Another Place to Visit

What have I been doing recently? Well apart from the boring house stuff I’ve made time to visit Evelyn at Evee’s Blog. I must admit that Evelyn found ‘Pining’ first as she’s interested in Scottish words and that’s how she got to me. I’m so glad that she did as her blog is a beautiful place to visit with gorgeous photos of places she has travelled to and scenes more local to her base in the Scottish border town of Peebles. So if you love things Scottish and photos of plants, gardens, houses and crafts do yourself a favour and hop over to Evee’s Blog.

Otherwise I’ve been watching The Great British Bake Off where the baking tasks are getting fiendishly difficult but already we’re down to the last three contestants so next week is the last one. Janet was my favourite baker and I really hoped she would win but it wasn’t to be, her undercooked pastries let her down. I’m not sure who I want to win now.

Tonight we watched Billy Connolly’s Route 66 Road Trip of America. The third one in the series I think, I like armchair travelling especially when it’s to places that we’re never likely to visit. Tonight he was in Oklahoma, Arizona and Texas where as usual he met interesting locals. The rodeo reminded me of an Annie Proulx short story, those riders are completely nuts. He also visited a barbed wire museum in a place called Mclean, who would have thought there were so many different kinds of wire! It probably beat the pencil museum in Cumbria – or wherever it is. The best scenery was in Monument Valley.

If you have time have a look at some of the first episode.

Heart Songs by Annie Proulx

Heart Songs cover

Heart Songs is a compilation of eleven short stories which are all set in the depths of rural New England. It’s hill and wood country so hunting, shooting and fishing feature in most of the stories. This is quite alien to me because although angling is supposedly the most popular hobby in the UK hunting is not popular at all. Guns are just not a part of our culture and it isn’t possible just to go into a wood and shoot something, you need permits and if someone sees a person with a gun nowadays then they are likely to call the cops.

A lot of the stories are about rich city people who have moved into a poverty stricken area and are really playing at being good old country folks. They tend be summer inhabitants only or they give up and leave for the city again after a year or so. The new people are treated with disdain by Proulx so I suppose they’re a pet hate of hers. They’re similar to the people in Britain who buy second properties in rural areas in the UK and so make it impossible for the locals to buy anywhere to live. Let’s face it, that annoys the hell out of us all! Universally, they seem to look down their noses at anyone not from a city. It has to be said though that some of the rural folks in Heart Songs are peculiar to say the least and there’s one woman who has slept with her half-brother! So possibly these stories aren’t for those of us who are a wee bit squeamish about such things or don’t fancy the idea of men going about shooting animals.

But, I love Proulx’s descriptions, the first story begins: Hawkwheel’s face was as finely wrinkled as grass-dried linen, his thin back bent like a branch weighted with snow.

People breathe air as heavy as wet felt – that’s not something which I’ve ever experienced but I can imagine what it must be like now. I think some people think that descriptions equal ‘purple prose’ but I like to know what people, places and objects look like.

I loved The Shipping News and I really enjoyed these short stories too. Previously I had only read Fine Just the Way it is-The Wyoming Stories and now I only have Close Range in the house still to read, that’s the one which has Brokeback Mountain in it and I was less than impressed with the film so I’m going to leave it a while before reading that compilation.

I’ve read that some people really dislike Annie Proulx’s writing style. Is she one of those love them or hate them writers?

Book Sale Haul

We walked to the sale which was in the Adam Smith Theatre in the pouring rain this morning. At one point I had a very long armful of books but I ended up putting more than half of them back as I reckoned that I wasn’t going to get around to reading them before we move house, hopefully in about a year’s time. We have so much ‘stuff’ to take with us that I don’t want to add too much to it. Having said that I still bought:

A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami
Close Range by Annie Proulx
Heart Songs by Annie Proulx
The Finishing School by Muriel Spark
Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

and

it was thirty years ago today by Terence Spencer – ‘An extraordinary document of life inside the claustrophobic capsule of The Beatles in 1963.’

The Beatles book is a pure nostalgia trip for me. My sister Helen is 11 years older than me but we shared a bedroom and in 1963 I was only 4 years old, she was 15, the perfect age for Beatlemania. George Harrison was always our favourite and we had a framed photograph of him on the dressing-table. (Whatever happened to it?) Who was your favourite?

So that was quite good, just six books, but I wish I hadn’t put the Edna O’Brien book back.

After lunch the rain cleared up and we took ourselves off to Perth as it was absolutely yonks since we had been to look at any shops.

The recession isn’t going to be ending anytime soon if we are being relied upon to spend money and help to drag us all out of it. We only bought one book each.

I bought:

The Far Cry by Emma Smith. It’s a Persephone book and I haven’t read anything by her. It seems to be set in India, another Anglo-Indian book when I’m supposed to be reading more authentic Indian books.

My husband bought :

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov and he got a Christopher Brookmyre book from the library sale – Country of the Blind.

The rain stayed off for most of the time that we were in Perth so we had a good stroll around the place before heading for home via Milnathort ice-cream shop. We indulged in double cones. I had chocolate and cream brulee – lovely. Husband had creme brulee and Bakewell Tart flavour. Next time I’m definitely having the Bakewell Tart ice-cream, absolutely gorgeous, and somehow I hadn’t fancied the sound of it.

