Monday Miscellanea

Mum and I spent last Friday gardening. Partner also pitched in. First, Mum and I took a trip to one of the towns I used to pass through on my commute (which, by the way I am not missing in the slightest) to shop for some plants for my small patio and garden. We came away with a small raised bed and some herbs: chives, parsley, oregano, peppermint, and rosemary. Partner and I assembled the wooden raised bed. I lined it with a thin gardening fabric (to protect the wood and prevent clods of earth falling through the slats on the bottom). We added a layer of shards of broken clay pots to help with drainage and then filled the beds up with earth, about 50 l worth. Then Mum planted the herbs. We’re hoping that the container of the raised bed is large enough that it won’t dry out during the 10 days per month when we are in Bavaria. It’s looking so well that I’m going to pick up another one of those bed so that we can plant some more herbs and other plants. We also got Mandevilla (because it also survives not being watered for a few days) for the patio. This one with pink instead of red flowers (the one we got for our grave plot last time in Bavaria). Last year we had a lovely white one for the patio, I hope this one will also grow as nicely.

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The Clematis that I planted more than a year ago (can’t remember when I planted it, it’s so long ago) has actually got one lovely blossom and another one will be blooming soon. If I remember correctly, the plant is supposed to keep blooming until late in the year, so I’m hoping for a many more flowers.

As indicated by all the gardening activities, the weather has been much better since the weekend. Temperatures climbed above the 20°C mark and it is now very pleasant. I hope this doesn’t mean that we won’t have any more rain for the rest of the summer. I’ll soon need to postpone Curious Dog’s afternoon walks to the evenings, as it will be getting too hot.

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Otherwise the weekend was much as usual. We went for long leisurely walks with Curious Dog though the wood and fields. Still quite damp in the woods, but that’s all for the best. Partner and I watched a few more episodes of The Underground Railroad. We are now at the half-way mark. It’s very dark, but powerful. And we watched the next episode of The Bad Batch. There was no new Tatort episode on Sunday, but the Polizeiruf 110 (also a crime series) was very good. Kind of strange, but good. The murderer wasn’t caught in the episode, but it seems that they will appear in other episodes. This one was set in the town of Halle, (in the German state Saxony-Anhalt) with a new pair of police detectives. An older one, divorced, with an alcohol problem, a younger one (an ex-nurse), with a family, three kids, the wife and his retired father-in-law who also appears to have been a detective. They didn’t find the murderer they were looking for, but they discovered a trio of deadbeats who’d tried to get rid of the body of one of their friends who had accidentally electrocuted himself while trying to fiddle illegally with the electricity mains in their run-down house. The two detectives seem to be a congenial pair and I plan to watch future episodes.

We did a lot of cooking, too. That is, I did the grocery shopping, some cleaning, and some laundry (the usual) while Partner did most of the cooking. We had asparagus again, as we love it and it’s in season, with boiled potatoes and a soy-yoghurt sauce. Simple, but good. Partner also made a rhubarb cake and a plain sweet loaf which he left for Mum and me to finish up. He’s returned to his place because there’s currently optical fibre cable being installed in his road and the workers will need to access his house. Not sure when exactly this will happen, so I’m not sure when he’ll be back. A pain. I don’t mind being without Partner in Bavaria, because I’m used to it (and he does have to check up on his old family home as Mum and I have to check up on ours), but I miss him when we’re here and he’s not. It’s weird without him. If he’s still away on Thursday, I may take the opportunity to resort and clean the bookshelves in his office. We just dumped the books on the shelves when we moved in three years ago. I resorted a couple of shelves a while ago, but most of them are still an unsorted mess.

I also did some reading on the weekend. I read some more of the poems in my German poetry anthology (I am now done with Middle High German and up to more modern German that doesn’t need translation). I also read Louise Erdrich’s The Beet Queen, which I liked a lot and will write a post about (later this week, I hope). And I’ve almost caught up with The Tale of Genji, my year-long reading project with a friend. Today, by coincidence I found that I’d missed the publication of a new Murderbot novella (by Martha Well). One of my favourite sci-fi series and I missed the new one! It’s called Fugitive Telemetry and I’m not sure if I should download it tonight and inevitably stay up late reading it or if I should save it up for Thursday. I believe I’ll take the latter option. A treat for the long weekend (as Thursday is a public holiday hereabouts).

Work is still quiet, as it is still vacation period (Whitsun school holidays) and colleagues are out of the office. I’m trying up some loose ends and taking it easy, but things will pick up again next week. I’m already organizing and planning my next tasks and will break everything down into a weekly schedule, so that I can get started next Monday. I need to do a thorough update of four documents and finalize two projects by August, and all sorts of minor additional tasks. The summer month will (as usual) be busy, but hopefully good planning will lessen the pain.

Keep safe, world.

Memoirs and Poems

Owing to the public holiday we had on Monday, this working week has been a short one, only three days for me, as I don’t work on Fridays. Next week will also be only three days, as there is another public holiday on Thursday (Corpus Christi), but that’ll be it for public holidays until November, I believe (since October 3, the Day of Unification in Germany falls on a Sunday this year). Since quite a few colleagues have taken one or both of these weeks off, and there were no particularly onerous deadlines, work has been somewhat relaxed. A relief after the ridiculous business of the previous weeks. No doubt it will pick up again, but I’m enjoying the lull while I can.

Iris

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, last weekend I read John Bayley’s memoir of his marriage with Iris Murdoch, Elegy for Iris. I picked this book up earlier this year because I read a review or watched a BookTube recommendation (can’t remember which) and thought it sounded interesting. And it was. It’s Bayley looking back at how he first met Iris Murdoch, remembering their early marriage and some of the highlights in their lives. It’s about how they led a somewhat unconventional marriage, about their work and friends and about how Bayley coped as Murdoch sadly sank into Alzheimer’s. It’s very moving.

One little detail that filled me with glee was Bayley’s account of how their homes always got covered in dust and their gardens went wild because they never had time or much inclination for cleaning or gardening. I have much sympathy for that, as I struggle with these annoying chores myself and frequently both my home and my garden look rather bedraggled.

I found that Bayley has written two more memoirs, one called Iris and the Friends about Murdoch’s last year of life and how Bayley dealt with that and the third part Widower’s House about Bayley’s life after Murdoch’s death. I haven’t read the other two memoirs, but they are on my TBR list.

