other things: cardiff book talk – 19 Nov 2018

ursula

Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea.

This Cardiff Book Talk event, marking Ursula Le Guins death earlier this year, and 50 years since The Wizard of Earthsea was published, felt like a direct result of Facebooks insidious targeted marketing, but I’m ok with it. You can find out about Cardiff Book Talk here in a much more direct and concise way than me rambling on about it, so check them out. Especially if you’re local to Cardiff.

I’m not going to go through everything that was discussed in too much depth, or ‘review’ the event in any way so I’m not sure what this is really. But I will share some comments from the speakers and myself, as well as some suggested further reading (in bold) if you’re also a Le Guin fan or think you might be interested in her work. That ok? Yep? Great.

So for starters if you haven’t read the Earthsea Cycle, a set of four absolutely wonderful books, then go forth and do that. The four books include; The Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore and Tehanu. As you will read below, the Earthsea world is often compared to Tolkein’s Middle-earth, but differs in some really interesting ways, which were discussed in the talk.

There were three speakers at the event, each looking at the book, and the author from slightly different angles.

Dr Dimitra Fimi, from the University of Glasgow, really delved into the differences between Le Guin and Tolkein as writers and the differences in the world that they create. The difference that is striking once you consider it, but I genuinely hadn’t considered it before, was that there is no villain. The quest of the book is an inner journey, and the main character, Ged, is striving to find balance in himself and in the world.

Ishi in Two Worlds by Theodora Kroeber

The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction by Ursula Le Guin

Dr Liesl King, from the University of York St John, explored Taoism and Lao Tzu on Le Guins writings. She suggested that the Taoist principles of equilibrium and yin and yang can be seen in many of Le Guin’s writings. It was really nice to feel vindicated with the principles of minimalism; do less, use less, move more slowly <pointed look from the adult-boyfriend life-partner at this point> and interesting that I was introduced to this early in life through Le Guins writing, without really realising it.

A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way by Ursula Le Guin

Dr Catherine Butler, from Cardiff University, looked at the final book in the quartet, Tehanu, and its feminist leanings. This, I found particularly interesting, as the final book had always felt different to me, with a very different tone, but I could never pinpoint why. It was great to learn more at this event about Le Guins history and her own thoughts on her work. She wanted to use Tehanu to show audiences that she had grown as a writer and as a feminist.

The Female Hero in American and British Literature by Carol Pearson and Katherine Pope

The Other Wind by Ursula Le Guin

I’m not gonna lie, I felt a little out of place, being in a University building, with three academic speakers, feedback that I did share with the organisers. But I also appreciate that it is a Cardiff University initiative so is bound to have an academic slant and it was the depth of understanding that the speakers had that made it so compelling for me. I will definitely go along to another event, and whole-heartedly support these events happening in Cardiff. A great way to start the week, and a legitimate excuse to pop into Noodlebox.

Kelly

Review-ish: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

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Translated by Jay Rubin.

“Spend your money on the things money can buy. Spend your time on the things money can’t buy.”

There are soooooo many quotes that I could pull from this book, so many nuggets of wisdom and joy. This quote doesn’t do it justice but it was short and I thought readers might appreciate a short quote!

I have no idea where to start with this book. I feel like I come away from Murakami’s novels never truly feeling like I have full understood the narrative (its probably because I’m skim reading!) but I sure have enjoyed the journey. I am always gripped, fully absorbed in his bonkers worlds that are vivid and all-consuming. I get peoples struggles, I really do. You’ve got to be in the right frame of mind to let go of any pre-conceptions and dive head-first into it. And sometimes, that is just not what you want.

But there’s so much in this book to get your teeth into. Mystery, history, fantasy and distinct and in-depth character development. I learnt about the Manchurian war, which I knew absolutely nothing about before, whilst also being taken along on a study of a marriage. There are such a huge range of characters that it can be easy to lose track a little bit, but as you start to get lost, Murakami will bring you back with a letter or story.

I love that Toru is an Everyman. He’s unassuming. He likes things to be neat. He’s in his 30’s and a bit lost. It’s our ability to relate to him that makes him so compelling. He’s such an accidental hero.

I’m always a little bit cautious to recommend Murakami to others. They’re usually massive for a start, and his style definitely isn’t for everyone. I would say not to start with Norweigan Wood, as now I can see that it isn’t reflective of his work (Sorry, adult live-in boyfriend, I let ya down there). The three I have read most recently though, Kafka on the Shore, The Hard-Boiled Egg and the End of the World and this gem are much more similar in style. For someone with a limited visual imagination, Murakami is a dream. Genuinely, it is books like this that make me love to read; the sort of books that make you cancel social engagements and go to bed early to enjoy.

