Posted by: Corri van de Stege | March 9, 2008

Multi Tasking

What have the following books got in common?
Checkov – Lady with Lapdog
Ed Bill Broady and Jane Metcalfe – You are Here
Suzanna Jansen – Het pauperparadijs
Truman Capote – In cold Blood
Normal Mailer – The Castle in the Forest.
Well, they’re all lying open, face down, or closed with a bookmark in them as I am reading them, on the road, in hotel rooms, bedroom, workroom,  or even comfortably spread out on a sofa, once in a while.  In addition I am trying to get through a couple of chapters of my workbook on creative writing and I am trying to write a short piece of ‘life writing’ for my open university course. 

So not only am I juggling my life like the typical female I am, multitasking a job, family, house, reading and a bit of exercise in between to keep the body functioning obediently and smoothly, no I am also putting pressure on myself to multi task the different reading challenges with an attempt at creative writing.  

The books are all great fun though in their own peculiar ways.  I am now reading biography (Truman Capote, Suzanna Jansen) because I am trying to get the hang of what makes a good piece of life writing, how do you write the story, what makes a reader carry on reading this particular genre.  The short stories in Broady and Metcalfe are really enjoyable when on the train or reading just before nodding of to sleep without too much work stress on you brains.  I have read some four of them, all by different authors and will review them forthe short story reading challenge blog soon.   And Checkhov, well a bit of both: there’s the Russian Reading Challenge and the Short story reading challenge.  I am reading ‘A boring story’ which is all but boring but shows us how you can write a fascinating and very readable story out of a rather ‘boring’ life.  Not sure where Norman Mailer fits in, I picked it up in a bookshop one day, but I haven’t got much further with it than page 60 or so and somehow don’t think I will get a lot further.  Enough said.

Suzanna Jansen’s book is written in Dutch and is a family history covering a peculiar Dutch phenomenon, a camp for ‘vagabonds’ in the north of the country.  The author discovers the story when she researches her own family background and finds that her great grandparents lived in a kind of ‘reform centre’, the good intentions of an intervening Dutch government into the lives of the poor.  A fascinating story – and apart from giving me an insight into a part of Dutch history I knew nothing about, the book nicely fits into the category of the Neustadt Challenge!



  1. I got stuck on page 32 of Chatwin’s In Patagonia, which seems interesting enough and I want to read on, but I’ve got horribly sidetracked by some Polish science fiction and Chinese detective novels (don’t ask – and yes, I’ve kniched the Chatwin from you :)).

    Just finished Nicholas Shakespeare’s In Tasmania which he kind of wrote as a counterpart to Chatwin’s In Patagonia. It takes an interesting approach: it’s both a history of the island, travelogue and history of his own family’s connections with Tasmania. It’s got a very light touch as well: Shakespeare just seems to chase any loose end he finds (about the island’s history, his own family) and runs with it. It makes for lots of interesting tidbits of information and exciting stories. Can definitely recommend it.

    Have you read any W.G. Sebald? He may make for an interesting perspective on life writing too. He’s very literary and a bit Kafkaesque in tone.

    Anyway, hopefully speak soon 🙂

  2. The books all sound very appealing, especially the last one–Castle in the Forest. I always harbor a romantic (but can be a bit surreal) curiosity for castle. I would imagine strange and inexplicable things taking place in a distant castle.

    Now it’s my turn to catch up with all those books you’re reading! But they make such good companion with you’re on the run, and sometimes to preserve one’s sanity. 🙂

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