Posted by: Corri van de Stege | December 6, 2008

The Sunday Salon – 7 December 08

tssbadge41Don’t you find that time and life are slipping by at an incredible speed?  Well, I do.   The thing is, I never seem to be able to catch up with all the reading I want to do.  Neither with the writing, but that’s another story. 

Some time last week, the New York Times published its list of most notable books in 2008.  It’s here .  And I am surprised at the number of books I haven’t even heard of, let alone read!  I pride myself on trying to keep in touch with what’s been published, reviewed, liked and disliked but it is impossible.  Nevertheless, there are also some books on this list that have read – albeit lower down, starting on page 2…    Amongst them of course, A Mercy by Toni Morrison (highly recommended),  Netherlands, by Joseph O’Neill (also highly recommended)  a book of short stories by Tobias  Wolff ‘Our Story Begins’ (of course, highly recommended).    But then I remind myself that this is an American best-seller list, not an English one, or a European one…  You see, I’m European, not even English, however hard I try at times and then console myself that it does not really matter, one way or the other.  How many on this list have you read?   Don’t disappoint me  the way I disappointed myself.  Don’t you wonder sometimes where you spend your life?

Yesterday morning I woke up at 4 o’clock, yes 4 o’clock (!!), and finalised a satisfactory first draft of  my radio play.  I did it!  And I am so grateful to you, who left comments saying that you thought I could do it.  You’ve no idea how helpful that was!  Thank you.  I shall revise and re-write for the next fortnight, but at least there is something there, a satisfactory first draft.    It’s a play about…  well, it’s based on the short story I posted a little while ago, Departure.  I decided to extend it, to make it more dramatic and focus more on the daughter, and what happens to her.  It is, however, still in the draft stage but I have greatly enjoyed working on it.  Isn’t it strange how characters become close to you and you want to nourish them, defend them, protect them?

the-colour-rose-tremainToday I will spend some time scouring the Sunday papers, as usual,  and maybe I will even finish The Colour by Rose Tremain.  I like this book.  It is so well-written, immaculately researched.  But then, what else can you expect from someone like Rose Tremain?  Her play, Temporary Shelter (winning the Giles Cooper Award)  was one of the insprirations for writing my radio play.  And The Colour was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for fiction in 2004, deservedly, I think.  I have not finished it, yet, but it is one of those books that you don’t really want to finish because you’d like to take with you on your journeys next week, as a companion, something you can rely on for late evening when you want to switch off from work and live a different life.   I’ll just have to take another book if I finish it before I leave for Wales (again) on Monday morning!

Have a good Sunday and wishing you lots of satisfactory reading!



  1. I am amazed at how quickly time is passing! There are so many “best of” lists of books out now and there have been so many terrific books released this year that I give up on trying to keep up 🙂

    From the NYT Notable list, I’ve read two and a half. I’ve read all of Netherland and How Fiction Works, and I’ve read about half of the stories in Our Story Begins (I tend to dip in and out of short story collections). I own, but have not read Unaccustomed Earth, Indignation, The Widows of Eastwick and Hot, Flat and Crowded.

    I have decided that I really need to slow down on my book buying — I’m out of control.

    I also need to review “best of” lists from the UK because I tend to read lots of British and European authors.

    I’m in a weird mode of submission right now. It feels like there are too many things to do and never enough time to do them, so I’m trying to be happy with what I do accomplish. Oddly, I started a short story today and I don’t usually try them…maybe the idea of completing something appeals to me right now.

  2. I have just found your lovely website and am enjoying it very much. Thank your for your fine reviews and stimulating conversational approach. I look forward to many more days of enjoyable reading, both from my chosen book and your writing.

  3. Oh, yes. I must read The Colour. Is that the one set in New Zealand? I read Rose Tremain’s “The Road Home” and listed it as one of my favourite reads this year.

  4. From the list of the NYT I would like to read the Diary of a Bad Year by Coetzee. I loved Waiting for the Barbarians, it seems to be quite exciting, that he works up his former novel again.
    The other one sounds interesting is Morrison’s book. As an essayist, my main theme is the role of history in the postmodern novels, so the way how Morris writes about a story from the 17. century would be for me really interesting.

    Happy reading!

  5. Congratulations on finishing your radio drama! What a good feeling to have a first draft all completed 🙂

    I certainly agree with your observation about time passing too quickly. I decided to stay home tonight instead of attending a concert, to try and catch up with some of the things that I’ve fallen behind with. There’s just never enough time to complete everything, is there?

