Saturday, September 22, 2018

April to September

I keep reading books and not writing about them. Which isn’t really the idea, is it? See also: November 2011. It isn’t the Kindle’s fault this time, as that is tucked safely on a shelf, too late for its bashed screen, but it works fine if you turn the light off. However, its time (or certainly its peak) seems to have passed, and books are books once more. Since To Kill a Mockingbird, I’ve read Mike Barnes’ Captain Beefheart, George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo, Peter Godfrey-Smith’s Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life
Octopuses in at least two aquariums have learned to turn off the lights by squirting jets of water at the bulbs when no one is watching, and short circuiting the power supply. At the University of Otago in New Zealand, this became so expensive that the octopus had to be released back into the wild. (p. 55)
… Elif Batuman’s The Idiot
I told him my theory. Most people, the minute they met you, were sizing you up for some competition for resources. It was as if everyone lived in fear of a shipwreck, where only so many people would fit on the lifeboat, and they were constantly trying to stake out their property and identify dispensable people – people they could get rid of. […]
        ‘Do you see yourself as one of the dispensable people?’
        ‘The point is I don’t want to get involved in that question, and it’s all most people want to talk about. The number of people who want to understand what you’re like instead of trying to figure out whether you get to stay on the boat – it’s really limited.’ (p. 142)
…some of Bill Drummond and Mark Manning’s Bad Wisdom (I got disgusted), some of Douglas Adams’ The Salmon of Doubt (which was on Kindle, actually), some of Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Beginning of Spring (also on Kindle, also unfinished), some of Lloyd Clark’s Arnhem (second attempt, unfinished again), Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which fits the Hark, A Vagrant! characterisation of its author to a T:
beside my abandoned wretch of a husband, the base, malignant Grimsby, and the false villain Hargrave, the boarish ruffian [Hattersley], coarse and brutal as he was, shone like a glow-worm in the dark, among its fellow worms. (p. 346)
…and Claire Tomalin’s A Life of my Own, which has pointed in so many different directions (Karl Miller, Michael Frayn, Samuel Pepys) that I’m in a quandary over what to read next. A nice sort of problem to have.

I think I’d probably have done better at finishing those books if I’d written posts on them, and it could have been a good set of posts too. On the other hand, one wants to be free to flit about.

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