So I have had a slightly busy and chaotic summer, temping in Warwickshire, teaching in Somerset and spending my weekends in Cardiff. So though I did get some reading done, it wasn’t as much as I would have liked, and I certainly didn’t get the chance to update. I’m going to get my updates out of the way now, though, before the new year and new degree. And I’m going to try keeping on top of things, because I know I’ve forgotten to write down some of the books I read, and it is bugging me like hell that I can’t remember what they are.
Because I was so busy, I also relaxed my stance on re-reads. I was intending to avoid the comfort of re-reads, but in the end, what with travelling around and tiredness, I ended up picking them up anyway. I did, however, manage to start a project I’ve been meaning to work through for some time, but more on that later.
Read: the poetry of Anna Akhmatova, Medea, The Demon’s Surrender, E. M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel, Good Omens and The Duchess of Malfi
June was a good month. I did start as I meant to go on: I re-read Anna Akhmatova‘s work and was once again spellbound by their power and their simplicity. Their quiet, cutting force is just breathtaking. ‘And the miraculous comes so close / to the ruined, dirty houses – / something not known to anyone at all, / but wild in our breast for centuries.’ Her words are inspirational.
James Morwood’s translation of Euripides’ Medea was very interesting, because it helped to crystallise some thoughts I had been having on the fallacy of pointing out universalisations in gender roles, and how interesting it is that something can be simultaneously so tied to the Athenian world-model and so powerful and resonant today. There were jarring aspects of his translation, however, a few peculiar phrases and surprising modern colloquialisms that threw the feelings of a couple of scenes off-kilter, but overall I enjoyed it very much.
Sarah Rees Brennan’s The Demon’s Surrender was a subtle, satisfying, heartbreaking and heartwarming conclusion to a trilogy in which I have been invested for a number of years. I’ve followed her blog since she was a parodist of renown in fandom, and it feels like a very personal kind of triumph to see her complete her first trilogy with such satisfaction. I loved and completely approved of her change of perspective – it was so satisfying to see an author so comfortable with having her characters misunderstand things and to get them wrong. It was also fantastic to see some of the central relationships viewed from the point of view of an outsider, to be torturing yourself going “Oh but I’m sure she misunderstood that! Could that mean this? Does it mean this?” I enjoyed it thoroughly.
E. M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel was a book that I half-read in my first year of university, because though I thought it was absolutely brilliant, I only got halfway through before I promptly had to read a million other books. So I decided that at the end of my degree – bearing in mind the half of the book that I read hugely influenced my thinking – was high time to finish it. I read it twice on holiday in Portugal, and I absolutely loved it, and berated myself for not finishing it sooner. It was brilliant – incisive, decisive, critical and fascinating. A must for anybody who even thinks that they like books, whether writing, reading or criticising them.
I re-read Pratchett and Gaiman’s Good Omens, too, and it is and always will be a hot contender for my favourite book. It’s just so full of things that I love: irreverence, mythology, satire, warmth, wit and ideological conflict. A magnificent book.
And I also re-read, several times, John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi, because I want to cut it and direct my own version, and also because it is the play that is performed in the screenplay I’m currently working on. It is one of my favourite plays, and its power and politics and subtleties are just wonderful. I have always loved Renaissance drama, and this is one of the best. Rich, complex, unstable and compelling, the characters have sat in my head since I first read it. It’s an incredible text, and I can’t wait to cut it and do my own version.
I think that’s my summary for June. I’m going to try doing this a book at a time, so that I can do them justice. I have notes for my August reading but not July, so I may lump them in together and take care of that one next – hopefully later today or tomorrow.