books


Listening to: Night of the Wolverine – Dave Graney & the Coral Snakes (ah, definitely one of the twenty sexiest songs of the ’90s)

This book intrigues/excites me – Flow : the cultural story of menstruation. Not only the subject matter, but I’ve heard/read universally good things about it so far (unlike, say, Cunt, which could also have been cool but which no one in the world – including me – actually liked).

Today it was too rainy to go walking…but I went, anyway. My poor sneakers are never going to dry. The lure of the closed bridge was too great:

<img src="Closed to traffic but not feet.” alt=”” />

I think I’ve given up on being London’s foremost super-explorer, though, and am settling into using my week for crafty/reacreational-academic endeavours. I’ve been studying today – I decided the best way to teach myself Dutch (that again – I know) was to throw myself in at the deep end, so I’ve started translating (from Dutch to English) a Henning Mankell book I got when we were in Bali a million years ago. It’s quite fun and I expect the funness to increase as my vocabulary improves (I had to look up 27 out of 77 words in the first paragraph, although some of that was just to get confirmation). I have no real use for the ability to speak Dutch, but there is something satisfying about softening all your consonants (or whatever the linguistic term is) and I don’t think it gets enough credit for how pretty a language it is.

I have been trading off Battlestar Galactica episodes with Freaks & Geeks (rewatching), which is a nice balance.

Remind me, remind me that I need to go to the Women’s Library at some point – their Women’s Liberation exhibition has been on since October and I still haven’t seen it.

Listening to: Forget It, Sister – You Am I

When I left my last job, I was given a book voucher but I couldn’t decide how to spend it. Luckily, Patti Smith has been everywhere lately (there was even an interview with her in the Vogue I picked up off the floor of the library today) and I happened to have time to kill in Kensington this afternoon and there was a Waterstone’s… So after traipsing up and down the stairs for a bit, trying to get a straight answer from the salespeople (“I think we’ve sold out, but try upstairs in Music” – “Well, there might be a copy left in the Biography section, if you can find it”. Libraries are so much more sensible – imagine if I spoke to students like that!), I emerged with my very own copy of Just Kids, her book about life with Robert Mapplethorpe in New York from the late ’60s onwards. So far – and I’ve only read the first chapter, which is Patti’s childhood in Chicago and Pennsylvania, her discovery of the power of her own imagination and her introduction to books – it’s beautiful.

Less beautifully, Tony Abbott is a fuckwit, but at least people are writing about it. I particularly like this piece by Karen Brooks:

I wanted to give myself a context for understanding all the brouhaha that erupted last week when our budgy-smuggler-wearing Opposition Leader was quoted as having said ‘women should treat virginity as a gift.’ My knee-jerk response was, ‘You’re a gift, Abbott, with a silent ‘f’.

(Tony Abbott is married! Was this well-known? Gross.) I think I kind of miss Australian politicians. I’ve enrolled to vote here, but to be honest I don’t know what I’m doing. They don’t have Green MPs! I’m not sure how to work with that.

My lovely boss had a nasty accident on her bike last night (thanks to a taxi, which is completely horrifying) and although she’s going to be fine (superficial but frightening-to-behold injuries, apparently), I’m in charge for the next couple of weeks. The day-to-day librarian stuff I can handle, but there’s a massive gap in qualifications between us and the library assistants (who are lovely and competent but are also mostly gap year students and refer pretty much all enquiries to us) and finding a way to maintain a useful service to students from 8.30am until 7.00pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays is going to be a bit of a nightmare. We just closed early today, but it wouldn’t be fair to do that again and we had a heap of reference queries as I was trying to get out the door this afternoon (I’d normally finish at 3.45 and do the late on Thursday). And I can let the others open on Thursday morning, but then my whole day will be spent on the Help Desk and I’ll miss out on any admin time. Argh!