I read the first memoir Elegy for Iris, because I like memoirs in general (as well as autobiographies and biographies) and ones about writers in particular, and in addition have a special interest in how people manage in old age. We all grow older and might as well get some pointers on how to lead a good life in old age. Of course, I hope I’m not going to get dementia… but I still like reading about how people cope with the negative stuff as well as the positive.

Weirdly, I haven’t yet read anything by Murdoch although she is a well-known author, both of works of fiction and works of philosophy. Since I found her life so interesting, I’m hoping to read some of her work sometime (not sure when, as usual… there are so many books to read).

I’ve finished reading the poetry anthology Poetry of the First World War, edited by Tim Kendall (Oxford World’s Classics). It’s very good. Very powerful about the horrors of WWI, about the unexpected and fleeting pleasures, about the daily dreadfulness of the trenches, about courage, fear, gallows humour, love and death. I found it a well-made anthology, with short biographical details about the poets (so many of them tragically killed in the war) and useful explanatory notes.

Since somewhere in that anthology I read someone’s opinion that Germans didn’t have great poetry (a statement inspired by the enmity naturally felt by the English and their allies during the war), I decided that I didn’t know enough of German poetry. I haven’t read German poetry since high school as I’m always very focused on English language literature. Thus I did some research and bought myself a two-volume collection of German poetry Reclams Buch der deutschen Gedichte (Reclam’s Book of German Poetry, Reclam being a respected publisher of German literature). It’s organized chronologically and I’m currently reading poetry from the Middle Ages in Middle High German. Actually, I read them, kind of guess at the meaning because Middle High German is quite different from modern German, and then read the modern German translation which is fortunately provided below the poem as a kind of footnote. It would have been easier to read if the original poem had been on the right page and the translation on the left, but I guess that’s a minor quibble.

Here’s a cute little poem in Middle High German by an unknown author that I remember from my high school days (it’s really well known and probably in every anthology of German poetry that covers the Middle Ages):

Dû bist mîn, ich bin dîn
des solt dû gewis sîn.
dû bist beslossen in mînem herzen.
verlorn ist das slusselîn,
dû muost och immer dar inne sîn.

My unpoetic attempt at a translation:

You are mine, I am thine,
Of this you should be sure.
You are locked in my heart,
The little key is lost,
So now you have to stay forever.

I’m quite enjoying my foray into German poetry. It will probably occupy me for a couple of months at least, as I usually only read a few poems each morning before getting up.

Keep safe, world.

About Reading and Literary Criticism

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As I reported in my last post, I read C. S. Lewis’ An Experiment in Criticism last weekend. In the book, he comes up with an interesting thought experiment. He starts out saying that literary criticism is traditionally all about judging books: what is a good book, what is a bad book. The judgement has a lot to do with the individual taste of the critic. One critic denounces a certain work as in some way deficient, while another may highly praise it. Often, the judgements about certain literary works go through phases of popularity followed by phases when they are out of favour with critics for spurious reasons. Lewis therefore proposes to turn the question on its head, looking not at the work itself but at the kind of reading it inspires:

Let us try to discover how far it might be plausible to define a good book as a book which is read in one way, and a bad book as a book which is read in another.

C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism, HarperCollins, 2012 (originally 1961), p. 1.

Lewis goes on to divide readers into literary readers and unliterary readers. He takes pains to point out that this is not a value judgement about readers’ characters. All readers, whether literary or unliterary can have all the faults common to humankind. Also, unliterary readers can become literary ones, and vice versa, or readers use a mixture of the two reading styles (that’s me, I think). Professional literature critics can be unliterary readers if they view their reading as a job. Readers who read for self-improvement are not literary readers because they focus on the self instead of on the work. To be a literary reader, one needs to be receptive to the work, without primarily using it for something. The difference between the literary reader and the unliterary one is the difference between using or receiving the work. Lewis includes the interaction with other works of art in this way of “reading”:

The first demand any work of art makes upon us is surrender. Look. Listen. Receive. Get yourself out of the way. (There is no good asking first whether the work before you deserves such a surrender, for until you have surrendered you cannot possibly find out.)

C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism, p.17.

Lewis devotes a chapter to describing unliterary readers. He maintains that they read only narrative works (which can be non-fiction or fiction). They want the narrative to be full of action. They are not interested in style. They like being excited and they like stories which allow them to experience positive feeling through the characters in the books, a kind of escapism, I guess. But he also says that the unliterary readers are only unliterary because they never progress beyond this type of reading which “cuts them off from the fulness of literary experience” (p. 37). Literary readers also read in these ways, but not solely.

Lewis goes on to give a lot of examples of what distinguishes the literary reader from the unliterary one. He talks about myths, fantasy, and realism and how the different kinds of readers typically engage or understand those types of literature. I like his criticism of readers who disdain certain fiction as “childish” or “infantile”:

The process of growing up is to be valued for what we gain, not for what we lose. Not to acquire a taste for the realistic is childish in the bad sense; to have lost the taste for marvels and adventures is no more a matter for congratulation than loosing our teeth, our hair, our palate, and finally, our hopes. Why do we hear so much about the defects of immaturity and so little about those of senility?

C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism, p.70.

Lewis also talks a lot about how literary readers also misread, by ignoring that works of literary are both vehicles of meaning and things that exist as themselves:

To value them chiefly for reflections which they may suggest to us or morals we may draw from them, is a flagrant instance of ‘using’ instead of ‘receiving’.

C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism, p.82.

About poetry Lewis says that only literary readers (who appreciate style and form as well as content) read it, therefore he doesn’t talk much about poetry in his exploration of literary and unliterary ways of reading. He says about reading modern poetry:

To read the old poetry involved learning a slightly different language; to read the new involves the unmaking of your mind, the abandonment of all the logical and narrative connections which you use in reading prose or in conversation. You must achieve a trance-like condition in which images, associations, and sounds operate without these. Thus the common ground between poetry and any other use of words is reduced almost to zero. In that way, poetry is now more quintessentially poetical than ever before; ‘purer’ in the negative sense. It not only does (like all good poetry) what prose can’t do: it deliberately refrains from doing anything that prose can do.

C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism, p.96.

He goes on to remark that this makes poetry reading so difficult that not many readers stick with it. I find this explanation about how to read modern poetry strange but also kind of helpful. Now I have an inkling why I find some modern poetry so hard to understand and can stop worrying about it. I shouldn’t strive to understand it, I should achieve a “trance-like condition”. Let’s see how that works out 😊

On the other hand, I’m sure there are modern poets who write poetry that doesn’t need you to “unmake your mind”.

