Sunday Bullets

1. A huge thank you to everyone who commented on my last post. I am amazed again and again by how sensitive and insightful you all are. Every comment made me feel better in some way and helped to calm me down. While I will definitely go to the doctor this week and get checked out, I am in a much better place about it now.

2. Back to reviews next week too, I hope, as I’ve been reading some wonderful books, all of them taking me to very different places. I’ve been reading Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace, about the adulterous diary of a Victorian wife, The Chaperone (Laura Moriarty) about an uptight Kansas housewife who takes on the chore of chaperoning a young Louise Brooks around New York, and Reading Lolita in Tehran (Aziz Nafisi) about a private reading group organised under the repressive Islamic Republic of Iran in the 1990s. All very different in their way, and yet all concerned with the excessive restraint of female sexuality. I’ll have plenty to say about that, I imagine.

3. Advance warning that the following week or possibly the one after, will be French Reading Week on this blog. I’ve had several new French novels in translation arrive for review, and I’ve been loving the Beauvoir. Also hoping to bring in a new biography of Voltaire and a memoir by Gully Wells, The House in France. I thought it would be fun to put them all together.

4. I just can’t wait for teaching time to end and exams to begin. I’ve had more students this term than I’ve ever had in an Easter term before and am now officially tired of study support. I’ve got one student in particular who talks a great deal in order, I feel sure, not to hear what I am saying. She has no idea that she does this. I like the student and do not wish to resort to howling ‘Shut up and listen!’ but it may end up that way. I foresee much burning of lavender oil and taking of deep breaths.

5. Another student posed a difficult problem a few weeks back by her partisan approval of one particular theorist. When I asked her point blank she said, yes, she agreed with everything he said and thought he was right. I said that in a month’s time, when her degree was over, she could think what she wanted. But a helpful approach to the exams would be to keep an open mind and challenge whatever she read. Once again I bump into the problems that come with absolute judgements. Learning, development, and intellectual honesty come with accepting that hardly anything is ever black and white, that doubt is sanity. I saw a comment on a blog that disturbed me last week, referring to a woman who had a small and ultimately unimportant quirk of vanity. ‘We judged her harshly and we were right to do so,’ the commenter wrote. Ouch. And no. There is always another perspective, another side to the matter, layers barely guessed at below the surface, and we do well to attend to them. Give me ambiguity any day and its uncertainties.

6. What’s everyone reading next week? I’ve just finished three books so can pick up some new ones. At the front of the queue: The Secret Life of William Shakespeare by Jude Morgan, and The Yacoubian Building by Alaa al Aswany, this latter for the Slaves.



34 thoughts on “Sunday Bullets

  1. I’m interested in the Voltaire biography as I like the man and his work. I’ve read a few some years ao but a new one may bring interesting new things. Just read something about Brecht this week. I dind’t know he was such a manipulative and exploitive person.
    I’d also love to hear how the Morgan book is. I’ve got two of her books but as they are rather chunky… One day.
    Wouldn’t it be great to just be able to shout “Shut up and listen”.

    • I confess I know nothing much about Voltaire, or indeed about Brecht. How intriguing – I hope you’ll write about him on your blog as I’d love to hear the story behind your comment. This is also my first Jude Morgan – so far so good! And oh, your last sentence made me laugh. I really do wish I could!

  2. Glad to hear you are feeling better and onward to exam time! I read The Yacoubian Building a while back and found it delightful. I am reading crime fiction (Nesbo’s Headhunters), having just finished Small Wars and Ninepins.

    • So glad you enjoyed The Yacoubian Building – very good news! And would love to know how you got on with Ninepins and Small Wars. I’ve never read any Nesbo either – a tad afraid it would be too violent and depressing for me, but that’s prejudice speaking since I haven’t read a single page!

  3. I freak out about my kids’ health and have been trying to work on that. Sometimes a stuffy nose is just a cold, not the beginning of some horrible virus.

    As far as #6, I’m in the middle of two books right now but I plan to put them aside to start reading A Brilliant Novel in the Works, the debut novel by Yuvi Zalkow that comes out this summer. I’m incredibly lucky to have a galley copy–and to have listened to early drafts of this book in a writing group years ago. He’s the hilarious “failed writer” series originator.

    • Laura – I am just as capable of freaking out about my son, alas! You’re so right – sometimes a cold is just a cold. Yuvi Zalkow is a new name to me so I will have to look hi up. It’s always really exciting to read a newly published book when you have had experience of its early stages. I hope it does very well indeed!

