Posted by: Corri van de Stege | February 8, 2009

The Sunday Salon – reflections on articles and books about the world, bodies and other such things

First of all: Happy Birthday to Lara who is 4 today.  Hurraaay!  Enjoy your very special day!

tssbadge41This is not a quiet and leisurely Sunday.  I am gathering papers together, finding out train times and packing an overnight back. I have an early start tomorrow morning in London and rather than getting up at 5 o’clock I’m staying over. I don’t know what’s worse! Travelling up the day before means you loose your Sunday, whatever way you look at it.

Meanwhile my iPod refuses to ‘unfreeze’ and I am having difficulty accessing the internet. And all this after a week of snow, thaw, more snow, getting stuck and unable to travel by train… and more. It’s  nice but bitterly cold day today, with a forecast of more snow in London tomorrow. So perhaps just as well I’m travelling up this afternoon  – I might not even get there if I left it till morning.

All this sounds as if the world is coming to an end in England, because of the snow and the ice – newspaper columns and chat shows have been devoted to this, so I’d better not add more of the same. Something that might interest you though is ‘Melting Point’ an article in the Sunday Times News Review by James Lovelock. He argues that this cold snap is a deceptive phenomenon, a one off, that the earth in reality is growing warmer and that we should not be misled in thinking that the cold snap proves the opposite and that things are not so bad. Will England be one of the few places left on earth where human life will be sustainable in the future? Even if it is, it won’t be at all providing the conditions that we are used to now, says Lovelock. Gloomy thoughts.

Melvyn Bragg talks about his new book ‘Remember me…’, and argues that the use of very obviously autobiographical material is one way of reaching the hardest truths. I tend to agree with what he is saying here: a lot of ‘fiction’ has autobiographical material, isn’t that what most writers use as first port of call? Where would we be without our own experiences and observations? As he says, despite the fact that the characters in his book are clearly taken from his own life, it does not mean that the book is an autobiography if he uses conversations and events that he could not possibly ‘remember’: how does he know what close relatives or friends really thought or said? It’s all fiction. It’s a book I like to get hold of and read actually.

More in the weekend papers about Susie Orbach’s new book Bodies. Hilary Mantel in  The Guardian yesterday had reservations about the stance taken by Orbach, wondering how ‘genuine’ some of her arguments could be given the fact that she is involved with the Dove campaign for real beauty ‘which is a smart marketing campaign with a veneer of feminist concern’ (Hilary Mantel, ‘The Shape We’re In). Mantel says that because Orbach is involved in this ‘odious’ campaign, ‘suggests that we must now look elsewhere for radical thinking on sex, self and society.’ The Sunday Times review by Frances Wilson is less critical of Orbach and recommends ‘the strength of Orbach’s argument in this timely and important book’, which ‘lies in the ease with which she balances the language of psychoanalysis with a discussion of the body’s chemistry and statistical evidence with cultural commentary. Wilson notes that ‘Orbach has given us food for thought.’ So all in all probably a book worth getting hold of, if only to remind us of the insidiousness with which body images and recommendations invade our own thinking about ourselves.

I am intrigued by Nicholas Lezard’s choice of paperbacks in yesterday’s Guardian: ‘Foreskin’s Lament’ by Shalom Auslander. Other papers also write favourable reviews and apparently one reviewer noted that this book makes The God Delusion ‘look like a parish newsletter’. You guessed it, the book is about getting rid of the god imposed by a dogmatic and ‘violently pious’ father but apparently the book is funny but makes you not so much ‘laugh-out-aloud’ but ‘howl-out-loud’, as one critic comments.

My own reading salon also has non-fiction in it, there’s Cultural Amnesia by Clive James and more essays by Coetzee.  A chapter at the time and to be savoured alonside other reading.  For the overnight bag and for the train journey, I shall take Kate Atkinson’s ‘When will there be good news?’



  1. I loved “When Will There Be Good News”. Hope you enjoy it. I’ve always wanted to read Melvan Bragg’s “Remember Me”, too. Might have to wait a while…

  2. We’re obviously the opposite of England at the moment- scorching hot and the fires are devastating. I’ve never seen snow, but have certainly heard plenty about it from the UK recently!

    I’m sure When will there be good news? will help while away a train journey and make your Sun not a total loss. Thanks for the papers roundup, I read and enjoyed Beware of God so must get around to his memoir.

  3. 🙂

    She’s been loving the books! We’ve read them at least three times since yesterday.

    Oh and the bikini’s been a hit too. She’s worn it proudly over her thick winter jumper 🙂

    On behalf of her, thank you for some lovely presents!

  4. Interesting…
    Maybe we should make the planet be like society in “Logan’s Run” and kill everyone on their 30th birthday. That would help solve the greenhouse gas problem, and it would also help solve the body dysmorphism that so many women go through. We’ll be dead long before their bodies really fell apart.

  5. Joanne: I did – just finished the book. Really great. See my comment in my latest blog.
    a devoted reader: yes it’s awful what is happening in Australia. The contrast is just so incredible. I really feel for everyone who has been caught up in these awful fires. And here it just goes on being cold…
    arioborzine: great stuff – just sorry I could not read the books to her!
    chartroose: I’d be dead and gone if you applied that rule! Perhaps not? But then, you have a point….what can I say: Perhaps I don’t dislike my body enough? 🙂

  6. I love your site!

    Experiencing a slow PC recently? Fix it now!

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