Book review – “Living on Paper” (ed. Avril Horner and Anne Rowe) #amreading

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jan-2017-tbrThis, like the last one, but for different reasons, is an intimidating book to review. Published in 2015, not only has it thus been reviewed fairly recently in the Serious Papers, but it and those reviews have been discussed by much greater and more academic minds than mine in the Iris Murdoch studies community. In addition, I know not only the two editors, but also those who keep the archive and who consulted on and even proofread the volume, to varying degrees. On top of all that, it’s also the letters of my much-loved favourite author; indeed, I once received a letter from her myself (not so surprising, given the volume  of her correspondence), alas lost decades ago in a house move. So I hope I do it justice, and I’m responding to the book here in a personal, not critical way (which does fit in with my use of Reception Theory in my research, right?!).

Avril Horner and Anne Rowe (eds.) “Living on Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch 1934-1995”

(Bought from Foyles, 2 July 2016)

Murdoch’s collected correspondence at last (or at least a small proportion of the huge amount that must be out there), boosted by the acquisition by the Archives at Kingston of several important runs of letters in recent years.

My main reaction to this was that she was so darn busy. She often writes to the same person on consecutive days, and these are big, meaty, handwritten letters. She does say she can’t act without speaking in one letter, and indeed she works out thoughts, feelings, reactions and relationships through the letters. On any one day she appears to be answering letters (for up to 4 hours per day, apparently), carrying on affairs, often simultaneously, being married, making, breaking and remaking friendships and relationships, doing philosophy and then writing – no wonder she and John Bayley let the housework slide a bit!

The other massive point this made to me was the difficulty of making arrangements in a pre-digital era. I remember this – of course I do – but it’s quite shocking to see the amount of time and energy that has to go into, for example, letting people know which address to write to; making silent phone calls to alert people that she needs to speak to them; sending stamped addressed postcards for people (mostly Canetti) to use to let her know if they can meet her (I really don’t like the way she debases herself in front of some people, primarily him, however much he inspired her to create her wonderful fictional monsters); and trying to recall the names of pubs, outside which she will be at 3.40 on 4 March, for instance. I couldn’t help wondering how many more novels we’d have had if she’d lived in the age of the Smartphone, although given her propensity for writing in longhand into the 90s, I wonder if she’d have taken to it. Surely, she’d have loved the intrigue of Facebook Messenger, though?

I was struck by how interwoven Iris and John were into her mother’s mental decline, and this was distressing, imagining how she might have felt as her own brain started to skip words and lose things. Indeed, the final letters show this – or discuss it – hard things to read but I felt just the right representative examples were included, and nothing too intrusive.

On a lighter note, although the novels are not much discussed, save the odd research trip to, for example, Lot’s Road Power Station to research the location of “Bruno’s Dream” and some discussion of points raised in people’s letters, her reading does come up quite a few times, and I was regularly entranced by finding favourites there. She reads Ada Leverson’s “The Little Ottleys” in 1966; I bought the first volume late last year and of course had to download the whole lot; she enjoys Sylvia Townsend Warner’s “Lolly Willowes” in 1967. She demonstrates a good working knowledge of Tolkien, mentioning his magic metal, mithril, and falls in love with Widmerpool from Anthony Powell’s “Dance to the Music of Time” in 1971. She discovers Trollope at the age of 54, a decade and a bit older than my discovery of him, but finding him more conducive to a good solid read than she did at a younger age. I smiled as she struggles through having to (re) read the whole of Virginia Woolf in a short space of time for a lecture, and was surprised to find her not discovering John Cowper Powys (who I knew somehow to be a favourite author) until 1984 – I have yet to explore him but really want to, as he apparently affected her later novels.

I was very pleased to find her in Iceland at one stage, although she does claim there aren’t any trees – maybe they’ve grown since then. But it’s always nice when your interests overlap. She even meets Halldor Laxness, “a very nice old bean”!

Of course it goes without saying that the introduction to the book, the introductions to the sections, the captions to the letters and the notes are impeccably done. The introductory pieces set the letters in their contexts and also discuss the novels in some detail, which is useful for the reader coming to this book from those. It’s an excellent read, the product of a busy but overwhelmingly warm, attentive and caring person, sometimes very cross indeed but always human and thoughtful.

