Saturday, March 31, 2007

Reading list for March 2007

Currently reading
St. Augustine, Confessions
Cormac McCarthy, The road

Recently read
Jenny Diski, Das blaue Herz des Eises
Terry Pratchett, Equal rites
    ditto, The light fantastic

Even by his own harsh standards, McCarthy's The road is a singularly bleak and unpleasant tale—that is, the subject is unpleasant and the probable story arc is very bleak (one has learned not to identify with the hero of a McCarthy novel). Given the setting, it is inevitable that every character will be dead within a very few years, whether or not they survive the novel's plot. Grim, harrowing; entirely too realistic for comfort; the stuff of nightmares.

Skating to Antarctica was mentioned on Antonia's blog recently, and when I saw it in the library I recognized that Life was giving me a poke in the ribs. It is an intertwining of two three (autobiographical) stories: Diski's miserable childhood—absentee father, depressive suicidal mother who also disappeared—and a youth spent half in psychiatric treatment; her reaction to her daughter's search for her mother; and her voyage to Antarctica in search of perfect, still, empty whiteness. All three tales are well written and worth reading; as with Alan Bennett, one laughs often but it is not comedy. Recommended.

St. Augustine continues to fascinate and annoy me on alternate pages. I've reached the period where he parts with his common-law wife—his companion of twelve years, the mother of his son, who followed him from Africa to Rome only to be sent packing when A's mother announced that it was time for him to marry. Because she was not suitable, you see, being only a little colonial girl (as he was only a little colonial boy, but well that's different) who was neither rich nor powerfully connected. The announcement of her departure is the first occasion on which Augustine explicitly mentions her, and the cold austerity is shocking:
... my concubine being torn from my side as a hindrance to my marriage, my heart which clave unto her was torn and wounded and bleeding. And she returned to Afric, vowing unto Thee never to know any other man, leaving with me my son by her. source
That's it. That is all that Augustine felt necessary to write about twelve allegedly happy and passionate years. Heartless bastard. I shall re-read Jostein Gaarder's Vita brevis (which gives Floria's side of the story) as antidote upon completing this book.

Just by the way, the marriage was to be the then-usual dynastic/political arrangement: Augustine was engaged at the age of thirty-one to marry a ten-year-old girl; since she was obviously far too young, the wedding was to be postponed until she reached the entirely suitable age of twelve. The business having being transacted, he then took another "concubine" to tide him over the coming two years, as though it were the most natural thing on Earth. So: a man who wishes to marry may not have a mistress, but a man who has married may have one? Sounds vaguely odd to me.

In other news I apologise for the recent interruptions, I've been working hard and feeling poorly: frequent headaches, tired all time; falling back into (sometimes very) late nights and mornings hasn't helped. I have the feeling that staring into the screen is part of the problem, it seems to bring on and/or intensify the headaches, so I shall turn the computers off until Monday morning. My apologies to anyone who's waiting for e-mail from me (Joe, Philip, N, L), I will get back to you next week.

In happier news yesterday's Friday Favourite song is a happy, lilting, bouncy tune from this CD.

One last thing: the most unlikely excuse ever heard.

Enjoy your weekends, my dears.

Next month's list
Last month's list

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Blogger zhoen said...

Massage? Chiropractor? Soak in hot springs? Really sounds like you need some kind of TLC.

March 31, 2007 at 9:00:00 p.m. GMT+2  
Blogger Antonia said...

maybe you've got Fruejahrsmuedigkeit or/and you just need to go on vacation...
about the Diski book I found most interesting that she really did go there. It is a strangely intriguing book.
And about the Augustins, one never really knows until one has not seen the original. Translations can be wrong or whatever. But independent of the translations of course it is not such a nice thing to act this way with one's comcubine, to say the least...

March 31, 2007 at 10:37:00 p.m. GMT+2  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

Do you ever read anything for fun? Anything? I feel so uneducated when I look at your reading lists.

I am now going to spend many minutes reading the overheard in the office archives and laughing myself silly. Thank you for that.

Feel better soon!

April 1, 2007 at 5:55:00 a.m. GMT+2  
Blogger alan said...

thanks for the nice jaunty song!

April 2, 2007 at 12:21:00 a.m. GMT+2  
Blogger Udge said...

Zhoen: it's true, I do definitely need some R&R. I hope and intend to spend the Easter holidays asleep.

Antonia: it's saddening to see in Augustine how his developing "love" for God consumes his ability to love anyone or anything else.

DM: all of this stuff is "fun" reading for me. I don't mention here the professional stuff about database engines and programming languages that I read for not fun. If you mean reading for light entertainment, that's the function of the Pratchetts and Gaimans (Gaimen?) that come up from time to time.

Alan: glad you liked it.

April 2, 2007 at 8:24:00 a.m. GMT+2  
Blogger Udge said...

DM: furthermore, I feel uneducated when I hear the reading lists at the Little Professor or 50 books or the recent discussion of Handke and ex-Yugoslavia on Antonia's blog :-)

It's all relative, and there is no upper limit. That's part of its beauty.

April 2, 2007 at 8:27:00 a.m. GMT+2  

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