Judging literature not by some arbitrary taste of literary critics, but by the way it is read makes it hard to critically condemn any given work, which Lewis thinks is generally too easy for critics. Any book that gets even one reader to read it in a literary way, could not be judged as being junk. How do we judge if a reader has read a work in a literary way? Well, by the way they talk or write about the experience. And anyway, Lewis asks:

Can I say with certainty that any evaluative criticism has ever actually helped me to understand and appreciate any great work of literature or any part of one?

C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism, p.119.

And concludes that:

The truth is not that we need the critics in order to enjoy the authors, but that we need the authors to enjoy the critics.

C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism, p. 123.

I agree with that, but only somewhat. I sometimes enjoy reading literary criticism and it’s true that it’s most fun and illuminating (or not) when I’ve already read the work in question. But it also sometimes leads me to read works I might otherwise not have read. Same goes for book reviews. I’ve often read books because their review sounded inviting. I’ve even sometimes read books that some reviewers hated, just to judge by myself.

Lewis ends with some thoughts about the nature of reading and how it may affect the reader:

But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself.

C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism, p.140.

This work spoke to me. It has interesting ideas expressed in clear language (no literary theory jargon) where the premises are clearly explained. It’s not elitist or snobbish in its description of literary versus the non-literary readers: in fact, it shows up what non-literary readers may be missing in their reading experience and where literary readers may go astray. It values both the original work and criticism, but it positions them in a different relationship. If you are interested in such topics, I can only recommend this book. I loved it and found it thought-provoking.

Keep safe, world.

Tuesday Tidbits

We’re back at my place after having stayed at the family home in Bavaria last week. We drove back on Sunday, and it was a bit of a pain. First we had to drive the long diversion that has been in place for a few weeks on the country roads, and then, when we were on the Autobahn, we couldn’t cross from one to the other Autobahn, because the junction was closed for roadworks. We had to continue on the original Autobahn, till the next exit, then drive back in the other direction and then get on the motorway we needed to be on. If the junction remains closed, I will really have to take the longer route alternative route that doesn’t involve changing motorways. It can’t take longer than all these other diversions. At least it was Sunday, and not much traffic.

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The week in Bavaria was very wet and windy. Usually, it stayed dry in the mornings, so that Curious Dog and I could finish our long morning walk without getting wet. In the afternoons one shower followed another, but we usually managed to time a shorter walk in between the downpours. We also had thunderstorms and one extended hailstorm although the hailstones were smallish (between pea and chickpea size). I used the snow shovel to clear a doorway where the wind had piled them up.

I took Wednesday afternoon off work because I wanted to get some plants for our garden and worked on Friday morning instead (it worked out perfectly, as I had a task that needed to be done then). Mom stayed at home with Curious Dog, as we were worried about thunderstorms. We didn’t want him to be alone during one, because he hates them. It would have been a nice outing for Mum, the first for ages, but we’ll check out a garden centre here in Baden-Württemberg one of these days. I only meant to buy the plant we usually put on our family’s grave, but I got (slightly) carried away. I got the flowering plant for the graveyard, a red Mandevilla (also known as rocktrumpet according to Wikipedia). It’s only lasts for one summer since it doesn’t tolerate cold, but it survives without regular watering, has nice flowers, and it doesn’t get eaten by slugs (a big problem – lots of lovely plants are apparently the favourite food for slugs). I also got a couple of sweet potato plants for our garden, in the hope that they will survive without much supervision. A few years ago, we had a very respectable harvest from just two plants (but Mum was still living in Bavaria at the time and looking after the garden). I also bought a couple of lavender plants, one of which we also planted on the grave, in the hopes that it will keep the ants away. They keep building small ant heaps in one corner of the grave plot although they have the adjacent woods to colonize. It’s very annoying that they seem to prefer the grave plot. Then I got a small rosemary plant to replace the big bush that didn’t survive the winter. Removing the old rosemary bush was quite the chore. It had deep roots and was hard to pull and dig out. Lastly, I picked up a small hazelnut bush (only about 50 cm high) and a small Greek tea plant (it intrigued me and was described to need little water). Quite a few new plants and lots of clean-up to do in our garden, but it rained almost all the time and we didn’t get round to it during the week.

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We ended up planting the grave and new plants in the garden on Saturday morning, when it luckily didn’t rain. So, we spent until noon doing gardening, then had a longish lunch break and then I vacuumed the house and cleaned the bathroom while Mum baked a cake to take with us and did the kitchen. We were quite exhausted by the end of the day. When we return to Bavaria in June, I’m planning to take most of the week off, so that I can do some work helping Mum in the garden (before it gets completely out of hand). I’m too lazy to do it after work (and after two walks with Curious Dog) and it’s too much to do all of it on the weekends (certainly for me – I need my weekends at least partly for reading).

I had to pull myself together last Saturday. Spending all day gardening and cleaning the house wasn’t very appealing, but I didn’t want to spend all day in a bad mood. So, whenever I felt myself getting annoyed, I mentally talked myself out of it. It was quite effective, being mindful in that way. I actually had fun and felt accomplished at the end of the day. Also, I managed to do some reading during our lunch break and at night, aided by the fact that I hadn’t procrastinated on cleaning the bathroom until I had to do it in the evening. I hope I manage to keep this mindset about chores going now that we are back at my place. It’s weird how small things can derail my mood if I let them, but it’s also strange how I can stop myself from spiraling into a bad mood if I work at it. Mindfulness and meditation help me to control my mood, but they don’t do so automatically, unfortunately. I have to work at it. I don’t hate gardening or cleaning per se, but I dislike it when they take up most of the day. I often think that when I am retired, these tasks will no longer be a problem, I’ll just allocate a certain time each day to them and spend the rest of my time with whatever interests me, because I will have so much more time… But who knows what the future will bring? I have to live in the present. The present needs gardening and cleaning as well as more pleasurable things. I might as well like those chores and do them well and quickly, without procrastination and grumbling. Sooner said than done, though.

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Monday was a day off, Pentecost Monday (or Whitsun). It was lovely and relaxed. The weather was nice (for once). It started out sunny and soon became overcast but didn’t rain. It was very warm for our cold May, 20°C. Today it’s raining again, very windy (a level two storm warning), and cold for May, only about 12°C. I wore a thick long-sleeved T-shirt and my woolen shawl while working at my desk to keep me from shivering. At least we didn’t get wet during the walks with Curious Dog. I think I’ve worn a short-sleeved T-shirt only once this spring. Still, no doubt it will get warmer soon, and then I’ll be complaining about the heat. All that rain is beneficial for the soil (it was well wet when we were planting our new plants, not just a couple of centimeters at the top).