 

Book reviews – Desperate Romantics and Estates (April reads)

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TBR April 2015Oh dear – I’ve got all behind and confused with my book reviews! These are the two books I read on holiday in early April, between the last two sets of reviews. I seem to have forgotten about them when I posted my poorly reading. And then I discovered I hadn’t written up the two reviews before that in my reading journal, either! Nightmare. So, I think I’m sorted out now, and you’re going to get a few reviews over the next week as I catch up on here.

What I did find on holiday was that if you have a friend join you for a few days in the middle of a holiday, you have wifi in the place you’re staying so you check social media all the time AND you only go on a couple of trips and with both of those the scenery is so amazing you don’t read on the coach, you don’t read much. I took my Kindle with me as well as these two books (one for each flight) and only read a bit of one book on the Kindle. I need to redress this situation next time we’re away!

Franny Moyle – “Desperate Romantics”

(02 January 2015, via BookCrossing)

A book about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and their art and women, apparently accompanying a TV series. Pretty well done, drawing links, keeping who was who clear and clearly written, using multiple sources to reflect on the bitter scandals and clarifying them. Decent notes and an index, and didn’t seem too full of conjecture, or when conjecturing was done, it was marked as such.

I think the book was originally written in the present tense and then changed to the past some time in the editing and revision process, because quite a few instances of “has” and “are” had managed to cling on, which made it a bit confusing at times. But it was nicely and competently done and interesting, with an Epilogue that tied up all the loose ends and good illustrations of the central characters and artworks.

Lyndsey Hanley – “Estates”

(30 November 2014, charity shop)

A book about English council estates, covering their history, treatment, policies and current state. The author grew up on a huge housing estate near Birmingham and talks about that time in detail and revisiting the estate to visit her parents and consciously explore it for the book, as well as the London estate where she lives now, actively struggling with policy-makers and the local authority.

Woe about sink estates and policies that work against community spirit, as well as about the shoddy construction and corner / budget cutting that degraded the original grand architectural plans and the lack of maintenance which is really damaging, is balanced by some positive stories about community action. A strong case is made against the ghettoization of the poor and disenfranchised and the way estates have worked to hide the poor from the eyes of the rich, and also against the way in which people growing up on estates are not encouraged to have any ambition or belief in themselves.

It was a little chaotic at times, sometimes confusing me as to the general principle or aim of the book, but it was a valuable and useful read.

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Those were read a month ago, but I’ll catch up quickly with what I’m up to now. I read two more non-fiction books at the end of my illness, then two sagas (a very dense book on Dolly Parton and my Forsyte for the month) and now I’m finally reading Trollope’s “Barchester Towers”, and am half-way through it and loving it, and have started reading Gillian Dooley’s excellent “A Tiny Corner in the House of Fiction”, which is a collection of interviews by various luminaries with Iris Murdoch. That one needs a set of post-it tabs to be kept close by in case of anything of relevance to my research, but I’m glad I seem to have regained the cognitive / intellectual capacity to manage the two current reads. More reviews to come …

 

Book reviews – The Bookshop Book and Youth and the Bright Medusa (plus Christmas comes early!)

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December To Be ReadWhat HAVE I been doing? It’s 16 December and this is the first book review I’ve posted this month? I’ve looked around and I really can’t find that I’ve missed out reviewing some huge book that I’ve read. Oh dear! And my TBR has burst (more on that later) so I’ve really got to find the time for MORE READING! I am reading a book on editing to review, so there’ll be a standalone review later on in the week, and I have also been writing up my Iris Murdoch research, which has gone out for comments to my lovely mentors and will be going off to my reading groups once I’ve made a few amendments – that took a couple of evenings. Anyway, here are two book reviews that are both related to booky events.

Jen Campbell – “The Bookshop Book”

(Borrowed from Ali)

This book was the Books Are My Bag book this month – you can read more about this and this book on Heaven-Ali’s blog and it was she who loaned me this lovely book to read (don’t worry: I’ve got her back with a lend of a little pile myself!).

This is a delightful wander though the bookshops of the world, celebrating the shops (whether selling new, second-hand or a mix of books), their owners, customer and pets, with interviews with writers about their favourite bookshops and pages of little snippets and facts. It’s really nicely done by someone who clearly has a huge love for bookshops, and some of the stories about pairing customers and books are very affecting.

It was great to see some bookshops that I know in the mix, and good to be reminded of the excellent second-hand bookshop in Reykjavik which I haven’t explored properly (yet). Bookshops do come and go, so it couldn’t be used as an actual guidebook for very long, but it’s a lovely book to dip into, with a gallimauphry of images and impressions of book shops and their owners.

