Thursday 29 January 2009

Falling and Leaving

I've spent much of this week reading Fallen Women plays, from the 1890s - think Lady Windermere's Fan and The Second Mrs. Tanqueray, if those mean anything. In fact, they all seem to have a woman's name in the title. The Notorious Mrs. Ebbsmith by Arthur Wing Pinero; Mrs. Warren's Profession by George Bernard Shaw; Mrs. Dane's Defence by Henry Arthur Jones. I've been enjoying reading them, and not least the reviews - some of which splutter about the indecency of the plays and how they'd never take their daughters to see them, some use such charming phrases as 'squalid-souled, feverish-brained harlot'. (The picture is Mrs. Patrick Campbell, who made rather a name for herself in portraying fallen women all over the place).

All this for my drama paper, you realise, not a strange literary obsession.

Just to let you know that it could be a while before I write here again - from tomorrow I'm off on my church's student weekend. And next week I might not see the light of day... I have an extraordinary amount of work to do for my dissertation supervisor. Quite astonishing. Wish me luck!

Wednesday 28 January 2009

1000 Novels

Another one of those 1000 Novels You Must Read lists, which are always fun (though how many people read 1000 novels in their life? Your average person... probably not). I found this on Danielle's post, and I think it's different from the 1000 Books list I read at Christmas... It has the interesting distinction of being in categories of genre.

Well, I've read 84 (in bold). Which is pretty shameful, but not bad when you consider that almost no children's books are on there, and so I'm only covering the past (let's see) seven years? Have a go yourself.


Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
Money by Martin Amis
The Information by Martin Amis
The Bottle Factory Outing by Beryl Bainbridge
According to Queeney by Beryl Bainbridge
Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes
A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters by Julian Barnes
Augustus Carp, Esq. by Himself: Being the Autobiography of a Really Good Man by Henry Howarth Bashford
Molloy by Samuel Beckett
Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm
The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
Queen Lucia by EF Benson

The Ascent of Rum Doodle by WE Bowman
A Good Man in Africa by William Boyd
The History Man by Malcolm Bradbury
No Bed for Bacon by Caryl Brahms and SJ Simon
Illywhacker by Peter Carey
A Season in Sinji by JL Carr
The Harpole Report by JL Carr
The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington
Mister Johnson by Joyce Cary
The Horse's Mouth by Joyce Cary
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
The Case of the Gilded Fly by Edmund Crispin
Just William by Richmal Crompton
The Provincial Lady by EM Delafield

Slouching Towards Kalamazoo by Peter De Vries
The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens
Jacques the Fatalist and his Master by Denis Diderot
A Fairy Tale of New York by JP Donleavy
The Commitments by Roddy Doyle
Ennui by Maria Edgeworth
Cheese by Willem Elsschot
Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding
Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
Caprice by Ronald Firbank
Bouvard et Pécuchet by Gustave Flaubert
Towards the End of the Morning by Michael Frayn
The Polygots by William Gerhardie
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Brewster's Millions by Richard Greaves (George Barr McCutcheon)
Squire Haggard's Journal by Michael Green
Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene
Travels with My Aunt by Graham Greene
Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith
The Little World of Don Camillo by Giovanni Guareschi
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House by Eric Hodgkins
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
I Served the King of England by Bohumil Hrabal
The Lecturer's Tale by James Hynes
Mr Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood
The Mighty Walzer Howard by Jacobson
Pictures from an Institution by Randall Jarrell
Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome
Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
The Castle by Franz Kafka
Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor
Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov
The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester
L'Histoire de Gil Blas de Santillane (Gil Blas) Alain-René Lesage
Changing Places by David Lodge
Nice Work by David Lodge
The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay
England, Their England by AG Macdonell
Whisky Galore by Compton Mackenzie
Memoirs of a Gnostic Dwarf by David Madsen
Cakes and Ale - Or, the Skeleton in the Cupboard by W Somerset Maugham
Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney
Puckoon by Spike Milligan
The Restraint of Beasts by Magnus Mills
Charade by John Mortimer
Titmuss Regained by John Mortimer
Under the Net by Iris Murdoch
Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
Fireflies by Shiva Naipaul
The Sacred Book of the Werewolf by Victor Pelevin
La Disparition by Georges Perec
Les Revenentes by Georges Perec
La Vie Mode d'Emploi by Georges Perec
My Search for Warren Harding by Robert Plunkett
A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell
A Time to be Born by Dawn Powell
Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
Less Than Angels by Barbara Pym
Zazie in the Metro by Raymond Queneau
Solomon Gursky Was Here by Mordecai Richler
Alms for Oblivion by Simon Raven
Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth
The Westminster Alice by Saki
The Unbearable Bassington by Saki
Hurrah for St Trinian's by Ronald Searle
Great Apes by Will Self
Porterhouse Blue by Tom Sharpe
Blott on the Landscape by Tom Sharpe
Office Politics by Wilfrid Sheed
Belles Lettres Papers: A Novel by Charles Simmons
Moo by Jane Smiley
Topper Takes a Trip by Thorne Smith
The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom by Tobias Smollett
The Adventures of Roderick Random by Tobias Smollett
The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle by Tobias Smollett
The Expedition of Humphry Clinker by Tobias Smollett
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark
The Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark
Loitering with Intent by Muriel Spark
A Far Cry from Kensington by Muriel Spark
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne
White Man Falling by Mike Stocks
Handley Cross by RS Surtees
A Tale of a Tub by Jonathan Swift
Penrod by Booth Tarkington
The Luck of Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thackeray
Before Lunch by Angela Thirkell
Tropic of Ruislip by Leslie Thomas
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
Venus on the Half-Shell by Kilgore Trout
The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain
The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike
Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh
Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh
Black Mischief by Evelyn Waugh
Scoop by Evelyn Waugh
The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon
Tono Bungay by HG Wells
Molesworth by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle
The Wimbledon Poisoner by Nigel Williams
Anglo-Saxon Attitudes by Angus Wilson
Something Fresh by PG Wodehouse
Piccadilly Jim by PG Wodehouse
Thank You Jeeves by PG Wodehouse
Heavy Weather by PG Wodehouse
The Code of the Woosters by PG Wodehouse
Joy in the Morning by PG Wodehouse