Yesterday we started watching The Underground Railroad on Amazon Prime. It’s based on Colson Whitehead’s novel of the same name about slaves escaping from their inhuman slaveholders in the American south using a real underground railroad. An escape from slavery narrative with fantasy elements. The series is very powerful (so far) and makes me want to read the novel. So far, I’ve only read The Intuitionist by Whitehead which I once proposed for my book club. It was good, but I think that I’d like The Underground Railroad even better.

On a lighter note, we continued watching The Bad Batch on Disney+ and The Clone Wars. Very entertaining in the usual Star Wars way. In the evening, we watched a Tatort (on Monday, instead of Sunday, because Monday was a public holiday). On Sunday they showed a rerun, which we didn’t watch. Anyway, the Tatort, episode “Neugeboren” (“Newborn”) was set in Bremen and introduced a new cast for that city, three police detectives: Mads Andersen (played by Dar Salim), Linda Selb (Luise Wolfram) and Liv Moormann (Jasna Fritzi Bauer). It was about a murder and a missing baby and how it all tied together. Not bad. The character of Linda Selb reminds me of a slightly down-toned version of Sherlock Holmes as played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Not as zany and anti-social, but similar.

I did manage some reading on the long weekend. Not as much as I could have but for gardening and cleaning and driving places: C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism and John Bayley, Elegy for Iris. The latter describes the marriage of Bayley with Murdoch, the famous writer, and how he dealt with her decline into Alzheimer’s. Both books were excellent. I hope to write a review of them in a future post.

Keep safe, world.

Zami

Recently I read Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. A Biomythography by Audre Lorde. I recommend it, it’s a great read.

Zami is a “Carriacou name for women who work together as friends and lovers” (Audre Lorde, Zami, p. 255). Carriacou is a Caribbean island from which Lorde’s parents emigrated to New York. It’s important for Lorde’s identity.

The “biomythography” is about how Audre Lorde grows into herself as a black lesbian woman. It celebrates the bonds between woman, between grandmothers, mothers and daughters. Between the women that came before her and shaped her, and her own shaping of herself. I think “mythography” refers to a recognition of the sacred in relationships between lovers. Lorde tells us about a number of women she loved during different times of her life and the way each love shaped her (and also her lover). The last relationship in the book is one with a woman who calls herself “Kitty” but also “Afrekete”, who seems like a goddess. This is the love that brings sacred, life-affirming love to its fulfilment (in contrast to the earlier relationships, which always failed due to some issue on either Lorde’s or the lover’s part). Although the relationship doesn’t last very long, as one day Kitty alias Afrekete disappears to return to her daughter, whom she had left to be brought up by her grandmother in the American South. Lorde never meets her again, but she remains in her memory.

Zami

I don’t know if this sort celebration of lesbian love has been done before. It is absolutely affirming (and can, I believe, be true for any kind of love, but since lesbian love has historically been devalued, the affirmation is especially important).

The mythical parts of the biomythography are mostly addressed at the beginning and the end and only sometimes touched on in the main part of the book. The book covers Lorde’s life from her childhood to her young adulthood. She grew up in New York with her parents and two older sisters. The family, and Lorde herself, experienced racism, but her parents tried to hide it from them which only worked when Lorde was younger. Lorde had a contentious relationship with her parents, especially her mother, and moved out when she was 17. Soon afterwards, she had a painful and dangerous illegal abortion (she could not afford to keep a baby and her lover left her). She worked a lot of jobs, some of them under awful conditions, but she also found her first women lovers. She saved up and moved for a few years to Mexico, where she experienced being accepted and valued by society as a black woman for the first time. All her experiences are presented through Lorde’s relationships with her friends, her family and later her lovers. She also reflects on the effects her experiences had on herself and how her actions were interpreted by the people she interacted with. There are also a lot of details about how life was like from the 1930s to the 1960s, first focusing on her childhood, later on her experiences as a lesbian, always also centered on her being a black girl and woman and what that meant.

The mythical parts of the biomythography are mostly addressed at the beginning and the end and only sometimes touched on in the main part of the book. Lorde had an interesting life, and I enjoyed reading about it. It was very moving in places and powerful. Sometimes funny, also shocking – all that racism. I though she was very courageous. Very independent. I wasn’t half as independent and would have been too scared to move out at 17 (but I didn’t have much conflict with my parents as a teenager, so didn’t need to assert myself in that way). I also wouldn’t have dared to move to another country by myself without much money and not knowing anybody there. I did spend a semester at a university in the UK, but that was all nicely organized and paid for by a scholarship. I also had a lot of jobs to finance my university years (except for that one scholarship and some state loans which I later paid back), so I emphasized with Lorde about that. My jobs weren’t dangerous to my health, though, and I didn’t have to deal with racism. I liked how she cheated the system at one of the horrid jobs.

I was surprised by the ending, because Lorde didn’t include her later life after the early 1960s. I didn’t know that she spent many years in Berlin for instance (found it out via Wikipedia). I did know that she’s an important feminist as well as poet. I would have enjoyed reading about these aspects of her life too. I’m planning to check out her poetry and maybe some of her other work, but not sure when I’ll get around to it.

Keep safe, world.

Sally Wright’s Ben Reese and Jo Grant Series

In February I started a new crime series, the Ben Reese mystery series by Sally Wright. I think I found it via one of the BookTube channels I follow. I was intrigued because the main character, Ben Reese, works as an archivist at a small University in Ohio. I like reading crime novels in a university setting (my favourite series featuring a literature prof, is by Amanda Cross).

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The series is mostly set in the 1960s but some of the crimes reach back to WWII, where our archivist hero was an accomplished scout behind enemy lines (a somewhat reluctant killer in the line of duty). They also touch on questions of Christianity (but quite low-key, not in-your-face), ethics and conservative values. I don’t consider myself a Christian, although I grew up going to Christian schools (both Protestant and Catholic ones, though that was due to coincidence, as those schools were convenient). I still like reading about different religious experiences (also non-Christian ones) and how people strive to live an ethical life, so I quite like this flavour of the novels. Apparently, the author, Sally Wright, was influenced by C.S. Lewis, whose works I also like. I’ve read quite a few of his books, including his (as I remember) quite strange science fiction, an autobiography, and, of course, the Narnia books. He also appeals to me, because he was a member of the Inklings, the group of writers that included J.R.R. Tolkien. I am a great fan of The Lord of the Rings. I don’t consider myself as being conservative, either in life or in politics, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate some of the values of conservatives. Some values are just universal.

