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Long overdue.

books 1(3)I am sorry.

When I was little and my brother used to say these words to me by way of making up for some wrong he had done me, I would reply with the very churlish retort “well, sorry is supposed to be when you won’t do it again”. Perhaps it is time for me to eat my words. At the opening of my last blog post…many, many moons ago, I offered my apologies for my lack of blogging. I have repeated my offence. It has now been over two months since I last put finger to keypad and posted. Why? I will hazard a guess. When I began In my good books…, way back in March 2011, I made this statement

“One of my major motivations when starting this blog was to use it as a means of keeping me on the straight and narrow, so to speak. Not in the sense that blogging will distract me from a life of crime, but more that it will (hopefully!) prevent me from re-reading the same books over and over and over again.”

I think, bizarrely, that within the gaps in this sentence lie the reasons for my lack of posting. It’s hard to neglect great loves…and it’s even harder to ignore them when they whisper sweet nothings to you from a nearby bookcase…

“It is a truth universally acknowledged…”  

“Trust me, I’m telling you stories.”  

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit…”  

                                 “…she always had the feeling that it was very, very, dangerous to live even one day.”

“…do it from the heart or not at all.”

books 6

I have been re-reading, indulging. When I began In my good books… I had the best of intentions, I sought to broaden my reading, to experience new books. I think, somewhere along the way, I made an error. Somewhere between “I must read more classics” and “I like re-reading” I surmised that my love of re-reading precluded my reading new books. From this conclusion I seem to have created a sort of shame, an unhealthy disdain for my urge to re-read. Having created this disdain, I think I have consequently become ashamed to acknowledge my re-reading habits…past, present and future. Consequently, when I have re-read, I have not blogged. When I think about it, this seems incredibly naive and foolish.

books 5In another post I labelled myself “a re-reader by nature” and acknowledged that my battered copy of Pride and Prejudice has never been allowed to sit unread on the shelf for a whole calendar year. I wonder exactly when I decided that I must go against my character, or rather, that I must conceal it. I think that I must adjust my attitude to my reading. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that from now on I will re-read to my heart’s content and bury my library card in the garden. I am saying that from now on I will strike a happy medium. When I re-read, I will blog about it. When I read new books, I will blog about them. I guess that previously I had made some sort of unconscious distinction between ‘books’ and ‘reading’ and, somewhere along the way, I decided that blog posts must be about books. I revise this premise, from now on blog posts will not only be about books, but also about the act of reading books, both old and new.

So there you have it. I guess this goes some way to explaining the gaping holes that have hung like dropped stitches in the knitting pattern of In my good books… – I’d say it’s fairly safe for you to assume that where there are gaps in time, there was re-reading. I have re-read Pride and Prejudice at least twice since beginning In my good books…, I have re-read The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I have re-read Persuasion by Jane Austen, I have re-read the first three Harry Potter books, and probably more that I can’t recall. I think it is abundantly safe to infer that I will always re-read books. I have found true love on the pages of my favourite  books and I very much hope that it will last a lifetime.

books 3So what of The Story of English in 100 Words? I hear you cry (!). Well, I have almost finished it. Only a few lonely  pages to go. I have also, as is my wont, begun simultaneously reading other books. Another reading habit which I seem to have begun in early childhood. From the days when I first started reading books by myself my mother would despair at the pile of bookmark-stuffed books beside my bed. It’s a habit I’ve tried to kick. It’s never particularly conducive to mental clarity to have several different plot-lines and, lord knows, how many characters  all buzzing about your head simultaneously.

I have, however, made it my intention to read (or should that be re-read) Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women over the festive period. I first ‘read’ this book when I was a child, I say ‘read’ because it was actually read aloud to me by my Mum. I have never actually held the book in my own hands and turned the pages and I think it’s about time. So, armed with a beautifully bound Penguin classic, I intend to read its pages for myself for the first time.

books 2I suppose this post has turned into rather an odd ramble about my reading habits. I apologise to those of you anticipating a book review. I think, in the end, this post has turned out to be more of a ‘reading review’. It seems clear to me now that this review (like most of my others!) has been long overdue.

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A new year, a new town, a new job…

I thought it was about time I posted and explained my long absence from the blogosphere. Since Christmas I have been rather busy, having moved towns, moved home and started a brand new job, hence the lack of posting! However, we finally have our internet up and running and so I just wanted to post quickly to say that my next review is in the offing and it shouldn’t be long until In my good books… is back to normal again. Just over a month to go until In my good books… is a year old, I can’t believe how quickly the time has flown by!

A somewhat belated Happy New Year to everyone, I hope 2012 is treating you all well.