The Man with the Golden Arm by Nelson Algren
Fantomas by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre
The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler
Epitaph for a Spy by Eric Ambler
Journey into Fear by Eric Ambler
The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
Trent's Last Case by EC Bentley
The Poisoned Chocolates Case by Anthony Berkeley
The Beast Must Die by Nicholas Blake
Lady Audley's Secret by Mary E Braddon
The Neon Rain by James Lee Burke
The Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke
The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
Greenmantle by John Buchan
The Asphalt Jungle by WR Burnett
The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M Cain
Double Indemnity by James M Cain
True History of the Ned Kelly Gang by Peter Carey
The Hollow Man by John Dickson Carr
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
No Orchids for Miss Blandish by James Hadley Chase
The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon
The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad
Under Western Eyes by Joseph Conrad
Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell
The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Poetic Justice by Amanda Cross
The Ipcress File by Len Deighton
Last Seen Wearing by Colin Dexter
The Remorseful Day by Colin Dexter
Ratking by Michael Dibdin
Dead Lagoon by Michael Dibdin
Dirty Tricks by Michael Dibdin
A Rich Full Death by Michael Dibdin
Vendetta by Michael Dibdin
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
The Pledge by Friedrich Durrenmatt
The Crime of Father Amado by José Maria de Eça de Queiroz
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
LA Confidential by James Ellroy
The Big Nowhere by James Ellroy
A Quiet Belief in Angels by RJ Ellory
Sanctuary by William Faulkner
Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
Goldfinger by Ian Fleming
You Only Live Twice by Ian Fleming
The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
A Gun for Sale by Graham Greene
The Ministry of Fear by Graham Greene
The Third Man by Graham Greene
A Time to Kill by John Grisham
The King of Torts by John Grisham
Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton
The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett
The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
Fatherland by Robert Harris
Black Sunday by Thomas Harris
Red Dragon by Thomas Harris
Tourist Season by Carl Hiaasen
The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V Higgins
Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Bones and Silence by Reginald Hill
A Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes
Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow by Peter Hoeg
Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household
Malice Aforethought by Francis Iles
Silence of the Grave by Arnadur Indridason
Death at the President's Lodging by Michael Innes
Cover Her Face by PD James
A Taste for Death by PD James
Friday the Rabbi Slept Late by Harry Kemelman
Misery by Stephen King
Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King
Kim by Rudyard Kipling
The Constant Gardener by John le Carre
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carre
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
52 Pick-up by Elmore Leonard
Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard
Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum
Cop Hater by Ed McBain
No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
Enduring Love by Ian McEwan
Sidetracked by Henning Mankell
Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
The Great Impersonation by E Phillips Oppenheim
The Strange Borders of Palace Crescent by E Phillips Oppenheim
My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
Toxic Shock by Sara Paretsky
Blacklist by Sara Paretsky
Nineteen Seventy Four by David Peace
Nineteen Seventy Seven by David Peace
The Big Blowdown by George Pelecanos
Hard Revolution by George Pelecanos
Lush Life by Richard Price
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
V by Thomas Pynchon
The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
Black and Blue by Ian Rankin
The Hanging Gardens by Ian Rankin
Exit Music by Ian Rankin
Judgment in Stone by Ruth Rendell
Live Flesh by Ruth Rendell
Dissolution by CJ Sansom
Whose Body? by Dorothy L Sayers
Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Le Sayers
The Madman of Bergerac by Georges Simenon
The Blue Room by Georges Simenon
The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo
Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
The League of Frightened Men by Rex Stout
Perfume by Patrick Suskind
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
The Getaway by Jim Thompson
Pudd'nhead Wilson by Mark Twain
A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine
A Fatal inversion by Barbara Vine
King Solomon's Carpet by Barbara Vine
The Four Just Men by Edgar Wallace
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Native Son by Richard Wright
Therese Raquin by Emile Zola

Family and Self

The Face of Another by Kobo Abe
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
Epileptic by David B
Room Temperature by Nicholson Baker
Eugenie Grandet by Honore de Balzac
Le Pere Goriot by Honore de Balzac
The Crow Road by Iain Banks
The L Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Malone Dies by Samuel Beckett
A Legacy by Sybille Bedford
Herzog by Saul Bellow
Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow
The Old Wives' Tale by Arnold Bennett
G by John Berger
Extinction by Thomas Bernhard
Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles
Any Human Heart by William Boyd
The Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch
Evelina by Fanny Burney
The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler
The Sound of my Voice by Ron Butlin
The Outsider by Albert Camus
Wise Children by Angela Carter
The Professor's House by Willa Cather
The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Les Enfants Terrible by Jean Cocteau
The Vagabond by Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette
Manservant and Maidservant by Ivy Compton-Burnett
Being Dead by Jim Crace
Quarantine by Jim Crace
The Mandarins by Simone de Beauvoir
Roxana by Daniel Defoe
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
My New York Diary by Julie Doucet
The Millstone by Margaret Drabble
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
Silence by Shusaku Endo
The Gathering by Anne Enright
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
The Sportswriter by Richard Ford
Howards End by EM Forster
Spies by Michael Frayn
Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud
The Man of Property by John Galsworthy
Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
The Immoralist by Andre Gide
The Vatican Cellars by Andre Gide
The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
Hunger by Knut Hamsun
The Shrimp and the Anemone by LP Hartley
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse
Narziss and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse
The Three Paradoxes by Paul Hornschemeier
Tom Brown's Schooldays by Thomas Hughes
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
The Ambassadors by Henry James
Washington Square by Henry James
The Tortoise and the Hare by Elizabeth Jenkins
The Unfortunates by BS Johnson
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
Ulysses by James Joyce
Good Behaviour by Molly Keane
Memet my Hawk by Yasar Kemal
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi
Sons and Lovers by DH Lawrence
Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee
Invitation to the Waltz by Rosamond Lehmann
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
How Green was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
Martin Eden by Jack London
Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers
Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz
The Assistant by Bernard Malamud
Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann
The Chateau by William Maxwell
The Rector's Daughter by FM Mayor
The Ordeal of Richard Feverek by George Meredith
Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry
Sour Sweet by Timothy Mo
The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Who Do You Think You Are? by Alice Munro
The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch
The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil
A House for Mr Biswas by VS Naipaul
At-Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien
Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness by Kezaburo Oe
The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
The Good Companions by JB Priestley
The Shipping News by E Annie Proulx
Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust
A Married Man by Piers Paul Read
Pointed Roofs by Dorothy Richardson
The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney by Henry Handel Richardson
Call it Sleep by Henry Roth
Julie, ou la Nouvelle Heloise by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
Alberta and Jacob by Cora Sandel
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
Unless by Carol Shields
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
The Three Sisters by May Sinclair
The Family Moskat or The Manor or The Estate by Isaac Bashevis Singer
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
On Beauty by Zadie Smith
The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield
Confessions of Zeno by Italo Svevo
The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington
Angel by Elizabeth Taylor
Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson
The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Toibin
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend
Death in Summer by William Trevor
Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev
Peace in War by Miguel de Unamuno
The Rabbit Omnibus by John Updike
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Jimmy Corrigan, The Smarest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware
Morvern Callar by Alan Warner
The History of Mr Polly by HG Wells
The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West
Frost in May by Antonia White
The Tree of Man by Patrick White
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
I'll Go to Bed at Noon by Gerard Woodward
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss


Le Grand Meaulnes by Henri Alain-Fournier
Dom Casmurro Joaquim by Maria Machado de Assis
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Emma by Jane Austen
Persuasion by Jane Austen

Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
Nightwood by Djuna Barnes
The Garden of the Finzi-Cortinis by Giorgio Bassani
Love for Lydia by HE Bates
More Die of Heartbreak by Saul Bellow
Lorna Doone by RD Blackmore
The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen
The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Vilette by Charlotte Bronte
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Look At Me by Anita Brookner
Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
Possession by AS Byatt
Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey
A Month in the Country by JL Carr
My Antonia by Willa Cather
A Lost Lady by Willa Cather
Claudine a l'ecole by Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette
Cheri by Sidonie-Gabrielle Collette
Victory: An Island Tale by Joseph Conrad
The Princess of Cleves by Madame de Lafayette
The Parasites by Daphne du Maurier
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
The Lover by Marguerite Duras
Adam Bede by George Eliot
Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald
The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
A Room with a View by EM Forster
The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico
Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell
Strait is the Gate by Andre Gide
Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon
The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang Goethe
Living by Henry Green
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall
Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy
The Go-Between by LP Hartley
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
The Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer
Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer
The Swimming-Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst
Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest by WH Hudson
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek
Beauty and Saddness by Yasunari Kawabata
The Far Pavillions by Mary Margaret Kaye
Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis
Moon over Africa by Pamela Kent
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre-Ambroise-Francois Choderlos de Laclos
Lady Chatterley's Lover by DH Lawrence
The Rainbow by DH Lawrence

Women in Love by DH Lawrence
The Echoing Grove by Rosamond Lehmann
The Weather in the Streets by Rosamond Lehmann
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos
Zami by Audre Lorde
Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie
Samarkand by Amin Maalouf
Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
The Silent Duchess by Dacia Maraini
A Heart So White by Javier Marias
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham
So Long, See you Tomorrow by William Maxwell
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
Atonement by Ian McEwan
The Child in Time by Ian McEwan
The Egoist by George Meredith
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
Arturo's Island by Elsa Morante
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Lolita, or the Confessions of a White Widowed Male by Vladimir Nabokov
The Painter of Signs by RK Narayan
Delta of Venus by Anais Nin
All Souls Day by Cees Nooteboom
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Manon Lescaut by Abbe Prevost
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
Maurice Guest by Henry Handel Richardson
Pamela by Samuel Richardson
Clarissa by Samuel Richardson
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan
Ali and Nino by Kurban Said
Light Years by James Salter
A Sport and a Passtime by James Salter
The Reader by Benhardq Schlink
The Reluctant Orphan by Aara Seale
Love Story by Eric Segal
Enemies, a Love Story by Isaac Bashevis Singer
At Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif
Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
Waterland by Graham Swift
Diary of a Mad Old Man by Junichiro Tanizaki
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Music and Silence by Rose Tremain
First Love by Ivan Turgenev
Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler
The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
The Graduate by Charles Webb
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
The Passion by Jeanette Winterson
East Lynne by Ellen Wood
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Non-Stop by Brian W Aldiss
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
In the Country of Last Things by Paul Auster
The Drowned World by JG Ballard
Crash by JG Ballard
Millennium People by JG Ballard
The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
Consider Phlebas by Iain M Banks
Weaveworld by Clive Barker
Darkmans by Nicola Barker
The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter
Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear
Vathek by William Beckford
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Lost Souls by Poppy Z Brite
Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown
Rogue Moon by Algis Budrys
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
The Coming Race by EGEL Bulwer-Lytton
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The End of the World News by Anthony Burgess
A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
Kindred by Octavia Butler
Erewhon by Samuel Butler
The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino
The Influence by Ramsey Campbell
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter
The Passion of New Eve by Angela Carter
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
The Man who was Thursday by GK Chesterton
Childhood's End by Arthur C Clarke
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Hello Summer, Goodbye by Michael G Coney
Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland
House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski
Pig Tales by Marie Darrieussecq
The Einstein Intersection by Samuel R Delaney
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick
Camp Concentration by Thomas M Disch
Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco
Under the Skin by Michel Faber
The Magus by John Fowles
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Red Shift by Alan Garner
Neuromancer by William Gibson
Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
Light by M John Harrison
The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A Heinlein
Dune by Frank L Herbert
The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse
Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg
Atomised by Michel Houellebecq
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
The Children of Men by PD James
After London; or, Wild England by Richard Jefferies
Bold as Love by Gwyneth Jones
The Trial by Franz Kafka
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
The Shining by Stephen King
The Victorian Chaise-longue by Marghanita Laski
Uncle Silas by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
The Earthsea Series by Ursula Le Guin
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
Solaris by Stanislaw Lem
Memoirs of a Survivor by Doris Lessing
The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis

The Monk by Matthew Lewis
A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay
The Night Sessions by Ken Macleod
Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel
Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Maturin
The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Ascent by Jed Mercurio
The Scar by China Mieville
Ingenious Pain by Andrew Miller
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M Miller Jr
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Mother London by Michael Moorcock
News from Nowhere by William Morris
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
Ada or Ardor by Vladimir Nabokov
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Ringworld by Larry Niven
Vurt by Jeff Noon
The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien
The Famished Road by Ben Okri
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
Nightmare Abbey by Thomas Love Peacock
Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake
The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl and CM Kornbluth
A Glastonbury Romance by John Cowper Powys
The Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett
The Prestige by Christopher Priest
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
Gargantua and Pantagruel by Francois Rabelais
The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds
The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling
Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
The Female Man by Joanna Russ
Air by Geoff Ryman
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Blindness by Jose Saramago
How the Dead Live by Will Self
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Hyperion by Dan Simmons
Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Insult by Rupert Thomson
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain
Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
Institute Benjamenta by Robert Walser
Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner
Affinity by Sarah Waters
The Time Machine by HG Wells
The War of the Worlds by HG Wells
The Sword in the Stone by TH White
The Old Men at the Zoo by Angus Wilson
The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