      • I’m surprised to find that I’m a calmer, less anxious parent (mostly) now that I have two kids! Maybe it’s the sleep deprivation…

        Yuvi’s work is smart and funny but it’s also emotionally present in a way that many smart and funny books aren’t. This one is about a writer named Yuvi trying to write a novel. I’m so excited for him, and after commenting here, I started reading. So great to see these familiar characters spring to life in a real, published book.

  4. French Reading Week! That is just where my head is at, perhaps because I just bought my plane ticket to France. Thus: looking forward to your posts more than usual.

    The writing will be about Zola, the reading is Gide, Hugo, Steegmuller on Flaubert, and Eric Chevillard, for something less dusty. Still a little dusty, actually.

    • Woo-hoo Tom! Tickets to France sound wonderful – where are you going, and when? I haven’t set a fixed date yet for la semaine francaise, and want to be sure not to miss you. Ooh very intriguing indeed to see what you are working on – loved the Zola post and can’t wait to see where you will go with him next. As for the others, well I think we can term them an embarras de richesses, even with a little dust.

  5. Just read your “Freaky” post and am sorry you find yourself there. I think it goes with the CFS territory. I have gotten creative with my fears. If I feel bad, my first thought is not a CFS relapse but a hidden cancer. You are obviously doing the right things; getting checked and, with Mr. Litlov’s help, being rational. But that doesn’t always make the fear go away.

    For me, and maybe for you, my health fears are not the kind you face down, but more like trauma. Something that would be minor for someone else triggers the fear in both my body and mind and suddenly I get caught again in the expereince of helpless, hopeless days of illness. Made worse by the realization we will all die, and may end up as invalids first.

    As for relief, I am trying to learn not to let my mind go there and get caught. Not control exactly, but diversion like reading and writing, nice linear activities. And I am experimenting with breathing exercises and simple chants, like “And let go.” No silver bullet, but better than letting the fears swamp me.

    Reading: I was so impressed with Finola Moorhead’s Remember the Tarantella, I am about to start another of hers, Darkness More Visible. Just finished Reading across Borders,by Stone-Mediatore, a theoritical anaylsis of the truth-value of narraitve by marginalized individuals which I found important in the debate over who gets to say what is true. Also trying to write about Bruised Hybiscus, by Elizabeth Nunez, an excellent Caribbean novel of many layers.

    Following your example, I am also starting to write more about my own CFS expereince.

    You might appreciate the series “Mothers Writing” at the Australian blog, Relevant to what we have discussed before.

    • MD thank you so much for this kind and sensitive comment. Your experiences sound so very similar to mine that I feel sure that CFS must have put us onto parallel tracks. That would not be surprising – I find CFS sufferers often have similar personality traits and congregate in artistic, intellectual places. I was really interested to learn about the ways you are dealing with fear of ill health (and will borrow them) and thank you also for the reading and the blog recommendations – will definitely be following them up. Thank you!

  6. I am so excited for French reading week! I love the idea! And I see recently acquired a Wallace Stegner. I know you loved Crossing to Safety so I will be interested to hear what you think about The Spectator Bird when you read it.

    Right now I am a liitle more than halfway through Armadale by Wilkie Collins–and I love it! He is one of my favorite Victorian writers. I am also reading Absolution by Patrick Flanery, which is about a biographer writing the biography of an author who wrote much of her work in apartheid South Africa. It has interesting things to say about censorship, memory, and forgiveness. And I am trying to find a good nonfiction book to read. I might start The Intellectual Life of the British Working classes by Jonathan Rose or maybe People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry. Not sure yet!

    • Yay! I was sort of worried that no one would really want to read a set of posts about French books, so I am much cheered! And I adore Wallace Stegner (I will confess that I actually bought two of his books – A Shooting Star is the other one). I really hope to get to him in the summer. Very interested to hear about your reading, not least because I saw Patrick Flanery at the Cambridge literary festival in April. He seemed lovely and his book sounded very intriguing and beautifully written. I will be so interested to hear how you get on with it. And hoping to drop you a proper note very soon!

      • That’s pretty neat you got to see Flanery! And I bought The Angle of Repose today because I want to read it. Crossing to Safety has got to be one of my all-time favorite books! I loved what it had to say about marriage and friendship. I seriously SOBBED through the second half of the book! Can’t wait to hear from you–I also have some stuff to tell you! : )

  7. I hope exam time isn’t very far away. You can make it! I just started Yacoubian building yesterday. Didn’t get far but it started off well. I can’t believe we are at the end of May already!