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The more I read of literature, the more I am dissatisfied with it.

Long time, no blog. I know. Unfortunately I seem to be having something of an existential crisis at present. Not on behalf of my own life, thank goodness, but rather on behalf of my blog. ‘In my good books’ I named it, although I have to say I’m beginning to think that ‘In my boring books’ might have been more accurate. I set out to read books that others had hailed as ‘classics’ and have, for the most part, been a little disappointed and a lot uninspired. I love reading, I chose to study English at Uni because of this love. I had anticipated, therefore, that beginning this blog and undertaking to read more ‘classic’ books would be something of a treat, lately, at least, it hasn’t been. I seem to be reading less and less as time passes.

Since the low point of Madame Bovary, I seem to have got rather stuck in a rut. I have not found any new characters, especially heroines to aspire to or admire. I had assumed that there were a few more Elizabeth Bennets out there but am beginning to conceive that perhaps she is, after all, a flower amongst weeds in the garden of literary heroines. One thing that this blog is at least affirming to me is my love of my old favourites. I am gaining a greater insight into what exactly it is I love about the books I have cherished for so many years. Take Pride and Prejudice, for example. Previously I’d thought that it owed a great deal of its charm to the period in which it is set and the manners of the time, although having read Middlemarch I am not so sure. No, I think, where my love affair with Pride and Prejudice is concerned, it is not the period that makes it for me, or even, shock horror, Mr Darcy…it is Elizabeth. If there’s anything I love about that book it has to be her. Sure she has her faults…pride and prejudice are not the reserves of Mr Darcy, but her wit and vivacity (as Mr Collins puts it) are in my reading so far unparalleled.

Now, where the book I am currently dawdling through is concerned…where to begin. The Catcher in the Rye does not seem to be a bad book, although it is, for me, not the holy grail of literature. I haven’t finished it yet, so am aware that I am in no way fit to pass comment, but I have certainly developed a general air of apathy where reading this book is concerned. Thus far my reading of it has only commenced on trains, not a good sign. Instead, in the evening, I find myself drawn to the charms of sweeping….Minesweeping, that is; and can now boast the richest Sim I’ve ever played. Yes, it is that modern trapping, the computer game, that has robbed Salinger of my perusal. The Catcher in the Rye is by no means a doorstop of a book, in fact, compared to the likes of Middlemarch it is but a minnow in the pool. In fact, if I felt so inclined, I could probably sit down and read the whole thing in a couple of hours; and perhaps that is the way I’ll have to go. Maybe the quick short burst, like the ripping off of a plaster, will be my solution for The Catcher in the Rye. Maybe by the end of it I’ll even find I enjoy the sensation. But finishing it is not my main concern at present. It can be done, if I set my mind to it. No, what concerns me is my need to rip off the plaster and read in such a forced fashion. I’ve only encountered this sort of reading when studying academic texts and course books when revising. This is not the way I would choose to read for pleasure, as it confers little pleasure at all.

But how to solve the problem? The answer seems clear, read better books. But how to find them? I am, after all, currently reading my way through texts that have, for years, been ranked amongst the best. The pinnacle of literature. If they are not satisfying then where to turn next evades me. I’m not even so fussed when it comes to plot, all I want, as I’ve said from the start, is a heroine to be proud of. To be honest, even a hero would suffice. The perfect escapism, for me, is to wander into the life of a character I admire, to view the world as they do and to learn of worlds different to my own through their eyes; but where to find these characters? Again, I turn to the wisdom of Elizabeth Bennet, ‘The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense’. Perhaps I just need to be grateful that I have found books that I do love, and be content with the pleasure I have had in reading them.

What about  In my good books…? Well, I will trudge on, turning pages, scouring for that heroine to be proud of. After all, hope flames eternal…perhaps there is another Lizzie out there, skulking amongst the dross of boring characters, waiting to be discovered and truly loved. I just wish my course to find her would run a little  smoother.

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Here goes

Faced with some time on my hands, and more books than sense, I’ve decided to read my way through some of literature’s classics and hopefully become a little wiser along the way.

Armed with my library card, and an Amazon account, I intend to find out for myself whether these are books that truly do change your life…or whether they’re merely something to dust on a not-so-regular basis.

I won’t be making myself a list of books and promising to read them all like  Jane Austen’s Emma as, like her, I’d undoubtedly become daunted by the prospect. Instead, I’ll begin by giving myself a month and seeing how I do. I will, however, promise to give an artless and honest opinion of every book I read.

Here goes…book number one…Virginia Woolf’s Orlando.

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