"I cannot remember the books I've read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Welcome to Waterblogged: Dry Thoughts on Damp Books - a blog on books fresh...from the bathtub. I read everywhere and anywhere, the tub included; if you need advice on how to rescue a drowned book, feel free to head straight for my Wet Book Rescue page.
I read all sorts of books, including some real rubbish but I usually blog about classics (ancient and modern), history and travel - that's because rubbish seldom inspires thoughts worth typing up. Then there's a section of photography: that just sort of happens.
My excuse for book blogging? I haven't got any. My family already heard my opinions about books so I thought I'd spare them and bore the world instead. I blog because I read. I also graduated in literature (twice, in different languages) so you need to take my twice as seriously.
There were purple evenings, juicy as grapes, the thin moon cutting a cloud like a knife; and dawns of quick sudden thunder when I’d wake in the dark to splashes of rain pouring from cracks of lightning, then walk on to a village to sit cold and alone, waiting for it to wake and sell me some bread, watching the grey light shifting, a man opening a table, the first girls coming to the square for water.
(Laurie Lee: As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning)
The universal cry of Not Fair! can be heard all of over the land wherever there is a moody teenager, usually accompanied by sulky looks and followed by petulant silence. Well, we’ve all been there; contrary to what moody teens believe, it’s a familiar territory for all of us. And like us, they will come out the other end, (hopefully as civilised adults).
In the meantime, perhaps we can try to make the life of our moody teens – and our own – a bit more tolerable. Reading is fun and can be a solace (not to mention instructive and character forming). So here are a few books to add to a moody teen’s library – all suitably full of dark and gloomy landscapes, sinister occurrences, brooding heroes, monsters, misfortune, madness, ghosts and star crossed lovers… the lot. If they show a slight feminine bias, it’s because, well, I’m a female and so are my children – the younger of whom is currently in the moody teen phase. (Moody Friend of the Elephants, this is for you!)
The Moody Teen’s Library
Dracula by Bram Stoker
For all the fans of the dozens of s***ty teenage vampire series out there, this one is a must. Read it on a stormy December night while the rain is lashing against the window and the wind rattles the panes, with the room in deep shadow outside the circle of light thrown by your reading lamp. Ensuring your parents are out for the evening adds to the atmosphere!
Then donate those s***ty teenage vampire series to the charity of your choice because you’ll never waste time on them again.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
You can’t have a better teenage book than one written by a teenager. If my memory serves me well, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was only nineteen, just to show to those stuck up men in her company – the poets Byron and Shelley – what she could do. Well, what she could do was to write a book that ensured that her name is at least as well known as that pair of literary giants.
You might not think of it particularly as a book for teenagers, but they will respond to the familiar theme of Nobody Loves Me! on part of Frankenstein’s monster. Besides, teens nowadays seem to be quite fond of the Gothic.
The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
Talking about Gothic… why not read the original Gothic story that spawned all the rest? It starts with a sinister prophecy, followed by a sinister accident, and it only gets more sinister from then onwards!
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
A gloomy story of ill fated love, revenge and general misery set on the bleak windswept moors of Northern England. Classic teenage girls’ stuff, from the 19th century.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
…Followed by a similarly classic teenage girls’ read. You have to wonder about the Bronte family, was something wrong with them that they all ended writing miserable love stories?
Title character Jane Eyre goes from unkind relatives to a grim orphanage, and from the orphanage to a strange household with sinister happenings… where she gets entangled in a somewhat ill fated love affair. (That’s the Brontes in a nutshell for you.)
The Catcher in the Rye by D. J. Salinger
A book that should be on every teenager’s bookshelf: the classic modern (as in 20th century) story of teenage angst. To say more would be spoiling the story. 🙂
The Tales and Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe
Another author who penned both poetry and short stories in a Gothic and macabre vein. The Murders in the Rue Morgue is widely regarded as the first modern detective story, featuring the amateur detective C. Auguste Dupin, forerunner of Sherlock Holmes. If you want sinister, don’t miss Edgar Allan Poe.
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
What happens when you let all those moody teenagers loose on a desert island without adult supervision? Well, nothing good, really.
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Not for the fainthearted, this family saga of troubled relationships is set in the Salinas valley in California, parallelling the Bible story of Cain and Abel.
Pair it with the old 1955 film version, in which teenage icon James Dean played moody Cal before he died young in a car accident aged only 24.
