30 Day Book Challenge – day 9: A book I’ve read more than once

I’ve shared this post, from a great blog that I follow, as it’s nice to see that someone else is a fan of a book previously featured on The Landing.

Maybe one day I’ll get around to a few more Josephine Tey re-reads!

e a m harris

I don’t often read books more than once, but lately re-enjoyed one I’d read years ago.

The book is Josephine Tey‘s Daughter of Time. It was first published in 1951, but in my 77661opinion has aged well and is still relevant and fun.

A detective, Alan Grant, is convalescing in hospital and is bored. A friend suggests that he puts his skills to work on a historical crime. Grant selects Richard III and the question of whether or not he murdered the princes in the Tower.

With friends doing any actual legwork, Grant reassesses the evidence and comes to the conclusion that Richard has suffered from a bad press and was probably not as evil as history (and Shakespeare) has painted him.

I think that today there’s enough doubt about Richard’s wickedness for most people to regard him as possibly maligned. But this is a recent happening and…

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More catching up: Landing Eight Challenge

Murderers and Other Friends

Legal Memoirs…

In case you were all thinking that I had allowed my Landing Eight Challenge to fade quietly away, I will just slip in this quick post to let you know the next book to be read from the pile. After much deliberation I decided on the one remaining re-read in the pile (the other one having been Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time).

I have opted to read John Mortimer’s Murderers and Other Friends (Orange Penguin edition) again. This title was grabbed for the Landing Eight pile because it has been several years since I originally read it. According to the note written in side the cover in my own fair hand, the book was a Christmas present in 1995. Try as I might though, I cannot recall from whom I received this volume of memoir (apologies to the unknown giver).

The trigger for picking up this book now and not saving the treat of a re-read for the end of my challenge, was that I happened to come accross a DVD of the first episode of Rumpole of the Bailey  while I was browsing in the library. Actually it would probably be incorect to call it a first episdoe since Rumpole first appeared  together with his wife Hilda (She Who Must Be Obeyed) in a BBC Play for Today in 1975. Rumpole became a series in 1978, produced by Thames Television. Mortimer’s memoirs of his work as a barrister were the inspiration behind Rumpole’s creation.

Now, I will re-aquaint myself with John Mortimer and report back in due course…

One Year on the Landing: A Literary Milestone

Green bound classic

A rather smart binding…

I am pleased to say that today is the First Anniversary of The Landing Book Shelves Reading Challenge. There was a time when I thought that I would fall by the wayside, but I am pleased that I managed to stick with it this far. I have enjoyed having a go at blogging and I have taught myself a few WordPress skills in the process. Having the blog has also ‘landed’ me with a marvellous excuse for reading more books! Of course when I have finally finished my Landing Eight bit of the Reading Challenge then I will simply have to begin all over again with another random pile culled from the shelves.

By way of an anniversary (or perhaps it should be birthday?) gesture I have chosen to post up a  rather jolly picture from The Diary of  a Nobody, depicting Mr and Mrs Poooter taking a few frivolous turns around the room. The occasion for celebration was their invitation to a party at the Mansion House. The illustrations, drawn by Weedon Grossmith are so good that it would be difficult to pick a favourite, but this one fits my purpose today just nicely.

The drawing captures the exuberance of the moment as the couple whirl around the room in anticipation of the social event of the year. Not surprisingly, the maid picks that moment to enter the room. Sarah witnesses her otherwise respectable employers dancing in the parlour:

I cannot tell what induced me to do it, but I seized her round the waist, and we were silly enough to be executing a wild kind of polka when Sarah entered, grinning, and said: “There is a man, mum, at the door who wants to know if you want any good coals”. Most annoyed at this.

Mr and Mrs Pooter dancing

A merry dance…

It is not clear whether Mr Pooter is annoyed at the interruption of his impromptu dance session or at being caught doing something silly by the maid. The episode describing the actual Mansion House dinner and ball is very entertaining as Mr Pooter is rather shocked to find that some of the tradespeople he deals with have also been invited. I do urge anyone who has not yet encountered the Pooters and their friends to get hold of a copy forthwith and make their acquaintance.

