Thursday, 6 February 2020

Reading=hibernation

It's definitely still Winter here in the Frozen North, though I am bizarrely insulated from the cold most days by this particular chapter of my life that seems to come with built in, if somewhat erratic, central heating. However, in the afternoon there is a glorious hour or so of full sunlight, with no shadow of dusk. So, with the resolutely cheerful flowers that someone gave me on Sunday and the first ever St Brigid's cross I've made myself, I look forward to Spring!

So far this year I've finished three books and started a fourth. I suppose that, having absolutely nothing else to share with Blogland, I could talk about that! Bedtime reading snuggled deep down under my quilt listening to stormy winds outside is as close to hibernation as I'll get just now!

 I am going to buy everyone on my list "Christmas Days" for Christmas next year. It's a beautiful collection: a story and a recipe with an anecdote for every one of the twelve days of Christmas. The perfect gift! The stories are appropriately spooky and explore Christmas from lots of quirky perspectives. Lots of twists and turns. Winterson is so warm and gentle and generous and honest throughout, especially about her life with her family, wife and friends.
 I didn't mean to spend January with short stories, but I'd bought Prince Charming Tom Hanks' collection for Christmas because I'd been wanting to read it for ages and filling PC's Christmas stocking seemed a good excuse at the time. Obviously PC saw through it not immediately but certainly as soon as I spent two weeks guffawing through it when he was trying to get to sleep. (Note to self: don't buy PC "Christmas Days".) This book is genius. There really is a typewriter in every story: it's like an erudite Where's Wally. The stories are brilliant, just brilliant. Mostly unconnected, but there is a group of four friends who do pop up throughout with another instalment of their misadventures. I might like the space one best, or the girl typing at the window...
Now, "Olive Kitteridge" is not, I think, a collection of short stories in the purest sense. It is the coherent story of one place, and though it took me a while to work out why she claims the book's title, it is the story of Olive Kitteridge. But Olive is a bit like the typewriters in Uncommon Type, isn't she? Sometimes the chapters are all hers, but mostly she appears in the background to a greater or lesser degree depending on how well the chapter's protagonist knew her. It's a very clever book. I loved her husband. I was terribly disturbed by her. She made me fear for my future relationship with my sons. She made me fear for me. This was a book that seemed to be gentle, but was in fact harrowing.
And just now I'm re-reading la Peste; what else could you read during this Coronavirus? Here is a book that seems to be harrowing, but is in fact gentle. That's why I love Camus. I love his love of life, his enjoyment of the simple things, his respect for people and his faith in them. My Masters dissertation was about "le Christ de Camus", because of his respect for faith and those who chose it. The most poignant thing, thus far, in la Peste is the sadness of separation for those whose loved ones are outside the quarantine. I was shocked that when I wrote about it nearly twenty years ago I didn't actually twig that the plague in the book symbolises Nazism and its taking of Paris, where Camus was stranded when France fell. Not that shocked actually; my preparation for that dissertation was nothing if not desultory!
 By the way, did you know that St Brigid is buried with Columcille and Patrick here on the hill beside the cathedral in Downpatrick? This is the big stone that marks their grave. It's a very lovely spot, looking out to the Mourne Mountains, with a bench just behind the camera where you can sit and think awhile. Brigid apparently wove her cross from reeds that she plucked as she sat telling a dying Irish chieftain about Jesus. He came to faith, and her cross is still made on 1st February all over Ireland as people look forward to Spring. Until then, I'll be hibernating and reading!

5 comments:

GretchenJoanna said...

I'd like to visit St. Brigid's grave if I make it to Ireland. This year I really paid attention to the note on my calendar that I wanted to cook something Irish for her feast day -- until that day, when my mind flew elsewhere.

I haven't read any Camus since college! But in the last several months I've collected *many* Kierkegaard books, also unread so far. A 40-yr-old friend with a graduate degree in philosophy from a Great Books school inspired me... to acquire them, with the plan to read them, as I recall... You and I have been talking about reading K. for as long as I've been in Blogland with you! Do you have a recommendation for which of his books to start with? I hope it's one I got already :-)

Lisa Richards said...

Added another book to my Amazon list. (The Christmas book.) I'll wait a while before ordering. Keep my wits about me, lol. Enjoyed your reviews!

M.K. said...

Sounds like some good winter reading. The "Olive' book sounds interesting to me. I'm assuming that is not Tom Hanks, the U.S. actor? Just wondering.

Pom Pom said...

I really liked Olive. I love that author, that's why. Stay well, dear Mags!

Betty said...

Tom Hanks book looks like a good read. I often lose interest in books halfway so his short stories could be the way to go.

Happy St Patrick's Day!

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