We don’t have an independent bookshop in Birmingham, but I would mention the excellent arts bookshop in the Ikon Gallery. Other favourites of mine are Any Amount of Books on the Charing Cross Road, the Penrith Bookshop in the north of the Lake District, Fireside Books in Windermere (which is moving to East Sussex), Halls in Tunbridge Wells (which I think is still there) and the marvellous High Street Books in New Mills.

Willa Cather – “Youth and the Bright Medusa”

(Kindle book – downloaded in December)

7-14 December was Willa Cather Reading Week, and again inspired by Ali, I downloaded this book of short stories, reasoning that even if I only read one out of the collection, I’d still be taking part in the Reading Week (and read more about that here and the round-up here). I did actually manage to read the whole collection by the end of Sunday (but didn’t get round to writing this review).

I’ve read several of Cather’s  novels over the last decade and greatly enjoyed their construction and atmosphere, although these have tended to be her pioneer novels (with the exception of Alexander’s Bridge, which was partly set in London). Here’s a link to all of the reviews I’ve done so far – some early ones laughably wispy! These stories mostly address Cather’s other main strand of interest: the artist and their psychology, with “Coming, Aphrodite!”, the longest and first story, examining both a painter and a singer and their startlingly modern relationship. “The Diamond Mine” goes into the demands placed upon the goose that lays the golden egg, narrated by that marvellous type, the quiet sidekick who’s seemingly there for every event while not taking part in the action themselves. “A Gold Slipper” throws the artist up against the implacable but strangely erodable dislike of Industry. “Paul’s Case” takes a different direction and is a fascinating and hugely atmospheric piece about a boy whose only desire is to grab a bit of sophistication and luxury for himself; I really don’t know how Cather manages to foreshadow the rather grim ending so that it is entirely expected, but a shock all the same, but she does, and she does it well. “A Death in the Desert” is a superb exploration of identity, art, personality and family.

These are very good stories, old-fashioned in a good way (I’m one for a short story that tells a proper story) and reminiscent of Edith Wharton’s stories, or even Thomas Hardy’s. I love the way she describes people’s faces and clothes, and the unexpected details of a room in a shabby house or the birds in Washington Square. I have downloaded “The Song of the Lark”, which takes her heroine from the frontier town to a singing career, and will definitely get to that one soon.

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Dec 2014 2Christmas started this year with the BookCrossing Christmas party, with its attendant Not So Secret Santa parcels flying around the table. I was thrilled to open the parcels containing these four lovelies, all from my wish list (some wished for aaages ago), as well as a lovely ornament, some chocolate and a Lush Christmas Pud bath bomb. Lucky me! I’m in another two Secret Santas this year – my LibraryThing Virago Group one has arrived and I can tell there are two books in there but I’m not opening it until Christmas Day, and I’m thinking the Project 365 Photo-A-Day one (not yet arrived) might NOT contain books, although you never know (and I will admit to sending my Santee a book …) I also have a little pile of grey-wrapped, grey books which I bought for myself from other people on my trip to the Persephone Bookshop in November – so that’s my own fault, isn’t it. There are two Dorothy Whipples in there, so what’s the betting I promote one up my TBR pile and get into it between Christmas and New Year.

Dec 2014 3I’m currently reading this book on editing which was kindly sent to me by the publisher. I’m quoted in the book and appear in the index, which is quite exciting (but won’t influence my review, I promise). On reviews, I’ve sent off my piece on James Evans’ “Merchant Adventurers” to the folks at Shiny New Books and will point you to the review when it’s out in January.

Claire visitsOne more thing – I had a lovely afternoon with Claire from the LibraryThing Virago Group, up in Birmingham for a training day, on Sunday. We had two cuppas, looked round town and peered at the Library of Birmingham, and had a nice meal with Matthew at Woktastic. Here’s a photo for all those LibraryThingers who wanted to see one!

Have you received any book-shaped parcels yet? Are you getting any reading in among the tree decorating and card writing (if you celebrate Christmas) or are you planning a reading fest between Christmas and the New Year?

A book confession and a bit of excitement!

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December 2014 1Regular readers might recall me claiming not to be acquiring any new books during this season of Christmas, not so secret Santa schemes and upcoming birthday. Well, unfortunately, this appears to have happened … what am I talking about? It’s fortunate – it’s lovely!

