Middlemarch & other updates

I’m still trying to put into words everything that I want to talk about with respect to Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts. All sorts of things are being brought up to the surface in the process, and I don’t yet know if/when I’ll be done writing it!

In the meanwhile, I’m in the middle of Middlemarch, as I shall continue to be, till about mid-July! This book is the perfect mixture of plot, and ideas, and characters whom I love and characters whom I want to smack some sense into, and a place that feels as if it’s straight out of real life. Basically, I WAS RIGHT TO BUY THE BEAUTIFUL PENGUIN EDITION OF THIS BOOK WHEN I CAME ACROSS IT! Thank you Valancy & Laila, for reading along with me!! I hope you guys are enjoying Book 3! Oh, and anyone who’s on the fence about joining us—please do! There’s still time for you to catch up—as  you can see, we are a very leisurely sort of a readalong!

I’m also half-way through The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and I think part of the reason that I am enjoying it so much is because the story that this book is telling ties in very well with some of the things that I’ve been thinking about in relation to The Argonauts. I love what Becky Chambers is doing here.

Additionally, I started Ismat Chughtai’s The Crooked Line. She’s an Indian-Pakistani author who’s supposed to be the doyenne of Urdu literature. To be honest, I’m not sure if/when I’m going to finish this because I began this one to get a feel for her, and to tide me over, till her collection of short stories arrives at my doorstep.

These are all the books currently in the house. (Hubs had a fit of spring cleaning.)

I’ve read only a few pages so far but Reader, SHE IS CRAZY. No, SERIOUSLY. There’s this INSANE current of energy underlaying her words that is like nothing I’ve read before. The best approximation I can think of is Diana Wynne Jones. Her stories crackle with a similar energy, but Chughtai’s do so even more! She’s just weird. I can’t help feeling that she was cackling the entire time she was writing! Here, see for yourself:

No sooner did she appear all dressed up and clean than everything around her seemed poised to attack her spotless clothes. The red mud in the fields and the whispering sand on the edge of the pond tantalized her, the moist, fragrant grass in the stables pursued her with open arms, the dirty, foul-smelling chicken coop drew her to itself as if it were a bride’s flowery bed.

And another one:

The two girls went behind the cow’s stall and strolled with their arms wrapped around each other. Sometimes they tossed about in the sand like rolling pins. Then they pitched fistfuls of sand as if it was water they were scooping up in their hands, until finally the two of them began to resemble grotesque mud statues. Sand penetrated their very beings, but still they had not had enough of sand and mud. Making spoons out of dried leaves, they scooped up sand and swallowed mouthfuls; they devoured it as if it were delicious caudle. Like pregnant women, they relished the aroma of mud.

What do you think? (That second quote makes me think of magical realism for some reason.)

Sarah Morgan’s Some Kind Of Wonderful is what I picked up for my romance fix. I’d lapped up her O’Neill brothers’ trilogy and Some Kind Of Wonderful has a trope that’s one of my favorites—second chances! I don’t dig much of the contemporary romance out there but Morgan is always an exception. I REALLY like how Zach, the hero, has some heft to him. Yes, he walks out on his marriage of ten days, but Morgan is in the process of showing why he did that (I’m still reading it!). I can’t wait to see how the two leads work their way through to their happy-ever-after. (And speaking of romance, I have Dixie Browning’s Cinderella’s Midnight Kiss on hold—I HAD to read it after Valancy’s epic post).

Then there’s Alok Jha’s The Water Book that I simply MUST get around to given that that too is an ILL that I’ve already got extended once. Plus, I don’t know if it’s really come from there but on the front page it says it’s FROM THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF NEW ZEALAND! ZOMG!!! NEW ZEALAND! A BOOK CAME TO ME ALL THE WAY FROM NEW ZEALAND?!! :O

If you think I’m being too ambitious WITH SO MANY IN-BETWEENIES, YOU ARE RIGHT. Because, this is just the TIP of the ice-berg!! There are eleventy-one other books checked out as well with very little hope of any of them being completed before they need to be returned! My in-laws’ visit begins tomorrow and continues for the next few weeks and I have no idea how much reading and reviewing I’ll be able to manage while they’re around. So expect a slowdown here on the blog. The only thing I’m certain to follow-through on is Middlemarch. (I do feel a sense of obligation on that one given that I was the one to put the whole readalong into motion!) I’m also hoping to make inroads into my omnibus edition of R.K. Narayan’s Malgudi Days for Deepika’s readalong in the first two weeks of May but we’ll see how it goes!

So that’s me! What’s up with you guys? What’s on your reader radar for the next couple of weeks?

Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South 

Dashing off a quick note because I just HAVE to express how much I loved this novel. Emotionally satisfying, intellectually stimulating and a heroine whom I couldn’t help liking. What more could I have asked for? Even more, a novel that is as topical today as when Gaskell published it originally. North and South was written in the early 1850s, a few decades into industrialism if I am not mistaken and yet its discourse on the tensions between “masters and men” is as relevant today as it was back in Gaskell’s days!

