Posted by: Corri van de Stege | September 28, 2008

The Sunday Salon – the week in reading

Yesterday, the final supplement in the Guardian’s series on writing was ‘The Guardian Book of Language’.  It provides a complete mixed bag of words and expressions, some hundred entries, ranging from comments on grammar and punctuation to clichés to avoid and facts.  For example, it tells you that ‘arse’ is British English and ‘ass’ is American English and that ‘haemorrhaging’ is a word best avoided, even if you manage to spell it correctly, as it has become cliché.  The word ‘new’ is often redundant as in ‘a new report yesterday’ and there a lot of words that are better avoided, for example ‘proactive’ (hideous) and ‘province’ when referring to Northern Ireland.


Yes, I shall keep this little book handy at all times!


Also in the Guardian yesterday, Christopher Hitchens considers that the new film version of Brideshead Revisited is a travesty and advises readers to go back to the book written by Evelyn Waugh.   Yes, I loved this book years and years ago and was mesmerised by the TV series in the early eighties.  I lived in The Netherlands when it was shown there and dropped everything to be able to sit and watch, week after week after week.   It’s definitely worth reading this review if you haven’t got anything else to read.  I am going to put Brideshead Revisited on my ‘to be read for the second (or third) time list’.


This week I read a couple more stories by Raymond Carver from his collection ‘Where I’m Calling From’.  These stories are so well-written; they bring out the ordinariness of everyday life and the sense that every day ordinariness is really what it’s all about.  I like the quote from Milan Kundera at the beginning of this collection: We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come (from The Unbearable Lightness of Being). 


Another book that must go on my tbr list is the new novel by John le Carré ‘A Most Wanted Man’.  Although Le Carré is often listed as an author who writes spy stories, he is much more than an author who writes genre, of course.  I used to love his cold-war books, the Smiley stories, because they are as much about morality and patriotism and what that means in a cold-war, post-war world, as they are straight forward spy stories.  Hari Kunzru in his review of ‘A Most Wanted Man’ says that ‘Betrayal and conflict between different kinds of loyalty form one recurrent theme of Le Carré’s fiction’, and notes that even if the book may have flaws ‘it stands as one of the most sophisticated fictional responses to the war on terror yet published….’.


The Sunday Times has a similarly positive review and I look forward to reading it.  If any of you have already read it, let me know!


Enjoy the rest of your Sunday.


  1. Love that Kundera quote. Guess I should finally get around to reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

  2. Yes, do read it. There’s always more to discover.

  3. Great post! I love, love, love Raymond Carver’s stories.

  4. As per usual, you give great links. Not that your blog isn’t worth reading also. 😉 But I always look forward to what links you’re going to come up with on Sunday Salons.

    I read Brideshead Revisited years ago and loved it. I think I saw the PBS miniseries too. In fact, I might have seen that first. Either way, I loved it and am not interested in seeing the movie. I’d rather reread the book…hmmmm. 🙂

  5. I’m not keen on Evelyn Waugh, but have Raymond Carver (What we mean when we talk about love) and John Le Carre (the first three Smiley books) on my TBR shelf. I hope to read them soon!

  6. Karen H: yes, agree. Wish I could write like that!
    Unfinished person (this sounds so rude addressing you like that – I don’t think you’re unfinished at all or if you are then we all are 🙂 and I for one know that 🙂 🙂 I so agree, I don’t think I really want to see that film, it would destroy something, that’s why I’m going to reread the book too (when I find a gap in the reading schedule: so many first-reads to do).
    Sarah: yes, do read Raymond Carver AND Le Carre, they are just great to spend time with…

  7. I recently found a used copy of Brideshead and picked it up. Having loved the original PBS series, I thought “You really should go to the source.” Now that the movie is coming out, I think I should probably do the source first! Thanks for the reminder!

  8. Brideshead Revisited was given to me just recently by my sister. I havn’t quite turned its pages yet, but am now more intrigued then ever to start reading it. Another one on my list that my dear sister has recommended will come out this week. We’ve set a date to get a copy of it. Letters Between Us by Linda Overman. An amazing tale of two friends. I’ve read that it conveys the power and poignancy of the unspoken on intimate relationships. Makes me curious!

  9. I love that Raymond Carver collection!

  10. Although I’m always aware that the American spelling is “ass”, I usually end up writing “arse.” Thanks to my quasi-British upbringing. Go figure!

    I had a stab of regret that I haven’t anything by Evelyn Waugh when the film came out. To remedy the situation I went to the bookstore and bought Brideshead Revisited and Scoop.

    In Hong Kong now, in between hair appointment and fitting. Sis’s wedding is tomorrow. Whew…busy day!

  11. Melissa: I’ll check that one out
    Sarah: it’s still on my bedside table
    Matthew: talk about identity confusion: but I know what you mean – I suffer the same . Enjoy the book – much better than the film I gather. But definitely, yes hope you enjoy the wedding and have a good time (you seem to be on the road or in the air a lot!)

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