First off, one I forgot to include in November as it got itself into a pile of handbags – my good friend known in this household as Editor Laura (to distinguish her from the other 1,000 Lauras I know) visited us at the weekend with her other half, and kindly gave me “Unbridled Spirits”, which is a book about women of the English Revolution and looks fascinating. Then I was in The Works yesterday, picking up bits and bobs, and I found a copy of “Mr Selfridge”, which patently Doesn’t Count because I did have a copy I’d picked up in a second-hand shop, but it was really manky with odd stains and I ended up … discarding it. I did want to read it, though, and now I can. And then a biography of Dolly Parton. I’m kind of assuming that none of my friends or secret santas will be buying me a book on Dolly Parton for Christmas. But I love her, I have done for years, and was reminded of this only the other day while watching a TV programme about Nashville. So, Dolly’s on the TBR shelf.

And the exciting thing? Well, only last Monday I was talking about how I was glad I didn’t “win” NaNoWriMo but I was going to carry on working on my Iris Murdoch research anyway. I had a free evening tonight and I sat down and FINISHED writing up an extended version of the presentation on book groups reading “The Bell” which I gave at the Iris Murdoch Society conference in September. It’s with my mentors now for a read-through, and with any luck it’ll be going out to my book group leaders and other interested parties before the end of the month. Hooray! And thank you to everyone who’s supported and encouraged me through that.

I also worked on my longer piece, which will look at both aspects of the research I have done and pull it all together with a bit of theory and discussion. Who knows *what* that is going to turn into, as it’s an awkward 18,000 words long at the moment, but this piece will feed into it and we’ll see what happens then. But I have Research Output, and it feels like a good milestone. Night night! (or good morning if you’re reading this tomorrow!)

State of the TBR, a book confession mystery and why I’m glad I “lost” NaNoWriMo

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December To Be ReadHello! It’s the first of December and time to report on the state of my TBR. I also have some book confessions, a MYSTERY and a note about NaNoWriMo, so we’ve got a lot to get through this month. Let’s get started …

Well, the TBR is not looking bad (confession – I added two books to the end of the shelf after I took this pic. BUT they slotted in the gap at the end, so it’s still only one shelf long.

Oct 2014 1Yes, that’s right – only one shelf long still. I’ve been carefully Not Buying Books because it’s Christmas (and Not So Secret) season – I’m in three Not So Secret Santa schemes this year, two booky, one not specifically booky, plus I have a lot of booky friends, so I’ve had to be good just in case duplicates ensued. See below for a slight slip off the non-buying wagon, but I have done OK with that on the whole. I did acquire one Persephone during November,  but I was in charge of the Big Persephone Trip this year, so I just made sure I didn’t buy it for myself from anyone!

Dec 2014 next to readI currently have “Merchant Adventurers” on the go – I’ve just got them sailing off in their three new ships to find the North-East Passage. I’m reading this for the Shiny New Books Newsletter, coming out in the new year, so I’ll point you towards the review when it’s out.

Coming up next, I’ve got a lovely book, “The Bookshop Book”, which my friend Ali has kindly loaned me – I suspect I’ll be buying copies for a few people in the near future. I loaned Ali “The Constant Nymph” for a Margaret Kennedy reading week but fancy re-reading it myself, so that might slot into this month or maybe my January of re-reading.

Book Confessions, including a Mystery

November 2014 3My friend Laura came to visit with her other half at the weekend. We’d promised them the delights of Kings Heath’s charity shops and had a good old rummage. I was mainly shopping for my two booky Not So Secret Santa gifts, but I couldn’t resist these two. I’m not sure anyone else is going to spring on Tony Benn’s diaries for me in the next couple of months – in fact we ran into the person who would be most likely to do that on the day, so I carefully showed it to her. And “Estates” is a book I have on my Kindle, so a weird buying of the print version of something I have electronically, but more importantly, it’s not on my wish list!

November 2014 2Now to the mystery. I found this copy of Iris Murdoch’s “Henry and Cato” in one charity shop. That pic is to show the spine colour, as there has been some confusion over whether it’s a first edition – one known first I’ve seen pictured has a yellow spine where mine is red, but I can’t see from their pic if it’s faded.

November 2014 2aThis one has the known first edition cover, and the back of the title page seems to suggest that it is one, so I’m going to put it on my small shelf of firsts. Oh, and also, in case anyone’s wondering, I’ve already popped back to the charity shop and give them an extra donation, because it’s worth more than I paid for it and that seems fair.