State of the Nation

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Anthills of the Savannah by Chinua Achebe
London Fields by Martin Amis
Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand
Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
La Comedie Humaine by Honore de Balzac
They Were Counted by Miklos Banffy
A Kind of Loving by Stan Barstow
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Oroonoko, or The Royal Slave by Aphra Behn
Clayhanger by Arnold Bennett
The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen
Room at the Top by John Braine
A Dry White Season by Andre Brink
Shirley by Charlotte Bronte
Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess
The Virgin in the Garden by AS Byatt
Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell
The Plague by Albert Camus
The Kingdom of this World by Alejo Carpentier
What a Carve Up! by Jonathan Coe
Disgrace by JM Coetzee
Waiting for the Barbarians by JM Coeztee
Microserfs by Douglas Coupland
Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
Underworld by Don DeLillo
White Noise by Don DeLillo
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Bleak House by Charles Dickens
Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens
Hard Times by Charles Dickens
Little Dorritt by Charles Dickens
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion
Sybil or The Two Nations by Benjamin Disraeli
Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin
The Book of Daniel by EL Doctorow
Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
USA by John Dos Passos
Sister Carrie by Theodor Dreiser
Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Silas Marner by George Eliot
The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert
Effi Briest by Theodore Fontane
Independence Day by Richard Ford
A Passage to India by EM Forster
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
The Recognitions by William Gaddis
Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
The Counterfeiters by Andre Gide
The Odd Women by George Gissing
New Grub Street by George Gissing
July's People by Nadine Gordimer
Mother by Maxim Gorky
Lanark by Alastair Gray
Love on the Dole by Walter Greenwood
The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines
The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
South Riding by Winifred Holtby
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood
Chronicle in Stone by Ismael Kadare
How Late it Was, How Late by James Kelman
The Leopard by Giuseppi di Lampedusa
A Girl in Winter by Philip Larkin
Passing by Nella Larsen
The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing
Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis
Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes
The Group by Mary McCarthy
Amongst Women by John McGahern
The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis
Of Love & Hunger by Julian Maclaren-Ross
Remembering Babylon by David Malouf
The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni
Bel-Ami by Guy de Maupassant
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
The Time of Indifference by Alberto Moravia
A Bend in the River by VS Naipaul
McTeague by Frank Norris
Personality by Andrew O'Hagan
Animal Farm by George Orwell
The Ragazzi Pier by Paolo Pasolini
Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
The Moon and the Bonfire by Cesare Pavese
GB84 by David Peace
Headlong Hall by Thomas Love Peacock
Afternoon Men by Anthony Powell
Vineland by Thomas Pynchon
The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth
American Pastoral by Philip Roth
The Human Stain by Philip Roth
Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
Shame by Salman Rushdie
To Each his Own by Leonardo Sciascia
Staying On by Paul Scott
Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr
The Lonely Londoners by Samuel Selvon
God's Bit of Wood by Ousmane Sembene
The Case of Comrade Tulayev by Victor Serge
Richshaw Boy by Lao She
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Novel on Yellow Paper by Stevie Smith
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovtich by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Red and the Black by Stendhal
This Sporting Life by David Storey
The Red Room by August Stringberg
The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell
The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope
The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Couples by John Updike
Z by Vassilis Vassilikos
Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse
Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West
The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
Germinal by Emile Zola
La Bete Humaine by Emile Zola

War and Travel

Silver Stallion by Junghyo Ahn
Death of a Hero by Richard Aldington
Master Georgie by Beryl Bainbridge
Darkness Falls from the Air by Nigel Balchin
Empire of the Sun by JG Ballard
Regeneration by Pat Barker
A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry
Fair Stood the Wind for France by HE Bates
Carrie's War by Nina Bawden
The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano
The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles
An Ice-Cream War by William Boyd
When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
Auto-da-Fe by Elias Canetti
One of Ours by Willa Cather
Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Celine
Monkey by Wu Ch'eng-en
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
Nostromo by Joseph Conrad
Sharpe's Eagle by Bernard Cornwell
The History of Pompey the Little by Francis Coventry
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
Bomber by Len Deighton
Deliverance by James Dickey
Three Soldiers by John Dos Passos
South Wind by Norman Douglas
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Justine by Lawrence Durrell
The Bamboo Bed by William Eastlake
The Siege of Krishnapur by JG Farrell
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
The African Queen by CS Forester
The Ship by CS Forester
Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
The Beach by Alex Garland
To The Ends of the Earth trilogy by William Golding
Asterix the Gaul by Rene Goscinny
The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass
Count Belisarius by Robert Graves
Life and Fate by Vassily Grossman
De Niro's Game by Rawi Hage
King Solomon's Mines by H Rider Haggard
She: A History of Adventure by H Rider Haggard
The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton
Covenant with Death by John Harris
Enigma by Robert Harris
The Good Soldier Svejk by Jaroslav Hasek
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes
Rasselas by Samuel Johnson
From Here to Eternity by James Jones
Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor
Confederates by Thomas Keneally
Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally
Day by AL Kennedy
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler
The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski
If Not Now, When? by Primo Levi
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
The Guns of Navarone by Alistair MacLean
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
The Mark of Zorro by Johnston McCulley
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty
The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
La Condition Humaine by Andre Malraux
Fortunes of War by Olivia Manning
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Children of the New Forest by Frederick Marryat
Moby-Dick or, The Whale by Herman Melville
Tales of the South Pacific by James Michener
The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat
History by Elsa Morante
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh
Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
Burmese Days by George Orwell
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
The Valley of Bones by Anthony Powell
The Soldier's Art by Anthony Powell
The Military Philosophers by Anthony Powell
Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen by Rudolp Erich Raspe
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
The Crab with the Golden Claws by Georges Remi Herge
Tintin in Tibet by Georges Remi Herge
The Castafiore Emerald by Georges Remi Herge
The Devil to Pay in the Backlands by Joao Guimaraes Rosa
Sacaramouche by Rafael Sabatini
Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathon Safran Foer
The Hunters by James Salter
Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
The Rings of Saturn by WG Sebald
Austerlitz by WG Sebald
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw
A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
Maus by Art Spiegelman
The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal
Cryptonomicon by Neil Stephenson
A Sentimental Journey by Lawrence Sterne
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
A Flag for Sunrise by Robert Stone
Sophie's Choice by William Styron
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
A Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne
Williwaw by Gore Vidal
Candide by Voltaire
Slaughter-House Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Put Out More Flags by Evelyn Waugh
Men at Arms by Evelyn Waugh
The Island of Dr Moreau by HG Wells
The Machine-Gunners by Robert Westall
Voss by Patrick White
The Virginian by Owen Wister
The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk
The Debacle by Emile Zola

Monday 26 January 2009

Flags and Herbs

Two things, utterly unrelated.

