Sunday, 30 September 2007

It's driving me to the Bible!

Red Tent was a jolly good read, and now I feel obliged to go and read the book of Genesis. Shame on me, I don't think I have a bible anywhere in the house, though I assume we must have one in the library.
I was moved by the poignant tale of Laura's lost books, though I have to say I kind of deliberately try not to collect too many books due to lack of space and aversion to dusting. When I first worked at the library and got first crack at all the withdrawn stock, I used to go off home with armfuls of the things, till a couple of years later I realised they were just sitting there and I never read them. I work in a library, for goodness sake, I don't need to fill my house with books too. So I dragged them all back to the library and stuck them on the 10p shelf, where the y got doubly recycled. There are probably a couple of shelves of my books I wouldn't let go, and don't trust the library to hold in trust for me - they are mainly George Orwell, Arthur Koestler and Dervla Murphy, plus some cherished cookery books.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Loves and losses

There is a house in Stanegarth that is home to several thousand books. In each room most of the walls are lined with what I guess will now have to be called my 'former' book collection.
I became a serious bibliophile about ten years ago and quickly amassed a large book collection, and then in 2000 I moved house and many of the books were taken to second hand book shops. When I told people what I had done, many of the true book lovers were shocked, horrified, scandalised even and I felt castigated, I had become a pariah lurking among the real bibliophiles.
I vowed never to part with my books again and when I came home to Shetland two years ago, the whole lot came with me, (Nearly 4000 books!) by this time the book collecting bug was deadly serious, all my books had my name in them and where and when purchased.
But circumstances change and sacrifices have to made. When I hurriedly left the Stanegarth house I was able to grab a few of my most precious books, including the signed collection which is something, but looking at the reading list for the book group, I think to myself 'There is a hard back copy of The Stornoway Way at Stanegarth, A copy of The Red Tent, Several Salman Rushdie books including Midnight's Children of course. Could I retrieve these books? Not without a lengthy legal process I'm told.
All these books can be replaced and many have been, but some how 'Purchased - Sept '07', doesn't have the same romance as; "Child's second hand book shop, Okehampton Devon, - holiday August '03".

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Red Tent: do a wall chart!

Got well into our next book The Red Tent last night due to insomnia: great book but I have a Top Tip: photocopy the family tree from the front of the book before you begin, so that you can glance at it to see who's who without constantly flicking back and forth through the book!

Was sorry I missed the start of last night's meeting, I felt addled by my two hours of belly dancing by the time I got there (this Shetland social life is just a bit much at times...) and it was hard to concentrate on the books. I thought the two were interesting to read in tandem. The Stornoway Way will stick in my mind more, even though it annoyed me at first - I thought it's description of alcoholism was very haunting in the end. I sometimes note down phrases that grab me - one from this book was the hilarious description of a 'quiveringly ambitious carry out', the other was nearer his demise - 'drinking is like filling yourself up with emptiness'. Think I'll stay off the gin for a wee while.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

McIllvanney and the power of reading

Just read William McIllvanney's Weekend, not perfect but I loved it, he seemed to have a great tenderness for his characters, one bullied woman was described as 'living in the corners of herself that he'd left to her'. This is a nice bit from it, about why reading is good: "The book makes heavier demands on us [than television]...A scene in it's pages doesn't appear ready-made before our eyes, so that all we have to do is lazily record it. We have to construct it in our imaginations. It is a much more participatory medium, more our own creation. It's a DIY experience, he thought. The practice of it empowers us with a sense of ourselves by demanding our own individual interpretation be earned by decodifying it." So there we are, reading is a highly developed intellectual activity!

I've also been reading a second book by Arnaldur Indridason - Icelandic crime - stars a tough cop who seems quite a cool guy, but to my horror the author insists on describing him, revealing that he's thick-set with bushy red hair!!! I've gone right off him, I have to say.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Venus as a Boy

I have grudgingly put down Iain Banks' new book The Steep Approach to Garbadale in order to read Venus as a Boy for the next meeting. Venus as a Boy is a strange book, I really liked the first two pages but then it got extremely depressing, I'm not sure if I can keep reading it without slitting my wrists or chucking myself out the window but I'll have a go.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Back again!