November 2014 2bBut here’s the mystery – on the title page, it has this round sticker that reads “Presented by Britain” with a crest.

It’s really hard to Google that, or the book title and presented by Britain. So I’m hoping a blog reader might know what this signifies! Do comment if you know or can point me to a resource.

On losing NaNoWriMo

So, finally, congratulations to my readers who wrote their 50,000 words in November and “won” NaNoWriMo. Hooray! I’m so pleased for you – it’s a big commitment and achievement. I started doing NaNoWriMo, convinced that I was going to write up my Iris Murdoch research. I’ve been working on this for years, first reporting at the Iris Murdoch Society Conference in 2012 on my scheme to read all of her novels with a group of friends, then getting 24 book groups to read “The Bell” and answer a questionnaire on various aspects including what they knew of Murdoch and whether they thought “The Bell” was a good book group read.

I was planning to write up A Book of some sort. I’d considered the possibility of registering for a PhD, but I know only too well what that entails, and it didn’t work with my life. I am used to writing and I’m OK with self-publishing, although I had had a very, very, very preliminary chat with a publisher about submitting a synopsis etc. I started off, put all of the text I had already in place, zeroed my word count and started adding words.

A few days in and it became patently, blindingly obvious that I do not have the ability to understand, synthesise and apply literary theory to my work. And to produce a work that’s academically relevant, I would need to. Oh dear. Tears ensued. Discussions ensued. Lovely people offered their kind help.

But when it comes down to it, this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to write up my research in a much shorter form (and yes, patient book group members, I will produce something by the end of the year (this year: 2014) reporting on my work with you). I’ll add the chronological read to the book group research, fill in the background, draw conclusions and include a tiny bit of theoretical background. It won’t be a PhD, it won’t be a full-length book, it won’t be publishable by a publishing house, but I’ll probably make it available electronically. My hard work will be recorded and I will have produced something, just not what I thought I was going to produce.

I’m glad I started NaNoWriMo because I found out what was going to happen to my research a lot sooner than I would have otherwise. So I’m glad I “lost” NaNoWriMo!

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Whew, a long post – did you make it to the end? Any thoughts on any of this will be eagerly read, and I hope you all have a lovely December reading time!

 

Book reviews – The International Bank of Bob and Moonlight Blogger plus more acquisitions

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Sept TBRTwo books that have been inspired by online things here, with “The International Bank of Bob” being based on the author’s experiences with Kiva, and “Moonlight Blogger” being based on a blog by someone who works for the Chicago Manual of Style. I read Bob in a lovely new hardback and “Moonlight Blogger” on my Kindle while on my trip to Kingston and London for the Iris Murdoch Society Conference. More on the Conference below, as I got a bit over-tempted by the book table and second-hand book table. Let’s just say that the TBR is NOT less than a shelf now. But it’s not doing too badly, and I managed to read three books I’ve had on my Kindle for ages – watch this space for the next two, coming soon …

Bob Harris – “The International Bank of Bob”

(22 January 2014, birthday present from Linda)

A great choice of present from Linda. Bob Harris, a freelance journalist, was on a jolly assignment to review luxury hotels around the world for a website, but started to find an uncomfortable distance between the pampered life of the guests he was mingling with and the often visible poverty and distress of the locals and immigrant workers. Casting around for something to do to redress this imbalance, he comes across Kiva, the microlending site which helps people to make loans to entrepreneurs who are trying to make it at often a very basic level (e.g. borrowing money to buy a cow – just a cow, not a herd). I’m a big fan of Kiva and have made enough loans that I get enough repayments most months to fund a new $25 loan – this guy committed the whole of his $20,000 journalism fee to the project, and then decided to go and visit some of the projects he’s funded.

Harris has already travelled extensively, and he treads lightly, also not mentioning to the individuals he meets that he is their funder, although the fund administrating organisations do know. He goes through some of the Kiva field workers’ training process and explains a lot about how the organisation works and has grown, as well as going into thoughtful detail about how people choose who to loan to, which is quite surprising sometimes. I’ll certainly pick more people who say they want to use their profit to put their children through school, as this is a good way to relieve family poverty and raise the quality of life of a whole family.

Everything is explained and expressed clearly, honestly and respectfully. Names are changed where they need to be, and photographs are careful and often beautiful. There’s even an update at the end about how some of the people he’s met are doing.

