Please excuse lack of posting today. It’s someone important’s birthday and I shall be spending the evening getting him roaring drunk.
This is a meme that has been doing the rounds (I am so Out Of Touch). The BBC spent a while working out which were the best or best-beloved books in Britain, and is now of the opinion that most people will have read about six of the following works. Allegedly. I can’t find a link to a BBC page stating this, possibly because I’m not looking very hard, what with being bone-fucking-idle at the best of times.
Anyway, the idea is, one should mark in Bold all books one has really cross-heart-pinky-swear read, and italicize all those one has read a bit of/not quite finished/did an essay on based on the York Notes. And then one can asterisk everything one has seen on the big screen. Or small screen. Or heard on Radio 4. And then count everything up and if more than six are bold, glow smugly.
- Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen*
- The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien* (Anyone looking at the bookshelves in here, and seeing I own three copies, one illustrated by Alan Lee, also two Hobbits, a Silmarillion, an Unfinished Tales, the Peter Jackson Movies and the BBC Radio version (where Ian Holmes was Frodo, brilliantly. Take that baby-face Woods), will realise that I should not only have bolded this, but put it in 64-point and ornamented it with curlicues. Sorry).
- Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte*
- Harry Potter series – JK Rowling*
- To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee*
- The Bible (and an asterisk, if Charlton Heston counts. Also, Last Temptation of Christ and Prince of Egypt).
- Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte*
- Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell*
- His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman*
- Great Expectations – Charles Dickens*
- Little Women – Louisa May Alcott*
- Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy*
- Catch 22 – Joseph Heller *
- Complete Works of Shakespeare*. Yes. Every SINGLE ONE. Even the weird apocryphal ones Shakespeare only wrote bits of. Read, seen on stage, etc. (Except Edward III. Haven’t seen that one).
- Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
- The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien* (I asterisked it for the 1960s BBC radio adaptation, which I have on CD, in which the Stereophonic Workshop so went to town on the Eagles they were practically unintelligible. But it’s narrated by Anthony Jackson of Rentaghost fame. Cool, eh?)
- Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks. Buried half-way down a minor foothill of Mt ToBeRead with a bus-ticket tucked in somewhere about page 30.
- Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger (I hate teenagers).
- The Time Travellers Wife – Audrey Niffenegger (So many people have told me to read it I have developed a mental block about it.
- Middlemarch – George Eliot*
- Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell* (but I haven’t read it. And I don’t think I can be arsed to).
- The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
- Bleak House – Charles Dickens*
- War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy (Is a cornice of Mt ToBeRead all on its own).
- The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams* (One of the few things that kept me sane in the Wilderness Years teenagering in Italy. When the tapes or the radio series wore out, and the pages all fell out fo the books, it didn’t matter as I’d practically memorised the lot)
- Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh (Got as far as spanking Aloysius the teddy bear with a silver-backed hair-brush, and threw up. No doubt I am being monstrously unfair).
- Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky* (I am notoriously bad at Russians. I am ashamed).
- Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck. (Whyever not? We even had a copy for years and years).
- Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll*
- The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame* (Moley weeping for his little house still makes me weep and cringe in sympathy)
- Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy (Did I mention I was dreadful at Russians? Bad Reed! Lazy Reed!)
- David Copperfield – Charles Dickens*
- Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis*
- Emma – Jane Austen*
- Persuasion – Jane Austen*
- The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis* (I thought we’d just had Chronicles of Narnia? See what happens when you can’t be arsed to employ proofreaders?)
- The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini (But I did tie dozens and dozens of copies up in red ribbon for the launch! Which is probably why I can’t read it!)
- Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere (After Notting Hill, not reading this is a matter of pride)
- Memoirs of a Geisha – William Golden
- Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne* (Disney version is pathetic. Alan Bennetts version is perfect)
- Animal Farm – George Orwell*
- The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown (I am ashamed. It was SHITE. No, shiter than that even. Offensively, insultingly, smugly, lazily, shite).
- One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabrial Garcia Marquez
- A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
- The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins*
- Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
- Far from the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
- The Handmaids Tale – Margaret Atwood
- Lord of the Flies – William Golding
- Atonement – Ian McEwan (I know! I haven’t read a word of it!)
- Life of Pi – Yann Martell
- Dune – Frank Herbert* (I would watch Patrick Stewart have a nap on a deck-chair. Lepping about in leather? Count me in).
- Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons*
- Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen*
- A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth (The incident with the medals melted down for jewellry made me so steamingly cross I could not continue. Even though the fact I got so steamingly cross proved what an engrossing book it was. And then it avalanched down Mt ToBeRead).
- The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon (I have the attention span of a goldfish on uppers)
- A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens*
- Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
- Love in the time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
- Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
- The Secret History – Donna Tartt
- The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
- Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
- On the Road – Jack Kerouac (And I really can’t be arsed to dig it out and finish it. It was like being trapped in a room with my Dad and uncles after someone had proudly brought out a twist of home-grown Hippy Lettuce)
- Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
- Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
- Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
- Moby Dick – Herman Melville* (My grandfather, who means well, gave me the same illustrated Library hard-back edition of this every Christmas for three years running)
- Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens*
- Dracula – Bram Stoker*
- The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson-Burnett*
- Notes from a Small Island – Bill Bryson
- Ulysses – James Joyce (I wrote an A-grade essay on the first chapter of this. So, I’ve read the first chapter. Scrotum-tightening.)