Anyway, I very much enjoyed the Ben Reese series, and would recommend them as good reads. They usually have a slow build, with Reese trying to solve a murder by investigating the victims’ background and their relationship with the people in their lives. Near the end, Reese usually has to rely on his skills gained as a scout during WWII to save his own and other’s lives. Things become quite action-packed which serves a fascinating contrast to his archivist personality (not a job one usually associates with soldier skills). There’s also often a bit of academic politics in the novels, struggles for power and influence at Reese’s university. Owing to his job, Reese also travels a lot to research the provenance of documents, paintings, jewelry and other historical objects given to his university by alumni or other patrons. He rides and owns a horse and saves a dog in one of the novels. He’s a widower who lost his wife and their baby son in childbirth. He still mourns them but in the course of the series starts a new relationship (especially in the later books). He’s a well-rounded fascinating character and the supporting cast of characters are also complex and believable. These are the novels, in order:

Publish and Perish

The first book is the only one were the murder is set completely within the academic milieu. The roots reach back to WWII and the murder hinges on a case of plagiarism and a failure of communication. There’s a bit of academic backstabbing, both figurative and literal.

Pride and Predator

Set in Scotland, where Reese is appraising the historical artifacts that his friend Lord Alexander Chisholm, the Earl of Balnagard, has inherited. Another friend of the Earl’s, a minister, dies suddenly of an allergic reaction to a bee sting. The earl and Reese suspect foul play and so the investigation starts.

Pursuit and Persuasion

A professor of literature at Aberdeen University, Georgina Fletcher, suspects that someone wants her dead. She asks her heir (to whom she writes a letter before her death), who happens to be Reese’s apprentice, to hire a detective to uncover her murderer. Again set in Scotland, with some of the characters introduced in the previous novel. Suspects proliferate and Reese is soon in deadly danger.

Out of the Ruins

Set on the Cumberland Island in Georgia, U.S., where Reese is helping a distant relative and looking into the suspicious death of family matriarch. It’s all about who will inherit the land and what should be done with it. Quite different from the settings in the other novels but just as compelling.

Watches of the Night

This one I read last Friday. It’s partly set in Reese’s home, partly in Scotland, where Reese’s potential girlfriend (Kate Lindsay) lives with the father of her husband, killed in WWII (he was one of Reese’s best friends). The climax takes place in a ruined villa in Italy. The roots of this case go back to Reese’s experiences in the war, where he witnessed a murderous act (although hard to prove) by an officer who later faked his death. In this novel, the reader knows more than the protagonist, since we are told how the officer faked his death and who witnessed it. When Reese and Kate start looking into the death of her husband and why she was sent a grisly keepsake years after the war, ties to the officer appear and witnesses turn up dead. The finale is thrilling and there a new start for Reese and Kate (not only on the relationship front, also with Reese’s job which is endangered through enemies he’s made at his university).

Code of Silence

Read last Saturday. This one is a prequel to the series that returns to the time when Reese lost his wife. A recent widower, he is drawn to solve a murder that took place just after WWII during the beginnings of the Cold War. A young woman working with an intelligence agency on Russian codes learn something that causes her to be murdered. Years later an acquaintance of Reese’s also dies under suspicious circumstances. Reese is drawn into finding the murderer, a traitor who spied for the Russians for money. This was the novel I liked least, because all the stuff about Russians and spies in America and McCarthyism was just a bit tedious. But it was nevertheless a good read and I won’t leave it out when I reread the series in future, which I am sure to do, because it’s a good, relaxing, not too demanding series, perfect for rainy or gloomy day (or any old day, really).

When I finished the series on Saturday, I was slightly cast down, because I would have liked to have read more about Reese and Kate and their potential new lives as indicated at the end of book 5. I hoped to find that the author had written another novel or was planning to publish another in the near future. Sadly, I found that the author had died in 2018, so no more Ben Reese mysteries. I did find, however, that she’d written another series, made up of 3 books, the last of which was apparently published posthumously. These are the Jo Grant series:

  • Breeding Ground
  • Behind the Bonehouse
  • The Outsiding

I read the first one on Sunday (as you can see, I was on a binge).

Breeding Ground

The novel has an interesting structure. It starts with short statement by one of the main characters, Jo Grant Munro, giving her reasons for writing the book:

I’ve written the record of what happened – the account, of sorts, that follows. But I didn’t want to say “I” all the time, and explain how I talked to this one, and talked to another, and pieced it all together after the fact. I decided to write it down as though it were a novel, in the order it all happened, and write it from the outside, so I’m being sandwiched in just like any other character.

Sally Wright, Breeding Ground. 2013, Kindle, p. 7

The frame reminds me of the one used in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes novels. In this novel, the frame is set in 1995 while the main part is set in 1962.

Breeding_Ground

The main part starts off with Jo grieving for her brother Tom who died in a motorcycle accident. She is trying to extricate herself from the family horse breeding business. She had been nursing her mother for two years and wants to return to her own job, which is architecture. Jo wants to travel in Europe to get inspiration and training for her work. She must give up her plans because her uncle, who was to manage the family business, has an accident that leaves him unable to do much work for the next few month.

An old friend of her brother’s turns up, very ill, mumbling about not wanting to involve her in any danger. Another friend of the brothers turns up as a potential love interest. The reader gets to know neighbours and friends, all with their own troubles.

The novel gets quite a slow start, with many meandering plotlines. Somewhere at around the two third mark, even I, who like slow novels, started getting a bit antsy: where was the mystery? What did I care about all these people? But then there’s a murder and all the backstories started making sense. The novel had actually done what the pretend author had said at the beginning. Things happened in order and only with the murder did the strings begin to untangle themselves. As usual with Wright’s books, the last part of the novel has action and suspense.

At the end, we get another note from Jo in the first person. She clears up a few minor details and remarks that she has other books in mind to tell what happened to some of the characters of the novel – if she has time. She’s been diagnosed with cancer and given 6 months to live. This is quite strange, as I found out that this had also been the case with Sally Wright, the real author. She had lived with cancer for 7 years, despite having been given just a 6 months life expectancy at her diagnosis. She has fictionalized her own experience.

