February 2010

This has been a very sad month for book reading. The book I’m currently reading is taking ages (despite reassurances from friends it will soon pick up — I need to be awake enough to read it!), and not reflected here are the couple hundred or so pages of assorted chapters and articles read for work, so there you go.

  1. Scottish Fairy Belief: A history by Lizanne Henderson and Edward J. Cowan. (for work)
  2. Elves in Anglo-Saxon England by Alaric Hall. (for work)
  3. The Ladies of Grace Adieu, and other stories by Susanna Clarke. (for pleasure)
  4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. (for pleasure)

Wild Geese

Sometimes introverts need to have their introversion validated; to be told that it’s okay to wrap themselves up in the soft comfort of solitude, to talk only to the few people they want to and take a break from the rest of the world, to stare out at the long horizon and feel all the things that had been piling up spread out, thinning. Snow covers the hills in the distance and the clouds hang low over them, blurring the boundary between earth and sky.

I don’t like poetry as a rule, but I do like this one. And despite my reputation to the contrary, I do have a certain fondness for geese.

Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

It’s Friday

As the wind, rain, snow, sleet howls outside and pounds on the window, I am rationalising that this tiredness is the result of recovering from a week-or-more-long funk, of the weather, of poor sleep, trying not to admit that perhaps, again, I ought to have my sinuses checked, that perhaps all I need is sleep. Yes, sleep: that blissful unconsciousness that doth restoreth mind, body, soul. Thank heaven it is Friday. How boring am I that I look forward to going to bed early on a Friday night, that I may sleep all the longer on Saturday morning?

Two of my favorite lines from The King of Bede come from the same chapter:

‘The sea air put him into unpredictable moods.’


‘A stranger am I, and a wanderer, searching for the edge of the world.’

Sea, mountain, sky

I love the waves as white ribbons rippling across the deep silver blue, the sand that goes on and on into the infinite distance, the blush of peach and pink on the distant snowy mountains, the sky that curves with the colors of a seashell as the sun dips below the edge of the world.


The previous week (or two) in bullet points:

  • Megan paused in her Sojourn from India to the States to visit the Princedom of Fyffe for X days;
  • The aforesaid Sojourner and I did venture to Edinburgh and Inverness, during which my knees began to Protest Loudly, to be alleviated by the Use of a Cane;
  • The Mystery of the Undelivered Parcel becomes a concern to many;
  • I Slept little;
  • I completed the excellent Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and began If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino;
  • I panicked, prepared and persevered through the First Thesis Meeting of This Year;
  • I was reminded that I am Dust and to Dust I Shall Return;
  • I have Shopped, Laundered and Hoovered to bring Order back into Chaos.

*  *  *

I have wanted to write about Never Let Me Go, but the only way to do so without it sounding utterly boring would be to give away the premise. I knew the premise going into the book, but it was something that the book revealed slowly, and I think that I would allow any of my readers and friends the opportunity to discover it for themselves. In short, as much as I disliked Remains of the Day, I enjoyed Never Let Me Go. I was surprised that many of the same techniques Ishiguro used in Remains of the Day were also used in Never Let Me Go, except that in the latter the perspective is first person instead of third, the stream of consciousness is purposeful instead of rambling, and, in my opinion, Never Let Me Go simply had a more compelling story. It is a novel I wish I had written; perhaps someday I may write like it.

I am glad for weekends. They are reset buttons when you just need to start a week afresh. And this weekend has done just that.

In my defense

The other day while talking books with Casey (always an enjoyable past-time), the subject came up regarding how much non-SFF I read, and I couldn’t remember at the time the titles I have read this year. So, in my defense, I have consulted my reading list and six of the fifteen fiction books I have read thus far in 2010 have been neither science-fiction nor fantasy:

– Morality Play by Barry Unsworth.
– The Cellist of Sarajevo
by Steven Galloway.
– P
arnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley.
– Searoad: Chronicles of Klatsand
by Ursula K. Le Guin.
– Run
by Ann Patchett.
– The Hound of the Baskervilles
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

And I am currently reading If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino. (The rest of the breakdown? 4 science-fiction, 5 fantasy.)

‘So there’; I do read contemporary/modern/non-genre fiction.

A Tale of Two Kitties

A month or so ago when I was at my parents’ house, our cat was in my room while I was going to sleep. She was trying to get into my closet. ‘Jewely,’ I said, ‘If you are just going to get into mischief, I will throw you out.’ She raised her chin, sniffed, and stalked to the door, where she deftly stuck her paw under the door and opened it. With a flick of her tail, she left.

This morning, Truffles was in a fey mood. I had already thrown her out of the bathroom where she was getting into trouble when she pushed open the door to my room with a glint in her eye. I sat at my desk journaling. ‘You will not make a nuisance of yourself, Truffles,’ said I. She turned around and slithered out the door. I shut it behind her.

I know, I need to catch-up. Accept this tale for now, and I shall finish my SORSAS application, go to Palaeography, go to a thesis meeting…