At Last! Movement on the Reading List!

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.

Catch-Up Reading: The Economist, 14 September 2013

Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts is an account of how, at 18, he walked from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople.  This was in the 1930s.  Self finally got to it just a few years ago.

Fermor documented a time and place that, several years later, would be destroyed forever.  A Time of Gifts is a wonderful book.  Self will never, ever forget it.

Now, she is trying to catch up on her Economist reading, and she ends up lingering in the Books section, where there is a review of a posthumously published volume (Fermor died two years ago, at age 96).

Reading the review, self learns that Fermor wrote a second book, Between the Woods and the Water, which “covered his 1934 walk through Hungary and Transylvania, where he was as much at home in hayricks as in the hovels of gypsies.”  Oh, joy!  Self immediately added this book to her reading list.

But the third book, the posthumously published The Broken Road:  From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos, is also fascinating.  It is “the full contemporary account of his time at Mount Athos,” and while it lacks some of the “magic” of the earlier books, it “has an elegiac tone.  None of the people described survives and the countries visited have undergone wars and revolutions, leaving them virtually unrecognisable.”

In other words, the various “tribes” of the Balkans and central Europe were every bit as endangered as the Native American tribes who ruled from sea to sea, or the native tribes of New Guinea and other parts less traveled.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Places: 2011

Places encountered in the Philippines:

  • Balay Daku, Burgos Street, Bacolod
  • La Vista Highland Resort
  • L’Fisher Chalet!  You’re the best!  Self loved, more than anything, chatting with the staff, who at first mis-took her for a doctor (Doctors Without Borders had arrived, almost the same time as self.  Self hates that she had to leave the same day as Chinese New Year, when the Dragon Parade was just entering the hotel lobby)
  • Bailon Fastfood, Pendy’s, Virgie’s and every bakery known to man in Bacolod
  • Silay:  Balay Negrense
  • Louie’s, Lacson Street, Bacolod
  • The Landmark, Makati (the Tar-zhay of the Philippines, and the place for dresses, self kids you not)
  • Peking Duck something something in Makati somewhere, this was supposed to be her “farewell” lunch or some such.  At least, all her brothers were present.  Dearest Mum got into a fight with a waitress because a dish listed on the menu as “with walnuts” presented “with kasoy.”

Places encountered since getting back to California:

The life of B

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