Meanwhile I will be busy with Mary Robinette Kowal’s February letter writing challenge Month of Letters (hashtag #lettermo) and embarking upon a web design course. I also hope to have a bash at reading another book from the Landing Eight challenge.

Until soon (I hope!)…

Month of Letters (#LetterMo)

I know it might seem rather conceited to be re-blogging myself (albeit with a different hat), but I am keenly awaiting the start of February to get stuck into letter writing. This will be the second year that I have tackled Mary Robinette Kowal’s wonderful letter writing challenge. The re-blog is to help spread the letter writing bug as far and wide as possible!

Meanwhile I will be working on the next instalment of the Landing Reading Challenge…

Irish News Review

lwI know we are not yet clear of January but I am already looking ahead to February’s comparatively brief span. The reason for all of this eagerness is that the second month of the year has been designated as ‘letter-writing season’. If you are even the slightest bit intrigued by that idea, then read on:

Last year I participated in the ‘Month of Letters’ challenge set up by American writer Mary Robinette Kowal, although I discovered the challenge too late to be able to begin on time. I enjoyed making the effort to write more letters and postcards to family and friends than I usually manage. Most people I know still love to have something more cheering than a utility bill plopping onto their doormat in the morning. And in this year of ‘The Gathering’ it seems a good idea to get writing to all of those friends…

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My New Year Message: Janus

five books spine-on

Book, books, books…

I was pondering the vexed question of what my first post for 2013 should be: progress report on the Landing Eight; review of last year’s books; looking ahead to this year’s reading or maybe about tackling a new angle in my Reading Challenge.

Finally, I decided to side step all of the above and feature a paragraph that I wrote on a previous New Year for Paragraph Planet:

 
New Year, New You. Ring out the old and ring in the new. In Janus’s month twixt past and future we try diets, makeovers, new resolutions and evening classes. De-clutter, downsize and de-tox; perhaps try yoga classes or join a gym. Pilates sounds good, there’s a special offer too. Then comes the inevitable backslide into laziness, excuses and over indulgence. That two-faced Janus strikes again. New you, old you, which do you want to be?

The above question was posed and previously published New Year 2011 (and no, I didn’t try the de-tox)

Let me know if you have made any resolutions, literary or otherwise! Drop them in the comment box below.

Meanwhile I’ll leave you with a link to a piece I wrote this week for the Irish News Review featuring a couple of Reading and Writing Challenges to give you a little zest…

Christmas on the Landing: Advent Announcement

It can hardly have escaped anyone’s attention that we are edging ever closer to a certain celebratory time of the year, though I refuse to pay too much attention to the ‘x days shopping days left’ kind of pressure. Anyway, working in retail as I do it tends to be other people’s shopping that occupies most of my efforts during December. Christmas-itis generally strikes me at about halfway through the month and I just want to run away screaming. I generally just about manage to get around to my own purchases before the close of play on Christmas Eve.

The Book of Christmas

The Book of Christmas

Bearing all of that in mind, I have decided to devote December on the Landing Book Shelves to a seasonal Literary Challenge in an attempt to induce calmness. After much prowling of the bookshelves with a thoughtfully furrowed brow, I have come up with the (possibly not very original) idea of putting a Landing related Advent Calendar/Advent Reading Challenge together. I have compiled a list of Christmas poems and episodes in fiction and plan to post a mini blog each day in Advent.

My inner child has carried me away a little so this Advent Challenge feature will be entirely composed of snippets from children’s books lurking on our shelves. I have to admit to stretching the notion of Landing Book Shelves just a tad, as some of the Yuletide goodies live in either the loft or my daughter’s bookshelves. But I hope you will overlook that minor fudge in the cause of Christmastide.

I should point out however, that you will have to improvise a little for yourselves. My technological skills are not up to creating opening virtual doors so you will simply have to pretend. Of course if you follow this blog, then opening your email will, I feel, simulate the door opening bit quite satisfactorily. Each day should bring to you a seasonal literary morsel with a suitable illustration by way of accompaniment.  Well, that is the plan (and the challenge) anyway so fingers crossed that it all works out successfully.