Many Goodreads peeps have suggested multiple readings so I definitely think I would come back and give it another go at some point. With re-reading, I wouldn’t rush through it in excitement and might take a bit more of the actual plot in.  I’ll have another crack at Kafka on the Shore as well.

 

Anyone else fan? Any other Murakami recommendations?

Kelly

Review-ish: Cuz by Danielle Allen

cuz

An American Tragedy.

‘Deterrence dehumanizes. It directs at the individual the full hate that society understandably bears toward an aggregate phenomenon.’

This book was another library-lure, when I had no intention of picking up anymore books. The local-to-work library has a ‘new books’ display that seems to get me every time. Although a small book, I can’t say it was a quick read.

I thought that the most powerful parts of this book were when the author was talking about the statistics of the prison system in America, and the sections where she talks about how crime grew in American and its impact on minority communities. These were informative and powerful and were the things that I think drew most people to the book.

But I did struggle with much of the rest of the book. There were glimmers of lovely prose and I absolutely felt the guilt and sadness that she felt about her impact (or lack thereof) on her cousins life. Sometimes it felt a bit ungainly which meant that what should have been powerfully emotional, felt clunky.

I would be really interested to read more around the subject of race in America so please send me recommendations.

Kelly

 

 

Insole Court Book Club – October

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I was so delighted to run the very first Insole Court Book Club meeting on Tuesday and grateful to all of those who braved the cold and dark to join us for a chat. We discussed Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, our first book club book, which stimulated a lot of interesting discussions. As promised, I wanted to share some of the comments, thoughts and further reading/viewing that was suggested by the group.

Noting the star-crossed lovers…I didn’t care.

They’re not always right (In reference to the other characters).

Scene where Ifemelu gets her hair done, very entertaining and engaging.

How class plays out in it is very interesting.

The conversation around depression and mental health, something that isn’t acknowledged in Nigeria.

(In reference to Obinzi) he was a bit golder than gold. Too perfect.

Oh shit, I’m not Kimberley am I?

The grass is always greener.

Its a privilege to hear a female writer talk about these issues.

The book will date due to Trump’s America.

  • Roots by Alex Haley
  • Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
  • Hamilton the Musical
  • Black Earth Rising on BBC
  • The Dock of the Bay on ITV

 

Please feel free to comment below and continue the discussion!

Our next book club book is Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, and the meeting is on Tuesday 27th November, 7 – 9pm.

October Update

No Review-ish this week as I’m still reading my current library book… but thought I’d do a quick, unsponsored post about a new discovery.

Now that I am not living in a city and not regularly going to proper shopping centres, I rely a lot on online shopping. And I buy a lot of books online, often as gifts for others, because I am that aunt/sister/friend. One day my sisters will forgive me for years of receiving overtly feminist, girl-power books, as if I could brain-wash them through literature. So for years I have guiltily utilised Amazon Prime, knowing full-well that Amazon doesn’t offer the best deal for authors, or look after its staff or pay taxes, and know that I am not supporting local book shops.

Side note, on local bookshops. There are so few around where I live. Which I know is because so few people used them that they had to close. But for me to go to an actual physical book shop involves a commute or between 25 and 75 minutes depending on traffic. Therefore, using fuel. Find and paying for parking. Getting stroppy at ALL OF THE PEOPLE. Having heart palpitations over the smell of books in a book store. Feeling guilty that I can’t give all of the books a lovely home. Realising that I haven’t bought a tote-bag with me and am therefore DESTROYING the planet by getting a bag. Leaving empty-handed because of all of the stress.

BUT when I do have access to a good, independent book store, I go to town. Like when I went to Hay. And when I bought a huge, beautiful, hard bound John Irving at a shop in New Zealand (without thinking about the cost in getting it home again). Further side note, shops in NZ are never busy so the shop assistant, as well as being informative and giving great chat, HAND-WRAPPED my books in brown paper. Sigh.

So forgive me reader, when I say that I resort to online shopping a lot. But the fact is, I am usually organised enough with gift-buying that I am not buying things at the last minute. So with this in mind, and Christmas looming (yes, I am one of those people that starts buying Christmas gifts in October. Yes, I have an extensive spreadsheet. No, I am in no-way ashamed of myself, or smug about this) I took to the inter-webs to look for a more ethical alternative.

I have used ethical directories in the past when looking at different brands, especially with clothing and shows and I have trusted them implicitly. Which means I could be talking out of my arse here, but they seem genuine and seem to have done their homework. A Google search took me to Ethical Revolution. If you scroll down, you can clearly see how the organisations were graded and rated, and it clearly states those that don’t avoid tax. Win. So I went straight to Wordery.