First, I love coriander. Apparently this is called something else in the US (quick research: cilantro). I've always known I liked carrot and coriander soup, but assumed it was the carrot... now I've discovered it was the other ingredient, I've been putting it with absolutely everything except my breakfast cereal. Yet to find anything it doesn't go with...

Secondly, and more relevantly to this blog, I bought Put Out More Flags by Evelyn Waugh. I haven't read any Waugh, but saw this mentioned recently - perhaps in Cyril Connolly's Enemies of Promise - and loved the title so much that I had to get the first cheap copy I could find. It's set in the Second World War, and I don't actually know what it's about other than that, but I love the idea that the title is a catch-all solution to war efforts - if in doubt, put out more flags. I can imagine W.I.s and Church Fayres putting this into practice throughout the land.

(My copy is actually a Book Club ed. from 1943, the year after publication. I've borrowed this picture from this blog.)

Sunday 25 January 2009

Virago Collage

I have just downloaded Picasa 3, and it's AMAZING. Not often that computer technology gets me excited, but this one has provided all sorts of exciting collagey options for my photos in the future. Look forward to it...

But for today, I am presenting a visual eulogy to the Virago Green Covers. I'm not the first - see Elaine's post here, and Ruth's here - but I don't think it can be overstated. Their Modern Classics covers not only brought many great books back into the market, but also created a design classic of pu
blishing only matched by Penguin's orange three-stripe covers. I doubt any dissenting voice will come forward, so just join in praise of their covers. Or choose a favourite from below, if they can be seen (you may have to click to enlarge). I think mine is Elizabeth Taylor's A Game of Hide and Seek - for the cover, I mean. I've not actually read it yet...

and a few of my favourites...

Friday 23 January 2009

The Book Thief

Thanks for all your feedback on covers yesterday - I find this sort of thing really interesting, the thought and research which must go into cover design.

Onto the contents. I had to read The Book Thief very quickly, for my book group, but I hope that didn't affec
t my enjoyment of it too much. Enjoyment perhaps a strange word for a book about Nazi Germany narrated by death (I'm going to assume everyone is familiar with the plot, as I seem to be the last person in the world to read the book, but if not then the Wikipedia article gives a brief summary).

There were lots of interesting ideas in the novel - the perspective of Death; the (adoptive) family dynamics in times of great stress; how the public could accept atrocities and how they covertly battled against them. These could all form a blog post, especially Death as a character (which I thought had moments of being very moving, as when he said he always carried the dead children up in his arms) but my favourite thing about The Book Thief was the role of books. It's evident from the title that books are significant - throughout the novel she steals six books, I think. Just over one for every hundred pages. They form the centre of her world - she learns to read with The Gravedigger's Handbook and this sets the tone for the fairly arbitrary nature of her spoils - but her understanding of their importance is something we can all adhere to, I'm sure.

More than anything, I love her response to seeing the mayor's wife's room full of books. Having only held a few in her life, she suddenly sees shelves and shelves of them:

[...]She said it out loud, the words distributed into a room that was full of cold air and books. Books everywhere! Each wall was armed with overcrowded yet immaculate shelving. It was barely possible to see the paintwork. There were all different styles and sizes of lettering on the spines of the black, the red, the grey, the every-coloured books. It was one of the most beautiful thins Liesel Meminger had ever seen.

With wonder, she smiled.

That such a room existed!

Even when she tried to wipe the smile away with her forearm, she realised instantly that it was a pointless exercise[...]

Markus Zusak (as well as being the first author beginning with 'Z' whom I'm read) is a talented story-teller, and The Book Thief is an impressive novel. I didn't love it abundantly, perhaps because some of the themes weren't fully realised and a little too much time was spent on the establishing of relationships between Liesel and her friends and family for my liking - but these qualms aside, I did like the novel very much. Anything this affectionate about books can't be bad.

Thursday 22 January 2009

Time and Thievery

Too tired to write it tonight, but just a heads up on the fact that tomorrow I'll be talking about Markus Zusak's The Book Thief. I did a quick Google image search, and discovered quite an astonishing variety of covers which the book has had. Before I start chatting about what I thought of the contents, let's look at some covers? The bottom left one is the one on my copy, but I love the dominoes edition. Which strikes you most?

book thief

Wednesday 21 January 2009

Book Groups

Whilst I'm asking questions (get ready for a few links) Karen at Cornflower recently posted this entry about Jenny Hartley's excellent Reading Groups (which I wrote about here), and she also linked to this article about the potential terror of book groups.

Phew. Links over, promise.

I'm in two face-to-face, or terrestrial, book groups and one online book group - I love 'em. I asked people back in August 2007 whether or not they had joined, and what they thought of them, but time to ask the question again! But this post was mostly to flag up a)the interesting article (personally I'm delighted not to be in a book group with the woman desperate to discuss politics), and b)remind everyone what a great book Reading Groups is, and how they should go and get a copy now.

Tuesday 20 January 2009

Juggling Books

I'm enjoying hearing all about people's rationales behind their reading choices, especially since so many have the opposite to me. Do keep commenting. This post is to open up the question - Evie asked whether we read one book at a time, or many? This was a Booking Through Thursday question which I did on Stuck-in-a-Book, but looking at it the post was in August 2007 (can't believe it was so long ago!) and a lot of people have started reading the blog since then, so thanks Evie, I'll ask it again!

One book? Lots of books but from different genres? Hundreds at once?
Back in August 2007 I said I could only read one novel at a time, but I have changed my mind - usually a few on the go, as well as a volume or two of le
tters, a Christian book, something else to dip into... at the moment I am reading:
Straw Without Bricks: I Visit Soviet Russia - EM Delafield
Harriet Hume: A London Fantasy - Rebecca We
Love Letters: Letters of Leonard Woolf and Trekkie Ritchie Parsons
Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford
You Can Change: Tim Chester

Yes, that's right... I finished The Book Thief last night. More on't soon.

