Reading Update: February Week 2

Reading Update Feb 2-- The Riverside Library

Wait, we’re halfway through February already?

This week was filled with hiking, and multiple library trips. Every time I visit I fall in love with the library some more. I’ve made myself a policy lately – I can only loan out the amount of books that I return. Anything more has to wait. So, it’s now an exchange – the more I read, the more I can read. It feels indulgent somehow. Oh, how I love indulgence.

Completed So Far This Month

Three Stories – J. M. Coetzee

Blurb: As he gets older he finds himself growing more and more crabby about language, about slack usage, falling standards. Falling in love, for instance. ‘We fell in love with the house’, friends of his say. How can you fall in love with a house when the house cannot love you back, he wants to reply? Once you start falling in love with objects, what will be left of real love, love as itused to be? But no one seems to care. People fall in love with tapestries, with old cars.
A man contemplates his deep connection to a house.
The unfathomable idea of threshing wheat points to a life lost.
And a writer ponders the creation of his narrator.
Three Stories—’His Man and He’, written as Coetzee’s acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize for Literature, ‘A House in Spain’ and ‘Nietverloren’—is the work of a master at his peak. These are stories that embody the essence of our existence.

Having heard Coetzee’s name thrown around here and there, I recognised it amongst the spines in my local library, and pulled out the slim volume in a rather ravenous mood (reading wise, that is). I had this urge to drink down as much literature as humanly possible. So I found a quiet, empty little spot at the back of the library and flicked open the cover, immediately being engrossed in the first story of the volume ‘His Man and He,’ which was by far my favourite of the three. Although I wasn’t the biggest fan of the other two, I really enjoyed this little collection, and I would definitely read more of Coetzee’s work.

Hold Your Own – Kate Tempest

Blurb: Kate Tempest, winner of the Ted Hughes Prize for Brand New Ancients and widely regarded as the UK’s leading spoken word poet, has produced a new poem-sequence of electrifying power. Based on the myth of the blind prophet Tiresias, Hold Your Own is a riveting tale of youth and experience, sex and love, wealth and poverty, community and alienation. Walking in the forest one morning, a young man disturbs two copulating snakes – and is punished by the goddess Hera, who turns him into a woman. This is only the beginning of his journey . . . Weaving elements of classical myth, autobiography and social commentary, Tempest uses the story of the gender-switching, clairvoyant Tiresias to create four sequences of poems: ‘childhood’, ‘manhood’, ‘womanhood’ and ‘blind profit’. The result is a rhythmically hypnotic tour de force – and a hugely ambitious leap forward for one of the UK’s most talented and compelling young writers.

Kate Tempest has fast become one of my favourite modern poets, although I’m not the worlds biggest fan of the new trends in poetry, Tempest was relatable, hard-hitting, and emotional. I got some real Bukowski feels reading Tempest, and I feel similarly about both poets. I’m pretty sure I love their work, even though I don’t always relate or understand it. All-in-all I loved this book, although it was a little hit and miss for me, I think the good stood out more than the ones I didn’t really connect with. It was emotional, truthful, beautiful and creepy at times. I would definitely recommend it if you’ve heard Tempest’s name thrown around and you’re curious about her work.

The Moon is Down – John Steinbeck

Taken by surprise, a small coastal town is overrun by an invading army with little resistance. The town is important because it is a port that serves a large coal mine. Colonel Lanser, the head of the invading battalion, along with his staff establishes his HQ in the house of the democratically elected and popular Mayor Orden.
As the reality of occupation sinks in and the weather turns bleak, with the snows beginning earlier than usual, the “simple, peaceful people” of the town are angry and confused. Colonel Lanser, a veteran of many wars, tries to operate under a veil of civility and law, but in his heart he knows that “there are no peaceful people” amongst those whose freedom has been taken away by force. The veil is soon torn apart when Alexander Morden, an erstwhile alderman and “a free man,” is ordered to work in the mine. He strikes out at Captain Loft with a pick axe, but Captain Bentick steps into its path and dies of it. After a summary trial, Morden is executed by a firing squad. This incident catalyzes the people of the town and they settle into “a slow, silent, waiting revenge.” Sections of the railroad linking the port with the mine get damaged regularly, the machinery breaks down often, and the dynamo of the electricity generators gets short circuited. Whenever a soldier relaxes his guard, drinks or goes out with a woman, he is killed. Mayor Orden stands by his people, and tries to explain to Col. Lanser that his goal – “to break man’s spirit permanently” – is impossible.
The cold weather and the constant fear weighs heavy on the occupying force, many of whom wish the war to end so that they can return home. They realize the futility of the war and that “the flies have conquered the flypaper.” Some members of the resistance escape to England and ask the English for explosives so that the townspeople can intensify their efforts. English planes parachute-drop small packages containing dynamite sticks and chocolates all around the town. In a state of panic, the army takes the Mayor and his friend Dr. Winter, the town doctor and historian, hostage and lets it be known that any action from resistance will lead to their execution. Mayor Orden knows that nothing can stop his people and that his death is imminent. He tells his wife that while he can be killed, the idea of Mayor (and freedom and democracy) is beyond the reach of any army. Before his execution, Mayor Orden reminds Dr. Winter of the dialogues of Socrates in the Apology, a part he played in the high school play, and tells him to make sure that the debt is repaid to the army, i.e., that the resistance is continued.

When I found this in the library and I read on the back that it was banned in some fascist countries during WWII, I was intrigued. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the writing style, it felt like a novelised play (I now know it was), and there were parts that didn’t flow as well as I would have liked. I really enjoyed the message behind the story, however, and the lack of resolution at the end (which is rare for me). I’m looking forward to picking up more of Steinbeck’s works.

Currently Reading

The Summer Book – Tove Jansson

Blurb: An elderly artist and her six-year-old granddaughter while away a summer together on a tiny island in the gulf of Finland. Gradually, the two learn to adjust to each other’s fears, whims and yearnings for independence, and a fierce yet understated love emerges – one that encompasses not only the summer inhabitants but the island itself, with its mossy rocks, windswept firs and unpredictable seas.

Jacob’s Room – Virginia Woolf

Blurb: Virginia Woolf’s first original and distinguished work, Jacob’s Room is the story of a sensitive young man named Jacob Flanders. The life story, character and friends of Jacob are presented in a series for separate scenes and moments from his childhood, through college at Cambridge, love affairs in London, and travels in Greece, to his death in the war. Jacob’s Room established Virginia Woolf’s reputation as a highly poetic and symbolic writer who places emphasis not on plot or action but on the psychological realm of occupied by her characters.

Non-Bookish Things I’m Currently Loving:

Listening: Rand – ‘Enough’ |Tom Speight – ‘My My My’

Burning: Storybrooke Candle (Blackberry, Raspberry, Vanilla) – Potions Candle Co.

 

Drop me a comment below to share your favourite things from this week, or month so far!

-M.

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