I am looking forward to reading the essays on the novel that my Norton Critical Edition has. I also have to admit that this book has fanned the tinder that was sparked when I wrote the piece on Victorian authoresses for Bloom. There is something endlessly fascinating about the Victorian era–so far in the past and yet so astonishingly apropos to today’s times as well. I am strongly tempted to look up Gaskell’s other works, especially the posthumously published Wives and Daughters. Too, I want to try out Anthony Trollope, Emily Eden’s letters as well as George Elliot’s Middlemarch. The last moved from my should-I-should-I-not to uh-hunh-I-should TBR pile after I read this about Dorothea Brooke: “There aren’t a lot of happy outcomes for intense, principled women in fiction. I’m so grateful for this one.”

Hiatus

Till things settle a bit.

Lots of things happening right now – all good and exciting and lovely. However, I do not feel like writing in the midst of all of this. Reading has also decreased though I am keen on starting Megan Whaler Turner’s The Queen Thief series.

I did love R.J. Palacio’s Wonder, a book for 8-12 year olds that deals wonderfully with the whole theme of being different. Will pen down my thoughts on it in the next few weeks.

Till then, a happy thawing and warm summers to you! See you (hopefully) in about a month’s time!

In which I fall in love with Laurie R. King (of The Mary Russell Mysteries fame)

I had heard of but never read the Mary Russell mysteries. And then I came across Laurie R. King, the author of the Mary Rusell mysteries’ website. As I always do, I clicked on the page that said ‘Bio’ and stumbled upon:

Her Autobiography

I am a writer, because I love and have been nurtured by books.

and

One of the great pleasures in being the sort of writer I am, in having published The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, is looking up during a signing and seeing myself in the back row. The book, which begins with the heroine fifteen years old yet easily capable of meeting the great Sherlock Holmes as an equal, is the story I wish I had when I was twelve or fourteen. Fantasy, affirmation, a hint of romance, a dash of adventure: along with those shy girls in the back row, I am Mary Russell. Or I was at that age, in my mind.

and

But what do a much-uprooted childhood, a love of theology, travel to distant places, and the establishment of three homes have to do with the Laurie R. King entry in Contemporary Authors? If my husband had not been so near to retirement age, I might well have gone on into doctoral studies, become a Biblical scholar, and had a far different entry. Or if back in high school my math teachers had been more encouraging, my other secret passion might have taken root, leading me into architecture, in which case a Laurie King biography would have been found in another series entirely. Or if life had tugged just slightly harder in another direction, I might have pursued the mysteries of birth, and plunged into the joyous obscurity of a midwife, known only to those whose babies she had caught.

Instead, in September of 1987, when my daughter was in her second grade classroom and my son off to his preschool three mornings a week, I sat down with the Waterman fountain pen I had bought on the Oxford high street the summer before and wrote on a canary pad the words, “I was fifteen when I met Sherlock Holmes, fifteen years old with my nose in a book as I walked the Sussex Downs, and nearly stepped on him.”

And like that, I was a writer.

I think I am about to fall in love.

And so it begins! (House of Niccolo)

My insides are dancing a jig. My brain is squealing in excitement. And the reader in me has a distinctly satisfied smile on her face.

All this because I have decided to embark on The House of Niccolo series. Yes! Miss Dunnett leaped across like a seasoned athelete, clearing the miles long TBR pile confidently and sure-footedly.

Having been gobsmacked by Miss Dunnett the first time around though I am determined to be better prepared this time!

For one, I am ordering the Dorothy Dunnett companion books by Elspeth Morrison. Miss Dunnett’s superb wielding of European history and my woeful ignorance of the same, her use of archaic words that prove un-findable, her lavish use of poetry that goes right above my head and her switching between multiple languages — all these were frustrating obstacles during my reading of the Lymond Chronicles and issues that I would like to address before commencing the House of Niccolo series.

For another, I intend to read up all the spoiler-y things about the Niccolo series. Before Dorothy Dunnett fans jump up and scream blasphemy, let me explain my rationale! My whole experience of the Lymond Chronicles was marked by a sort of lurch forward, a stagger backwards where my desire to savour each and every word was at a constant war with my impatience to know what happens next. One could argue that a mark of a good story is inspiring this very behaviour in a reader. This time around though I have an overwhelming desire to focus more on the rich details and the incredibly beautiful prose that is so central to Miss Dunnett’s works than spending energy fretting about future events. I’d also like to read more critically which I know will require a more patient reading as compared to how I read Francis of Lymond’s chronicles.

Knowing myself this will be possible only if I have a general idea of the biggies of the series, of which, two I know I need to know for sure for my strategy to succeed – the identity of the villain, if there is one; the identity of Niccolo’s love interest and the one he finally ends up with.

I am also thinking of processing my thoughts on this blog as I read along. I don’t know what the schedule would be – halfway through the book, end of each section / book, or something else – but I’m tempted for sure!

Or that’s the plan anyway!

~*~

In the meanwhile I have The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield ready and waiting for me.

Something else that I want to get to is a review of “The Chocolate Kiss” by Laura Florand, easily one of the better romances I have read in a long long while. It’s funny like hell, has delightful characters and really good writing, a Parisian hero and a Parisian pastry shop and to top it all oodles of hot chocolates and dozens of macarons! Ahh, I shall just have to sit down and write it out, n’est-ce pas? (and that’s the sum total of my French!) ((and I really hope I used that correctly!))