Bits and Bobs (now with extra sand)


Reading on the beach in Hawaii
When I lived in Hawaii in the mid-1990s my beach reading of choice was the The New Yorker. Not only did it keep me in touch with what was happening in the real world (the world wide web was nascent to say the least), but it is the perfect format for beach reading. All of the articles are printed on contiguous pages so there is no flipping to the back of the magazine to continue an article. It sounds like a small thing, but it really makes it so much easier to read on a beach with all the sand and sunscreen that can muck up the pages. We are headed to Hawaii this winter (haven’t been back there since 2001) and I need to come up with my reading pile. Since the trip is during the TBR Dare I could only pick from the pile I wrote about earlier which thankfully wasn’t a problem. I made sure I included enough used paperbacks in that pile so that I wouldn’t mind if the books got a little trashed on the beach.  I think I am going to take along According to Mark by Penelope Lively, one of the two Elinor Lipman novels in my pile, Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry and either Armadale by Wilkie Collins or Dickens’ Little Dorritt.  That will definitely cover me for quantity and I hope also for variety. After all there is about 10 hours of flying time each direction as well.

Apologies to Salman Rushdie
In my post a few days ago about my TBR Dare pile for the first three months of 2012 I made a snarky comment about Salman Rushdie. For some reason I have had it in my head that Rushdie’s writing is not for me and that getting through Midnight’s Children was going to be like taking bitter medicine. Why did I think this? On what information did I base this prejudice? Thursday night before bed, feeling up to a challenge–and starting my TBR Dare early–I picked up Midnight’s Children. I soon found myself interested enough to force myself to stay awake until I read the first chapter. The next morning I couldn’t wait to get to the bus stop so I could resume my reading. And now I am 46 pages in and I can’t believe what an enjoyable and interesting read it is turning out to be. This is a perfect example of why the TBR Dare is so great. I don’t think I would have picked this up anytime soon, and now I am reading something really great. Now, hopefully it was Naipaul not Rushdie who made those ridiculous comments about woman writers…

If you have nothing to read on
the subway, sleeping seems like
a better option than just staring.
Photo from Asleep on the Subway

People staring into space
I couldn’t help noticing yesterday morning how many people just sit on the Metro and stare into space. Granted, many are listening to iPods which no doubt helps to pass the time. But how can someone take a precious half hour of the day (or more) and not read or knit or write out a grocery list or sleep. I do sometimes just to stare into space, but not very often, and many of these people look like habitual stare-ers. Maybe they are plotting their entrance into the Republican primaries.

Reading Dickens is the dickens
The effervescent Amanda at the Fig and Thistle is hosting a Dickens challenge during January as a lead up to the old man’s 200th birthday on February 7th. My experience with Dickens hasn’t been all that fantastic. I had to read Hard Times in college and I kind of enjoyed it. But I have also gotten stuck (repeatedly) in both the Tale of Two Cities and Bleak House. Loved the TV version of the latter, but honestly how many times can I be expected to read about Jarndyce and Jarndyce before allowing my eyes to glaze over. Prior to finding out about Amanda’s challenge, I thought it might be time to give Dickens another try and put Little Dorrit in my TBR Dare pile. I think I am going to shoot for having it read by February 7th so I can post a review that day. No doubt my review will be crucial to the global success or failure of Dickens’ work.

Will Henry Green get the green light?
Stu over at Winstonsdad’s Blog is hosting Henry Green Week beginning January 23rd. I don’t know anything about Green and hadn’t really thought about participating until Simon at Stuck-in-a-Book mentioned it. What finally tipped me over the edge was Simon saying: “… c’mon, if you all did it for Anita Brookner, you can definitely do it for Henry Green.” And I thought, “He’s right, I should give it a go…” Well I did. I checked one out from the library and we didn’t get along. At all. There might be some Henry Green in my future, but not in time for the 23rd.

16 thoughts on “Bits and Bobs (now with extra sand)

  1. betsy December 31, 2011 / 8:50 am

    Staring into space will probably get Republicans farther than bursting into tears like Newt.


  2. Teresa December 31, 2011 / 9:03 am

    It was Naipul who made the preposterous comment about women writers.

    And I stare into space on the Metro (while listening to podcasts) because I get motion sickness if I try to read or write. I really enjoy my podcasts, too, so listening to them doesn't feel like a waste of time. If I took the Metro every day, I'd just have time to listen to more.


  3. Susan in TX December 31, 2011 / 10:06 am

    Enjoy your trip! I will try not to be jealous. It has been close to 35 years since I was last in Hawaii (yes, I was a child), and winter seems like the perfect time to go. I had chuckled at the Rushdie comment, having slogged my way through the Satanic Verses back in the ?80's when it came out. I have Midnight's Children on my tbr list, though, and now perhaps I will dread it a little less. :)


  4. winstonsdad December 31, 2011 / 10:25 am

    thanks for the mention the beach looks wonderful from here in grey derbyshire ,all the best for the coming year stu


  5. Amanda December 31, 2011 / 12:20 pm

    I got your card today, I'm so glad you enjoyed the picture. Sam was thrilled everyone liked our Christmas card. He is too hard a critic of his own work.

