cook left Plymouth in command of the HMS Endeavour.

She remembers reading a book by Tony Horwitz: Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before and, well, that book must have made quite an impression because it fixed Captain Cook’s voyage forever in her memory and now, 15 years later, here she is, in London, having seen the Oceania exhibit twice!

As she left the Royal Academy (still in a daze of cultural overload), she happened to notice that there was a store across the street called FORTNUM & MASON. And the display windows were so Christmas-y! She decided to check it out:

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Fortnum & Mason: Sunday, 2 December 2018

Self entered through a revolving door and promptly found herself in the middle of a mob scene the like of which she has never experienced in London. What she means: people were grabbing blue boxes of chocolates off shelves directly in front of her, and pushing them into shopping carts. Yes, dear blog readers. English people were pushing shopping carts around a store, the contents consisting entirely of chocolate. There were boxes of dark chocolate, boxes of milk chocolate, boxes of assorted chocolate, boxes of chocolate with nuts, boxes of chocolate with creamy centers — you name it.

Self decided then and there that she would not leave the store without sampling some of this delightful chocolate. A shopgirl told her to take a number. She was # 19. She then asked the shopgirl what were the most popular chocolate purchases, and the girl replied, without any hesitation: TRUFFLES. Caramel Salt.

OMGGGGGGG

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Chocolate Counter, Fortnum & Mason: Sunday, 2 December 2018

She wanted to buy a box of chocolates for son and daughter-in-law, but didn’t know what kind they liked: milk chocolate or not? And this is when self bitterly regretted that her Verizon phone does not work. Has not worked for two months. In fact, Verizon just e-mailed self that she would not be able to avail of their international services. Thank you, Verizon, FOR TELLING SELF WHAT SHE ALREADY KNOWS.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Narrative is Made Narrative By ‘The End’

  • It’s already clear to you that without the thought of death it is impossible to make out anything in a human being. — Svetlana Alexievich, A Human Being Is Greater Than War

Perhaps self has a Russian soul. She is satisfied with the above quote, even though “to make out anything” is really vague. Perhaps something got lost in the translation from the Russian?

It sounds so perfect and mysterious, though.

Stay tuned.

Reading Svetlana Alexievich, After Returning from the British Library

Self saw the exhibit Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms at the British Library this morning. Despite the fact that she got there practically at opening, the exhibit was very crowded. And she is short. And all the people between her and the display cases seemed very tall. Nevertheless, she is glad she went. On one wall is a quote, dating from the late 11th century. Which is to say, after the Norman Conquest. She forgot to note the identity of the writer, but guesses it must have been a monk:

Nothing has gone well for a long time now. There has been harrying and hunger, burning and bloodshed.

She returned to her rooms and resumed reading Svetlana Alexievich’s oral history of Russian women soldiers: The Unwomanly Face of War. From the essay that begins the book (A Human Being Is Greater Than War):

‘Women’s’ war has its own colors, its own smells, its own lighting, and its own range of feelings. Its own words . . . And it is not only they (people) who suffer, but the earth, the birds, the trees.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

THE UNWOMANLY FACE OF WAR, by Svetlana Alexievich

Ditched Mirror, Shoulder, Signal last night. Ugh. In the end, it was impossible for self to read about the driving lessons with a married instructor that the narrator tries to imbue with romantic significance.

Self is doing much better with the stoicism of Svetlana Alexievich’s women soldiers.

Alexievich: A Human Being Is Greater Than War:

  • Remembering is not a passionate or dispassionate retelling of a reality that is no more, but a new birth of the past, when time goes in reverse. Above all, it is creativity. As they narrate, people create, they “write” their life.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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