Friday Night Ramblings: Can’t go to the gym so I might as well write something


I had minor surgery on Wednesday and I have to take it easy for a couple of days, so the usually Friday night at the gym is out. So let me tell you about what I’ve currently got in process and what I’m thinking of reading next (mind you keep in mind that I am easily distracted by new ideas and what is to be read next keeps changing quite rapidly but I still like thinking about it).

I made a commitment to myself to read some Dickens this year. I had taken a stab at book such as Hard Times and A Tale of Two Cities when I was younger and my English was not so good, and I found I had little patience to wade through the dialogues. In general, my knowledge of English is quite good now and my tolerance for dialogue written in the vernacular has certainly gone up. So I am about one-fifth into Great Expectations and I am quite enjoying it. I am looking forward to the way in which Pip is going to evolve as he grows up. At the point where I am in the book, he is living with his sister and her husband who took him in as he was an orphan. He was invited to “play” at the home of an eccentric woman, Miss Havisham, and I wonder where this is going. There are all sorts of ways in which this could turn really weird…

In parallel, I am reading the third and latest novel by Ildefonso Falcones, La reina descalza, published in 2013. Falcones made his name with is first book, La cathedral del mar (The Cathedral of the Sea), which was quite a bestseller in Spain when it came out in 2006. I had picked up that book while browsing in a bookstore in Madrid on the tail end of a business trip. Falcones is a Barcelona-based lawyer with four children who writes big, thick historical novels in his spare time. La reina descalza focuses on the lives of gypsies in 18th century Spain. One of the main characters, Caridad, is a freed African slave that somehow came from Cuba to Sevilla and comes under the protection of an old gypsy man. The storytelling is quite smooth and this is an easy, fun read, not too challenging, although I do need to resort to the dictionary once in a while.

I have another stack of books I have been reading and put aside and I am just waiting for inspiration to get back into them. And then there are the stack of books on the living room window sill.

  • Mort-terrain by Biz: Biz is the rap singer who leads the band Loco Locass, who are quite well-known in Québec. The story is set in a mining town. Of course, I definitely have to read that.
  • Sous l’arche du temps by Hélène Dorion : this is a series of essays and interviews with my favorite Québec poet. I read it in small chunks. I am also reading through the large volume of her collected works from 1983 to 2000 and I have never written about that. Her poetry is just gut-wrenching.
  • Un été avec Montaigne d’Antoine Compagnon: I love Antoine Compagnon, the no-nonsense literature professor from the Collège de France. His inaugural lecture at the Collège de France was about why we should read… Un été avec Montaigne is a series of commentary about Montaigne’s Essays that were originally written for a summer radio series for France Inter. I am not sure I would have the patience to read Montaigne but which such an introduction to his work, who knows?
  • Le départ des musiciens by P.O. Enquist: I have to get into the next one, don’t I?
  • I still have some Giller Prize-related reading to do: The 2013 Giller Prize winner, Hell Going, by Lynn Coady, and well as the Dan Vyleta novel who was on the short list. Officially, I bought them as a present for my husband, so he gets to read them first. So he read the Coady and he quite liked it although, like me, he is not much of a short story reader. He preferred her novel The Antagonist, and I seem to remember it was about hockey, which would be timely given we are in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
  • I also have a volume of the complete tales and poems of Edgar Allan Poe sitting on my desk. It is an old musty-smelling book. It has an inscription on the first page, “To Alex, Best Wishes, from Tsia, Xmas 1944”. From one of my husband’s aunts to her sister… Both dead now, but I was lucky enough to know them in their last years. They never married, remained independent, lived together their whole lives, loved travelling, and of course, loved reading.

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