Now for my answer to The Long or Short of It. Like lots of us, I'll read some long books and some short books, but I am always, always drawn to short books. Chris' comment amused me - saying her/his books tends to fall in between short and long, at around 450 pages - I quote Julie's comment, "anything over 400 pages makes me feel nervours" ! In fact, for me, anything over 300 pages. Thinking about it - and in some ways this is hideously superficial, but there we are - my ideal book length is about 225 pages.

Why? Partly because I like to make lists of my books, and I like them to be long... In a more literary manner, I admire authors immensely who can write something powerful in a short medium, where I remember all the characters and bring something extraordinary out of a book in a matter of 200 or so pages. Long novels weary me, unless they're very, very good.

Sunday 18 January 2009

The Long and Short of It

Inspiration fails me once more, and I have 400 pages of The Book Thief to read before Tuesday, so I shall put forward another brief poll. Maybe I should make a post which collects these together... so far we've discovered that Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens are neck-and-neck; everybody except me would choose music over art; Jane Eyre pips Wuthering Heights to the post. Something a little less specific today:

Long books or short books?

Obviously we all read some of each, but which draws you in? An enormous novel you can lose yourself in for weeks, or a novella you can get through in an afternoon? Gigantic biographies or Very Brief Lives? Perhaps you don't have any preference at all, but most people I've spoken to lean one way or the author. Get voting...

Friday 16 January 2009


Following on from my recent post on the new Winnie the Pooh, I had a couple of other things to mention. Firstly, thanks very much to the two people who pointed me in the direction of this Radio 4 programme (accessible UK readers only, I'm afraid) about Winnie the Pooh in Russian (Vinni Pukh, apparently) - its popularity and the changes they made. I haven't listened to it yet, but what a fascinating idea. I'm going to be big and ignore the fact that the blurb says EE Shepherd instead of EH Shepard...

The other item related to the world of Winnie is no.25 on my 50 Books You Must Read But May Not Have Heard About. That's right, we're half way. Let's go into big font for that, actually.

25. The Enchanted Places
by Christopher Milne

Well, I say The Enchanted Places but I'd actually like to put forward three titles, Christopher Milne's autobiographical trilogy. The Enchanted Pl
aces is the first one, and the most widely available; the second is The Path Through The Trees and the third is The Hollow on the Hill. They all have rather different characters, but should all be read...

Christopher Milne, to start at the beginning, is Christopher Robin, AA Milne's son and the only human allowed into the Hundred Acre Wood. The Enchanted Places is mostly cen
tred around the Pooh books and characters, and what it was like to grow up as the child millions of children wished and pretended to be. At the same time it is a memoir of his father, honest but affectionate - and, a brief snapshot of what Christopher Robin grew up to be. To quote the introduction, 'I am making a double appearance, first as the boy I am describing and secondly as the adult through whose eyes I am seeing him'.

There's a danger that, to the cynical heart, this all sounds mawkish and sentimental, but those are two words I should never apply to Christopher Milne. He writes about meeting journalists, being the s
tar at a pageant, preferring Euclid to a sponge cake - but all with a dry and sensible hat on. Nor, contrary to some widespread belief, does he loathe everything connected with his father - I believe there were some years when he wanted to distance himself, but by the time he wrote The Enchanted Places, he'd changed his mind. For anyone even remotely interested in Winnie the Pooh, I do encourage you to find this memoir - it's currently out of print, I think, but lots around secondhand. Parts of sad, much will feel nostalgic, all reveals writing talent to run in the Milne family.

I suspect some will have already heard of The Enchanted Places, but it's less likely that you'll have read the sequels. I'll only mention them, but they're definitely worth finding and buying and loving.

The Path Through The Trees - actually my favourite of the three, this volume looks at Christopher Milne's time in the army, his marriage, and running a bookshop. I loved the chapters on the different ventures the bookshop made, the decision over whether or not to stock the Pooh books, the customers he got - it would be fascinating if written by any bookshop owner, but Milne's account is even more interesting.

The Hollow on the Hill - Milne's first love, Nature, takes centre stage in this volume, writing about the Devon countryside and his garden. I don't remember this one so well, to be honest, which makes me think I might try and re-read the whole trilogy this year...

Thursday 15 January 2009

Orlando Blooms

One of the re-reads I've already read this year (and there are four) is Orlando by Virginia Woolf. The reason I re-read it is because Orlando forms a significant aspect of my dissertation for this year. Nicola asked a while ago what my dissertation would be on - I'll probably elaborate at greater length another time, while I'm writing it no doubt, but I'll mention it briefly. It's called The Middlebrow Fantasy and The Fantastic Middlebrow - looking at the idea of the middlebrow in the interwar years, the use of the term and ethos in fiction, criticism and public arena, and how porous the boundaries between highbrow and middlebrow are. From this, I want to look at novels which I shall call the 'domestic fantastic' - not out-and-out fantasies like Lord of the Rings, but novels with an element of fantasy within a domestic setting or scenario. I think this use of genre and other worlds and consciousness of boundaries (temporal, spatial, mental) is interesting in relation to the middlebrow debate - how these two ideas feed into one another. Was that at all clear? I think I need to practise saying it to myself a few times before I try to explain it to anybody in person...

Anyway, back to Orlando. This is THE highbrow domestic fantastic text, as far as I'm concerned - for those not familiar with it, the novel is a sort of faux biography of Vita Sackville-West, only in the person of Orlando, a man who lives for hundreds of years and turns into a woman halfway through. This was the third time I'd read the novel - the second was when writing about Woolf and clothing, so that was my main focus. This time I made copious notes whenever Woolf mentioned boundaries or fantasy or class - in fact, those notes are waiting in a pile to be typed up properly, which I might achieve tomorrow. The constant scribbling made this re-read more of a struggle than the previous times, but I still think Orlando is a wonderful novel. Like all Woolf's writing, there is something about her writing which is lyrical without being pretentious; beautiful without distracting from the heart of the novel. And funny. People forget that Woolf can be amusing. I liked this section, when Orlando is being 'entertained' by supposedly witty society, which is governed only by the illusion of wit:

She was still under the illusion that she was listening to the most brilliant epigrams in the world, though, as a matter of fact, old General C. was only saying, at some length, how the gout had left his left leg and gone to his right, while Mr. L. interrupted when any proper name was mentioned, 'R.? Oh! I know Billy R. as well as I know myself. S.? My dearest friend. T.? Stayed with him a fortnight in Yorkshire' - which, such is the force of illusion, sounded like the wittiest repartee, the most searching comment upon human life.