Despite all of the information given about Wordery, I still assumed that they wouldn’t have the range that Amazon offers but they absolutely do AND I think that’s the books are categorised much better. I was able to search by age range and it wasn’t gendered (!!! Double Win) I ordered three books and they arrived within a couple of days, with free delivery. The packaging wasn’t excessive which was quite the breath of fresh air.

Apparently, they ship world wide so I will try this feature out at some point and will report back. Has anyone else tried other sites for ethical reasons? Really interested to hear about your experiences.

In other news, the first Insole Court Book Club meeting is just under two weeks away (eep!) so please let me know if you want to come along on offbeatbookclub@gmail.com or read along and join in the conversation here. There’s still time to read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. So excited to get started and meet some fellow readers!

Enjoy your weekend.

Kelly

Review-ish: The Warmth of the Heart prevents your Body from Rusting by Marie de Hennezel

warmth

Ageing with growing old. Translated by Sue Dyson.

‘The worst is not inevitable. Something within us does not grow old. I shall call it the heart, the capacity to love and to desire, that inextricable, incomprehensible force which keeps the human being alive…’

A little bit of non-fiction to mix things up a bit. This book was bought for me as a gift by my boss as its very much applicable to my job, so I’m aware that I have a special interest. So that’s a bit of background.

I love that someone on Goodreads described this book as ‘very French’. It is wonderfully French. Full of joie de vivre which is the point of it really. Hennezel paints beautifully vivid images of eccentric, smiling Europeans; loving life, laughing and shagging in older age.

It is chock-full of anecdotes from a range of people; academics, researchers, students, nuns, doctors, authors and people living with dementia and their friends and families, with Hennezel’s own thoughts weaving in between. This diverse ranges of voices and experiences creates a really rich tapestry of what ageing can mean for different people.

As much as I think that everyone could take something very important from this book about the way we look at ageing, I am very aware that it’s a big part of my life at the moment and therefore isn’t something that everyone wants to examine. It can be upsetting to think about ageing, but this is a light-hearted approach with a positive message; every person can change the way they think about ageing and can enjoy life until the end.

It’s absolutely the sort of non-fiction that I enjoy. There’s a very human element to it, a bit of a narrative. Its read-able but also you can pick up as and when. I read it over a series of weeks alongside any fiction I happened to be reading. I learnt a long-time ago that I can’t read two fictional books simultaneously. I only have a certain amount of imagination-RAM in my brain box.

I’m only hesitant to recommend this book to others because I know that I have a bias and have read a lot already about ageing. Has anyone else had this experience when recommending non-fiction?

Kelly

Review-ish: The Prince of the Mist by Carlos Ruis Zafón

prince

Originally published in Spain as El Príncipe de la Niebla. This version is translated by Lucia Graves.

“Whenever it poured like this, Max felt as if time was pausing. It was like a cease-fire during which you could stop whatever you were doing and just stand by a window for hours, watching the performance, an endless curtain of tears falling from heaven.”

I originally picked up this book as I loved Shadow of the Wind, which I read on whilst driving through Spain several years ago. I loved the fast-paced nature of his writing and how evocative Shadow was of Barcelona, somewhere I had never visited but now have such a clear image in my mind of.

The Prince of the Mist is Zafón’s debut novel, aimed at younger readers. Like so many of my favourite YA novels, it doesn’t shy away from darker themes. This novel, set during the second world war in an undisclosed location (to me it was reminiscent of a seaside town in my home county of Devon) it touches on the war’s looming presence for many young people. It also carefully and delicately examines the flawed nature of adults, and some of the well-intentioned mistakes they can make in trying to protect children.

The pacing of it may have distracted me from some of the less well-written bits, as many reviewers on Goodreads are suggesting that it isn’t as beautifully written as Shadow but either way, it reads well, with Zafón’s trademark poetry at its heart. According to Wikipedia, Shadow was also translated by Lucia Graves.

I’m not ashamed to say that this book gave me nightmares! The way that the ‘monster’ is described is so chilling, it really got into my psyche. But that isn’t to say that its not suitable for younger readers. I heard a Radio 4 programme this week where authors were talking about writing for children and how you can present really quite scary scenarios as long as you give the reader a glimmer of hope. This programme really got me thinking about some of my favourite YA books and the importance of them in a young readers development.

I have spent a lot of time recently looking for books for my pre-teen sisters; books that I have loved, but also books that offer something a bit different from the boy-meets-girl story-line, or in fact, the boy-saves-girl trope. Clearly all children are different and have different reading ages, as well as differing levels of maturity, but it can be so hard to find guidelines for suitability of books.

I really try to read everything that I give out as presents in advance but its not always possible. Does anyone else enjoy buying books for the young people in their lives? Any advice or recommendations? Would anyone enjoy a post about what I have enjoyed/bought in the past?

Happy reading, people!

Kelly