Saturday, January 30, 2016

Current reading -- like a good menu! 6WS

For the benefit of new readers, of whom we have a few, thank you, the 6WS you see above is Six Word Saturday, which is a fun idea, Judy aka Mittens, led me astray and I got involved in it.  

It's about current life in six words, and some brainy blogistas even respond in six word comments, very impressive stuff.  A number of blogs take part, just a fun idea.  Judy's are particularly good, click on any comment by Mittens and it will take you there.  Not every Saturday, just ones that work out.



Anyway, today it's about reading and what I'm up to and why. I read recently that your brain operates differently when you read on your Kindle than from print material.  The idea is that we are so trained by the fast moving techie stuff to fragment our attention that we even read novels that way on the Kindle, rather than sinking into long periods of focus as we might with print.

Well, as a person who has always has intense focus for brief periods,  and it's in fact, as you may have noted, a productive way to live, I think maybe the jury's out on this one.  But anyway, I decided I'd better not lose my long distance reading chops, as if, and noticed what I'm currently reading.

Like a nice menu, on the Kindle I had The Book of Joan, a hilarious, very lightweight sort of bio written by daughter Melissa (Rivers, we mean, that Joan), which worked like a kind of amuse- gueule, to put it poshly.  Meaning something fun that keeps your mouth busy, more or less.  Now, now, this is a family blog. Reading with your mouth full, maybe.  

Anyway, that was the frivolous stuff. Then in print I'm studying Southern cooking for Bite Club, my cookbook book club, and hoping to find something to like in it.  Not at all into the meat emphasis, and I don't think sugar should be allowed near iced tea...but there's a lot more to it to discover.  The best recipes, though, are for seasonal produce, and February, where we will soon be, is not the season.  Anyway, we'll see what we can do. Probably a relish or jam or something.

And there's  another Kindle one, which I do sink deeply into, so there, The Boleyn Deceit,  the second in the Laura Anderson Boleyn trilogy, really well written, Tudor period, what would have happened if Anne Boleyn had in fact had a healthy son, then what.  Very well done, and highly recommended. Easy but not too light reading.

Then in print, a wonderful work, The Quickening Maze, by Adam Foulds, Booker prize level, which is so dense and intriguing and demanding that you can't stay with it for too long at one time.  You need to come up for air.  It's based on the true life of John Clare, a countryman and pastoral poet, whose heart, and mental balance, were broken by the Enclosures Act.  

This was a cruel piece of nineteenth century English legislation, which fenced off common land, depriving ordinary people of the centuries old traditional rights of grazing and open land for their animals, and resulted in mass migration to the towns, rather than face starvation.  The one per cent taking public property for their own benefit.  

Clare ended his days in care, mentally broken down.  But his mental and physical wanderings, like that of other residents of the institution are limned so astutely by this writer that you are carried along. I was stunned to learn how young the writer is, amazing wisdom already in life.  It's a novel, not a biography, though, so there's a lot of room for some of the most riveting prose you'll see in ages.  

Even the title has multiple meanings.  Quickening can mean speeding up, getting out of control, as the world appeared at that period, and John Clare's increasing plunge into insanity.  It is also the old word for the first sensations of the baby in the womb. That flutter is known as quickening.  It refers to the meaning of quick as life.  You know the old saying: only room for the quick and the dead?  quick doesn't mean fast, it means living.  

And there are other signs of comings to life of various sorts, young girls awakening, in the novel. Tennyson gets into it, too, and his brother.  Well, just go there and find out, it's worth it.

So you might say that the Book of Joan was an hors d'oeuvre, the  Clare book is the main course, the cookbook the savory course, and the Boleyn book dessert. Except that I'm reading any one that fits the time available and the mood.

But I do recommend any or all of them.  Winter is the time to seize, when you're snowed in, or iced in, or just all in.

1 comment:

mittens said...

Snow or no snow, this does seem to be the ideal time to delve into books, heavy or otherwise. I've been working my way through my sick stash,since it threatens to overwhelm the bookcase they're in...


what is always a disappointment, is when an old well-remembered book, reread, turns out to be not as good as it was (and our tastes do change) or as enthralling, possibly because we already know the ending in some subconscious way. And there are always books that never disappoint, simply because there is so much to chew on you can read them over and over and never feel bored.