Is Woolf gently mocking the image people had, and still have, of the Bloomsbury Group? Mayhap... rather a lot of Orlando is tongue-in-cheek, and all the more fun for it. I don't know if I'd recommend this as the first Woolf novel to read, but, if you've got one or two under your belt, this would be a great one to go onto. (And I must put in a good word for the beautiful new Oxford Worlds' Classics editions. Once I've fiddled with my camera I'll show you the ones I've bought - their choice of cover painting, by Charles Haslewood Shannon, is an exceptionally good choice - looks very much like (s)he could be either man or woman.)

Traditionally, when I mention Woolf here, the comments go rather silent... I'd be intrigued - what are your opinions on old Ginny? And have you read anything by her? I know some of her most vehement opponents haven't got as far as reading her work, and then there are some who love her diaries and letters but hate her fiction. And then, of course, there is poor Our Vicar who started listening to a radio production of The Waves and now looks physically pained whenever Virginia is mentioned...

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Fourth of the fourth

Sorry, I come back and then disappear again... I've just been away for a few days with the Oxford University Christian Union, spending time learning more about Jesus and how to follow Him, which has been exciting and challenging and rather nostalgia-inducing, as I first went on this trip four years ago, and met my two closest friends.

I'll be back with some recently read books soon, but a little too sleepy today. I was hoping to do a meme which Overdue tagged me for - post the fourth photograph in the fourth folder of my photo album. Sadly, since my laptop died and I have a new one, there are no photos on here yet. Instead, as with all good plans, I'm going to go to Facebook - and post the fourth photo from my fourth album on there.

This album is from my last weeks at Oxford as an undergraduate, when the Christan Union climbed to the top of Magdalen Tower (up the staircase, not scaling the walls) to pray and sing and wish the CU leavers well on their way. Obviously I came back... Left to right in this photo are Sarah, Liz, Claire (with her best smile), Maja and Dave. In the distance are the dreaming spires of Oxford.

Do feel free to try this meme yourself!

Sunday 11 January 2009

Red Books

It's a shame that I haven't got my camera working on this laptop yet, as the two books I'm writing about today look rather fetching together. Alternatively, they clash. Who's to say - what's certain is that they're both red. One was a present for Christmas, non-subtly asked for by myself and given by OV and OVW; the other was a present to myself.

Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford was urged on my by those who rose to Decca's defence while I read The Mitfords (my review here, and it subsequently came top of my books of 2008). Jessica was easily my least favourite of the Mitfords, not because of her politics but because of the extent to which she cut herself off from her family and was entirely hostile to Diana, especially. To my, probably idealistic, mind politics should never get in the way of family. But, prepared to be proved wrong, I have started Decca... and, yes, she is starting to win me over, mostly because she confesses that her most vitriolic moments re:Diana were 'stuffy and self-righteous' and 'not very sisterly'. I've been moved by her husband's death in a way which almost passed me by in The Mitfords, mostly because she exchanged relatively few letters with her sisters in this period. And perhaps Decca will be most useful for those who consider the Mitford sisters all hardened snobs - whatever ones opinion of Communism, Jessica's work for the Civil Rights Movement is wholly admirable.

The second red book is... The Paris Review Interviews vol.3 - the third in the series after those mentioned here - though I am still working my way through these, I couldn't pass on the opportunity to add this to my collection. The interviews I've read so far are insightful, in depth and really deliciously writerly. Volume 3 includes interviews with Harold Pinter, Evelyn Waugh, Ted Hughes, Martin Amis, Jean Rhys, Salman Rushde, Joyce Carol Oats, William Carlos Williams, Jan Morris, Chinua Achebe... every home should have one.

Saturday 10 January 2009

An old friend returns

I was going to leave Col's review of Northanger Abbey up as the latest post for longer, to encourage more people to read and comment, but I heard some news today which I couldn't ignore...

This may be old news, I don't know, but I only heard about it today. Granted my only voluntary access to news is The Week, an excellent weekly summary of all major newspapers, and perhaps an article on this will appear in due course. But I am being delibera
tely elliptical - the news I'm talking about is the new Winnie the Pooh book. If, like me, you hadn't heard, Yahoo's summary is as good as any.

Those of you who pop in here regularly may well know my love of all things AA Milne, be it his plays, novels, poetry, autobiography, pacifist leaflets, sketches, essays and, indeed, children's books. The first two books read in 2009 were re-reads of Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, and very wonderful they were too. He was the first author I got excited about in my post-teenage reading, and still very close to my heart - the news that the Pooh canon is to be extended is one I receive with very mixed feelings.

Shall I propose the a
rgument for the prosecution? My main issue, actually, is not so much that the new book will be inferior - of course it will - but that it will be written for the Disney generations. Most people reading this will be in the Disney generations, as they started churning out their dross in 1961. Whoops, I lost my journalistic objectivity a little there, didn't I? Like most, I enjoyed the Disney cartoons when I was tiny, but when I discovered EH Shepard's utterly brilliant illustrations, I was outraged - the amount of character and expression he gives with a few tiny pencil lines is astonishing. Disney lost all this subtlety and went for insane Rabbits and hyperactive Tiggers and Gopher (*shudder*)... and made everyone American. I've nothing against Americans, of course, but Winnie-the-Pooh is English! Christopher Robin is English! By all means make Gopher American, since we don't have them in England, and consequently not the Hundred Acre Wood...

Sorry, this has veered right off message. My problem is - who will illustrate these stories? Will someone imitate Shepard in the way that someone is imitating Milne? Heaven forefend Disney illustrations...

Secondly, where is the room for a sequel? The final chapter of The House at Pooh Corner, unutterably sad, ends thus:

"Promise you won't forget about me, ever. Not
even when I'm a hundred." [said Christopher Robin]
Pooh thought for a little.

"How old shall I be then?"


Pooh nodded.
"I promise," he said.
Still with his eyes on the world, Christopher Robin put
out a hand and felt for Pooh's paw.
"Pooh," said Christopher Robin earnestly, "if I--if I'm
not quite" he stopped and tried again --". Pooh, whatever happens, you will understand, won't you?"
"Understand what?"

"Oh, nothing." He laughed and jumped to his feet. "Come
"Where?" said Pooh.

"Anywhere," said Christopher Robin.

So they went off together. But wherever they go, and
whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.

