Seven ‘Bookish’ deadly sins

Having boasted of my ‘bookish’ virtues last week – I do love an oxymoron – this week I thought I ought to even up the scales.

I’ve tracked back through a few blogs to see if I should be crediting this tag to someone, but it seems that the originator has either been lost in the mist, or they decided to remain anonymous. Given how much we reveal in answering these seven questions, to ourselves, as much as anyone else, maybe they wisely preferred to disappear.

So, deep breath, and before I change my mind.

GREED
What is the most expensive book you own? Which is the least expensive?

I’ve just treated myself to The Writer’s Map, which cost nearly thirty pounds, and think myself very extravagant.

The least expensive? There have been so many bargain books, and the ones I didn’t value haven’t stayed with me… Recently, I bought The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, for fifty pence, in a charity shop. Whether you measure that in pages or weight, that’s a lot of book for the money.

GLUTTONY
What book or books have you shamelessly devoured many times?

Where do I begin? Probably with my earliest memories, ‘See Jane, Spot, see Jane run.’ Those were The Happy Venture Readers books. I was still returning to them after becoming hooked on the Famous Five, Secret Seven and The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse. Was it for the sake of the illustrations, I wonder?

I’ve just looked them up on a bookseller site, and if only I hadn’t read mine into bits, I might have used it for my GREED answer.

Lets fast-forward to adult reading, and some of the ones that I turn to most often. The short stories of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, oh, and Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude. Then, there’s Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons, The Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon, any Jane Austen novel… all the writings of Angela Carter – yes everything, because all of her writing feels fearless and exciting.

LUST
What attributes do you find most attractive in your characters?

Curiosity.

ENVY
What books would you most like to receive as a gift?

Something that is one or more of the following: witty, challenging, thought-provoking, beautiful, exotic, poetic, prosaic, magical, exciting, shocking, hard-hitting, atmospheric, minimalist, heartfelt, hilarious, relevant, life-affirming, emotive, complicated, surprising, relaxing, warming…

Have I missed something? That’s the book I really want.

PRIDE
What book or books do you bring up when you want to sound like an intellectual reader?

How honest must I be? I want to claim that I don’t try to sound like an intellectual reader, but I used to boast about how many books I’d read. Luckily, no one ever challenged that, or they’d soon have discovered that most of my list was light or pulp fiction.

SLOTH
What book or series have you neglected out of sheer laziness?

I started The Odyssey around a year ago, and do want to finish it, but somehow I keep picking up other books instead. Maybe it’s because I already know the outcomes.

WRATH
What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?

I’m trying to think of a writer I find offensive, and yet read. I can’t. I stopped wasting valuable reading time on fiction that didn’t work for me years ago, once I’d realised reading wasn’t a test of endurance or a competitive sport, and that I’d completely missed the true meaning of ‘being well-read’.

But, an author I have mixed feelings about is DH Lawrence. I love most of his short stories and poems. Through them, he covers many on the list of wishes I made under the ENVY heading above. His short writing is often layered, complex and surprising.

His novels, on the other hand, leave me mostly cold. I’ve tried, and tried again, to see them as something other than interesting examples of techniques. I always fail.

You may have noticed I’ve not been tagged. I’ve done that thing my dad advises me is best avoided, I volunteered.

If you’d like to see where the idea came from, you might start with Re-enchantment of the World, or Calmgrove, and work back.

Reflections: Let’s Talk Book-Talk.

Zennor in darknessWow, what a day.  Zennor in Darkness, by Helen Dunmore, with eleven students.  I’m still buzzing.  Six hours of lively discussion and passionate debate.  We covered a lot of ground, and my plan had to be continually revised as we shared ideas, questions and insights.

What luxury, to spend the whole day focusing on one novel.  It has to be a strong story, to warrant that degree of investigation.  Why did I chose Zennor in Darkness?  Let me share my list of reasons, which are in no particular order:

  • It’s got a generous cast of engaging, rounded characters.
  • It describes working class lives in St Ives and Zennor.
  • There are believable descriptions of how life was for people experiencing the first world war from ‘the home front’.
  • It includes two ‘real’ people, who lived extraordinary lives – DHL and his wife, Frieda.
  • The style of writing is varied.
  • The scenery is beautiful.
  • It investigates history, religion and family.
  • It deals with issues around secrecy and knowledge.
  • It has a tingle factor.
  • It fits in with the WWI commemoration themes of this year.

And that was just after the first read.  On my second, closer study of the novel, I began to extend and refine my list.  I added themes, patterning and the one that intrigued me most, how do we feel about fictionalizing DH Lawrence & Frieda?

Well, I thought, it depends on how much of their part in the story is fiction: it was the beginning of a quest that took me from my bookshelves, to the library catalogue, through bookstores (new and second-hand) and surfing about the internet.  I gathered my evidence, took it to the day school and set it before the rest of the group.  Their enthusiasm matched mine.

The result?  An exhilarating day of debate and discussion.  At the conclusion, most of us went home to read more Dunmore, and I’m going to revisit DHL’s novels.

So, if you’re looking for a suggestion for a book-club read, and you haven’t already tried, Zennor in Darkness, why not add it to you reading list?

dhl & frieda