    Like you, most of the NYT list was new to me. And I’m American!

  6. The speed at which December has rolled around again is a bit of a worry.

    I haven’t read many of the NYT list either, and sometimes do feel overwhelmed by the many books I want to read and haven’t yet eg Rose Tremain’s. I take a deep breath, and remember that as a common reader, my notable books are drawn from many years, not just those published in 2008. That makes me feel a little less out of it!

    Glad to hear you’ve made progress with your play.

  7. Since I’ve been hanging out in the bibliophile section of the blogosphere this year, I thought I would know some of the books.I’ve never heard of any of the books on the NYT list. I’m only familiar with a couple of the authors on the list. I was sure I would find “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society” on the list because it has been so popular with the book bloggers this year.

  8. I haven’t read anything on the NYT Notables list which really did make me wonder what have I been reading this year! But I will start reading some of the picked books. They sound so good.

    Have a great weekend!

  9. I am yet to check the NYT Notable list. Not been online much lately.

    I wish read The Colour.

    Here is my SS post!

  10. I usually take book list from media as a reference to what I might read in the future. I don’t take them seriously because books are being released everyday and there is absolutely no way I can keep up with every book.

    I have spent all week reading the same book, an ARC called Cutting For Stone. It’s an epic story of Ethiopian-born twins who had no clue who their father was. I’m wrapping it up today.

  11. I think you should write a list of YOUR favorite books for 2008. It would be great. Do you have time?
    I will then take it the bookstore.
    Yes, really!

  12. Lisa: yes definitely: there is something very attractive about finishing something! I think that’s why I have pushed the novel to the background (a little). I can only just about cope with submitting assignments: a short story or a radio play…
    Wendy: nice to see you here. Do pop in and I look forward to reading your comments!
    Joanne: yes, it is: New Zealand and digging for gold in the 19th century.
    Anni: Yes, you should definitely try Morrison. As I said, A Merci is slightly easier to read although I wanted to read Beloved first….

  13. Becca: Thank you : it’s still in draft stage though, but it feels nice to have something to work on! I’m actually quite glad that you and most others seem as mystified by the list as I am…
    Sarah: you are so right: the list does not stop in 2008 – a good reminder of how relative these lists are. I feel better now.. 🙂
    Daniel in NC and Vasily: hi, yes, see my comments above, if it’s any consolation no one else seems to have heard of many of them!
    Gautami: Yes, I can definitely recommend The Colour – it’s getting even better!
    Matthew: I am always intrigued by your reading lists: you are the most voracious reader I’ve come across and I simply cannot keep up 🙂 Cutting for Stone sounds interesting.

  14. Oh: I will… you’ve challenged me! I did one some time ago, but it’s probably time to reconsider!

  15. I’m sure I sent three responses (whilst on the train from London to Swansea) but one of them seems to have got lost. So here goes again, from my Swansea hotelroom:
    Becca: the radio play is still in draft format, but yes it feels great to have something to work on now – editing can feel really creative!
    I feel better now that the NY times list seems to surprise so many of you: it was a strange list, wasn’t it?
    Sarah: you are so right about 2008 not being the limits of what we read! Fortunately – it makes me feel much much better about not having read many of that list 🙂
    Dani in NC: nice to meet you – see previous responses also. Yes, the Guernsey book seems to be on everyone’s list – it’s on mine. Question is: when will I get round to reading it???
    Vasilly: don’t worry – neither has anyone else -see previous….
    Gautami: yes go for the Colour – it’s very good!
    Matt: even you have not read that many of them? I always imagine you read every single book that comes out (just teasing 🙂 ). I greatly admire the speed at which you read! The Cutting for Stone book sounds interesting: is that by Abraham Vergeshe? (looked it up on Amazone). Should I put it on my tbr list??

    [keep fingers crossed that this response now appears!!]

  16. I highly recommend Cutting For Stone by Dr. Abraham Verghese, which will be released on Feb 9, 2009. On the same night he will make an appearance at a bookstore in Menlo Park, Calif., about half an hour drive from the city of San Francisco. I plan to go see him in person.

    I don’t have much of a social life…always sticking with the same group of friends who aren’t really into night-life anyway. I’ve spent most of my time outside of work reading.

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