How can they continue after that? Not possible, surely...

Well, I confidently predict that there will be a brief flurry of media attention, quite a few sales (including, let's face it, me) and it will be quietly forgotten in three or four years' time.

What do you think? Excited, horrified, or wholly indifferent?

Thursday 8 January 2009

The Carbon Copy

My laptop has arrived! And, what's more, it seems to be working. So I'm back regular blogging, but before I bring you up to speed on the things I've read this year, we still have to hear about The Carbon Copy (also know as Colin) and his favourite read of 2008 - and the whole family circle is complete! Despite having quite a different taste in books from me, I think you'll find his choice rather at home here... over to Colin:
2008 may well have been the first year in which I read more non-fiction than fiction, and of those non-fiction books I read, William Hague's biography of William Wilberforce stands out – this, unsurprisingly, as much a testament to the wonders of Wilberforce's life as to Hague's writing style.

Indeed, it is some time since I was blown away by a work of fiction – which is sad – and a number of the 'classics' have left me relatively unmoved. But there is always safe ground in Jane Austen, and I'm perpetually surprised by how few of her books I have read, especially considering there were only six to speak of. I pushed myself up to four this year, by reading Northanger Abbey.

If I can have a complaint about Austen, it's that she doesn't stray far from template: boy meets girl. Boy and girl face insurmountable boundaries. Boy and girl dance. Boy and girl marry. And I hope I'm not spoiling the story too much when I tell you that Northanger Abbey sticks pretty much to the script, with the same healthy doses of pleasant-looking baddies and unpleasant-looking goodies that you'll find in any of Austen's other novels. Well, with the possible exceptions of Persuasion and Mansfield Park, which I've yet to read.

But Northanger Abbey is marked out by being a satire on the gothic novel, with haunted bedrooms and mysterious doors scattered about the place. How pertinent a satire this is, I cannot really say – the gothic novel is not my bag – but I have to admit I could have done without it. Essentially, the satire is limited to a couple of rather heavy-handed chapters that the novel would flow rather better without.

The satire aside, this is an excellently observed love story of the quality you would expect from Austen. I believe some have criticised the Austen men as being slightly two-dimensional: if they have, they are wrong. There is nothing so admirable as an Austen hero, and I think I speak for the vast majority of men when I say that I would like to see something of myself in Mr Tilney. He is not especially complicated, but he is loving, thoughtful and honourable. Male or female, I defy anyone not to root for Tilney and Catherine to get together.

Speaking of whom, Catherine Morland, despite being no one's idea of a heroine, manages the peculiar Austen trick of being an all-round nice girl without making you want to vomit, and without being 'feisty' (urgh). The supporting cast could generally be plucked from other novels (Mrs Allen owes something to Mrs Bennet, Mr Tilney Sr is not unlike Mr Woodhouse, you could be forgiven for confusing Isabella with Mrs Elton, and so on) but the characters are strong nonetheless.

All in all, I have not been shaken in the idea that Austen's novels are rather formulaic; however, when you've practically invented the formula and do it better than anyone else can, I say stick to the formula.

Monday 5 January 2009

Our Vicar and Our Vicar's Wife

Apologies for silence of late - with my laptop firmly dead and buried, I have to wait until I'm in Magdalen to update my blog, or inconvenience some member of my household. As promised, Our Vicar's Wife and Our Vicar have written about their favourite books of 2008, just to prove that I'm not the only member of the family who has been known to be stuck in a book. The Carbon Copy promises one will follow...

Do comment and make them feel loved, won't you?
I'll kick off with Our Vicar's Wife, because she went for brevity - but we can't blame her, as she is currently in bed and Not Very Well.

The Guernesey Literary and Potato-peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer.This was a perfect summer read - in a summer that, weather-wise, was far from perfect. It was, by turns, amusing, poignant, enthralling, nerve-wracking, delightful and painfully tragic. The subject was neatly wrapped in a perfect post-war scenario which rode well with the time and place. The epistolary style helped one romp through the book in leaps and bounds, picking it up and laying it aside easily as other activites dictated. Sadly there will be no more, but this is a book to which it will be a joy to return. A summer read - but maybe a winter re-read? OVW

And now for Our Vicar:

I’m not sure that anyone on Mastermind has ever chosen “Somerset Cricket 1970 to 2000”. If they did then essential reading would come from three books I have read this year. Ian Botham is among the best known cricketers of all time, Marcus Trescothick has had quite an impact on Somerset and England cricket over the past decade, and Peter Roebuck isn’t a name that many outside of the Somerset Supporters club would probably have heard of. (I do slightly malign a man who scored around 25,000 runs for the county).

As a child I would travel with a friend on the bus to the County Ground at Taunton, the 201 from North Petherton cost, I believe, 8d for a child. I made my first visit their in 35 years earlier this year – and saw the above mentioned Trescothick score 150+. When we moved to my home county 3 years ago I reread Roebuck’s history of Somerset Cricket. That book only went up to the mid 70s, so having seen the county at play again I thought I would catch up with the story.

Prior to 1975 Somerset had never won any trophy or championship, Botham and Roebuck contributed to a successful decade. Trescothick has been at the forefront of a recent resurgence in the county’s fortunes.

Roebuck gives the best insight into what life is like as a county player – and has a clearer assessment of his contemporaries and a feel for both cricket life and the politics involved. Botham’s writing, predictably, focuses on Botham. Mainly on his achievements and occasionally on his weaknesses, the former are lauded, the later briefly regretted but, in his terms, usually justified. He doesn’t speak well of others, particularly Roebuck, “he was aloof and distant when his team needed encouragement... he didn’t lead by example, he wasn’t good enough for that”. Roebuck is more generous in his assessment of Botham.

Trescothick’s book is essentially about the breakdowns he has experienced (essentially, and very simply, a fear of being abroad). It is disappointing that despite confessing to having had the book written by a “ghost” he isn’t able to convey any real sense of what it means to be a major international sportsman.

I confess that this is a fairly specialist selection – many of Stuck-in-a-book readers may not have a clue how cricket is played, let alone the nuances of the Duckworth-Lewis system used to decide who has won a game that has started but not finished. Nevertheless it has been interesting to assess the judgments made by three of Somerset’s greatest exponents of the game in recent years – and, if I remember rightly, I have a copy somewhere of Viv Richard’s account of the same period.

Head On – Ian Botham: The Autobiography by Ian Botham
Coming Back To Me: The Autobiography by Marcus Trescothick