Some 2010 Book Thoughts

If my scribbled list is correct, I managed to read 81 books in 2010. Well, that might be me cheating a wee bit because I’ve still got about 100 pages of War and Peace to read, but the vast bulk of it has been read in 2010 and I’m giving myself loads of ‘Brownie points’ for getting around to reading it at last. Yes, I ended up being the Sixer of the Kelpies (Sprites) – if that means anything to anyone!

Authors whom I’ve enjoyed reading and were new to me this year are:
Willa Cather, Paul Auster, Annie Proulx, Barabara Kingsolver, Rosamunde Pilcher, Rosy Thornton, Zola – in fact there are too many to mention, so it’s been a really enjoyable reading year.

It’s all thanks to the recommendations of bloggers and commentators. I wouldn’t have got around to reading half of the new authors otherwise. I can hardly believe that I’ve actually read a book by Thomas Carlyle – Sartor Resartus, definitely different but surprisingly fairly readable.

This year I’m trying to read a lot of the books which I’ve had in the house waiting to be read for years. Then I can either pass them on or pack them away when I’ve finished with them with a view to clearing some book clutter prior to downsizing. I am actually tripping over books!

The Shipping News DVD

When I finished reading the book The Shipping News by Annie Proulx I had that horrible feeling that you get when you really enjoy a book so much that you’ve been completely immersed in its environment. Surfacing to the real world isn’t all that pleasant and I really missed Newfoundland and the characters.

So I asked for and received a copy of the DVD as one of my birthday presents. Although Kevin Spacey looks nothing like the character in the book, to be fair I’m sure there is nobody like that in Hollywood, he is really great as Quoyle.

In fact I think all the actors were really good in their parts, even the wee girl. I’m sure I’ll be rewatching the film a lot. If you haven’t seen it already, you can get a flavour of it here.

Interestingly, Annie Proulx was one of many authors who were featured in The Guardian Review on Saturday. They were asked to recommend books for summer reading. One of her choices is Eaarth by Bill McKibben.

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

I don’t know why it has taken me so long to get around to reading this book. I have seen the film and I really enjoyed it. I read The Wyoming Stories and liked those so when I saw The Shipping News at the library book sale the other week, I just had to buy it.

Am I glad! I really loved this book. It’s one of those ones that you don’t really want to come to an end. As the book was first published in 1993, everybody else has probably read it by now, and will know the storyline from the film anyway. But if you’ve only seen the film then I advise you to read the book.

The only thing that I didn’t like about it was the amount of fish that people seemed to eat in Newfoundland. I suppose it is inevitable that the diet would be heavy on fish, but COD CHEEKS, really – it made me feel quite sick at the thought. I’m really not keen on fish. The other thing was that Quoyle chucked a hair brooch which had washed up on the beach back into the sea. He was revolted by it. I have a collection of hair brooches!

I’m wondering if anyone can answer this question for me.

Chapter 14 is called Wavey. It begins:

In Wyoming they name girls Skye. In Newfoundland it’s Wavey.

I understand the Wavey bit of it. But why are girls in Wyoming called Skye?

Is it because the skies in Wyoming are really BIG and they just stick an ‘e’ on the end for some reason – or what?

In Scotland Skye has become quite a popular name for a girl but that is because parents, for some reason have decided that it is a good idea to name their daughter after the Isle of Skye.

When I was young people called their dogs Skye, especially if it was a West Highland terrier (Westie) – or ankle biter as they are known in our family.

Anyway, that’s me going way off at a tangent again.

As I said, I loved the book and the film. It’s definitely one for re-reading. Although Kevin Spacey looks nothing like the description of Quoyle in the book, I think he was really good in the part.

The Shipping News won The Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
The Irish Times International Prize and
The National Book Award.

Library Book Sale

There was another mad withdrawn library book sale at the Adam Smith Theatre today. Surely they will have to re-think the book buying policy soon. There are so many cuts going on in other council departments, especially education. Anyway, I shouldn’t really complain as I bought another 5 fiction books plus a pasta cookery book.

I’ve only read 2 of the books that I bought in last month’s sale though, so the TBR pile is growing at an alarming rate.

This month, I couldn’t say no to:

Not the End of the World – Kate Atkinson
The Shipping News – Annie Proulx
Life Class – Pat Barker
April Lady – Georgette Heyer
The Popular Girl – F. Scott Fitzgerald.

No doubt I’ll get around to reading them at some point. At the moment I’m reading Vanity Fair, it’s a very old copy from the second-hand book shop. Unfortunately I didn’t realise how long it is when I started it. It dawned on me as I was turning the pages that they are nearly bible thin and there are 883 pages of them.

I could be some time.

Short Stories

A lot of people don’t like reading short stories but I’ve always been quite keen on them. I find that they are good for bed-time reading and they can be handy if you are travelling. It’s also a fine way of getting reluctant readers started off, a thick book can be really daunting to some people.

If a story sticks in your mind for a good 30 years then I think it’s fair to say that it must be a success. That is what has happened to me with Somerset Maugham’s short story The Verger which you can read here. It is a very short read indeed but I think it says a lot about tolerance and also the snootiness that some so called ‘educated’ people can be prone to.

Another one which has stuck in my mind is The Alibi Machine by Larry Niven (see a description here) which I read over thirty years ago on my husband’s recommendation.

More recently I enjoyed Annie Proulx’s Wyoming Stories.

At the moment I’m tackling John Updike’s The Early Stories 1953 – 1975. It’s a fairly thick tome, as you can imagine and I’m finding it a bit unwieldy for reading in bed. It’s also far too big to drag around when you are travelling. I might find it easier to read out in the garden if we get some half decent days weather-wise this summer.