Listening to: Girls Like That (Don’t Go For Guys Like Us) – Custard

Have you ever read a book of letters? What was it like as a reading experience? Even though I mostly expect it to be tedious, Volume 2: 1923-1925 (an incredibly substantial-looking tome – god, why don’t I write that many letters anymore? How many typeset pages would my high school correspondence fill? “Dear Isabel, I hate it here…” x 1,000,000,000) of T. S. Eliot’s letters is calling to me from the window of Barnes Bookshop. It’s not that I don’t think old T. S. would’ve been a fantastic pen pal, but that’s a long time to spend in one person’s head. And I have more than enough books to dip in and out of already. Still…

Listening to: Land – Patti Smith

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xjkxYaUD9E]

(Oh! I need to make another “Go Rimbaud!” T-shirt.)

It occurred to me yesterday that I have no current cultural obsessions, apart from maybe the Lucksmiths (okay, definitely the Lucksmiths, always the Lucksmiths – but the only other Lucksmiths fans I know are L & T). What TV shows am I watching/do I love? What movies do I like? What am I reading? I felt like a bit of a dick for not having had ready answers.

So okay. The reading one is actually easily answerable: on Friday I set myself up with a borrower record and finally kicked into “hey, I work in a library!” mode, picking up and taking home everything shiny that passed before me on the circulation desk. The real question is what aren’t I reading? So I have: a couple of things from the Nigerian authors display (Chinua Achebe and something else…it’s in my backpack and all I can remember about it is that it has a nice cover), a photocopied journal article about Mills & Boons, two CILIP-y library magazines, a Fair Trade cookbook (I haven’t actually cooked in ages! It’s just food porn) and Deborah Cameron’s The Myth of Mars and Venus, which I frigging love – it’s a debunking of all the John Gray/pop psychology/crap science/self-help bullshit about the “essential differences” between men and women. And of course I’m still plugging away at the Murakami. Oh, and Philosophy Now. And I have been skimming Anne Sexton‘s Complete Poems, but I’m not sure about her yet. She’s interesting but I guess I’m squeamish and they’re not pretty poems – of all of them, I like the ones from “The Divorce Papers” in 45 Mercy Street most.

Shortly before the Shepherd’s Bush household dissolved, B and I went through a massive Weeds phase (we watched the DVDs twice each – separately and together), but although I’ve downloaded/DVDed a lot of TV series since then, nothing’s grabbed me quite as much. True Blood was really good (and got better in the second season. How weird is it seeing Ryan Kwanten in this context, though?) and I’ve been through Gossip Girl (eh – it passes the time), Once and Again (which sounds naff [and often it was – it’s kind of a guilty pleasure], but it was actually occasionally brilliant – it was made by the same people as My So-Called Life. Evan Rachel Wood’s character’s eating disorder, for example, was handled perfectlyjust perfectly. It made me want to go back fifteen years and grab my mum and cry “This! This!”), United States of Tara (pretty good) and the first three seasons of Northern Exposure (still great but not as flat-out amazing as they seemed the first time around). I tried Mad Men because everyone seems to love it, but I got distracted halfway through the first episode and haven’t bothered to go back to it yet. Maybe I just miss having a real TV? I would quite like to watch The Bill occasionally. I kind of miss adverts. I download QI sometimes and get a bit excited about the voiceover over the end credits.

And oh, I miss the cinema! But I just can’t seem to get into it in London. I haven’t found my cinema yet (comfy, arthousey, cheap, good snacks – I will accept recommendations), which means I have seen exactly FOUR (four!) new releases in the past ten months (in crappy shopping centrey places), which is unacceptable. And because release schedules are different here (Whip It won’t come out until April!) and I remain slavishly devoted to David and Margaret, I never know what to see, anyway… So I’ve been watching stuff at home. I rewatched Look Both Ways last night (still good! I got quite nostalgic about the trains – I used to catch one of those to Salisbury – look at those seat covers, etc.!) and just bought (but haven’t yet watched) a documentary called Joan Baez: How Sweet the Sound. Oooooh – and as we speak, I am listening to Jarvis Cocker’s radio show on the iPlayer and he’s just mentioned the new Serge Gainsbourg biopic. Excellent!