    • Stefanie, one little question: WHERE DID MAY GO? I mean, I blinked and it seemed to have shot past me! Very glad The Yacoubian Building has begun well for you – I’m really looking forward to it.

  8. I’m glad you feel better.

    I can’t wait the French Reading Week! I wish I had time to organize such an event.
    And I’m curious about your review of Yacubian Building. (I have it at home too)

    I’m reading Montana 1948 by Larry Watson (excellent) and I’m still struggling with Dante’s Inferno.

    • Well French reading week is easy as it’s only me participating! 🙂 Like you, I don’t have the time, (and in my case the courage) to organise a blog event, but I did have a load of French books to read and thought it would be nice to put them together. Of course, reading them, while reading other books at the same time has proved a slower process than I thought it would be!

      I’ll be interested to see your review of the Larry Watson. I have heard of that book before but cannot think where….. hmm, that will niggle at me now. But I’m sure it was a very good review.

  9. Hello litlove, I’ve just seen your post from yesterday, unlike your other commenters I have no wise words to offer, but I hope very much that you are feeling better and that you get an appointment soon to be sure. I find that I don’t react in the same way as you do, probably because I am horribly healthy, but I absolutely do if anyone around me (including chickens) displays the faintest symptom of illness, I am just convinced that it must be something fatal. I suppose it’s the same fear of mortality, just displaced… Anyway, a big Belgian hug to you.

    I am most excited about French Reading Week and looking forward to your reviews, including the one on The Yacoubian Building. I shall be reading Mulisch’s De Aanslag for probably the rest of my life, definitely next week.

    As for your students, I am sure that they do know how very lucky they are to have you.

    • Aw, bless you and I gratefully receive the big Belgian hug, which sounds lovely. I am so happy that you and other blog friends are interested in French reading week; I admit I thought it would prove to be a holiday break for most of my audience. One of those occasions when it is wonderful to be proved wrong! Your comment about De Aanslag really made me chuckle. I have had books like that in my life, heaven help me.

  10. Overestimation of threat and intolerance of uncertainty are features of certain anxiety disorders like OCD. Reading up on these “cognitive errors” might help you better understand the issues you raised in your previous post and calm you down when you worry.

    • Squirrel, I am a big fan of reading up, on just about everything! And anxiety is a big part of me, alas, and always will be, I expect. Finding ways to cut it down to size will probably keep me busy from here on in!

  11. What fun–well, all except dealing with the challenging students. I’ll be very interested to hear what you have to say about The Chaperone since I am also in line for it, and can’t wait for the new Summerscale book to be published here. Your French week sounds like fun and I’m not sure I’m going to get to the Slaves read, though it is one that has been on my pile and I really do want to read it! I’m reading the new Sadie Jones book among others (the second Cazalet!). And must mention in response to Ali’s comment–Armadale is my favorite Wilkie Collins book–I really should reread it!

    • Yay for another Wilkie Collins fan! I read The Woman in White last summer and absolutely loved it! It took me a while to get into Armadale, but now I can’t put it down. Collins does an amazing job at creating wonderful villains. Lydia Gwilt is fantastic as is Count Fosco! I hope to read No Name and The Moonstone as well. Okay sorry for the aside… but I love to connect over books! : )

      • It’s lovely to see readers connect over books! And you are both making me feel like I must pick up a Wilkie Collins very soon! 🙂

    • I really enjoyed The Chaperone, Danielle. A lovely, engaging historical novel that is very easy and enjoyable to read. And the Summerscale was fab, too. I am so intrigued to know what you think of the new Sadie Jones as I relly want to read that, and as you know, the Cazalet chronicles are books I’d love to reread. And yay for Armadale. I very much enjoyed No Name, and must pick Wilkie Collins up again.

  12. I’m looking forward to hearing what you have to say about the Jude Morgan book. I started reading one of his books — Symphony? — last week and didn’t get on with it very well. I want to love Jude Morgan so I’m hoping it was a function of my mood, or else a poor example of Morgan’s writing. A book about Shakespeare sounds pleasant!

  13. I’m so glad you’re feeling better! I’ve been exhausted this week and reading little except non-fiction. I think I’ve been fighting a virus and the sudden change in weather (hot), but am starting to feel more enlivened. I have a pile of books and looking forward to picking up a new novel.

  14. Glad to hear that you are feeling better. I tried to comment on your post last week and was unable to. Seems you and I are trading these times of not being able to post comments on each others blogs!

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