Monday, February 28, 2011

Read and be rude

Despite still being a commuter, this year travelling even further and for longer (for my sins), I'm having trouble finding time to read. The reason being that I have colleagues who travel the same way. And if we sit together then I can't in all decency immerse myself in my book, because that would be rude. The train part of the trip is alright. Since the train is packed to bursting point it's every human for h**self, in an inhumane fashion - no holds barred in the struggle to get a seat on the train. Thus, no-one expects to choose who to sit next to. We are all islands on Upptåget in the mornings. I'm perfectly capable of reading no matter how uncomfortable I am, so I can use those 25 minutes to my advantage. The bus trip that follows is a different matter though, since we often re-find each other and sit next to one another.

Just writing this post feels terribly rude, but my intent is not to complain really. I've (almost) come to terms with having more limited reading time. And the colleague I most often travel with is lovely. It's more a case of, yet again, noticing how different the work-place culture is compared to my last job. There were several of us who commuted at my last job, but by tacit understanding we never sat beside each other while travelling. That time was private time. We slept, tried to work a little sometimes, we read. Nodded at each other, said hello, but we didn't encroach on each other's privacy, oh no no.

Although ... okay, slight complaint. This commute is different in that it's more broken up and I can't sit and relax for the full hour or so what with changing buses and trains and stressing over whether I'll make the connection or not. So it does affect me a little to not have all that time to myself, to wind down or mentally prepare myself for the day ahead. While I in theory have those three hours (oh dear Jesus that's depressing) to myself each day, in reality I don't, and it makes me feel like I Never Get Time For Myself - you know. Normally a book = two commuter days. Now - I have no idea. It takes some getting used to.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Agatha Christieand Dorothy Sayers x 2, also Ngaio Marsh and Joseph Smith Fletcher x 1, respectively

What I'm actually reading now, to sound like a tv chef, is Alice Munro (for my book discussion club). It's just that my recent setback at work left me not only very down (although I'm better now) but also with a strong hankering for detective fiction, my old love. More specifically for the vintage, Golden Age type of detective fiction that don't over-analyse things and revel in upholding the status quo. Escapism, in other words. I only kept away from Tolkien (the ultimate escapism) because it, frankly, makes me cry, and from The Left Hand of Darkness because I felt I was being too pathetic re-reading that again so soon (at least, it feels as though I re-read it very recently). So detective fiction it was.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Kate Chopin: The Awakening and other Short Stories

Downloaded because Kate Chopin is, according to Wikipedia, considered to be a forerunner to feminist authors of the 20th century - caught my interest. Admittedly, I have never studied literature, but Chopin seems quite forgotten, which is a bit of a shame. I don't know if I loved her writing to be honest, but it's certainly not worse than that of many male authors of the period who still make their way into anthologies and are spoken of with respect. I sometimes feel that a lot of writing still hailed as classic is actually very dated and dull. But that's by the by.  Chopin's writing is actually remarkably modern, I think.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Jerome K Jerome: Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow

Downloaded and read because I enjoyed Three Men in a Boat, once upon a time. This is not at all as much fun, since it's full of the downside of Jerome's writing, which is dreamy, moralistic passages that go on for pages and pages, on the beauty of nature and the nature of beauty etc etc. There are some gems though:

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ayn Rand: Anthem

I heard of Ayn Rand quite late, I must have been nearly thirty or so. Her name - which no doubt was her intent - then floundered about in my brain for a while without being able to stick to anything. I thought it was a man's name, I thought it was a modern writer and not someone dead and so on. Finally, I think thanks to some article or other, I got it - but getting it didn't mean wanting to read it. In fact the only reason why I downloaded this to the Aldiko was that it was labelled science fiction. I thought I'd give it a shot. When I told my husband that I was reading Anthem he said that he didn't like Ayn Rand, she was too furiously liberal and sure of everyone being able to manage on their own.

Anyway, I didn't really see what he was on about, because I'd only started reading it and it was quite enjoyable retro science fiction so far. Clearly drawing on Soviet Russia, Rand describes a future in which no-one has choice, but are allocated work at the age of 15 or something, and then work work work until they retire, old and worn, at the age of 40. There is no privacy, no I. Only community and We. As far as community and we goes it reminded me of the anarchist world of Anaress, except Rand's future is a nightmare version of the idea. Our narrator is a bit of a rebel and has always been difficult, so despite having an aptitude for science he works as a street-sweeper, which clearly is a form of punishment and shows that there is a subtler power structure at work in a seemingly egalitarian society (Shevek on Anarres, again, comes up against that same problem). By chance he finds a way to hide away and experiment, but runs away when he realises that society doesn't want his ideas. The book then descends into a trudging monologue on how important it is to stand alone and not be ... I suppose it might be forced into a community, but it comes across more as part of community at all. A long tribute to Ego. It's boring and obvious and ruins the science fiction. Frankly, why bother writing a novel of imagination if you can't go through with it and be more subtle in your ideas? The most annoying part was Rand's surprisingly shoddy treatment of women, in my opinion. The narrator's love interest, who escapes to follow him into the wilderness, has no personality and seems to exist merely to worship the man and his great ideas, and to bear him a son (of course, the sex of the child she carries is a given, I mean why ever expect a daughter, right?). Oddly misogynistic and just plain dull.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Jasper Fforde: Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron

I have my favourites, but I don't keep track of when the next book is coming out and what they're working on at the moment and so on - in short, I don't keep up with the news. So when I for the first time in ages go into the library (because I was so depressed and wanted something escapist to read) and find a new (to me) Jasper Fforde - well it's an enormously pleasant surprise. And a new series even! Published in December 2009 according to Wikipedia, it has not come to my attention at all. You may all laugh now at my ignorance. I find that this casual approach saves me a lot of tense expectation. Anyway, a new Jasper was just what I needed in my current state.