Arrived back from Glasgow on Friday afternoon,amid the kind of turbulence which didn't unduly alarm most Shetlanders on the flight but must have been highly scary for anyone not accustomed to the semi-vertical approach and drop-from-the-sky-like-a-ton-of-bricks landing!
However,I'm sure it was less alarming than the previous night's boat journey! Anyway,still savouring "Exile" and in between I've also read "Venus as a Boy",which took up most of Sunday afternoon. Hmm.. I'll leave comments till the next meeting,but I do feel that Luke Sutherland might be an interesting candidate for a future Wordplay!

Friday, 14 September 2007

Wordplay: how was it for you?

So did anyone have interesting times at Wordplay? It was nice to see Denise Mina, she seems like an out-and-out nice person, though I'd have rather have seen her read her own stuff and I think some others in the audience were less than impressed by her and Iain Banks thinking it was a jolly wheeze to read each other's work. Twice Iain Banks has been up and he's still not read a bit of his own fiction. Really enjoying the last of the Garnethill trilogy, Resolution, and hope Morag is having fun in Glasgow with Exile. Just dinna wander into any dodgy places Morag!

On our book group reads, I've decided I quite like The Stornoway Way after all, though it irritated me at first - kind of sorry I never saw Kevin McNeill read at Wordplay, but the writing workshop ain't my thing, and from what I hear about the joint poetry reading he did, he didn't get the time he deserved. Venus as a Boy is a good read too, by the way, and very short!

One of the best things I heard at Wordplay was a poem called Mam's Chair by our very own Laura Friedlander - hurrah for Laura! There was a lot of good stuff at the festival but there didn't seem to be so many folk about and lots of good things clashed, not to mention clashing with the films, hope the book festival gets it's own weekend next year.

Monday, 10 September 2007

A weekend of excess....

Well,that's Wordplay by for another year - too many authors and not enough time to fit them all in, and now I'm thinking I should have made a bit more effort to hear them all. Still,Debi Gliori was brilliant as usual and Keith Gray was excellent. Just a pity more boys didn't turn up to his first session,but hopefully the school visits will address that. I'm off on the plane tomorrow with Denise Mina (the next book,not the author!) although who knows,she might be on the plane as well! Anyway,I'm back in Glasgow with my copy of Exile,which I've been saving for this occasion,to read "on location",as it were. Will report back soon if it lives up to expectations!

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Bookermania without books...

High excitment! The Man Booker Shortlist is announced.
High irritation: hardly any library copies have arrived yet, so my plan of having a short-loan frenzy for folk who wanted to read the six books before the prize is announced has all gone damp squib-like. (hoping some will be here in a few days...)
Don't you wish we were reading them all again this year? If you navigate your way to the 'debate' section of the website you should find that this year's chosen groups have started blogging already. I guess they'll all be dancing on the streets of Piccadilly tonight...
On other matters, grappling with Kevin McNeill and not sure whether to like him or not, shall finish him off tonight and prepare to debate the finer points of the Gaelic language with Morag.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Bad Sex

Zipping through a big variety of reading - managed 2 Booker longlisters basically as they're the shortest ones - and most of the others haven't arrived in the library yet. Anyway I read On Chesil Beach and tend to agree with a comment I heard that it may manage to win the Bad Sex Award if not the Booker - by the way have a look at the Bad Sex Award website, it's exruciating!

Then I'm halfway through Catherine O'Flynn's What Was Lost, (seems interesting and different) after which I need to move speedily on to another Denise Mina, then it's on to The Stornoway Way, then I'm hoping Venus as a Boy will have arrived from Amazon, it's all most frantic!