- The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath (And between 15 and 23 I was convinced I’d never be a poet because I’d not once put my head in an oven, not even to clean it. I think Lolita does less damage to the psyches of little girls).
- Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
- Germinal – Emile Zola
- Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray*
- Possession – AS Byatt
- A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens*
- Cloud Atlas – Charles Mitchell
- The Colour Purple – Alice Walker*
- The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro*
- Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert*
- A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
- Charlotte’s Web – EB White*
- The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom (And after a few pages, I had to compulsively brush my teeth every hour for the rest of the day, the saccharine was so overwhelming)
- Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle*
- The Faraway Tree collection – Enid Blyton
- Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad*
- The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint Exupery
- The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks (This is the only, the only, Iain Banks/Iain M. Banks I haven’t read (Iain M. Banks is better)).
- Watership Down – Richard Adams* (As my Dad used to say, ‘you’ve read the book. You’ve seen the film. Now, eat the pie’.)
- A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
- A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
- The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas*
- Hamlet – William Shakespeare* (I have obsessive compulsive Hamlet disorder. I’m going to see it again, for the *counts on fingers* ninth time in January).
- Charlie & the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl* (and who do I crush on hardest? Gene Wilder or Johnny Depp?)
- Les Miserables – Victor Hugo* (I had nightmares about Fantine’s teeth. Between that and Edgar Allan Poe’s Berenice, I ended my teens with a raging dentist phobia)
So, I have read really cover to cover properly, 72 out the list of 100. And am Aware Of a further twelve. I think I can hold up my head at the sort of literary dinner parties I never ever get invited to. Alas, usually I’m the one everyone’s backing away from because when tipsy I will pinion people against the kitchen counters and Tell Them About Titus Andronicus.
It’s NaBloPoMo. I can’t not write something tonight. But I’ve just been on a train for two hours and there’s nothing in the fridge except a piece of celery I could tie in a knot and half a bottle of ginger ale. Flat ginger ale. As Virginia Woolf once said “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
[And this is very much a bendy celery sort of post - Ed.]
Poetry Friday was yesterday, obviously, and there was no poetry, because I am on holiday and days of the week do not apply to the holidaying (unless they are trying to buy stamps in a very small village), and anyway, I honestly think the only person in the universe who gives a toss about Poetry Friday being on Fridays is the Editor [Oh, shut up - Ed.].
I wrote this a grand old whole five hours ago, while drinking tea and eating caramel short-bread after a hard day’s staring at Officially Interesting Things. And tomorrow I shall probably hate it. At the moment, however, I am pleased, because I’ve had a dry spell and written pretty much eff-all poetry for a while, and because despite the arguable lack of a proper caesura or kireji, it does use an appropriate kigo or season word, and it is about the wonder of nature in a wistful sort of way, making it a humble [very] low-ranking [exceedingly] contender in the Great Art of Proper Haiku. [pfff].
[What? It's not my job to like Reed's scribblings].
Botanic Gardens, Oxford
A white fish below
Drifting leaves and begging ducks
Waits out cold water.
Because I am spending the weekend away from home, with husband (it’s his birthday next week (hurrah!)) in a B&B with a king-sized bed, chocolate truffles, and a bottle of rosé in the mini-fridge, I am of course wearing woolly socks artfully matched with the ‘his’ of the ‘his&hers’ courtesy bath-robes, and am watching Children in Need. Twenty more minutes and another swig of wine, and I will be weeping hysterically and throwing my credit-card at the phone-line. Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?
Now that I’m alive again, I took myself on a little outing this evening.
This being the Internet Age and all, I listen to podcasts, even though I tend to think of them as ‘OMG my computer’s being a radio!’ [The wireless internet thing Reed's husband installed Did Not Help. I'm trapped in the mind of a village idiot - Ed]. And one of my favourite podcasts is Answer Me This, presented (presented? Narrated? Spoken? Bickered?) by Helen Zaltzman and Olly Mann, with the assistance of Martin the Sound Man.
Basically, the General Public email or telephone and leave queries (usually not particularly serious-minded ones), and Helen (who is wise, has GoogleFu, and knows who Herodotus was (I have a teeny tiny girl-crush on Helen Zaltzman. Sorry, but I do)) and Olly (cheerfully lunatic, with inventive line in doolally theories), answer them. Or attempt to. Or get wildly off the subject and have an interesting discussion about something else entirely. Luckily they are very funny, so we none of us mind. And occasionally Martin the Sound Man, lugubrious and/or scabrous, depending, interjects.
