books

Something Lost, Something Gained

So: Borders is really and truly closing down with the few exceptions of some stores in the main city centres across the country. The one closest to me is/was at a shopping centre. With its forthcoming closure (merely days, I think) and with the closure of its sister store, another chain called Angus and Robertson, I realised that it left me without a close bookstore. The closest bookstore, any bookstore, be it chain or independent, would be either in the city or along my favourite shopping strip, Brunswick St, filled with eclectic bookstores and the best vegetarian eatery in the world. Despite the failures of Borders, I am quite sad that I won’t be able to pop in somewhere bookish to escape from the shopping crowds for awhile. Now, the only bookish place will be at large chain stores like Target and Big W.

At the moment, Borders is having a massive closing down sale. Everything MUST go and they truly mean it. Everything including shop fittings, shelves and furniture! Even wall decor are for sale. The stock was slow to receive a reduction. Even at 40% off the original price, their items were still so much more expensive than most places which is ridiculous. But over the last few weeks, it’s become 50 – 60% off and there had been some really good stock. I guess they’re really digging out the corners of the storeroom. So, while I’m sad that Borders is going, I’m pretty happy with my massive book splurge especially since I didn’t get a chance to go Book Town this year.

Presenting my book loot and also a some great bargains I found at the fabulous Brunswick St Bookstore.

Book loot!

From left to right, up and down:

  • Crimes Against Humanity – Geoffrey Robertson
  • The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea – Randolph Stow (highly recommended by Reading Matters – twice)
  • Death in Venice and other stories – Thomas Mann
  • Sadopaideia – Annoymous
  • Austerlitz – W. G. Sebald
  • Call Me By Your Name – Andre Aciman (I’ve been wanting to read this since A Guy’s Moleskine Notebook reviewed this and I found it by chance! On sale!).
  • The Beautiful and the Damned – F. Scott Fitzgerald. I haven’t had the most luck with Fitzgerald but this edition is simply gorgeous.
  • The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle. I still haven’t read much Sherlock.
  • All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque. I won this awhile back from Reading Matters for World Book Night and I received it yesterday!
  • Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys
  • The Sorrows of Young WertherΒ  – Johann Wolfgang Goethe.
  • She – H. Rider Haggard
  • Middlemarch – George Eliot
  • The White Castle – Orhan Pamuk
  • Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
  • Philosophy in the Boudoir – Marquis de Sade
  • The Second Sex – Simone de Beauvoir. It’s the new translation and I got it for a measly price of $12.95. Whoa!

So that’s my loot. I don’t think I would mind being locked in my room for a few months.

There and Back Again

Well, I’m finally back from my first solo trip overseas and, rather miraculously, I’m back in one piece and no major dramas! No lost passports, cards or luggage. I did get lost many times, particularly from train stations where my bearings were consistently wrong and stubbornly, I would only ask for directions once I realised that the place was taking much longer to get to than stated. I later learned that if I was certain that I was going the right way, it probably meant I should be heading in the opposite direction!

Over three and a half weeks, I travelled to Seoul, Vienna, Bratislava, Cesky Krumlov, Prague, Teplice, Auschwitz, Krakow, Tatra Mountains in Slovakia, Budapest and finally London. I loved all the places I visited but I especially loved Cesky Krumlov, an UNESCO listed town with most of their original buildings and castle preserved from Medieval times.

Cesky Krumlov

Everything was just so picturesque including its state forest where I went for a three hour (mostly downhill) bike ride – the first time I’ve been on a bike for nearly seven years! Somehow, I made it (except for three strenuous hills) and I only crashed once and it was into a fence five minutes away from our finishing point. It was either crashing into an old man hobbling along or the fence. I think I made the right decision. πŸ™‚ In Cesky, I also picked up two books from a charming little bookstore named Shakespeare & Co. (is this a chain?).

Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore in Cesky

Since my pack was so small (50 litres) and I wanted to travel light, I had made the decision to only buy books that were unique to that particular region. From the bookstore, I selected two books about the Czech Republic – one specifically on Prague and the other containing folklores from regions all over the Republic. Sadly, I only managed to find these sort of folklore books in Cesky Krumlov and so didn’t pick up anymore books until London.

In Vienna, I stopped by their National Library and famous State Hall. The baroque style hall was beautiful but it did somewhat empty of character and I was a little disappointed. Perhaps it was because the library was in the middle of being digitised which is fantastic but, nevetheless, the library was still stunning.

The State Hall - Outside

The State Hall with the bored security guard

Two level of shelves. The frecoes (?) on the roof were also stunning.

There were secret doors hidden amongst the shelves. πŸ™‚

The stunning upper level. I love how the light just hits the statue.

The beautiful roof frescoes. I could have just laid on the ground to stare at them.

