You think nothing can get worse than catching a cold at the beginning of December and trying to get over it for about three weeks (with night time temperatures dipping to minus 10 – unheard of in this part of England!). Well, then try catching a flu bug on top of that cold, carry on like a zombie, unable to concentrate very well on anything, until that wonderful christmas break comes and you can at long last relax, only to end up in bed with a high fever, feeling absolutely wretched, wanting to vomit out the rest of the world and everything that goes with it and so end up having that well deserved rest at long last: the rest of xmas day and boxing day in bed. Great. The family around to watch all this and work its way through the turkey and the trimmings you have so carefully chosen. Life can be a real b….. (fill in whatever you want).
Anyway, not everything was that bad: the christmas presents were just lovely and now that I am emerging from the fog I am determined to enjoy them thoroughly. Of course, there were lots of books, dvds and such like for everyone but I am just so chuffed with the ones I got:
Being Wrong (Adventures in the Margin of Error) by Kathryn Schulz is just a great meander through concepts of wrongness, truth, beliefs, why being wrong feels so awful and depressing (how on earth could you have said that, believed that, made that statement, etc..) whereas on the other hand you can laugh them off with a joke as well, these errors. Hahaha, what made me say that? Can you believe it? Anyway, I love the notion that all of us at times contribute to the ‘Modern Jackass Journal’ when we proclaim a theory to explain something or other that we know nothing or very little about. We even believe ourselves. Well, I have not finished the book yet, but you get the gist: go and get it to while away these awfully cold and misty days and have some fun.
Every chapter has a little quote by a well-known person. This is one for the first chapter:
‘It infuriates me to be wrong when I know I am right.’ (Moliere)
Then there is a tome of a book called ‘Love Sex Death and Words’ by John Sutherland and Stephen Fender. A literature companion that had excellent reviews and is tipped to be another fun book to read, with lots of quotes and stories about books, writers etc. Although it has its drawbacks (e.g. not being exactly about one thing or another), ‘Yet I’ve had tremendous fun reading them – arguing with some, substituting others, quoting them over lunch – and pleasure is at the heart of this project. It’s irresistible, as compulsive as eating popcorn. Hawthorne and Melville meet for the first time, Petrarch catches first sight of Laura, Picasso, Joyce, Stravinsky and Diaghilev and Proust dine together at the Majestic, Anthony Burgess (like Scott and Whitman before him) gives a glowing review to his own book, Defoe invents the novel, but doesn’t know what to call it, Bertolt Brecht testifies before HUAC, Jeffrey Archer “goes down”. says Rick Gegoski in his Guardian review.
So I’m really looking forward to dipping into and out of this one. As well as the other tome of a book I got: A History of Christianity by Diarmaid MacCulloch. This is another book that had very positive reviews, one of which was by Christina Odone in the Guardian. I am not so much interested in the contemporary debate about christianity and faith but rather about the history, where all this comes from. I was brought up a strict calvinist and have dumped the bagage, nevertheless I am still curious why on earth it had such a tremendous force and was so pervasive in my family’s life. Where did the stories really come from, stripped off the beliefs and the emotional attachment? So I shall use this as a reference book, something that I can pick up and refer to also during my writing, perhaps to help me give a little twist to things?
Although A.C. Grayling was not exactly on my list I got a copy of ‘The Meaning of Things, perhaps a good companion to the book about wrongness? It’s a philosophy book and so I shall see if I still have that ability to argue (I am an ex philosophy student after all).
Plenty to get on with. I shall spare you the DVDs, the tv series (oh my the new Wallander was good!) but want to refer you to two Timewatch programmes that are still obtainable on the BBC IPlayer Download. These two programmes are on Nordic Noir and on Italian Noir. The Nordic Noir, needless to say, is a programme about Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell etc. and why these books are not simply crime novels but a bit more than that, it’s about the inherent references to culture, society, relationships etc. and what is at play in these (nordic) countries. I download the Italian Noir one yesterday afternoon, feeling I could sit up straight again for a good amount of time without wanting to sleep, I sat on the sofa and watched it. It is giving me lots of ideas about what to read next with respect to novels (crime novels) as I feel inescapably drawn to the Crime Noir Novel at the moment… I also read a Jo Nesbo novel (The Snowman), but my advice is not to read these books at night just before trying to fall asleep. They often have the opposite effect of keeping you awake until you have turned that last page. It does keep your mind off all the coughing you do though…
Some other time more about this. For now – enjoy the last day of 2010. Hope to see more of you again in 2011!