Despite the many and meandering plot lines, I enjoyed the novel and I am intrigued enough to read the other two. I like the setting, the horse business (I used to read a lot of horse stories as a teenager and always imagined I’d start riding and get a horse myself, which hasn’t happened yet). It’s like a horse story with crime elements for grownups. It also has a cozier vibe than the Ben Reese novels, which I like (though it did get quite violent at the end). The Christian elements, while still subtle, are slightly more prevalent. As they are still nuanced and not preachy, I don’t mind that either. So, I’m looking forward to the last two novels although I may put in a little rest from my binge first.

I found Amazon quite frustrating to search for all of Sally Wright’s novels. Somehow, I only found the Jo Grant novels via Google. During the search I found this interesting website: http://www.stopyourekillingme.com/. It contains lots of information about crime series and authors. A treasure trove! I will revisit it when I need another author to sate my appetite for that type of reading material.

Keep safe, world.

Tuesday Tidbits

Yesterday I tried to go on Curious Dog’s afternoon walk twice and each time we had to turn back because of rain. The second time it even started thundering. We are in Bavaria, and the weather has been very changeable. I hoped it would clear up later in the afternoon, as I was planning to take Curious Dog to his dog school for the first time since October. But it didn’t. We got quite wet, as dog school is outdoors. But it was still fun. Otherwise, we’ve had some very pleasant walks in the woods, where all the beech trees are covered in bright shining new green leaves.

2021_05_18

We drove down last week on Thursday, which was a public holiday, Christ’s Ascension. Nice, because there wasn’t a lot of traffic and I didn’t have to work on Friday to make up for Thursday. That made for a weekend long and lovely. The drive was a bit of a pain, though. I’d know from last time that our normal exit off the Autobahn was closed for roadworks, and that the diversion was also going to be closed (with yet another diversion). I thought I’d leave the Autobahn at an entirely different exit and approach my usual route by other roads from a different direction. That was the plan, but there were roadworks on that route as well. I was diverted to the diversion from last time, which diverted to very small and winding country roads. Very scenic, but slow. Luckily, almost no traffic, but it probably would have been dire on a normal workday, because you had to slow down to 30 km/h in all the small villages, and they all had temporary pedestrian crossings with traffic lights installed in their main through roads. We’ll be driving back next Sunday, so that should also be fine, but I’ll have to think of a better route for June’s drive.

Our neighbours with Corona came through it and are now recuperating. The husband got pneumonia to go with it and had to go to hospital for 10 days. They have to take it easy but are doing well. Mum and I are very relieved and thankful.

Our garden is very green and very overgrown. The lawn is terrible – lots of tall grasses on the sides, lots of dandelion stalks and other stuff that I’ll have to cut by hand, because the lawnmower will only bend all the stalks and not cut them. I should have started doing this on the weekend when we had quite a few sunny hours in among the showers. As usual, I was too lazy. I’m hoping to get started during my lunch breaks this week, if it isn’t raining (but so far, no go). If I do a bit every day, it won’t be such a pain. All the bushes we planted last year, the Juneberry and the small red hedge bushes, have survived and grown lots of new leaves. And the small apple tree actually has blossoms. It’ll be interesting to see if it will already grow apples. If it does, I’ll have to prop up the skinny branches, as they don’t look strong enough to bear the weight. The small Korean fir tree is still looking rather sickly and loosing needles, although some (but not many) new buds are also sprouting. Not sure if it will survive. It was too dry in the last few summers. Our huge rosemary bush definitively didn’t survive the freezing winter. We’re planning a trip to a garden centre this week, as they are open (Corona counts are improving again). Maybe we’ll get some new plants. Hardy ones, that survive not being regularly watered in Summer.

E_Queen

I took a few of the books I’m currently reading with me, Arabian Nights, The Tale of Genji, The Beet Queen… all literary ones that I want get ahead with, but when we arrived after lunch on Thursday, I was too tired from the drive and needed something easier on my brain. I found an old Ellery Queen Penguin Crime novel that belonged to my brother. I spent the rest of the day reading it: The Glass Village. One of the few standalone crime novels by the authors. “Ellery Queen” is both the pseudonym of the authors, Frederic Dannay and Manfred Bennington Lee, and the name of one of their main characters. This used to confuse me as a teenager, when I remember reading some of the Ellery Queen books. However, this one doesn’t feature Ellery Queen as a character. The main protagonist is one Johnny Shinn, a cynical and bored ex-soldier who worked for Military Intelligence in the Korean War and doesn’t know what to do with himself after the war. He’s visiting his uncle, a judge, in their ancestral New England village. The village in the 1950s is very run-down and only a handful of families remain. Most of them are quite nasty and definitively not welcoming to strangers, although Johnny is accepted, because of his uncle and his family’s roots in the village. During their stay, the nicest character in the village, Aunt Fanny Adams, a well-to-do famous painter, is brutally murdered and the only suspect (in the eyes of the villagers) is a tramp, a poor Polish immigrant. The villagers first hunt him down, mistreat him, and then refuse to give him up to the law. They think they won’t get justice if they don’t try the “foreigner” themselves. To prevent bloodshed and gain time, the judge sets up a fake court, complete with jury, prosecution, and defense. Johnny has to join the jury, as otherwise there aren’t enough jurors. During the fake court case, the alibis of all the villagers are scrutinized and eventually, the truth is found out.

The novel really gripped me. I thought it would be mildly amusing, but it’s very well made and thought-provoking. The great majority of the villagers were a closed-minded, bigoted, violent lot, very reminiscent of the extremists we see in our modern political landscape. Not inclined to adhere to any laws except those they bent to their purposes, not interested in listening to other points of view, definitively not inclined to be merciful. Only at the end, when it became indisputable that the tramp wasn’t the murderer, did they show any remorse (at least they did show remorse – that’s something that’s uncommon with modern bigots). I think the novel is called The Glass Village, because all the hidden lives of the villagers come to light during the fake court case. Or maybe it’s also about not throwing stones when one is living in a glass house – meaning it wasn’t the tramp, but rather one of their own who was the murderer.

I spent a lot of time reading on the weekend, including some of the Tale of Genji, but mostly other crime novels. That’s a post for another day.

Keep safe, world.

Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes 3

This is my third post about my project to read the entire Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series by Laurie R. King, which I used to be keen on, but then lost track of. Previous posts:
Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes 1
Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes 2

I’ve now read the next three installments in the series, books 5, 6 and 7:

O Jerusalem

Although this is the fifth book in the series. It takes place during the first book and tells of Russell’s and Holmes’ sojourn in Palestine. This was just mentioned in passing in the first book and is here a tale told in full.
Russell and Holmes had to leave the country to hide from their opponent. They use the time to spy for Holmes’ brother Mycroft in Palestine. An important peace-keeping event held by General Edmund Allenby in Jerusalem is threatened by terrorists and there is a leak in the British intelligence headquarters. Russell and Holmes enter the country in secret and travel around searching for clues and the traitor. They travel with a pair of brothers, Mahmoud Hazr and Ali Hazr, who work as traveling scribes, as a cover for their roles as British spies who have completely immersed themselves in their alter egos. Ali is very skeptical of Russell, who is disguised as a Bedouin lad, but she proves herself during their adventures.

Although they travel in secret and have only a short meeting with General Allenby and his spymaster, they nevertheless are betrayed, and Holmes is abducted and tortured. After they (Russell and the Hazrs) have rescued Holmes, they must foil the terrorist attack on the peace talks in Jerusalem.

I like the novel a lot. It’s full of adventure and mayhem. Another good look at Russell’s and Holmes’ relationship before they were married and lots of local colour. They interact with many different people, Christian priest and monks, and Arabs. They also mix with the British high society in Jerusalem, it’s all very varied and exciting.

Many chapters are prefaced with quotes from Ibn Khaldun, a 14th century Islamic scholar – very interesting. I’m considering reading some of his work, except that I have so many other books to read.

There’s the usual conceit that the novels were written by Russell and edited by the author (which is the case for all the novels).

R_H_3

Justice Hall

The sixth book in the series starts off where the fourth book left off, in November 1923. Russell and Holmes have just returned home from their adventures in The Moor, when they are suddenly visited by Ali Hazr, one of the Hazr brothers they met during their travels in Palestine in book five (which took place in 1918). It turns out that Mahmoud and Ali are cousins and members of the English aristocracy. Mahmoud, or rather, Lord Maurice Hughenfort has just inherited a duchy. Ali wants Russell and Holmes to persuade Mahmoud to give up his title and lands and return with him to Palestine, where they were happy (England no longer suits them). The problem is that Maurice (nicknamed “Marsh”) feels duty-bound to care for his ancient family holdings, because there doesn’t seem to be any other suitable heir. The last heir, Gabriel Hughenfort, was killed during WW1 under strange circumstances. It is now Russell and Holmes task to find out if there are any heirs that could liberate Marsh.

The family history of the Hughenforts turns out to be quite convoluted, but Russell and Holmes, of course, bring to light a lot of shocking truths. It soon appears obvious that one the family has been systematically trying to get rid of all the heirs so that they can become the next duke. The question is, who? In the end, the killer is foiled and brought to a peculiar kind of justice, and Mahmoud and Ali return to Palestine. It was nice meeting them again although they were quite different in the English setting.

The historical point of interest in this book hinges on the many soldiers that were executed during WW1 for cowardice or for not following useless and deadly orders. They were often executed without any legal support to prevent others from following their lead. It’s a very dark part of British history (and I’m sure this also happened on the German side). The book inspired me to read poetry of WW1 which I’m finding very intense (in places; not all the poems in the anthology I’m reading are great, some are too patriotic for my taste, but I guess that was the mood of the times).

R_H_Timeline

The Game

The seventh book takes Russell and Holmes undercover as spies to India, again to clear up some questions for Mycroft. It seems that one Kimball O’Hara, a spy for the British, has been missing for a few years and other British spies have turned up dead. The fun part is that O’Hara is the character known as “Kim” in Rudyard Kipling’s novel of the same name (which I’ve read sometime during or before my university years, but can’t remember much of). It seems that there is a concern that O’Hara may have turned traitor to the British (if he isn’t dead). Holmes had dealings with him before Russell was even born and doesn’t believe it. So, Russell and Holmes travel to India, disguise themselves as itinerant magicians, and clear up the mystery, which involves a power-hungry maharaja from one of the minor Indian princedoms (a fictive place). Again, a lot of local colour, a lot of adventure and mayhem.

Come to think of it, I guess it kind of beggars belief that Holmes is an expert at Arab culture and languages as well as on Hindi and Indian culture. I guess it’s due to his being a genius, and Russell picks up all the languages and skills extremely quickly because she is also a genius. The series are super enjoyable, but with some things the reader has to suspend their disbelief. Fortunately, I’m quite expert at this skill.  😉

I enjoyed these three installments, as I’ve enjoyed the previous ones. So far, all the books have been rereads. The next two I’ve also read before but then I’ll be entering unknow territory. I’m looking forward to the next books.

I’ve also started a timeline, to keep track of the chronology of the novels. I’ll keep adding to it, as I read the next books.

Keep safe, world.

Monday Miscellanea

May is already one third gone and I’ve only managed one post so far. Work is still very stressful and chaotic. New tasks keep popping up, there’s millions of synch meetings, and preparations for meetings, and rollouts and whatnot. All on top of the usual stuff that has been accelerated so that my team and I have to do one third more of it than last year. This tires me out on weekdays, so that I don’t have enough energy to write a blog post. At the beginning of the weekend (and my weekends are long ones, as I don’t work on Fridays) I always plan to do a post per day and what happens? I do the shopping, the cleaning, the cooking, the doing things with my partner, the dog walking, a lot of reading, but I can’t bring myself to turn on my notebook. At the end of the weekend, I regret not having written a thing. So, today I’ve decided that come what may, I’m writing a post. I’m worried that if I don’t get back into a groove of regular writing, I’ll stop writing entirely which I really don’t want to happen, because I do enjoy it and I like the idea of having a record of my doings and readings. And maybe some readers will get some enjoyment, too.

What have I been doing? Only the usual. We returned from Bavaria on April 25 and this Thursday, which is a public holiday in Germany (Christ’s Ascension), we will be driving back again. April and May have been mostly still quite cold and wet. I’m still wearing a woolen hat on my morning walks with Curious Dog, even today, although we had 26°C yesterday afternoon (and it felt warmer). I’m quite enjoying the cool spring, but maybe it was sometimes too cold for the birds with their newborn chicks. It looks like the next week is going to have temperatures somewhere between 15 and 20° in the afternoons and between 7 and 9°C in the nights. At last, no more frost.

