Sunday 29 March 2020

Bookie Book Books

 'When I was Otherwise' by Stephen Benatar was a quirky little novel that I found in the charity shop. I am often attracted by the spines of books that very obviously have not been read (i.e. not creased). I found the book confusing as it jumped about in time and I was often not sure who was talking. The women, Daisy and Marsha, annoyed me and the men were just rather wet. The back cover sold it as a bit of a mystery but it wasn't. Not sure what to think really. Not someone I would bother with again.

'Weather' by Jenny Offill had something for the stream-of-consciousness thing going on; the narrator Lizzie relates her life through short paragraphs containing thoughts or events. I find I read 'The Department of Speculation' five years ago and liked it. Here I give you, aptly, thoughts in the coming chaos:

"And then somehow, it's about four drinks later, and I'm telling him about the coming chaos. 'What are you afraid of?' he asks me, and the answer, of course, is dentistry, humiliation, scarcity; then he says, 'What are your most useful skills?' 'People think I'm funny, I know how to tell a story in a brisk, winning way. I try not to go on much about my discarded ambitions or how I hate hippies and the rich.' 'But in terms  of skills,' he says, and I tell him I know a few poems by heart, I recently learned how to make a long-burning candle out of a can of tune (oil-packed, not water), I've learned how to recognise a black walnut tree and that you can live on the inner bark of a birch tree if need be, I know it is important to carry chewing gum at all times for post-collapse morale and also because it suppresses the appetite and you can supposedly fish with it, but only if it is a bright colour and has sugar" (p.160)

I had several other good quotes but this is not the time. Definitely give Jenny a try.

'Starve Acre' by Andrew Michael Hurley was recommended on Dove Grey Reader, which is always an excellent place for discovering new reads. This was a very gripping, and disconcerting, book. Set in a small rural community it is the story of Richard and Juliette, who's son Ewan has died, and the weird manifestations of their grief. I reject the notion of the supernatural but find myself enjoying books that include supernatural elements, and allow myself to just accept their part in the story. Here Richard releases a hare that has resurrected itself from a skeleton he unearthed:

"For a few minutes more, he looked to catch a last glimpse of the animal, but it had become one of the itinerant shadows that moved as the wind caught the trees. It has returned to patterns of living that were impossible to understand: where every movement and every sound meant something and nothing could be ignored; not the twitch of a leaf or the odour of the earth or the sound of birds conversing across the wood. But Richard wondered if the hare in some way felt as he did that spring was always bestowed. That it was an invitation to come and watch the world moving and be among its tremors. Here in the field, those first shocks of the season were starting now. He could feel them and hear them. Beneath the trills and whistles of the blackbirds he became aware of a rushing sound. It was the beck flowing again, released from its rictus of ice." (p.125-6)

So all the library books have been automatically extended until the end of June, but the libraries were closed before I could go and pick up two requests that had just arrived. University is shut and Monkey has no volleyball, Tish is still jobless, I get to leave the house every day and talk to other people, but my skin has dried out from all the washing. We live in strange times.  I hope everyone is staying safe, has enough to read, and always remember, don't lick strangers.

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Thanks for stopping by. Thoughts, opinions and suggestions (reading or otherwise) always most welcome.