Calvino: Reader and Other Reader Meet Cute

  • But something has changed since yesterday. Your reading is no longer solitary: you think of the Other Reader, who, at this same moment, is also opening the book; and there, the novel to be read is superimposed by a possible novel to be lived, the continuation of your story with her, or better still, the beginning of a possible story. This is how you have changed since yesterday, you who insisted you preferred a book, something solid, which lies before you, easily defined, enjoyed without risks, to a real-life experience, always elusive, discontinuous, debated.

Self knew it; she knew she shouldn’t have read forward.

SPOILER:

The Reader attacks the book with a paper knife and penetrates to the heart of the book.

lol

lol

lol

Too precious by half.

Onward!

Stay tuned.

Taissia Petrovna Rudenko-Sheveleva, WWII Company Commander, the Moscow Fleet

A woman in the navy . . . that was something forbidden, even unnatural. People thought it would be bad luck for a ship . . .  In our village the women teased my mother to death: what did you give birth to — a girl or a boy? I wrote a letter to Voroshilov himself, asking to be accepted in the Leningrad Artillery School. They accepted me only on his personal order. The only girl.

When I finished the school, they still wanted me to stay on dry land. Then I stopped telling them I was a woman . . . on one occasion, I gave myself away. I was scrubbing the deck, suddenly heard a noise, and turned around: a sailor was chasing a cat that had ended up on the ship, no one knew how. There was a belief, probably from the earliest times, that cats and women bring bad luck at sea. The cat didn’t want to quit the ship, and its dodges would have been the envy of a world-class football player. The whole ship was laughing. But when the cat nearly fell into water, I got frightened and screamed. And it was evidently such a girlish treble that the men’s laughter stopped at once. Silence fell.

I heard the commander’s voice: “Watchman, is there a woman on board?”

“No, sir, Comrade Commander.”

Panic again. There was a woman on board.

. . .  I was the first woman to be a commissioned officer in the navy. During the war I was in charge of arming the ships and the naval infantry.

  • — from an oral interview in Svetlana Alexievich’s The Unwomanly Face of War (Penguin Books), translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

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

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 Matthew Shardlake; The House on Vesper Sands, by Paraic O’Donnell, and The Vogue, by Eoin McNamee.

Many, many more.

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.

Sentence of the Day: Missing, Presumed

  • The more you don’t make contact, the more impossible contact becomes, as if silence can enlarge like a seep of blood.

The writing in Missing, Presumed got stronger, the voice more confident, after about the halfway mark.

Today, self was in Heffers and found yet more books she wishes she could have purchased. But — no, it’s too much. She’s hauling luggage to Durham next.

She had to content herself with taking pictures.

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Heffers, Trinity Street, Cambridge: Friday, 23 November 2018

When, oh when, is The Secret Commonwealth, Book 2 of the Book of Dust, coming out? Philip Pullman keeping very mum.

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Waterstones, Sidney Street, Cambridge: Friday, 23 November 2018

Can you imagine, Emily Wilson, whose translation of The Odyssey self bought in hardcover from Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino, earlier this year, is reading tonight in Cambridge?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Today’s Nordic Translation Duel at the Winchester Poetry Festival

  • Self heard the word kennings for the first time ever. She learned that a kenning is a stylistic device used in old Norse sagas. It’s a way of referring to something by describing something else.

For example: A ship is also known as “the horse of the sea.”

Examples of modern kennings: clotheshorse, skyscraper

  • There is a repetitiveness in Nordic epic poetry: The sentence “I killed _______” is used over and over and over again.
  • Old Norse has many different words for “blood.” (Fascinating. Ancient Filipinos had many different words for “rice.”)
  • The Gisla Saga was written in the 13th century, but refers to events in the 10th. The featured presenters, Debbie Potts and Carolyne Larrington, presented their own translations of the same verses from the Gisla Saga (and the translations couldn’t have been more distinctive)

For example, a passage where “Gisli compares his sister to a legendary figure and finds his sibling wanting”:

Debbie Potts’ translation:

Fixated on fashion, my sister
lacks the gumption of Gudrun.

Carolyne Larrington’s translation of the same passage:

My sister, obsessed with her
superb wedding head-dress,
hasn’t Gudrun Gjukadottir’s
unrelenting temperament;

The duel was moderated by John McGavin, Joan McGavin’s husband.

Fascinating. Simply fascinating.

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Stay tuned.

 

Still Reading THE DOOR

Self doesn’t know why, she is still reading The Door. She thought she’d be through yesterday, she only had 10 pages to go. But here it is, over a day later. And she can’t’t even skim the last 10 pages. No, she has to laboriously work through each page, feeling all the time like dying.

She hates Magda Szabo.

Narrator to Husband: “We are all traitors.”

Husband: “Not traitors. Just too many things to do.”

Aargh, aargh, aargh.

Rare Sighting of Husband: THE DOOR

The husband in The Door is an ineffably mysterious presence: He is there but rarely speaks, somewhat like the father in Tove Jansson’s elegiac, beautiful novel set on a Scandinavian island, The Summer Book (Self discovered Jansson just this summer).

In The Door, while the narrator becomes increasingly emotional, and Emerence becomes increasingly unpredictable, the husband provides a tantalizing comfort. He is in bed with the narrator when Emerence bursts in one morning, singing a song. Once, he runs angrily out of the house, upset that Emerence has put a garden gnome in front of his English classics in the library.

He is ill in the beginning. The housekeeper tells the narrator he is going to die, which strikes self as cruel, but he seems to get stronger as the novel progresses.

He and the narrator visit a Greek island called Glifada. It’s Good Friday; they stop at a church. There’s a dead Christ on a bier by the entrance. The villagers invite them to “join them in mourning the Saviour.” They put a bell rope into the husband’s hands.

The narrator watches:

  • “I can still see him ringing the bell, his thick blonde hair, already shot with grey, tugged by the sea breeze.”

Wow.

This is almost the end of the book; will this be the last, the only time, we see him? Why is self so relieved that he does not die? (Although, she still has about 20 pages to go)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Meltdown: THE DOOR

Only 1/4 left of the book to go! Self is hanging on every excruciating word.

Still with the strangely ill husband:

  • My husband wasn’t allowed out in the cold; the dog howled all day long; the apartment had to be kept spick and span for the constant visitors.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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