The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet by Colleen McCullough – Oh Colleen… what was going through your mind? How could you? As Laurel said in the AustenProse blog: “Any Janeite who makes it to the third chapter of The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet is in my opinion free to think author Colleen McCullough an impudent rapscallion.” I made it to the fourth.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass. I know this is going against the big majority, but there it is. It just plainly got on my nerves. I have low tolerance to surrealist literature – the whole premise that anything can happen without any reason gives me the same feeling as those dreams where you run and run and get nowhere. Alice also constantly reminded me of one of the most spooky and haunting books I’ve ever read: The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro.
By Grand Central was my bookclub’s May book. In the end we ended up talking more about the author’s life than her book. It’s considered a classic of poetic prose, a long love letter from the author Elizabeth Smart to George Barker, who was also a poet and the father of her 4 children. Unfortunately, he was also the husband of another woman and the father of a total of 15 children by different women. So you can see how this might be an interesting topic for a group of 8 women over a glass of red wine…
I read about 25 pages of the 112 pages-long book until I realised I was reading the words, but nothing was being captured by my brain. By Grand Central is all about the language: language is the plot, the character and the setting. Smart’s is a word-crafter, but the baroque type, who stuffs layers of meaning/imagery in every single sentence. I Googled the book and the general impression seems to be clearly favourable, but me being me, I like a good story. And of course the melodrama also didn’t help. The pages I read and the ones I skipped through just felt a tinny bit too self-centrered – WW2 is turning the World into pieces , but let’s talk about ME! Here’s a nice example of her writing:
I am over-run, jungled in my bed. I am infested with a menagerie of desires: my heart is eaten by a dove, a cat scrambles in the cave of my sex, hounds in my head obey a whip-master who cries nothing but havoc as the hours test my endurance with an acclimation of tortures.
It’s true that in general I don’t enjoy reading poetry – except when it comes in the shape of song lyrics – but once in a while a poem strikes me. For instance, one of my all-time favourite poem is Ithaca by the Greek contemporary poet Constantine P. Cavafy. I actually came across it by digging more into Leonard Cohen’s song “Alexandra Leaving”, which was inspired by Cavafy’s “The God Abandons Antony”. Yeat’s “When You Are Old” also always gets to me, especially when it’s read by Matthew Macfadyen.