Keep checking back during December to see what you find…(apologies in advance for the lack of chocolate in the Landing Advent Challenge Calendar).

A Glimpse of the TBR Pile: A Reading Challenge

shelves of classics

Tantalising Glimpse

A friend has given me a suggestion for a way of tackling my TBR Pile Reading Challenge, so I am basing this piece on that feedback (thanks Teri!). Never let it be said that I fail to listen to sensible advice (especially when I asked for it in the first place).

Various tantalising glimpses have been given of my Landing Bookshelves, but I have not actually written down any of the titles that I may tackle during my trek around the TBR Pile. This post is an attempt to remedy the lack thereof. It will probably be a random list as I am about to leave my computer and browse the shelves for ideas. The plan is to simply jot down any title from the TBR Pile that takes my fancy and present the list to you, dear reader, as an indication of my future (good) intentions.

Before I set off for uncharted (and possibly shockingly dusty) territories, I will just draw to your attention that I have set up a Bibliography page on the site, where I plan to list all of the books mentioned (however briefly) in the Reading Challenge blog posts. Some titles may be out of print, but I will try to remember to give details of dates, publishers etc in case anyone wants to follow up on anything. I hope to update the page regularly and even to maintain strict alphabetical order (that might be a challenge in itself).

(Noises off...)

Now, that was quick; I am back already from the cobwebby wastes of the upper storey with my list of books; in no particular order I hasten to add.

On the menu: The Landing Eight

A pile of classic novels

Progress…

 

The Daughter of Time Josephine Tey (Orange Penguin)

The Frontenac Mystery François Mauriac  (Penguin Modern Classics)

The Go-Between L P Hartley (Penguin Classics)

In a Free State V S Naipaul (Orange Penguin)

The Periodic Table Primo Levi (Everyman)

The Diary of a Nobody George & Weedon Grossmith (Guild Publishing)

Murderers and Other Friends John Mortimer (Orange Penguin)

The Thirty-Nine Steps John Buchan (Orange Penguin)

Some of the above will be re-reads but most of them are genuinely from the TBR Pile that constitutes much of the Landing Bookshelves, but I will leave it until a future date to disclose which are which, thus creating a modicum of suspense. I will not promise to read them in any particular order, but rather as the fancy takes me. I have also spotted a more few books that I would like to write about, but I will tuck them in here and there as a surprise literary morsel in between courses.

Feel free to suggest any preferences as to reading order. In the meantime, I will be busy cleaning my bookshelves; I may be some time.

Until we meet again behind the TBR Pile…

Studying the Shelves: Books Galore on the TBR Pile

I have arrived at a point where I have become extremely sidetracked into reading books other than those on The Landing, so I thought I’d do a quick tour of the shelves to remind myself what I am supposed to be reading. Not that it will do much immediate good as I have just begun Jane Harris’s Gillespie and I and I am completely hooked. I have started, so I’ll finish…

book shelves

Where do I Start?

Taken at random, these are a couple of the shelves that this Reading Challenge is all about:

section of book shelves

A Few Orange Penguins

I have been going around snapping bits of the shelves in an effort to record the shelves for posterity (and inspiration). Let’s hope it works!

shelves of classics

Tantalising Glimpse

All should have bonnets: a letter from Louisa M Alcott

After the dedication of my #LetterMo writing challenge efforts have faded gently away, I have decided to return to the compendium of historic letters that I mentioned in one of my earlier entries. Having struggled to post at least one item of correspondence every day for a month, I can truly say that I stand (pen poised) in awe of the sheer effort involved in letter writing pre-Microsoft Word technology. After all, even keeping up with just a few relatives in the last century would have been a Herculean task. But thank goodness that so many people did just that, providing a mine of information and insight that would otherwise have been lost to later generations.

One of the epistles in The World’s Great Letters is one from Louisa M Alcott to her sister Anna and while it could not be claimed to hold huge historical importance, it does give you a glimpse into the life of a would-be writer who was struggling to support her family. Alcott was also mired in domestic chores as well as suffering the frustration of waiting for editors to reply to her story submissions.