In Bavaria, last time we were there, it turned out that our next-door neighbours had caught Corona, just a few days before their vaccination appointment. They are in their 60s and I fervently hope they will have come though it without any complications. We will find out on Thursday. We also learnt that another neighbour, an older lady originally from Portugal, with whom we used to share our local newspaper, had passed away in Portugal. Not, I believe, from Corona. But it was shocking news and Mum and I were sad to hear it. Though marked by bad news, our last stay in Bavaria was in other respects quite as usual. We had some good weather; Curious Dog and I had a lot of pleasant walks in the woods and he picked up a few ticks. They don’t seem to mind the inclement conditions – it was in the second half of April, and we still had frost.

Zami

In the first week back from Bavaria, I had a spontaneous day off work and used it to set up a bookshelf that had been stored in pieces behind my wardrobe since my move (almost three years ago) because I didn’t have anywhere to put it. Because I was missing this entire bookshelf, some of my books were stacked against the short attic wall of my bedroom (as my bedroom is basically a large attic room with the sloping roof all along one side). I had originally wanted to get rid of those books, and I did get rid of some, but couldn’t bring myself to do it for all of them. Also, a lot of the new books I got last year were stacked on the floor around my meditation mat (not sure why I didn’t put them somewhere out of the way). Anyway, I came up with the idea to set up my old bookshelf with the short side screwed to the wall next to the door of my room and the long side (85 cm) jutting out into the room. This is quite useful, because it means that I can stack my books on two sides of the shelf (it is just wooden shelves with endpieces, no back). I put all my crime books on one side (with space left over) and all my old sci-fi paperbacks that I had stacked against the wall on the other side. And then I had an empty shelf where the crime novels used to be. So, on the following weekend, I removed all my books from my largest set of shelves, dusted them off, and rearranged them. It was fun. I’ve now got my poetry collection all on one shelf (it’s a small collection) and the books I’m currently reading and planning to read on other shelves, and even some empty shelves which I’m going to use to store my office supplies, which are currently thrown haphazardly into a cardboard box that lives in the corner next to my desk. Amazingly, I only took about three hours to dust and rearrange my bookshelves. I felt very accomplished afterwards (those shelves really needed dusting – I hadn’t noticed quite how dusty they’d gotten).

After all this work, I’ve now got a nice reading nook between the newly put-up shelf and the other ones. The only drawback is that I can’t have Curious Dog up here in my bedroom, because the wall-to-wall carpet would get dirty and he’s scared of the stairs. So, I do most of my reading in the living room, where Curious Dog likes to interrupt (when he’s not sleeping at my feet). But occasionally I do lounge in my reading corner on the bean bag in the attic bedroom. And it’s nice to look at while I’m sitting at my desk all day on workdays.

I still have some other “clean-up and organize” projects to get started on. One of them concerns a couple of moving boxes with odds and ends that I’ve stacked in a corner and hidden underneath a colourful quilt. They need to get unpacked. I think one of them is from my next-to-last move which was 13 year ago. It contains a lot of old hand-knitted socks that my grandma used to make for me. I don’t wear them anymore, but I can’t get rid of them. But this weekend, I lazed around reading and didn’t do anything except for the most necessary housework. I read some of The Tale of Genji and ought to be almost caught up with my reading buddy. I also read the next Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes novel and Zami: A New Spelling of My Name: A Biomythography by Audre Lorde (very good, needs its own post). Also started a new poetry collection of WWI poetry (prompted by the Russell & Holmes books, because they (at least the early ones) mention WWI a lot. I also got ahead with the Arabian Nights’. A very productive reading weekend. The coming weekend will be a long one, since Thursday is a public holiday. We’ll be driving to Bavaria, but once we have arrived, I’ll probably have lots of time for reading. Looking forward to that!

I’m still not vaccinated, but hope Partner and I will get there in June.

Keep safe, world!

April Reading

A lot earlier than last month, my monthly reading report.

Ongoing project:

Murasaki Shikibu and Royall Tyler (trsl.), The Tale of Genji.
I didn’t manage to read any of this in April either, but I’ve pulled myself together and got started again now, in May. So, I should have a better progress soon. I do enjoy it, so I’m not sure why I didn’t get round to this book in the last couple of months.

Poetry:

Adrienne Rich, Selected Poems 1952 – 2012.
I started and finished this book in April. I enjoyed it, but I’m sure I haven’t understood everything. If I pondered each poem I read (especially the modern ones) until I understand it completely, I’d never get ahead. I’m sure I’ll be rereading this one sometime in future and then I may get more and other things out of it that I did with this first reading.

Short Stories:

Robert L. Mack, Arabian Nights’ Entertainments.
Not really short stories, more like folk or fairy tales, but they are good. I’m making progress, night by night.

Non-Fiction:

  • Samuel Johnson and David Womersley (ed), Selected Writings.
    Essays and letters and other miscellaneous stuff. Very interesting. I finished the last half, and especially liked Rasselas (a kind of fable about finding the right way to life – it’s apparently impossible, there’s always something to complain about) and A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland – now I want to read James Boswell’s report of the same journey. It would be interesting to see how the two accounts differ. I also read some of Johnson’s short biographies from Lives of the Poets. These didn’t do much for me, because I haven’t read many of the works he discusses (Johnson gives an overview of the poets’ works), and those that I have read I’ve mostly forgotten. Except for Milton. I might reread those biographies if I ever give those poets a go. I still kind of liked the biographies because I like Johnson’s style.
  • Patrick King, The Science of Getting Started: How to Beat Procrastination, Summon Productivity, and Stop Self-Sabotage.
    This was a cheap Kindle edition that I found by chance and bought to see if it had any bright ideas on how to organize my work load more effectively. I didn’t have high hopes, but I was positively surprised. It was a quick read and had some good ideas (not all of them new to me, but also a good reminder of the things I already knew). If you want some pointers about dealing with a high workload and working productively, I recommend this book. I like that it is science-based, not just somebody’s pet ideas without any scientific backing. I always get my task at work done (if sometimes last minute), but this year there’s a lot of chaos at work and I needed some ideas to get things back under control and stop feeling overwhelmed. It’s still chaos, but I’m dealing with it and the book helped.

Novels:

  • Robert Dugoni, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell.
    A book club read that I didn’t care much about. I wrote about it here.
  • David Weber, In Fury Born.
    This one I read one weekend in April because I needed some light space opera escapism. I wrote about it here.

April wasn’t a great reading month. Work was rather hellish and as a result, I was sometimes too tired to read. Quite annoying really. Things aren’t really looking up. I think the work situation is going to continue being a pain at least until fall. Therefore, I need to pull myself together and find a modus vivendi in which the work situation doesn’t carry over so much into my private life. I think I’m getting there, but some days are better than others.

Keep safe, world.