While I managed to pop into various bookstores (Budapest was absolutely peppered with great little bookstores), I didn’t do anything else too bookish. However, I did manage get my first snow experience! That’s right, I’d never seen snow until I went to the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia. Not a bad place to experience your first snow. πŸ™‚ The mountains were absolutely stunning and the place was pretty much deserted since it was in between seasons.

Tatra Mountains - The frozen lake

Tatras - that odd thing sticking out is the old ski jump

And, of course, my first snowman πŸ™‚

Another highlight from my travels would have to be meeting other bloggers in London. πŸ™‚ I met the lovely Claire (Paperback Reader), Kim (Reading Matters), Polly (Novel Insights) and Sakura (Chasing Bawa. Also, thanks for the Pocky! They were a great sustenance during those long queues :-)) a few hours after reaching London at Waterstones cafe and, although I was a little tired and sleepy, they provided me with such a warm and friendly welcome and weren’t short of suggestions or handy tips! πŸ™‚ Unfortunately, I forgot to take some pictures. The next day, I met Another Cookie Crumbles, who took time out from her busy schedule, and we had more scones and tea at Harrods and sat talking until we were asked to leave since Harrods had closed half an hour earlier!

In total, I spent nearly five days in London and it was nowhere near enough. The days just flew by incredibly fast and I didn’t manage to do half of what I wanted. I’m suspecting I may have dallied away the time in the many bookstores I disappeared into. I loved Charing Cross and found great little second hand bookstores including one that stocked second hand Persephones. Persephones! I also spent a couple of days tracking down the bookstore. My silly map (although to be fair, it was a bus map) didn’t have Persephone’s street on it and I didn’t write down directions. When I finally found it the next day, I was elated!

At last! Persephones!

I went a little crazy in the store and would have bought far more books if I had more room or the muscles to carry them. I was more than thrilled to find that they had a special on if you bought three books. I also bought some of their lovely postcards and a bag. Ah, if only there were more stores and books like Persephones (especially in Melbourne :-)).

So: my final holiday book loot. I did have to buy an extra bag in the end but nothing terribly extravagant.

Holiday Book Loot

  • The Adulterous Woman – Albert Camus (this was waiting for me at home).
  • Odour of Chrysanthemums – D. H. Lawrence
  • Through the Wall – Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (I’ve been wanting to read this since Novel Insight’s review)
  • The Tooth – Shirley Jackson
  • The Feminine MystiqueΒ  – Betty Friedan (this was also waiting at home).
  • Sweet Valley Confidential – Francine Pascal. Yes, I know but I couldn’t help it (I’m looking at you, Another Cookie! πŸ™‚ ). It’s also a gift for a friend.
  • Two Prague Stories – Rainer Maria Rilke
  • 22 Czech Legends – Alena Jezkova
  • Frost in May – Antonia White
  • Farewell Leicester Square – Betty Miller. A lovely gift from Another Cookie Crumbles.
  • The Carlyles at Home – Thea Holme
  • There Were No Windows – Norah Hoult
  • Miss Buncle’s Book – D. E. Stevenson
  • The Blank Wall – Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
  • Miss Ranskill Comes Home – Barbara Euphan Todd

Bookmarks

I also got two bookmarks. Quite restrained, in my case. One from Prague and another gifted from the lovely Claire. πŸ™‚

Ah, Persephone

And finally, the Persephone bag which I love. I think I had the whole Persephone experience. πŸ™‚

Finally, I managed to only read two books: Case Histories by Kate Atkinson which I absolutely loved although it was quite disturbing and What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt. I still have a mixed reaction to that. And now, what should I read next? I obviously don’t have enough books.

Bookshelf Porn

I might regret including the word ‘porn’ in the title of this post but there is really a most lovely site featuring drool-worthy and heart-stopping bibliophile porn. Here’s a peep show:

And there’s more where that came from at Bookshelf Porn.

In other G-rated news:

  • For the first time, I’m itching to read some of the Booker prize long-listed titles especially Room by Emma Donohue and In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut (how odd they both have ‘room’ in the title). I usually stay well clear of listed titles and winners and wait a few years before I read them. I have read The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas though and am glad that an Australian writer is listed.
  • I always love watching The First Tuesday Bookclub and leave it as a special treat when the show is repeated on Sunday evenings. This month’s show was particularly fantastic. One of the selected books, Anna Karenina, got such glowing and enthusiastic reviews from all five book clubbers that I’m inspired to read it after I finish my current books. It’s been lounging by my bedside after an attempt to read it during summer but the many, many Russian names put me off. I encourage you all to view the Book Club videos on their website if you haven’t seen them.
  • One of the book clubbers, author Richard Flanaghan, raised a very interesting point that the current writers in today’s industry write in a prize culture which I think rings very true. Winning an acclaimed prize not only raises the author’s profile significantly but it also boosts the writer’s and publisher’s coffers and reputation. Do we have too many literary prizes? Or not enough? Is it really a bad thing?
  • And Richard Flanaghan has uttered one of the best quotes I’ve heard in a long time, spoken in the context of discussing Anna Karenina:

Infatuation ends at the point when you know somebody.