Alcott’s letter, written around 1861 describes the trials and tribulations of fashioning a decent bonnet (a social necessity) with only one dollar to spend; the contents of Alcott’s ribbon box supplemented the lack of cash. She makes the whole enterprise into an entertaining anecdote for Anna Alcott, but she clearly would have loved to be able to go out and buy a smart piece of headgear. She describes her attempts to trim the one-dollar bonnet thus:

I extracted the remains of the old white ribbon (used up, as I thought, two years ago), and the bits of black lace that have adorned a long line of departed hats. Of the lace I made a dish, on which I thriftily served up bows of ribbon, like meat on toast.  Inside put the lace bow, which adorns my form anywhere when needed. A white flower A.H. gave me sat airily on the brim, – fearfully unbecoming, but pretty in itself, and in keeping. Strings are yet to be evolved from chaos. I feel that they await me somewhere in the dim future.

 

book cover with portrait of L.M. Alcott

Louisa May

All this occurred before Alcott struck gold with the phenomenally successful Little Women, which was published in 1867. At that time, she was still a ‘young woman with one dollar, no bonnet, half a gown and a discontented mind’ as she described herself. In one of those moments of literary serendipity, I spotted Louisa May (Martha Saxton, 1978) while rummaging in the Trinity Booksale on Saturday. I was meaning to re-read Little Women after seeing the sell out production last month at Dublin’s The Gate Theatre.  As Little Women and its sequels reside on the landing I can justify doing just that, but I will have to make (yet another) exception for reading the Louisa May Alcott biography. But, one of the joys of reading is that you never know what is going to be around the next corner of the bookshelf!

What have you discovered this week? And how is your Reading Challenge going? Drop a line in the comment box…

When Julian met Aphra: Behn vs Barnes

I have been reading Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending recently after a customer in the bookshop where I work told me that I really must read it. As it has been quite some time since I last read any of Barnes’ work I decided to rectify this omission, in between bouts of pursuing both my letter writing and my Reading Challenge. I suppose it makes a good contrast to zip between Aphra Behn and Julian Barnes. Potentially confusing too, exchanging one cast list for another and jumping back and forth through the centuries.

Book cover with flower head on grey background

The Interloper…

Julian Barnes’ book has to take priority (temporarily) over the Landing Reading Challenge. Sadly, it is a library loan that is so much in demand that it is un-renewable. I could of course be a bad citizen and library user and take it back late but I always worry that I might be blacklisted and not allowed to have any more books out. The quick-witted amongst you might point out that this can only be a good thing, as I would have no excuse not to read my way around the entire house let alone the landing.

This thought does indeed make me wonder whether I should forswear the library and get truly stuck in to my TBR Pile. However, if I did that then would I also have to promise not to buy any new books? I could foresee that vow being very difficult to keep up due to working with new books on a daily basis. I also have a distressing weakness for bargain sections, charity shops and remainder outlets. All of this purchasing potential makes it highly likely that my landing bookshelves reading project could take rather a long time to complete.

 My train of thought has now brought me to an ethical problem (of sorts). In my meanderings around various sources of new books I will most likely come across books that should be housed on the landing after purchase i.e. classics, poetry etc. Now, this will of course mean that the original constituent parts of the landing bookshelves will most likely continue to grow over time. But do those books form part of my Reading Challenge despite not being present when the challenge began? Indeed I discovered a copy of Gwen Raverat’s Period Piece lurking in the wrong bookcase entirely (and it is a book I have not yet got around to reading) so I should re-house it on the landing. Because if I don’t, then I shouldn’t read it should I? No wonder my TBR Pile just keeps on growing.

Now, back to tackling Aphra Behn and seventeenth century English (but not until after I have finished Julian Barnes)…

UPDATE (June 2013)

I have come across a notification about the Aphra Behn Society’s Biennial Conference which will be held in October of this year. The topic will be Women, Reputation, and Identity in the Long Eighteenth Century and the conference will be held at The University of Tulsa, Tulsa, OK.