Forget ‘Young Adult’ – these moody teens are well capable of reading real books!
They even took me one night to a tenement near the cathedral and pointed out a howling man on the rooftop, who was pretending to be a ghost in order to terrorize the landlord and thereby reduce the rents.
(Laurie Lee: As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning)
Incluso me llevaron una noche a un bloque de pisos cerca de la catedral y señalaron a un hombre aullando en la azotea, que pretendía ser un fantasma para aterrorizar al propietario y así reducir las rentas.
(Laurie Lee: Cuando partí una mañana de verano)
Did a man really howl from the rooftops in Cádiz in order to reduce his rent? Or did I just make it up?
The best way to find out is by reading the book. 🙂
¿Estaba, de verdad, un hombre aullando en la azotea en Cádiz, para reducir su renta? ¿O lo he inventado yo?
La mejor manera de averiguarlo es leer el libro. 🙂
14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, 15 And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.
(Matthew 26:14-15, King James Bible)
In case anybody is any doubt, this is not a religious blog and those who seek salvation, better seek elsewhere. Instead, here we are concerned with the famous story of Judas selling Jesus to the Jewish high priests for the now proverbial thirty pieces of silver; or to be precise, with the actual thirty pieces of silver.
And their legend, as told by Brother Felix Fabri in his diary of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
But when Tragedy and Comedy came to light, the two classes of poets still followed their natural bent: the lampooners became writers of Comedy, and the Epic poets were succeeded by Tragedians, since the drama was a larger and higher form of art.
Pero tan pronto como la tragedia y la comedia aparecieron en el ambiente, aquellos naturalmente atraídos por cierta línea de poesía se convirtieron en autores de comedias en lugar de yambos, y los otros inclinados por su índole a una línea distinta, en creadores de tragedias en lugar de epopeyas, porque estos nuevos modos del arte resultaban más majestuosos y de mayor estima que los antiguos.
(Do I need to remind you that Moscow Stations being a satire, Yerofeev writes with his tongue tucked firmly in his cheek?)
I’m not a fool. I’m well aware there are such things as psychiatry and extra-galactic astronomy and the like. But I mean, really, that’s not for us. All that stuff was foisted on us by Peter the Great and Dmitri Kibalchich, and our calling lies in an entirely different direction… You can leave all that extra-galactic astronomy to the Yanks, and the psychiatry to the Germans. Let all those Spanish bastards go watch their corridas, let those African shits build their Aswan dam, go ahead, the wind’ll blow it down anyway, let Italy choke on its idiotic bel canto, what the hell!
Hace unas semanas he escrito unas líneas sobre Alonso de Contreras, un soldado español del siglo XVI, cuyas memorias inspiraron la vida del capitán Alatriste, el conocido héroe de Arturo Pérez-Reverte. Cosa que al parecer no le gustó a casi nadie (pero a mí sí que me gustó escribirlo). Si no lo has leído, puedes encontrarlo aquí:
A few weeks ago I wrote some lines about Alonso de Contreras, a Spanish soldier from the 16th century, whose memoirs inspired the life of Captain Alatriste, the well-known hero of Arturo Pérez-Reverte. A piece that apparently almost nobody liked (but I did like writing it). If you haven’t read it, you can find it here:
Bueno. Como mencioné en ese post, Alonso de Contreras no fue el único soldado español que escribió sobre su vida. Hoy os voy a recomendar dos libros más; porque, creed me, la historia es mejor que la ficción.
Anyway. As I mentioned in that post, Alonso de Contreras wasn’t the only Spanish soldier who wrote about his life. Today I’m going to recommend you two more books; because, believe me, history is indeed better than fiction.
He who is different from me does not impoverish me – he enriches me. Our unity is constituted in something higher than ourselves – in Man… For no man seeks to hear his own echo, or to find his reflection in the glass.
El que es diferente de mí no me empobrece, sino que me enriquece. Nuestra unidad se basa en algo superior a nosotros mismos, en el Hombre… Pues ningún hombre quiere escuchar su propio eco o verse reflejado en un cristal.
Read the English version
Lo que sigue aquí abajo es la versión española de un post sobre Omar Khayyam - también suele deletrear Omar Jayam - que escribí el pasado domingo en inglés. Versión, digo, porque la poesía no es el mismo que en el post inglés, por la razón de que Omar Khayyam escribió unos cientos cuartetos, y los cuartetos en la traducción española y la traducción inglesa no se corresponden.
