Saturday, 13 June 2009

Book-centric Memories




Do you ever recall particular events like pleasant weekends, holidays, or special occasions in relation to books? I do. Memories for me are often intrinsically made up of the event influenced by the book I was reading at the time or books I bought. Perhaps that takes my Bibliophilia to new, obsessive levels but it is true. The photograph above was taken exactly a year ago, on a lovely day spent in the West-end of Glasgow at the West-end festival and a visit to the Botanic Gardens. I am reading Sophie Dahl's (grand-daughter of Roald and inspiration/protagonist of The BFG) Playing with the Grown-ups, an eccentric coming-of-age novel; in the bag beside me is Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, which I had purchased from Fopp that afternoon and ended up giving up on half way through later that month; and in my handbag is a rare Virago copy of The Brontes Went to Woolworths, which I pounced upon in Oxfam Books for the amazing price of £2.49, and read a few months later in tribute to Woolworths and its demise in the UK.

Before I moved to London to live I visited a lot and many of the memories of my visit involve books. One visit in June 2006 involved a Southbank Centre calendar of events in tribute to Angela Carter, where writers including Ali Smith and Sarah Waters spoke; I was writing my Master's thesis on Angela Carter at the time so this was highly interesting and beneficial as was the premiere at the Royal Court Theatre of Marina Carr's (absurdist and mythological Irish playwright whose drama I was also working on) new play Woman and Scarecrow starring the wonderful Fiona Shaw. At the beginning of that journey I was reading Fingersmith by Sarah Waters in time for the Guardian's book group discussion with the author, which I attended; I remember buying a copy of Affinity so I could have them both signed (a few months earlier I attended a reading of The Night Watch in Glasgow and had both that and Tipping the Velvet signed). It was quite the literary-centric visit to London and on the journey home I began reading my new Vintage edition of Angela Carter's Wise Children, set in East-end London and concerning the bizarre and theatrical Chance twins, Dora and Nora, in a hysterical Shakespearean romp.

Later that year my boyfriend and I went to London to see Wicked: the musical as a graduation celebration. On an excursion to Foyles bookstore on Charing Cross Road with a friend I bought Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, at her suggestion. I had only recently discovered Neil Gaiman (well I had known who he was for a long time and my boyfriend read The Sandman but I had discovered that I enjoyed him too) and had read American Gods the previous month and loved it. Neverwhere was an apt purchase as it is set in a real and fantastical London known, respectively, as London Above and London Below. The subterranean expanse of the London underground allows limitless imagination and Gaiman capitalises on it. It is so refreshing to read a book where places you know and places you have recently been are mentioned. For instance, I opened the book to read on a jam-packed tube after leaving Emma and eventually obtaining a seat at St. John's Wood tube station and the opening page of the book is a quote which reads "I have never been to St John's Wood" - how uncanny is that? Hardly surprising that it sticks in my mind. I am in dire need of a reread of Neverwhere now that I live in London Above nearly three years later. For that matter I desperately want time to reread Wise Children around Midsummer's Day (a key section of the novel is about Dora and Nora starring in a Hollywood adaptation of A Midsummer's Night Dream). For the sheer joy of it I should also reread Fingersmith too as it is another fantastic novel.

This is somewhat of a non sequitur post, a departure from the norm, but I have some blog posts in mind of literary experiences, places and bookshops, and favourite writers and books that I would like to share.

8 comments:

claire said...

I love your post! I feel exactly the same way about my reads. Each one has a memory or memories attached to it. This is even a basis of how much I did or didn't like a book, in fact. My disposition and the events surrounding me at the time I first read a book. My favourite books seem to center around certain times.

Btw, I love Sophie Dahl's The Man with the Dancing Eyes.

Susi said...

I have to agree - most of my books have memories attached to them. And I am sooo jealous that you had your books signed by Sarah waters - I'm writing my Master's thesis on her and I would love to work with signed ones, but maybe, one day, I'll meet her and get mine (and my thesis on her) signed.

Vintage Reading said...

Love your post. I think the best book blogs have moved away from specifically reviewing books - after all you can get book reviews in the newspaper or on Amazon - and more towards impressions, thoughts, feelings, experiences associated with reading and blogging lends itself to that very well. Must read more Angela Carter.

Nymeth said...

I adored this post! I have a lot of bookish memories myself...and you're making me want to write about them. And wow, you've been to so many amazing bookish events! Also, it sounds like I should pick up Wise Children. And Sophie Dahl's book, and something by Marina Carr.

Paperback Reader said...

Claire, thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Do you also find that holiday memories also revolve around books and that enjoyment of the books rubs off on enjoyment of the holiday and vice versa? I plan to post about that soon.

I also love The Man with the Dancing Eyes; it is enchanting.

Susi, thank you for commenting on my blog. I am envious of your thesis on Sarah Waters; that must be such fun (as well as a lot of work, of course). Hopefully she will sign your work one of these days; she is a very modest writer and very generous to her fans.

Nicola, I enjoy reading blog posts that are more impressions than just reviews and it interests me to read about other blogger's book likes and dislikes, favourites and memories, so I like to share that in return. I am delighted that you loved it and yes, you must read more Angela Carter! Everybody should.

Ana, it is lovely to have written a post that people adore - thank you. I wanted to share some of my lovely literary experiences and events along with an insight into more of my own likes book-wise, which some of my reviews haven't allowed.

Wise Children is one of my favourite Carter novels (but aren't they all?) and I heartily recommend it. Sophie Dahl is great and Marina Carr is fabulous and I think you would appreciate her use of Myth.

claire said...

Enjoyment of books rubbing off on enjoyment of the holidays I haven't thought about. It has been always the other way around for me, I think. However, during times I feel depressed, having a good pick-me-upper would be a bonus. I'm looking forward to your holiday post!

Samantha said...

Fungersmith was the first Sarah Waters novel I read and I had picked it for my book club and we had such an excellent discussion on it. I wuld love her to come out Australia as I would visit one of her talks in a flash.

I also read Cloud Atlas for my book club and I have to say I was very surprised by the fact that I liked it. I would recommend his Black Swan Green too which is very different from Cloud Atlas.

Paperback Reader said...

Hopefully Sarah Waters will make it to Australia one of these days; Fingersmith would make such a great book group book and I may have to suggest it to mine (I wouldn't mind a reread at all).

I didn't hate Cloud Atlas but found it a chore at times; I have been interested in trying some of his other work.