    I haven't read Rushdie yet, although I always mean to. This has inspired me to certainly read him in 2012. I know that he is downright hilarious (and thought-provoking) on Twitter.


  6. Lu @ Regular Rumination December 31, 2011 / 1:27 pm

    I wonder about those people who are always staring into space too. Sometimes I feel the need to do nothing, hear nothing, see nothing and I put my hood over my face and pretend I'm not on the subway, but sleeping on my own bed. Maybe like Teresa says they're listening to podcasts. Random: I have a hard time not giggling out loud when I listen to podcasts, because they're usually funny ones.

    Enjoy your trip, Thomas! It sounds amazing and it sounds like you have some good books to keep you company on the beach.


  7. music-books-steve December 31, 2011 / 2:09 pm

    I read Hawaii in Hawaii. Ain't great literature, but a fun read, especially there. Have you read W.S. Merwin's verse epic about Hawaii, The Folding Cliffs? I have to confess I got bogged down about 2/3 of the way thru, but it's lovely, evocative, and definitely on my “give it a new chance” list. And PLEASE give Dickens a new chance!


  8. agoodstoppingpoint December 31, 2011 / 7:50 pm

    Read Our Mutual Friend not long ago and loved it. But I also loved Bleak House. I hated David Copperfield. I saw the recentish BBC miniseries of Little Dorrit but while it was gorgeous and had its moments, I did think it a lesser story than say, that of Bleak House. Despite these not so bolstering words, I hope you get on well with the book.

    Like Teresa, I get motion-sickness on the metro and alas, cannot read on it. I stubbornly keep trying to read anyway, on my infrequent trips on the train, and each time feel nauseated for nearly the rest of the trip. It does seem such a waste of good reading time. I'm told if I rode it every day I would get used to it.

    – Christy


  9. Daniel-Halifax January 1, 2012 / 1:53 pm

    I wonder about those that do nothing on the train as well, because I reading on the train is sometimes my motivation to get out of bed in the morning. Italians aren't much for reading (a strange phenomenon I've unfortunately discovered) so when I pull out my book IN ENGLISH I always get about 6 stares at once…their loss!


  10. Sarah Faragher January 1, 2012 / 6:55 pm

    I too have an inexplicable Rushdie aversion. His novels have never been next on my list, or even on my list at all, and I can't say why. However, I did read and truly loved his book of essays “Imaginary Homelands” and that alone may induce me to attempt his fiction. Not today, but someday.


  11. Thomas at My Porch January 2, 2012 / 9:30 am

    Betsy: You may be right. It will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow.

    Teresa: There certainly are plenty with headphones on. Podcasts are something I tend to save for roadtrips when I can't read.

    Susan: We will see how the Rushdie goes. I am cautiously optimistic at this point.

    Stu: Thanks Stu. Happy new year.

    Amanda: You should put his stuff up on your blog. Maybe you could comission something with lots of books and tea.

    Lu: Once when reading a Chelsea Handler book on the Metro I laughed so loud at one passage I think everyone in the car was staring.

    Steve: I don't think I have ever read any Hawaii-based fiction. I wonder why. I will be giving Dickens a chance soon.

    Christy: I would hate my commute if I couldn't read. I would probably ride in the car with John instead.

    Daniel: Maybe they are all trying to see what you are reading. The cardinal sin on the London Underground is to make eye contact.

    Sarah: Maybe this will break my aversion. Seems hopeful at this point.


  12. Ted January 2, 2012 / 1:36 pm

    You've lead me to the Dickens Month – thanks for that! Incentive to finally get through Our Mutual Friend. Happy 2012, Thomas.


  13. litlove January 3, 2012 / 9:26 am

    I thought the same thing about Rushdie before I read The Enchantress of Florence – and then I loved that book and quickly snapped up several more of his novels (which you can usually get from amazon marketplace sellers at excellent prices). Daft, but then, if we didn't have mindless prejudices, we couldn't have the pleasure of seeing them evaporate into thin air. Have a lovely time in Hawaii. I'll try not to be too madly jealous…


  14. Paperback Reader January 3, 2012 / 12:51 pm

    Ah, how I wish you could pack me in your suitcase to Hawaii.

    Midnight's Children is an all-time favourite of mine, that I have even reread a few times, and I hope that you are continuing/continued to enjoy it.


  15. Thomas at My Porch January 6, 2012 / 10:09 am

    Ted: Glad I could spread the word about Dickens Month. I think I might take Little Dorrit to Hawaii. A novel experience for her no doubt.

    Litlove: Even odder is where the prejudice pops in the first place.

    Claire: You would love Hawaii. But it would take you along time to fly there.


  16. Read the Book January 7, 2012 / 11:12 pm

    Oh, Thomas, I do hope you like Little Dorrit; it's tied for my favorite Dickens novel with Our Mutual Friend.

    Tale of Two Cities saved Dickens for me, so hopefully you just need to try him again! Good luck!


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