The world is full of books and they are all set somewhere; let’s explore some of the places where our favourite book characters walked, fought, fell in love or made a fool of themselves.
I started to look at photos of the soaring church towers of Spain the other day, thinking of turning them into a photo post, but by a series of those associations that you afterwards can never explain, I ended up with my tattered and bath-soaked copy of Graham Greene’s best novel in my hand instead.
(You’ll have to wait for the church towers.)
The Power and the Glory
I don’t think I’ve taken it off the shelf once in the past twenty-five years or so, and yet I can remember vividly every word of it. Well, almost.
‘Your’ classic is a book to which you cannot remain indifferent, and which helps you define yourself in relation or even in opposition to it.
(Italo Calvino: Why Read the Classics?)
It’s called The Power and the Glory, and the title is a clear reference to the last line of the Lord’s Prayer. An interesting title because you can read it in more than one way: the spiritual power of the church versus the earthly power of the government, the power of faith and of political convictions, the glory of martyrdom…
There’s an Argentinian cartoon from the late 1960s-early 70s, about a little girl called Mafalda, whose exclamation, ¡Paren el mundo, que me quiero bajar! (Stop the world, I want to get off!) became an internationally known phrase. As we all have moments in which we want to get off (I did, yesterday afternoon), perhaps it might be a good idea if you keep The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at hand?
As the title suggests, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the only – electronic – book you’ll ever need if you should actually succeed in getting off by hitching a ride on a passing UFO. It will also provide you with light relief while you’re waiting by the roadside, as it were, with your thumb stuck in empty air as those heartless aliens are driving by without stopping.
Philosophical Books (and the Death Sentence)
Okay, so there are books and there are philosophical books and when you hear the adjective philosophical in this context, you slam the book shut and run a mile or more, without so much as looking back – and by god, I don’t blame you. Twice I had to study philosophy at university and twice it bored me to tears.
Three quarters through War and Peace (for the fourth time; I’m blaming Mario Vargas Llosa), I’m in need of some light entertainment. You know the kind I mean: the sort of book in which you can just keep moving your eye along the line, keep turning the pages and never once be bothered by a single thought arising. A chewing gum for the mind.
So I dug out an outrageous space opera by Stephen Ames Berry.
Two Versions of the Old Man and the Sea
My teenage daughter borrowed my copy of The Old Man and the Sea and read it one afternoon. I had been about the same age when I first read it, thirty years ago. “You’ll either love it or it will bore you to tears,” I warned. “It’s that kind of book.”
“I’ve finished it,” she said later at dinner, looking a bit sheepish.
“You didn’t like it.” It wasn’t hard to divine. She knows that it’s one of my favourite books. “You didn’t click.”
“No,” she said. “It’s just about an old man who went fishing. It’s boring.”
One of the bloggers I read writes a Twitter round-up for a proper website. I usually ignore it – I mean it’s a Twitter round-up, for god’s sake! – but the other day I decided to take a look. This had three immediate effects on me:
- I had a fit of hysterical laughter – are these tweets for real?!
- I congratulated myself for never having signed up for a Twitter account – I always knew no-one possibly can have anything worthwhile to say in 160 characters, especially on a daily basis.
- I got inspired.
Today it’s been 400 years ago that Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra died. And tomorrow it’ll be 400 years ago that William Shakespeare died.
I’m not in generally for remembering when anybody died or even was born, no matter how famous but it was a bit difficult to avoid noticing these dates…
I have recently read The Noise of Time, the new book about the Russian composer Dmitry Shostakovich by Julian Barnes, which my husband acquired on the very day it was published. He devoured it in a day or so and passed it on as he thought it would be of interest to me on account that I like Shostakovich’s music – well, some of it, at any rate – and because I grew up under communism.
The book under review is: Seven Ancient Wonders by Matthew Reilly
I got this book for Christmas: I fancied a bit of light reading, so taking a recommendation from the internet, I put this book on my Amazon wishlist. And somebody gave it to me.
I came across the author at the time when I was looking for an Australian book to complete a reading challenge. What with the author featuring in the top 50 must read Australian novels at number 31, exactly thirteen places above David Malouf’s Ransom – and boy, was Ransom a good book! – I thought I could count on a solid page turner that wouldn’t engage my brain in any way whatsover. A little light reading.
There are novels which have unforgettable first lines. Like:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” (Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen)
“El día en que lo iban a matar, Santiago Nasar se levantó a las 5.30 de la mañana para esperar el buque en que llegaba el obispo.” (Crónica de una muerte anunciada by Gabriel García Márquez).
(“On the day that he was going to be killed, Santiago Nasar got up at 5:30 in the morning to wait for the ship in which the bishop was arriving.” Chronicle of a Death Foretold)
First lines that draw you straight into the story and you never get away again until you finished the book.
Today I read a beautiful book – Ransom by David Malouf. I was on a quest to find an Australian book to read as last week I signed up for a simple reading challenge that requires reading six books from six continents in the course of this year. Not a difficult feat in itself but the fact that the year is almost finished added the necessary spice. That and the realisation that I was too much focused on European literature! So I googled Australian literature for inspiration and I stumbled upon this one – and boy, did it deliver.
Continue reading “Ransom”
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