(I have a bone to pick with Martin the Sound Man, incidentally. S [Reed's husband. Yes, even the Reeds of this world get married. Unlike the Editors], a long-term Answer Me This fan, had decided to formally introduce me to the gang, as it were, and had loaded up his iThing with episode after episode to play on a car-trip across Blighty. [It was Answer Me This BOOTCAMP]. And as we were parking in the (ridiculously expensive) carpark in Worcester, Martin the Sound Man (damn me sideways if I can remember apropos of what) used the unforgettable phrase ‘skull-fuck in the brain-hole’ [And this from a man with a doctorate in quantum physics]. Being emotionally aged about twelve, I promptly dissolved into helpless giggles. And then I solemnly paced around the magnificent cathedral, looking composedly at the stained-glass window commemorating Edward Elgar, admiring the painted ceilings, inhaling the chill, musty gloom of ages in the Norman Crypt, and I did not snigger at all, no I absolutely did not, even though my inner adolescent kept leaping up to shriek ‘skull-fuck in the brain-hole! Tee hee hee!’ at me. And I damn near burst a blood-vessel repressing it. So).
Helen and Olly have written a book, so I went along to the gigantenormous Waterstones on Gower Street (eheu, I knew it when it was still Dillons. I am old. And my knees creak when I squat). They’d set up a table for signings next to the cook-books, and a large clump of youngish persons were milling about therein, so having bought my copy of said book, I amused myself by reading the backs of all the new Christmas celebrity how-to-Yule photographic extravaganzas. Alas, this also meant that some of us were trapped out of sight behind the bloody shelves when the authors turned up, but as Olly said, it was just like listening to a pod-cast, only from behind a shelf in Waterstones rather than in the comfort of our own living-rooms.
The amusing duo read out a selection from the book – it’s very much a ‘book to keep by the loo and dip into’ sort of book – and we all chortled appreciatively (muffled behind Nigella’s Festive Tits, sorry, Tips. I hope they could hear us[The tits or Helen and Olly?]). And then Waterstones’ jolly Christmas Helpers corralled us into a neat queue, and we all got to exchange a few words with the fantastically polite and cheerful pod-lebrities as they signed our books. After which I shuffled off into the damp November murk, thinking, variously,
- Yes, I still have a teeny-tiny girl-crush on Helen.
- I think I smiled too widely. [Yes. As I told you at the time, any wider, and the jolly Christmas Helper is going to get urgent on her radio mike and then the entire security team of the shop will be sitting on your head shouting 'medic!'. And trust me, there's no dignified way back from that.]
- The book is a collection of best bits from the pod-casts, with added jokes, diagrams, and pie-charts. And a very, very good John Cage joke, which I particularly appreciated because I catalogued John Cage’s book only last week. [Obscurantist Reed, you are being annoying now].
- I asked for my copy to be inscribed for S, who could not be there despite being the household Fan-In-Chief, and whose birthday is next week, and I have been recorded in perpetuity on the fly-leaf of said book as being ‘lovely’. So there. [*eyeroll*].
- I must tell more people to listen to the podcast. I mean, obviously, now I am aglow with vicarious book-signing ‘seen in person’ enthusiasm, but tomorrow I also think I that shall think that I ought to tell more people to listen to the podcast [No goods, payment or personal services were received in exchange for this unseemly display of gushing. I hope.]
I went back to work today, having spent two (well, three, if you count Sunday, and I do) days lying face-down on the bed wishing the entire Universe would fuck right off and take everything between my neck and my knees with it. So I am now very tired and bleargh and in the nicest possible way, some of my colleagues are three date-stamps short of an issue desk.
Going to bed now. Sorry.
1 – Nothing. Even when you’re bored out of what’s left of your tiny mind, there are times when reading is not an option. This is endurance mode. Concentrate on not dying, try not to sob too much or you’ll dehydrate (and anyway, being jolted by each harsh inbreath Does Not Help).
2 – Knitting magazines. Surprisingly soothing. Ooh, look, you think vaguely, little cardigans. Cute. And a hat. I shall look at the hat. Actually, it’s a stupid hat. But the little cardigans are nice. Hmm. One of the models is wearing a hat. No, I don’t care for the hat. What else can I see on this page? Cardigans! And many peaceful hours can be passed like this. Especially when opiates have been taken.
3 – Detective stories, preferably cosy, preferably ones you’ve read before, so you don’t have to waste mental energy trying to keep up with the clues. Agatha Christie, Ngaio March, Margery Allingham are your friends. And the things you find out! It is desireable for the detective to have thin, sensitive hands and a side-kick who looks like an ambulatory garden shed. Failing that, the detective has to be as eccentric as possible and have an associate who is alternately patronising and bewildered. Neither of the young couple in love have done it, unless, very rarely, one may be allowed to do it for the other’s sake, and it ends disastrously [which is the 1930's all over, if you ask me - Ed]. At this point in the recovery process, you are actually able to drink tea.
4 – The newspapers, specifically, the book reviews. May be consumed with a bowl of soup, sitting up in bed.
5 – Trollope. When not bundled up in an armchair, watching junk TV (which is extremely good for overworked synapses. Especially Star Trek re-runs).
6 – By the time you’re up for Robert Browning or Arthur Koestler, you may as well have a shower and get dressed.
But it does sound like a nice peaceful option right now.