Leí a Omar Khayyam en el baño anoche. Esto es siempre una receta para el desastre, pero a pesar de muchos años de práctica empapando libros, Omar Khayyam se conservó seco, probablemente porque me despertó. (Lo que no fue el efecto que pretendía en absoluto, pero estas clases de cosas suceden cuando te instalas en el baño para una lectura relajante antes de dormir. )
I read The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in the bath last night. This is always a recipe for disaster, but despite of long years of practice in soaking books, Omar Khayyam survived dry, probably due to the fact that he quite woke me up. (Which was not the effect I had been looking for but these things happen when you settle in for a relaxing read in the bath before going to bed.)
There is an old route of pilgrimage, or rather I should say several routes, leading to the town of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Northern Spain. It is known as the Camino de Santiago, St James’s Way, and it is actually a whole network of routes starting in various parts of Spain; the most popular and famous remains the camino francés, the French Way, which starts in France and climbs over the Pyrenees before traverses Northern Spain. The Camino continues to be a very popular walking route and not just for religious pilgrims.
If you complete the walk, at the end you can obtain a certificate, as you can read in today’s quote below by Dutch author, Cees Nooteboom.
Quote of the Week:
Everyone who had completed the journey on foot or on a bicycle, could, if they wished, obtain a rubber-stamped document from him and have their names registered in the great book. “Many times people burst into tears right here,” he had told me, pointing in front of his desk. He had shown me the ledger, too, a sort of account book, written in longhand.
He had turned the pages until he spotted a Dutchman, a chemistry teacher, “not a believer”, motive: “thinking”.
He had appreciated that, he said, people came up with the oddest motives, but “thinking” was seldom among them.
It’s February, it’s cold, it’s dark, life is s**t for so many different reasons.
In other words:
It’s Time For Poetry
I could, of course, dig out something uplifting, like Odysseas Elytis painting an Aegean heaven. I usually do, at moments like this. But you know what, not tonight. After all, life is not all song and dance, and sometimes, just ever so often, you do have every reason to sit in a dark corner and howl. (Some of you might have a lot more reasons to sit and howl than others – rid yourself of the notion that life is fair.)
The quote – whoever it was who first came up with it – says it all: you should take statistics with a pinch of salt. (Even better, understand what they truly mean.) Nevertheless, if you’re a blogger, it’s rather difficult to ignore the statistics; and the other day I took a look at what posts were the most popular – that means most visited – in the past few years.
Moscow Stations by Russian dissident Venedikt Yerofeev was first circulated only in the form of samizdat; small wonder as it was a strident criticism of the ‘glorious’ Soviet Union. Not that the quote below particularly illustrates that aspect of the book…
Quote of the Week:
There were three things I fancied a look at: Vesuvius, Herculaneum, and Pompeii. But they told me Vesuvius had gone out ages ago, and sent me to Herculaneum. And at Herculaneum they said: “What d’you want with Herculanium, you prat? You’d better be going to Pompeii.” So I turn up in Pompeii, and they tell me: “What the hell d’you want with Pompeii? Piss off back to Herculaneum!”
A murderer at the the age of thirteen, exiled from Madrid… what future would have had a boy like that?
Well, it seems that he had a pretty interesting future. So interesting that later he considered it worthwhile to write his memoirs. So interesting in fact that these memoirs gave life to a character in a well-known – at least in Spain – novel. And this character, in turn, gave life to a character in a TV series…
Do you know who they are?
If you have seen the original Spanish version of this post, you may have noted that it contains several quotes by Eduardo Marquina. They are from his play En Flandes se ha puesto el sol, The Sun Has Set in Flanders. Unfortunately, I was unable to find an English translation of this work, and I most definitely draw the line at trying to translate poetry. My apologies, but apart from a brief excerpt, you'll just have to do without.
Asesino a la edad de trece años, desterrado de la Villa… ¿qué futuro habría tenido un chico como aquello?
Pues parece que tenía un futuro bastante interesante. Tan interesante que más tarde le valdría la pena escribir sus memorias. Tan interesante, de hecho, que estas memorias dieron vida a un personaje en una novela muy conocida. Quién, a su vez, dio vida a un personaje de una serie de la televisión…
Capitán y español, no está avezado
a curarse de herida, que ha dejado
intacto el corazón dentro del pecho.
(Eduardo Marquina: En Flandes se ha puesto el sol)