Music-wise, I expanded my London vinyl collection slightly yesterday (bringing it to a total of 3!) and brought home my very own copy of Patti Smith’s Easter from Sister Ray Records:

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0brHGJ6xqbk]

It looks very nice next to Bringing it All Back Home and The Hissing of Summer Lawns. Of course, I can’t play it yet because I don’t have a turntable, but eh. Today’s featured iPod artist is, obviously, Patti Smith. Oh, watch me now…

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6aUbrZYjYE]

In other news, my flatmate’s just announced her intention to move out in a month or so! So there’s the option to move into the bigger room…

Ugh, and I had to frog the red disco jumper because there was a twist in it – which I didn’t notice until I was 10 rows in. But it’s okay, I’m casting on again.

Listening to: Synchronised Sinking – The Lucksmiths

Can you freeze raw apple? By which I mean, what would one be able to do with it once thawed, do you think? I have a lot of apples (the only reliably interesting thing at our farmers’ market – I don’t seem to eat a lot of them, though) but not a lot of interest in stewing apples. Hints? Tips?

You can’t really tell from the photo, but I’m knitting a sparkly jumper:

I am also (finally, finally) reading Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. It scared me at first because I remember it staying on my dad’s bedside table for more than a year, but I think this just reveals him to be an incredibly slow reader – it’s actually a really fun, easy read (it’s the first Japanese book I’ve read since Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen! How can this be?). I picked it up because we’re discussing his What I Talk About When I Talk About Running at my bookclub next month (oh, dear reader! I assume you know me personally. I have bookclubs now), which didn’t really do anything for me literarily. So I wanted to figure out what the fuss was about and I get it now! The voice is the same but context and character are making all the difference. I will report back properly once I’ve finished it.

I’m a school librarian now and, sadly, there are no Mills & Boons to be seen. I have, however, been cataloguing a whole heap of surprisingly racy Christian romance paperbacks (they’re all about out-of-control young men living lives of insane [and badly-written] debauchery before being saved by the Lord and the love of a good woman) – the titles are boring but the content is outstanding. Expect excerpts.

Listening to: Love Her Madly – The Doors

Firstly, when did this happen? Suddenly it’s autumn! Awesome.

Autumn in Ealing!

Secondly, this is our oven:

It's the crumbs stuck to the grease on the door that get me.

It’s hard to photograph grease.

Thirdly, I found a new way to walk home today. Google was directing me kind of the long way round (and I’ve been lazy since the move and usually catch the bus from Acton to Hammersmith, halving my walk), but I knew there had to be a way through Chiswick so I printed a couple of zoomed out Google Maps to keep me in the right general direction and set off to explore. It was fun not knowing quite where I was going to end up next! And eventually I made it to the Thames Path (my old nemesis), which was probably not the wisest move because it got quite dark by that point (winter is really coming! Yea!) but it worked out okay. I took quite a main roady route to be on the safe side, so there’s still more to explore in the back streets tomorrow!

Does anyone read these rollover comments?

Ah, Thames Path, we meet again...

Finally, Heather has been emailing me some completely awesome Mills & Boon titles. I am ashamed to say how long it’s been since I even set foot inside a library (not only ashamed but completely distraught, really – what am I doing?) – I’ve missed these and I need to start looking for some of my own again, too! Here’s a selection (seriously, these are some of the best ever):

  • Captive of the desert king
    The Spaniard’s defiant virgin
    The Sheikh’s defiant bride
    One night with the rebel billionaire
    The ruthless Italian’s inexperienced wife
    The Greek tycoon’s unwilling wife
    The Greek tycoon’s convenient wife
    The desert king’s pregnant bride
    The Sheikh’s rebellious mistress
    Up close and dangerously sexy
    The secretary and the millionaire
  • Listening to: Ballad of a Thin Man – Bob Dylan

    Do you read verse novels?

    I keep coming across YA books with interesting synopses, only to find that they’re in verse – somehow that’s not remotely appealing to me. I like poetry and I like novels, but they don’t make a satisfying hybrid. Am I really missing out? Does anyone love them?

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