You know those moments – those moments when a book speaks to you? When you read something that might have been written exactly for you to find it? Well, I had a rather peculiar moment of that kind, yesterday… Continue reading
I stumbled across Borges’s Shakespeare’s Memory a few years ago, while on a quest for memory-themed readings. And I have to say, it was a rather intricate kind of “stumbling”, because I became aware of the story only to find that, for some reason, it was the one piece missing from my mother’s supposedly Complete Works of Borges in Italian translation… Continue reading
This began as part of one of those catching-up phone calls you do around the holidays: we started with the Plague, of course (who doesn’t, these days?) and at some point, mercifully enough, we found ourselves discussing To Read Lists instead.
And the sad fact that there is never enough time to read new things – never mind reread. And yet, the yearning is there – and, before we knew it, we were sharing two very different lists of rereading wishes.
And I thought, well, why not? So here is a very short version of my list: the books I’d love to read again, had I but world enough, and time… Continue reading
It’s a Dover Thrift paperback, thin, smallish, the pages rather yellowed at the edges, my initials embossed on the right hand corner of the frontispiece… and I can’t quite remember where I got it.
Published in 1997, the copyright note says – so it can’t have been in Cardiff, much less in Edinburgh. And it can’t have been London, because I know for certain that I already had the book by the summer of 1998 – and I wouldn’t move to London (however briefly) until a whole year later… No, my small collection of Crane stories must have come from Pavia, from one of several bookshops around the University that stocked books in the original language. Continue reading
Would you object very much to some more slight gloominess? Or perhaps it won’t be so terribly gloomy by the time we’re done – but let us talk of endings and beginnings, and Stevenson. I’ve always liked this thing that Stevenson wrote in a letter written from Samoa to J.M. Barrie:
If you are going tho make a book end badly, it must end badly from the beginning.
Book clubs, now…
I know that they’re all the rage, I know that no library worth its salt can go without one, I know that they are enough of a phenomenon to have made it to women’s fiction and movies, and I know, more to the point, that lots of people enjoy them immensely. Continue reading
Once upon a time – not long after our shared College years, I believe – my friend Fenella and I discovered a mutual liking for Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley. Now I’m sure you know how Shirley is rather the Cinderella among Charlotte’s novels – her one historical, written, at least in part, as a form of escapism while her siblings died one after another, and generally regarded as a lesser oddity.
Still, what can I say? I like it, with its background of faraway Napoleonic wars, and of Luddite unrest at home. I even like the unevenness of the whole. And I like the characters – even more than the eponymous girl (a heavily fictionalised portrait of Charlotte’s sister Emily), the quieter Caroline Helstone, and half-Belgian businessman Robert Moore. Continue reading
Don’t you think that literature has far too few elephants?
I mean elephant characters, with a central place in the story and a definite personality. You see, yesterday I was discussing Elephant World Day with some friends, and at one point the conversation veered on the literary aspect of the subject – and there was surprisingly little. Surprisingly, when you consider what wonderful, intelligent and meaningful creatures they are – and yet, when you discount those elephants that are merely extras or window dressing, that have nothing to say for themselves, that just walk through the forests, crash into gardens and are hunted, I can think of only a handful of literary elephants. Continue reading
This story was told to me years ago, one summer afternoon, in a centuries-old library in Mantua. It was whispered by an elderly scholar, as we took a short break after hours of patient, careful philological work…
It begins with a boy of eighteen, the shy, bookish sort, with the kind of passion for Ancient Greece that makes one court girls by lending them books of Greek poetry. Continue reading
When I found out that there was an Italian edition of Conrad’s Lord Jim for children, reading age 10+, I couldn’t rest until I saw it with my own eyes.
Because, really: from age ten? Ten?! And I wondered because, on first reading it at the slightly more mature age of sixteen, I’d found LJ such hard going. I’d also eventually fallen in love with it in several fundamental ways – but, heavens above, it had been hard. And mind, I don’t mean technically difficult to read – although both language and structure are definitely not easy – but emotionally exhausting. And here was this children’s publisher, springing it on ten-year-old kids? Continue reading