Posted by: Corri van de Stege | August 31, 2008

The Sunday Salon – a miscellaneous bag

This Sunday Salon today has/is a very mixed bag.  I want to say something about writing postcards, something about books I’ve read and still need to review, something about what’s on my reading shelf, and…..  etc.

Let’s start with the postcards, that’s a kind of writing, if only the address and a message to whoever you are sending it to.  Yesterday I realised how miserably I have failed (again) these last months to simply send ‘Happy Birthday Cards’ on time or at all to a large number of people who are part of my (extended) family or my friends.  In the past I have had birthday calendars, which had everyone’s birthday on it, then they got lost somehow in moves, or simply because I never got round to hanging them up; then, to aid my memory, I had this Microsoft calendar on one of my computers in which I had noted everyone’s birthday but that computer got replaced and somehow or other I never copied the dates.  Most recently, a year ago or so, I bought this wonderful little ‘Birthday Book’ (something like one of those pocket writer’s notebooks) and once more I tried to transcribe all the birthdays that I could remember.  I’ve still got it, it’s in the dining room, quite obvious.  Only, I rarely think about picking it up and checking it…..  So here then is an apology to all those who may just read my blog once in a while and who haven’t had a birthday card:HAPPY BIRTHDAY.  This definitely includes my eldest brother and his wife, two lovely nieces (one of whom does read my blog: so here you go, I haven’t forgotten, just forgot to send the card!), and for today my eldest sister (I will ring you and will post the card today, promise!).

So, that makes me feel better, a public apology to all and the message that I love you dearly, only have too much on my mind most of the time – and then, you all live so far away!

On to today’s reading business – a little while ago I promised a review of Rose Tremain’s The Road Home, which I greatly enjoyed and will have to be added to my Orange Prize Reading List.  Only, there is this great review in today’s New York Book Review by Liesl Schillinger.  I shall think about writing my own review.  I would probably only repeat what is written here, although, when I review books I try not to give away too much as far as the story goes – this one seems to give it to you lock stock and barrel.  It’s definitely worth reading, because Tremain knows how to write well and keeps you involved with Lev, you’re there, you agonise with him.

I am working on my review of Coetzee’s Disgrace, it’s more or less written, I’ve just got to get it onto the blog now

And reading?  Well, I’ve got a number of books on the go, a short story here and another one there.  I also started Soldiers of Salamis by Javier Cercas, but found myself distracted when in the initial pages there is an immediate reference to the battle of Salamis and I picked up Tales of Ancient Persia, which is a collection of stories retold from the Shah-Nama of Firdausi by Barbara Leonie Picard in the Oxford Myths and Legends Series. 

The battle of Salamis was the battle in which the Persians were defeated by the Greeks and was the beginning of the defeat of Ancient Persia.  However, I love the stories of the pre-islamic kings and heroes in ancient Persia, which are recounted so nicely in this little book.  

Now it’s back to Cercas though.  The Battle of Salamis is not at all about this ancient battle, but about the Spanish Civil War and the execution by firing squad of fifty prominent Natinalist prisoners.  Not surprising then that I got distracted by the title, is it?  I am curious why the book has this title. I’ll let you know once I’ve read it!

 As I said, this has become a mixed bag of reading and writing.  The best thing is that I managed to add a satisfactory chunk to my novel this week, on top of the reading.  Next week is less promising though as I shall have to make another journey to Wales, but it’s only going to be for one night.  Bliss.  But today and tomorrow I’m going to have to write a presentation…   Creative?  Mmm I’ll think about it. 

The best reading stuff on Sunday is in the Sunday papers and this week again, Brian Appleyard has an excellent piece – this  time it’s on John Berger, a one time winner of the Booker prize for his novel G and once more  on the longlist for Man Booker Prize with his book From A to X, which I haven’t read but sounds interesting and is now on my tbr list.

Enjoy your Sunday!



  1. Barbara Leonie Picard, now there’s a name I haven’t heard in a very long time. Her books were amongst my staple reading when I was a child. I’m sure there was one about the Crusades which was where I learnt pretty much all I know about those times. I must go and look her up on the library catalogue. Thanks for the jog to my memory.

  2. Barbara Leonie Picard!

    I need to check her out!

    Do check on my reading plans

  3. Enjoy Soldiers of Salamis, it´s a great novel. There is also a solid (and quite different) movie that was made. It would be worth checking it out when you´ve finished the book.

  4. Ann – good to see you here: I have huge difficulties trying to leave a message on your site: either it jumps away or it tells me that it is illegal to leave a message…?? Anyway, glad I’ve rediscovered Picard for you!
    gautami tripathy: the book dates from 1972 and retells a long epic poem by Firdausi (an Iranian poet). They are lovely stories.
    Jason Cummings: Yes, I was aware of this, but you are right, I should stick with the book first. I am beginning to understand the reference to the battle of Salamis. Thanks

  5. I’m glad I found your blog – through the Sunday Salon link – you’ve got such an interesting mix of books on the go. I thought about reading The Road Home – thanks for the link to the New York Book Review, but I won’t read it yet as I don’t like to know the whole story in advance.

    I have Coetzee’s Disgrace waiting to be read – a friend lent it to me ages ago and said it was really good. I’lllook out for your review.

  6. I have a copy of Tremain’s The Road Home on its way to me, I’m very much looking forward to it. I read my first Tremain, Restoration, last month and have a couple more of hers on Mount TBR. She’s a wonderful writer.

    I know what you mean about the birthday greetings, I’m so bad at that! And I like doing snail mail rather than the electronic greetings, it feels much more thoughtful.

    Enjoy your week!

  7. Whether it’s a postcard or a birthday card, I always feel obliged to write at least a few sentences along with the casual well wishing. I scrupulously observe the postcard writing ritual over breakfast, when my mind is yet to be burdened by the itinerary of the day! I hope my recipients enjoy reading them as much as I’m writing them.

  8. Booksplease: glad you enjoy similar books to the ones I enjoy – still working on the Coetzee review, half done now!
    Terri: yes, Tremain is only a late discovery of mine, I’ve got her next one on my shelf to read.
    Matthew: there’s something very special about sending and receiving birthdaycards – I sent some off today. And good for you finding the time to do this over breakfast; I’m very impressed. I always enjoy receiving them.

  9. I’m a little behind her, but I’m off to check out your link from The Times as it sounds interesting, but as I recall, you always leave interesting links. Thanks for sharing.

  10. unfinishedperson: thanks for your kind words – I’m glad my links are useful.

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