New Books (and a trailer)!

The books I ordered from Book Depository all arrived this week. It started off with the intention of only buying a small present for a friend and ended up with me ordering myself a little loot.

  • The Outsider – Albert Camus. This is a nice, hardback edition. My copy is from high school and filled with scribbles which can be distracting.
  • The Infernal Desire Machine of Doctor Hoffman – Angela Carter. I love these Penguin Decades editions. Gorgeous covers.
  • Notes from Underground – Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Speaking of covers, this one is lovely too and helps a good cause. It also carries on the existentialist theme.
  • Beautiful For Ever – Helen Rappaport. I wrote a bit about Madame Levison and her influences on Wilkie Collins’ Armadale in uni and I love this topic. I wish I had this for a resource a few years ago. And again, isn’t this cover simply beautiful?

Finally, here is the trailer for the popular Australian Tomorrow series. The first movie is being released later in the year. The series was one of my favourite and memorable reads during high school and I was quite obsessed with it.

It looks ok but some lines seem a little corny. I really hope it’s decent! And I can’t stop thinking the lead actress is still that annoying girl she used to be in Neighbours.

New Books & Stuff!

Well! So much for my self-imposed book buying ban for a few months. I got two more books from the book depository with ridiculous prices:

  • The Communist Manifesto – Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
  • Agnes Grey – Anne Bronte

I’ve always been interested in the manifesto and Oxford cover simply sucked me in. I’m surprised at how thin it is but I think it will make for some interesting reading. Perhaps not something for the train though. With Agnes Grey, I think I’ve completed my collection of the Brontes with the exception of Shirley and the fantasy tales of Angria, neither of which I’m particularly all that interested in.

Not too much happening on the reading front lately. I’ve been enjoying Jude and it’s all quite sad and poignant. I’ve made a semi resolution that for next month and perhaps in July too, I will try to read only my own books. They’re piling up but it seems that I can never get to them because of the constant stack of library books demanding to be read before their due date. My copy of Jude was bought five years ago and I have only now gotten around to reading it.

But the one thing that’s taken up most of time this week is the finale of Lost! I’m a little forlorn because it’s my favourite show. This isn’t really a complete random topic because the show had such a strong connection with literature, especially obscure and significant works not to mention various philosophical texts. The narrative devices used during the series was also constantly inspiring. It was very good story telling. After the finale, I’m no closer to understanding what the Island was about but I really did enjoy it. The score by Michael Giacchino was also simply amazing. I’m prowling the forums watching the fierce battles between die-hard Jate, Skate and Suliet fans. Ye-es!

Library Loot

Many of the books I reserved early in the year have seem to all come in at the same time so now I have a precarious tower of library TBR as well as my TBR made up of my purchases. My reading has slowed down because I’ve been too exhausted and I’m always ready to nod off after two pages (sorry George Eliot!).

Library loot:

  • The Various Haunts of Men – Susan Hill
  • Herge: The Man Who Created Tintin – Pierre Assouline
  • The Lost Symbol – Dan Brown (yes, yes, I know)
  • Handling the Undead – John Ajvide Lindqvist
  • The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters
  • Wetlands – Charlotte Roche
  • At Home with Books – Estelle Ellis

It seems that I have subconsciously picked out gothic-ish books. I enjoyed Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In last year and his latest sounds just as interesting. I also think I might have a fascination with Swedish fiction now. I’m most fascinated by the Herge biography since I’m a huge fan of Tintin. I never tire of re-reading the comics or re-watching the excellent animated series. At Home with Books is one of my favourite ‘coffee table’ books but it’s getting quite outdated and old now. The featured ‘modern’ libraries looks very mid-90s (when the book was published) but the more traditional style libraries still look amazing. It showcases various personal libraries and also provide tips and advice on book collecting and how to care for books. I should get myself a copy of this book since it’s the fourth time I’ve borrowed it. It’s fantastic and quite voyeuristic, I suppose.I think it’s time somebody updated this.

And don’t judge me because Dan Brown’s in there with the rest. πŸ™‚ I think I’m set for the short Easter break.

Lost Books

I’m a huge fan of the T.V. show Lost (except half of season two and most of season three which were quite dreadful) and I love how ingrained and significant literature is in the show. Characters would nonchalantly read a book that would turn out to contribute or hint at a deeper level in the plot. And even if you’re not a fan of the show, the writers do manage to insert an impressive list of literary titles with classics and philosophy featured heavily.

(Jacob reading Everything that Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor)

This site – http://lostbooks.blogspot.com/ – has a list of all the books that have featured on Lost, its context and episode. Definitely worth checking out, even just for the titles.