This book explained a lot of the details of Kiva to me, and was also amusing where it needed to be, definitely not a worthy book, although hugely worthwhile reading.

Carol Fisher Saller – “Moonlight Blogger”

(Kindle ebook)

Saller is the author of “The Subversive Copyeditor”, which I reviewed back in December 2012. She works at the Chicago Manual of Style, which produces THE text by which American copyeditors work (OK, one of them, but it’s the one I go by, along with the AP Stylebook for journalism). This is made up of posts from her blog (this doesn’t seem to have been updated that recently although it’s worth checking), and very clearly so, using the format and dividing longer posts into two – I think it might have been nice to have some editorial input into this so as to make it a bit more of a smooth reading experience, but it did give a nice flavour of everyday posts dealing with all sorts of things. Plus I know how hard and time-consuming it is to turn blog stuff into a book, and I’d rather this was out there educating and entertaining people!

It’s full of good stuff about questions people have, the problems raised by the English language not having as many strict rules as people think it should have, and mistakes that editors as well as writers make. I enjoyed the pieces on writing the new version of CMOS, was pleased to see a mention of my editor friend, Kathy O’Moore Klopf, and I picked up some very useful hints about colouring the text of particular things you search for to help the editing process. So there wasn’t enough of it, and it wasn’t as shaped as I would have liked, but it was still good, entertaining and inspiring reading.

The Iris Murdoch Conference – “Archives and Afterlife”

I’m not going to do a full conference report here, but this was a great conference, from dinner with a few IM chums on the Thursday night to a packed programme on the Friday with a double book launch AND a concert AND a dinner on the Friday, the excitement of presenting my paper and attending lots of fascinating talks including one from Brigid Brophy’s daughter, Kate Levey, about BB’s letters and relationship with IM, and Janet Stone’s son-in-law, Ian Beck, with some previously unseen photographs of Iris and John, time with bestie Em and her daughters on the Saturday night and a fabulous walk around Kensington with a select band of Murdoch-aholics, to a trip to the National Portrait Gallery with three of them … Phew. But it was great. There was both a new books stall with some offerings I didn’t yet have and a selection of books discarded by eminent professor and writer on IM, Peter Conradi, so I couldn’t resist coming home with this little lot (the Iser is actually on the bibliography for my own research!)

Iris Murdoch conference books

State of the TBR May 2014

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May 2014 whole TBRWell, here’s my TBR looming out of the gloom: it’s not that “good” in terms of numbers, is it, but it is full of great books. The trouble I’ve had this month is that I’ve been reading big, meaty tomes which have taken ages to get through – “33 Revolutions Per Minute”, John Major’s autobiography (still, as I write) and now the rather wonderful “Adam Bede” by George Eliot. I don’t seem to have got through many books during my week off, although there is one more review to add. Anyway, there’s the TBR, and the angle is obviously a little deceptive, because it looks like just one row of books, Two rows of books to readwhile of course it’s very much not just one row of books … I am almost up to books received for Christmas and birthday, although they do take up the equivalent of a shelf-worthington, so I’ll have to carve out some more reading time from SOMEWHERE as I’m itching to get on to these.

Books about IcelandBut of course I have designated May as my Month of Reading Books About Iceland, and so it must be, for we will be going to Iceland this summer when the ice has melted and the buses are running and we can see the places I’ve wanted to see since I was about 8 (well, I didn’t know about all of the sagas then, but you know what I mean). I have some super ones coming up and I’m sure I’ll be able to pick a few off the TBR to go in between, in the unlikely event that I get bored reading about Iceland (yeah, right).

Iris Murdoch booksNow to some LOVELIES. I’m not sure that these count as book confessions as such, because – gasp – I’m not going to read them! But I’ve fairly obviously read all of these a number of times before (“The Sacred and Profane Love Machine” being one of my early IM reads, as a teenager) and they are lovely First Editions. I picked them up on eBay after a tip-off from a fellow Iris Murdoch Society member, and Matthew ordered them for me from Bank of Matthew (Christmas and Birthday money fund) and they arrived today – very, very exciting. I now have four proper firsts, a third impression and a kind-of-first-as-it-was-the-first-publication-in-book-form. Whoo hoo (don’t go mugging me, now – IM is suffering from the dip in popularity that many authors experience a decade and a half or so after their death, so they’re not worth a huge amount monetarily – but a lot to me).

What are you up to with your reading? Any special themes for May?

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